It wasn’t until our most recent visit to Acadia National Park that it really hit us how many different hiking trails there are in this amazing piece of landscape on the Maine coast. Due to the ages of our kids in previous trips, the wet weather, crowds, nesting falcons or our limited time, we were only able to experience a limited set of the great hiking that Acadia had to offer. In our recent visit, we were able to finally take on one of the park’s most sought-after hikes, the Bubbles Trail.
“The Bubbles” have little to do with water. Rather, they are two different peaks that are part of the backdrop behind Jordan Pond (as viewed from the south). While they are both relatively low in elevation (under 900 feet), climbing them provides great views of Jordan Pond to the south, Eagle Lake to the north and several peaks to the west (Sargent Mountain and Penobscot Mountain are the two most prominent).
The "Bubbles" are the two mountain peaks in the background (note: this photo was not taken on the Bubbles Trail!)
While it can be a bit of a challenge to get parking during the peak times of day, we highly recommend taking this hike. As it only takes a little over 90 minutes, the hike up the Bubbles will only take up part of your day and the views are totally worth the effort!
BUBBLES TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 1.8 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Loop with out-and back as well
- Elevation gain: 250 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 868 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Late spring through fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 8:00 am or after 4:00 pm
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes, sun exposure
- Restrooms: None located at the trailhead or on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed:5 hours
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE BUBBLES TRAIL
The trailhead for the Bubbles Trail is at the Bubbles Trail parking area on Park Loop Road. To get to the trailhead from the north, get on the Park Loop Road, following directions to Cadillac Mountain (rather than heading toward the coast-directions can be found here). The parking area can also be accessed from the south, as this part of the Park Loop Road is two-way.
- Directions from the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to the Bubbles Trail parking area (this will take about 25 minutes without any traffic, but you should expect some for sure!).
Bubbles Trail Location from the National Park Service
The parking lot for this popular trail is small, with only about 30 spots available. We arrived at 7:45 am on a weekend and there were only a few spots left in the lot. If this happens, there are alternatives you could try. First, there are two lots near the Jordan Pond house to the south. Hiking from the Jordan Pond will extend your trip by about 2.2 miles (round trip). The other option would be to delay your hike until later on in the day when the lot clears out.
While the hike takes a little over an hour, the lot is so small that chances of a spot opening up during peak hours is low,. If you plan to wait for a spot it’s likely that you’ll be waiting for a while and upsetting other people who are trying to enter the lot-we advise against just waiting in the lot.
There are no restrooms at the trailhead.
BUBBLES TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is a typical New England Trail. If you are new to hiking in the northeast, you can expect plenty of rocks, roots and packed dirt. Occasionally you’ll even find mud if it rained recently. There are also plenty of granite rocks that you’ll have to contend with.
- Accessibility. The trail is not wheelchair accessible. If you are heading up via the path from Jordan Pond, you’ll need to be sure on your feet and able to do some significant rock scrambling, so be prepared!
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE BUBBLES TRAIL
While the hike is not particularly long, you are going to want to be prepared to be out for a couple hours. Luckily the weather in Acadia is typically not very hot, but there are still a few things that we recommend you bring on your trip:
- Water. Don’t let the relatively cool temperatures fool you-you are going to want water on this hike, and plenty of it. The climbing in particular can be tiring. Having said that, the mix of sun and shade is nice and will keep you cooler than on many other hikes you might go on in Acadia.
- Hiking Boots. Though not required, hiking boots with good ankle support will be more than welcome and can help you from being injured on the way down.
- Hiking Map. It can be hard to navigate around the trails and can get confusing, which is why we strongly recommend purchasing a good hiking map to help make sure you don’t get lost. This Acadia National Park waterproof map is perfect. The trails are well outlined and the map is the perfect size to fit in your backpack. Oh, and with cell service in the park not being great, you’ll want to rely on a paper map rather than your phone!
