Most folks from the Northeast have been to Acadia National Park at least once. Those who have not yet visited are missing out on Maine’s most prized possession. Established in 1919, it was the 1st national park east of the Mississippi and remains the 2nd most-visited Park in the east to this day.
Acadia is one of my all-time favorite places to photograph. I make a point of going there at least 3-4 times per year, even in the heart of winter. Although much of Park Loop Road is closed from December, the most photogenic stretch of Ocean Path remains open year-round.
Acadia is best known for its rugged coastline, pink granite rock, and the 57 miles of carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller 100 years ago. But the Park is so much more than its best-known attractions.
The mile-high glacier that once covered Mount Desert Island has crowned the region with diverse beauty. One of its remnants is the tarn (body of water excavated by a glacier) that we know as Jordan Pond.
Jordan pond, so named for the Jordan family of Seal Harbor, is flanked by Penobscot Mountain to the west and the North and South Bubble Mountains to the northeast. These shapely mountains make for a compelling scene at any time of year, especially when viewed from the southern end of the pond (camera facing north).
I took the featured photo in late January, about three hours after sunset. The winds had blown much of the snow off the pond, leaving a clear ice sheet that reflected back the abundant stars on a moonless night.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Sunrise, sunset, and nighttime all cast different light on Jordan Pond. The western shore of the pond gets lit at sunrise, whereas, the eastern side sees light at sunset. If you come for sunset, be sure to arrive a few hours earlier as the mountains to the west block the setting sun long before it reaches the horizon.
Jordan Pond also affords fabulous nighttime opportunities. The star field over the pond is eye-popping. On a clear night, you can photograph star trails from the southern end of the pond. And if your timing is auspicious, you may be able to capture the Northern Lights from here as well.
Sunrise in June often finds the pond enveloped in a magical fog. In October, the trees are decked out in vivid hues. And in winter, the pond is wrapped in a cloak of white with visible patches of ice.
During tourist season, Jordan Pond is accessible off the Park Loop Road. But between December 1 and April 14, most of the Park Loop Road is closed, thus requiring an alternate approach to the pond.
To reach the pond in winter, take Route 3 to Seal Harbor, and turn onto Jordan Pond Road. After driving north for about 1.5 miles, the road connects to a short section of the Park Loop Road that leads to Jordan Pond.
In winter, you will need to park in the lot at Jordan Pond House since the north parking lot is closed. Walk on the left side of Jordan Pond House and follow the usual trail (may be buried in snow) to the pond below.
In winter, I always bring ice cleats and snowshoes. Acadia tends to be a very icy and snowy place during the cold months, so the ice cleats are an indispensable addition to my footwear. And, if you decide to photograph Jordan Pond in winter, you too will most likely need a pair of snowshoes to reach the pond.
There are fewer places to stay in Bar Harbor in winter because many hotels and motels are seasonal. I usually stay at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel or the Cromwell Harbor Motel. Both offer convenient access to Schooner Head Road, which is the only means of reaching Ocean Path during the winter months.
Winter in Acadia may be the only time you find yourself alone in a major national park. Enjoy photographing the rugged and diverse beauty that it affords, but please be sure to do it safely!