Acadia is Maine’s #1 ranked bicycle ride — and even better when it’s car-free

Every year Bicycling magazine announces what its editors deem the best rides in all 50 states, and so far I can check two off the list, and in the process, have learned a pretty solid lesson in planning rides around those lists.

Here in Maine, Bicycling is pretty consistent year to year naming the Cadillac Challenge Loop in Acadia National Park as the state’s best ride and where, according to the magazine, “you’ll pass rocky cliffs, secluded coves, and lighthouses—and climb up 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the park’s high point and the first spot in the United States to catch rays from the rising sun.”

A few years back some friends and I decided we need to see for ourselves if the ride lived up to the hype (short answer, it more than does) and headed south for a weekend of pedaling in Acadia.

Bikes & Acadia are the perfect combination.

Bikes & Acadia are the perfect combination.

It was some of the best riding ever, due in no small part to a near-complete lack of traffic on the park’s 27-mile loop road thanks to that year’s month-long federal government shutdown which delayed the park’s opening for a month.

After having visiting Acadia during the in-season, even though I agree it’s among the state’s top riding destinations, I’m not sure I’d brave it with traffic. The roads are narrow, drivers are often distracted looking at the scenery and it’s a long way down to the rocks below should a cyclist get forced off some parts of the road.

Luckily, Acadia does offer two chances every year to enjoy a car-free park and this coming weekend is one of them.

Starting at midnight Saturday, Sept. 17, through noon that day, Acadia will be car-free. A few hours of traffic-free enjoyment.

Miles of car-free paved surface make Acadia's Park Loop Road a great cycling option this weekend. On Saturday, Sept. 17, for a few hours cyclists and pedestrians will have most of the road to themselves.

Miles of car-free paved surface make Acadia’s Park Loop Road a great cycling option this weekend. On Saturday, Sept. 17, for a few hours cyclists and pedestrians will have most of the road to themselves.

According to the park’s website, the sections of the Park Loop Road closed to private vehicles will include the Cadillac Summit road, the road between the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and Jordan Pond, and the entire one-way section. Roads that provide direct access from Route 3 to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Schooner Head Overlook, Sieur de Monts, and Jordan Pond will remain open, and visitors are encouraged to park in these locations. All other park roads on Mount Desert Island, Schoodic District, and Isle au Haut will remain open.

In addition, the Island Explorer and park concessioner tour buses will operate on their regular schedules on the closed sections of the Park Loop Road, so pedestrians and cyclists need to take care and be on the riding defensive.

But oh, what a ride it is!

The loop road is a great paved surface of rolling hills and the one, serious climb up to the top of Cadillac and a 10-mile rated climb just to get the base of the mountain. For much of the ride the blue waters of the Gulf of Maine are part of the scenery before you turn into the more wooded sections.

Now is the chance to experience Acadia that only comes around a few hours twice year. And the best part? It pays to step out of your vehicle — admission is free during the car-free morning.

See you out there!

For more information on Acadia’s car-free days:

Next Up – Taking on Florida’s “Best Ride.”

Julia Bayly

About Julia Bayly

Currently reporter/photographer Bangor Daily News with regular bi-weekly column. Freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.