Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia NP, Maine


Mark, not on a castle, but on a carriage road bridge

Mark, not on a castle, but on a carriage road bridge

There is a lot to see and do in Acadia National Park. Without the “distraction” of work and internet, I was amazed at how much one can pack into a five-day vacation! After a little reconnaissance of the park on our first day, we decided to rent bikes on the second one. For $25 per bike per day, we each picked a suitable model of the ones presented in the store and soon thereafter, we were proud bike owners for the day. Our starting point was the town center of Bar Harbor and our goal was to ride the park’s carriage roads. I expected a very relaxing day, coasting along flat roads. I was wrong.

Between 1913 and 1940, John D. Rockefeller Jr. built 57 miles of carriage roads on Desert Island, utilizing local granite for the bridges and “broken-stone” roads. The landscaped trail system was to be used by hikers, bikers, horse riders and horse-drawn carriages. Motor vehicles were and are prohibited. 45 of those rustic miles are located in Acadia NP and offer an enjoyable way of seeing the interior of the park. The gravel paths are easy to bike on and the views are sweeping. This state-of-the-art path system is well-marked with signs at each intersection and the free carriage road map is extremely helpful and informative. As a “flatlander” from Belgium, I am used to riding bikes as a means of transportation, but here in the US I seem to forget that biking is a hobby or sport and that the countryside is often hilly, if not mountainous…

While the first uphill stretches of carriage road had me grunting, sweating and complaining, once I realized every other tourist seemed to take these challenges in stride (it was good exercise after all), I felt more energized and started to enjoy the views, the action, the accomplishments and even the peddling – once I knew how to work the gears a bit better. Yes, there were still a few uphill battles that were won by walking along my bike instead of huffing on top of it (“See you later, Mark!”), but the whole experience was satisfying and fun, especially whooshing downhill at high speed!

Mark and I managed to explore about 25 of the 45 accessible miles by bike and – despite our sore bums – decided to finish our tour in Bar Harbor, instead of taking a bike shuttle back those last miles. We especially appreciated the off the beaten track loops of the carriage road system, where few visitors venture. The bridges were pieces of art, the views were outstretched and the peace was complete!

Do you like biking? As a mode of transportation or as a hobby? What are your favorite places to bike?


  1. Cycling can be such a great way to explore. The rental rate sounds very reasonable. Definitely knowing how to use your gears and having some padded cycling shorts help to make the experience a little easier. You captures some amazing vistas. What a gorgeous area!

    • Oh Sue, you would love a bike ride in Acadia and you would go on the more “challenging” roads as well and have the place to yourselves! I think those prices might have been “off season” rental prices. While we usually wouldn’t spend $50 on renting bikes (this might have been the 2nd time EVER I rented a bike, forget about having biking gear…), we made an exception this time, because it was a real vacation and we had read so much about the carriage trails that attracted us to do the ride.

  2. What a great idea! I am one of those nuts who cycle for fun and fitness (and also love, love, love, climbing). It is far too easy to miss something amazing while driving by. Thanks for the idea.

    • This is definitely a great place to bike, Ryan. You’d love it! And, believe it or not, but after climbing a few of those hills myself (and selecting the correct gears), the ascends did not create as much dread anymore by the end of the day. 🙂

  3. Can’t ride a bike, which is probably why I walk so much, Liesbet 🙂 Lovely scenery!

  4. Seems like the perfect place for a bike ride- with no cars to avoid! Beautiful pictures!

  5. I used to be a keen cyclist but have only been on a bike once in the last 20 years! I remember these roads, but we didn’t try them out.

    • Those roads are actually very nice and easy to walk on. If we would have stayed longer, we would have been tempted to explore another part of the road system on foot.

  6. Embarrassed to admit I STILL haven’t learned to ride a bike. It’s a lot scarier to learn as an adult–we have farther to fall!

    It’s on the bucket list, though. Acadia looks like a beautiful place.

    • It is not that embarrassing, jmh. Some people can’t swim at our age and that is probably the more important skill to learn when it comes to safety. In the States bikes are not as big a part of the culture as in Belgium. We all grew up riding our bikes, even before we could swim! I’m sure there are training wheels for adult bicycles. Look at all the motorcycles these these with training wheels in the front and the back. 🙂 Walking the carriage roads would be a very relaxing way to see the interior of Acadia as well.

  7. I’m more of a flatlander biker too. We’ve gone on a few cycling trips in Europe with a tent and all of our gear stowed in our panniers. It’s a great way to see the countryside, as long as the terrain is flat 🙂 And then if you overindulge in fattening foods at lunch, you can always work off those calories during the afternoon ride.

    • I love the need to burn off calories when you eat too much. But, it usually happens the opposite way for me: I go on a long hike or a challenging bike ride in this case and then, I eat crappy food without feeling bad about it. And, there goes the only chance of maybe loosing some weight… 🙂 A cycling vacation sounds very industrious to me. So awesome you did this, Ellen. I don’t think my bum could handle multiple days of abuse like that! But, I take flat countrysides above hills any time when biking (and hiking)!

  8. It looks like a beautiful place to explore on a bike. I wanted to ‘like’ this post but the buttons are not loading …

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