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Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Out and back, the hike is 1.6 miles. Filled with rocks and roots, the trail is a gradual climb with uneven footing. One short section of the trail is a bit steep, but there are plenty of flat sections of trail where you can stretch your legs and catch your breath.
Information: Rising just 583 feet above sea level, Day Mountain is one of the smallest mountains in Acadia National Park, yet it offers a lovely hike to open views. It’s a great destination for people who are looking for a short adventure.
From the trailhead on the edge of Route 3 in Seal Harbor, the 0.8-mile Day Mountain Trail starts with two stretches of narrow bog bridges. Beyond the bridges, about 0.2 mile into the hike, the trail crosses a carriage road, which is a wide, multi-use trail that’s lined with granite blocks. This area can be a little confusing. To find the trail again, walk across the carriage road to an intersection, then follow the sign pointing toward Day Mountain Summit. Follow that carriage road just a hundred feet or so, and you’ll see the hiking trail re-enter the woods to your left, marked with a rock pile called a cairn.
The entire trail, from trailhead to summit, is marked with blue blazes (painted on trees and rocks) and cairns.
Continuing through the forest, Day Mountain Trail gradually climbs up the south side of the mountain and becomes increasingly rocky. The forest is filled with a variety of evergreen trees, including cedar, spruce and balsam fir.
At one point, the trail goes slightly downhill for a bit, crosses a tiny brook, then heads back uphill, with the steepest stretch of trail starting about 0.3 mile into the hike. Near the top of that steep section, the trail reaches an overlook with a view of the ocean. And just beyond that overlook, the trail crosses a carriage road again.
Climbing gradually uphill, the trail travels over a ridge of exposed bedrock. Then, nearly 0.7 mile into the hike, the trail reaches an open area that offers open views on both sides. To your right, you’ll see the open expanse of the ocean, and to your left, nearby islands and the southwest end of Mount Desert Island. This is a great place to stop for a drink and snack.
Continuing on, the trail continues through the forest, dipping down and then back up and through an interesting rock formation before emerging onto a carriage road once again. The summit, marked with a pile of rocks and a wooden sign, is directly across the road, where you can enjoy another great view of the ocean and nearby islands.
From the summit, you can turn around to descend the mountain on the same trail or you can continue on Day Mountain Trail to reach the summit of The Triad in 0.8 mile. This mountain is just a bit higher than Day Mountain, reaching 698 feet above sea level.
Acadia National Park is home to more than 120 miles of intersecting trails. Carry a map with you while exploring to prevent headaches at trail intersections and avoid getting lost.
All visitors to the park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October, regardless of whether they pass through a fee collection area. Park passes, which are $30 per private vehicle for a seven-day pass or $55 for an annual pass, are sold at many locations throughout Mount Desert Island, including park visitor centers, and online.
Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times and must be cleaned up after. During the winter, owners should do their best to keep dogs (and themselves, unless skiing) off ski tracks.
For more information, visit nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.
Personal note: Ice coated the otherwise naked trees that lined the road, causing them to glitter in the sun on Dec. 4. A storm of snow and sleet had just swept over the state, leaving everything looking especially frosty.
On Mount Desert Island, the snowfall had been minimal — just an inch or so — and it was starting to melt as the temperature climbed into the mid-30s. Snowshoes were not necessary, but I did strap on some ice cleats (STABILicers, $25), which ended up being very helpful in navigating over icy areas. In fact, I think the trail would have been too dangerous without them.
Birdsong distracted me at the trailhead. I craned my neck, trying to find them in the trees, but to no avail. So I started the hike, picking up my feet so not to stumble on rocks and tree roots that were partially buried in a thin layer of powdery snow.
I was a little surprised at how open the views were near the top of the mountain, though I hiked it several years ago. At the first viewpoint, I heard birdsong again — and caught sight of some flapping wings high in spruce tree. Using my 100-400mm camera lens, I zoomed in on the tree to find a dark-eyed junco sitting among a cluster of cones. In fact, the little bird — dark gray with a white belly — appeared to be eating seeds out of the cones.
I took another short break at the viewpoint just before the summit, where I sat in the snow and photographed the chalky white berries of an evergreen plant growing near the edge of the forest. And while sitting on a rock at the summit, I noticed thousands of tiny snow fleas bouncing about in the snow. Once alarmed by these tiny bugs, I now understand that they are not actually fleas. They don’t infest people or animals. Instead, it’s believed that they feed on fungal spores and algae on the surface of the snow. They don’t bite, so next time you see them, check them out! They jump with a spring-like appendage, and they can really catch some air.
How to get there: Take Route 3 across the causeway onto Mount Desert Island. After the causeway, veer right at the fork onto Route 102-Main Street. Drive 4.2 miles, then turn left onto Route 3-Sound Drive. Drive 5.6 miles, then turn left onto Route 3-Peabody Drive. Drive 3 miles, then turn left onto Route 3-Main Street in Seal Harbor. Drive 1.2 miles, then turn right into the trailhead parking lot. The trailhead to Day Mountain is directly across Route 3 from the parking lot, marked with a cedar post sign. (Another trail, one leading to Hunters Cliff, starts at the parking lot.)
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten