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Friday, August 21, 2020

Jordan Pond Loop Hike - Acadia National Park, Maine

 It feels like a lifetime ago that Courtney and I packed up our dogs Olive and Leni alongside our camping gear and summer clothes into my (then) boyfriend's Subaru. We had originally planned this trip with the guys but when work and commitments prevented them from joining, we decided to head north without them for a girls weekend in Acadia National Park (lady dogs included).  Acadia National Park is the only national park here in the northeast and simply put, is a New England treasure.  We had talked about making this long weekend happen and finally put our words into action as we drove north along the coast of Maine.  We stopped in Portland, Maine for a lobster roll and traveled farther north along the scenic route, driving route 1 all the way into Bar Harbor, Maine.  

We did all the wonderful touristy things you do when visiting Bar Harbor and Acadia. We walked in and our of the shops around town and set up our camp in the park.  We hiked Gorham Mountain with our dogs and took photos from its summit. We drove that Subaru up to the top of Caddilac mountain before the sun with a bottle of champagne, plastic glasses, and a little bottle of orange juice to watch the sunrise over the east coast with mimosas and dogs in tow. We headed into the park for lunch at the famous Jordan Pond House to enjoy popovers under a big green umbrella with a view of the lake and "the bubbles" while the dogs napped in the shade.  That trip was full of sweet memories but for whatever reason, this iconic lunch in the park was something I was most excited to repeat with my parents and inlaws who had followed up north to Acadia after the wedding.  

My expectations were all contorted into a new normal with COVID-19 deeply affecting 2020 and the way we gather and travel.  Instead of the full-service lunch on the lawn spread out with a view of the lake and a menu at our table, we were greeted with a new sort of normal.  The parking lot was a madhouse as New York and New Jersey license plates circled the lot to find a spot.  The restaurant was to-go only where after waiting in a long line formed around the building, your order was placed off the limited menu and you waited in a different room for your packaged food to be delivered on trays.  Famous offerings like popovers with jam and fresh teas were still on the menu but the whole experience was much different this time around.  We brought our food out to see that a majority of the tables were tucked away in storage and a limited about of tables were being offered on the brick patio. Luckily we found a table and enjoyed the outdoors and the view, everyone fine with the situation as I was the only one walking in with a different set of expectations.  

None the less, we enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches and popovers before heading out to the lake to do something new-to-me.  When looking for a group hike to enjoy with our parents in the park, the goal was short, tame, and flat.  The Jordan Pond Loop is exactly that and a popular choice for tourists looking to walk off a carb-heavy lunch.  The loop offers up close and gorgeous views of the lakes and the iconic mountain tops (the bubbles) that serve as the perfect backdrop for the lake. The North Bubble has the highest elevation at 872 feet while the South Bubble tops out at 766 feet. Your hike will take you all the way around the lake, stopping at a quaint little beach at the other end and a break in the peaks referred to as "Bubbles Divide". 

The loop around the lake can be completed in either direction and after chatting with a ranger, we decided to complete the loop in a clockwise direction to take advantage of the shady relief on the left (west) side of the lake. The trail starts at the end of the field behind the Jordan Pond House. From there, we went left, following the trail around the lake until we reached a set of planks that would serve as the trail for a majority of the way around the left (west) side of the lake.

After scrambling up ladders and rungs on the Beehive and Precipice trails, this was the perfect way to stretch our legs after lunch and enjoy the trails with our parents.  If you want to convince a beginner just how lovely hiking can be, this is the place to do it.  Adam and I followed the path around the lake, watching his mom shriek in excitement, checking in on the group from time to time as we made our way past planks, boulders, stopped at beaches, and took breaks in the shady parts of the trail.  This isn't a trail that will get your blood pumping but instead, offers a scenic leisurely stroll around the lake.  The views are spectacular which makes this a great little jaunt for even the most extreme of hikers.  Next time around, I would take a detour up to the bubble overlook or one of the other trail offshoots to add elevation and distance to our hike.  

Trail Stats

Overview:  Family-friendly 3.4-mile hike with little to no elevation gain around Jordan Pond Lake.  Very scenic as you make your way around the entire lake.  The trail is relatively flat and easy to follow however, the trail on the west side of the lake is mostly planked/boards to protect the ecosystem below.  There is a short section of boulders about halfway around the west side. On a busy day, this is a bit of a challenge as you have to wait in certain areas for people to pass by.   Additionally, parking can be tough as the Jordan Pond House is a very popular lunch destination in the park.  One more note to make is that swimming is not allowed in this pond but non-motor boats such as canoes and kayaks are permitted.  This is a great option to do with someone who is looking for a relatively easy hike with no elevation gain and beautiful views.  

Miles:  3.41

Elevation: 55 feet

Parking:  Parking is the large lot offered for the Jordan Pond House Restaurant.  It can be very crowded and difficult to find a spot in the busier summer months. Lunch is relatively quick and patience will likely guarantee you a spot as you catch someone leaving after lunch.  

Trailhead and The Trail:  The trail can be found at the end of the field at the Jordan Pond House (a dirt path follows the east side of the lawn and down to the lake). Well marked and easy to follow loop around the lake.  The west side consists of a dirt trail, boulders, and a boardwalk-style path while the east side is more of a dirt path. 

Dogs:  Allowed but strictly on leash - do not let your dog into the reservoir 

Duration:  We did this at a very leisurely pace stopping for breaks in the shade and it took us 2 hours 

The Lake: Jordan Pond is a glacier-formed small mountain lake (referred to as a "tarn") with a maximum water depth of 150 feet (46 m).  As you hike around the lake, you will notice that the water is insanely clear with an average visibility depth of 46 feet (14 m) and has been recorded as high as 60 feet. 

Red Tape:  Parking may be a challenge, the trail is popular and may be crowded during the busy months, and swimming is not allowed. 

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