Did you know there are hikes in Acadia National Park that you can only do for a few hours a day? And, on these hikes there’s a unique world of creatures you can explore? If this sounds interesting to you, then you must go on one of the tidepool hikes in Acadia National Park.
When the tide is out, you can visit a microcosm of ocean life in an experience known as Tidepooling. Tidepools are pockets of seawater that are left behind amongst rocks during low tide — sometimes animals and other creatures are left behind in the pools. You can see barnacles, snails, crabs, bugs and even starfish.
In Acadia NP, there are three different tidepool hikes: Bar Island, Wonderland and Ship Harbor. Let’s explore Bar Island and Wonderland. (If you find Ship Harbor interesting, too — basics of the hike are outlined near the end.)
Bar Island – A Hike You Can Experience Only A Few Hours A Day
When I heard there was a hike you could only do for a few hours a day, I said “Sign me up!” Something drew me to this hike. I don’t know if it’s the limited time aspect, or the fact that I was also going to see tiny little creatures…
Bar Island is the must-do tidepool hike in Acadia National Park. Make sure you time this hike right, because it’s only accessible 1 ½ hours before and after low tide. We recommend using NOAA’s website to find out high/low tide for Bar Harbor, ME.
Bar Island Trailhead and Details
The hike starts in Bar Harbor where Bridge St meets the ocean. During high tide, this may seem like a road to nowhere. However, during low tide you can walk all the way across a sandbar to Bar Island.
Set aside 1-2 hours to explore the island and the tidepools. Expect a lot of fellow travelers hiking with you as well, since the trailhead is right in tourist-heavy Bar Harbor.
Once across the sandbar, you can hike Bar Island — there is a 2 mile out and back where you can walk to the top of a large hill and take in a great view of Bar Harbor. The hike is pretty easy, with a moderate uphill grade. We were able to do the hike in less than an hour with plenty of time for pictures!
Bar Island Sandbar Tidepools
On the way back, take some time to explore the sandbar. We never expected to find so much life inside the tidepools. It was such a surprise! I felt like a little kid splashing around in the water. There were barnacles all over the rocks, and snails attached to just about everything.
You can also look for snail eggs. They look like little grains of rice. They aren’t nearly as easy to find as the snails — with a little bit of scavenging, you may be able to find a cluster.
Expect to spend as much time exploring the tidepools as you do on the hike!
Wonderland – Explore the Wonderful Tidepools
The other must-do tidepool hike in Acadia National Park is Wonderland.
When I hear the name of this hike, I keep thinking of that song by John Mayer “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Well, it’s not like that — this hike is FAMILY FRIENDLY! Anyway…
Wonderland Trailhead and Details
The trailhead is located on Route 102A on the quiet side of the island. Again, be sure to time this hike for low tide so that you can explore the tidepools.
Expect a few people parked in the parking lot. Once on the beach, it won’t feel crowded at all. There’s plenty of coastline, so you can spread out and explore!
The trail is 1.4 miles out and back through the woods, and very flat. It’s such an easy and pretty hike!
Allow for about 1-2 hours hiking and exploration.
The Wonderland Beach & Tidepools
Once at the sandy beach, there are a few logs you can sit on and enjoy the view. We arrived just as some fog was rolling in. By the way… the fog in Maine is something else, it almost seems like a living creature, itself, and is fun to watch.
This would also be a great place to bring a picnic lunch — make an afternoon of it!
We explored the tidepools on the beach and found: barnacles, algae, more snails, and tiny crabs.
Be careful of the seaweed as you navigate the rocks — it can make everything very slippery. I took a tumble on the rocks during our explorations because I wasn’t being careful enough.
Ship Harbor Trail
We did not explore Ship Harbor Trail. However, here are a few details on how to find this third tidepool hike in Acadia National Park.
The trailhead is located on Route 102A on the quiet side of the island, just down the road from the Wonderland Trailhead.
This trail offers a similar experience to the Wonderland Trail, with nice views of Ship Harbor from the woods. It’s 1.5 miles round trip, and is considered an easy hike.
Allow 1-2 hours for the hike and exploration of its tidepools.
Tidepool Hikes In Acadia National Park — A Look Into Another World
There’s something about observing this slice of otherworldly life. Watching little creatures go about their lives — completely unaware of you.
Sit on the rocks while watching the tiny crabs as they crab-walk through the water. Watch a snail wrestle with a small piece of seaweed. It’s all fascinating!
Make some time on your trip to do one of the tidepool hikes in Acadia National Park, and take a look into another world. You may end up seeing something really cool.
Have you found something nifty in a tidepool? Let us know in the comments!