If we need any more evidence of the rejuvenating power of nature, measuring the moods of national park-goers isn’t a bad place to look. Just strides into a recent trail run in Acadia National Park, I get a big smile and a “howdy” from a mountain biker. More smiling bikers follow close behind. Over the next hour, I encounter cheerful greetings and friendly nods from one person after another. Everyone seems thrilled to be out on the trails early in the morning. I know I am.
I start my run from the parking area on the southern tip of Jordan Pond, tracing the western shore on one of Acadia’s perfectly grated carriage roads. My route will take me just over 2 miles ahead, to the other end of the pond and the distinctive humps of two small mountains (hills, really) known as The Bubbles. The wide gravel road climbs gradually through the trees. Sunshine rebounds off the pond’s surface below in a million sparkles. It’s an idyllic warm-up for the run.
I turn east at the first junction and make a sharp right onto Bubbles Trail. The nature of the run changes immediately. Soon I’m high-stepping over roots and melon-sized rocks as the trail climbs toward the 872-foot peak of North Bubble. That blissful relaxation of the carriage road is quickly replaced by a shortness of breath. Then the trail changes again, and I’m running over smooth sheets of pink granite and cutting between low wild blueberry bushes. Iconic Acadia.
After passing over the top of North Bubble and descending a set of granite stairs back into the trees, I cross over to South Bubble (766 feet) for another short, sharp climb. At the top I pause, sipping from my water bottle while taking in the stunning view across Jordan Pond, to the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Many hikers ascend South Bubble from the shore of the pond directly below, but the route is steep enough to discourage most from descending. It’s certainly not runnable, so I backtrack toward North Bubble and take a side trail from the saddle down toward Park Loop Road, turning onto Jordan Pond Path just before reaching the Bubbles trailhead. From there, a flat path winds along the water, back to the parking area.
I hadn’t put much forethought into my route for the day, but it turned out to be perfect. Runners can’t go too wrong in Acadia. Just pick a parking area, start running, and you’ll have access to an invigorating range of options. Feeling ambitious? Every mountain is runnable: The tallest, Cadillac, is barely 1,500 feet. Want to take it easy? The mountains are surrounded by 40-plus miles of carriage road. Few places put me in as good a mood.