The Joy of Riding Acadia Gravel

By Kyle Rancourt

Nestled on the pristine Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia National Park is an idyllic destination for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting captivating pine forests, craggy coastlines, and weathered granite peaks. To fully immerse in the park's unspoiled grandeur there is no superior mode of transportation than exploring its historic carriage roads on gravel bikes.

Our day commenced at Hull’s Cove with a sense of  anticipation as the sun's initial rays radiated down on the dense pine forests.  Our gravel machines were ready with 40mm tires and frame packs stuffed with snacks. We embarked, a team of three, on a mission to cover all of Acadia's meticulously maintained 45-mile network of iconic carriage roads.

These carriage roads, a testament to the vision and patronage of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who oversaw their construction between 1913 and 1940, represent a feat of engineering that seamlessly integrates with the park's pristine surroundings. Significantly, they have been designated as motor vehicle-free, making them a sanctuary for cyclists and hikers. As we glided along the smooth gravel surfaces, the unique quality of the experience was unmistakable, this place is special. 

Our chosen route navigated through a number diverse landscapes and ecosystems. From the cool, shaded woodlands, expansive wildflower meadows, serene lakes mirroring surrounding mountains, to rugged coastal cliffs with the ever-changing Atlantic Ocean. It’s a captivating journey through nature’s finest offerings.

A notable highlight along the journey involved encounters with iconic stone bridges, which gracefully arched over babbling brooks and framed picturesque waterfalls. These structures not only exemplify the craftsmanship of their era but also beckon travelers to pause, savor the moment, and capture the essence of Acadia with photographs.

Of particular note was the ascent to the summit of Day Mountain; a short yet demanding climb that proved profoundly rewarding. At the mountain's summit, we were met with a sweeping panorama that extended to the distant horizon. An expansive view of the vast dark blue of the Atlantic and the rugged islands that dot the coastline of "Downeast" Maine.

During the course of our journey, we crossed paths with several horse-drawn carriages, an evocative touch of history that subtly underscored the park's heritage.

As the day waned and our journey neared its conclusion, we were struck with a profound sense of gratitude for this place and opportunity. Gravel biking on Acadia's venerable carriage roads had facilitated a meaningful connection with the natural world. The combination of untamed wilderness and human ingenuity had yielded an experience that was both invigorating and rewarding.

As we made our way back to the car, with one last circumnavigation of the iconic Eagle Lake, gliding effortlessly over the pristine gravel of the carriage roads, I silently acknowledged how fortunate I am to have this sanctuary of cycling in my home state.

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