HIKING TO JORDAN POND
There are several ways to tackle The Bubbles. The simplest (shortest and less steep) way is to start on the Bubbles Divide Trail, hike the South Bubble, backtrack and then hike to the North Bubble (note: we prefer that order due to the elevation of the North Bubble peak being slightly higher and offering more sweeping views than the South Bubble, but that is just our opinion!). However, since we prefer to hike a loop whenever possible, we started by hiking to the shore Jordan Pond.
Our hiking route was clockwise, starting to Jordan Pond, up the South Bubble, to the North Bubble and then back to the parking area.
Right after you start on the Bubbles Divide Trail you’ll see a branch off to the left (south). This is the Jordan Pond Carry Trail. If you continue straight on the Bubbles Divide Trail, you’ll be able to reach the northern tip of Jordan Pond.
We took the left and hiked to Jordan Pond. This is a 0.3-mile branch trail. Traveling through the woods, this trail descends slightly the entire way before ending at the shore of Jordan Pond. If you have time, the hike around Jordan Pond is also worth doing, but this adds about 90 minutes onto the hike, at a minimum.
While here, we took the opportunity to take the in the beauty.
For some reason, the kids loved hanging out near the small footbridge (a small piece of excitement while we took a few photos is something they commonly find).
After about 0.1 miles, the trail flattens out and comes to a fork. From here, you can travel either way as the trail is a loop. We happened to travel clockwise, but that was just out of chance rather than there being a reason to do so.
HIKING FROM JORDAN POND TO THE SOUTH BUBBLE
After you’ve had your fill of the pond from “lake level”, it’s time to take a sharp right turn from where the trail hit the shoreline and head up to the South Bubble. While this is technically called the Bubbles Trail, you also may hear it referred to as the “South Bubble Trail” or “Bubble Rock Trail.”
This is where the real hiking starts. The trail starts to ascend quickly. The 0.3-miles up to the South Bubble is quite challenging at times. The kids sailed right through it (though we’re not sure how they climbed up some of the rocks they did), but we were a little bit slower heading up and at times required a bit of help getting some of our gear over the rocks.
It’s not to say that this hike was difficult-it just was one of the more intense uphill stretches that we experienced in the park (aside from the Precipice Trail).
After you get over the boulders, the trail quickly arrives at the South Bubble peak. While up here, we took the opportunity to take in the views of Jordan Pond and the Penobscot Bay. Undoubtedly, the view was well worth the climb.
The view of Jordan Pond from the peak of the South Bubble
We should note that while it is technically possible to go down the same way you came up, we don’t recommend it due to the steepness of the trail and the opportunity for tripping or falling and getting injured.
HIKING FROM THE SOUTH BUBBLE TO BUBBLE ROCK OVERLOOK
A few yards past the South Bubble peak is a small offshoot to the right (east) that leads to Bubble Rock. This rock, which seems to be barely hanging onto the ledge and is balanced perfectly, is a great spot for photos. While we were convinced that a small breeze would topple this rock over the side, it has been here for many years, carried by glaciers from approximately 40 miles away (as estimated by geologists).
HIKING FROM THE SOUTH BUBBLE TO THE NORTH BUBBLE
After leaving Balanced Rock, the trail descends down to the Bubble Divide Trail. The descent is much easier than the climb up and is on a trail rather than over boulders. After about 0.3 miles the trail meets back up with the Bubbles Divide Trail.
To hike to the North Bubble (or back to the parking lot), turn right. After a couple hundred yards (about 0.1 miles), you’ll see signs on the left pointing to the North Bubble Trail.
After turning off the Bubbles Divide Trail, the hike heads up steadily for 0.2 miles. The elevation gain to the North Bubble is approximately 200 feet, but since it occurs over a fair distance, it is much easier than the initial climb up to the South Bubble.
Though we wouldn’t consider the hike to the North Bubble “easy”, it definitely had better footing along the way than the first hike up to the South Bubble. It had rained the night before our hike, which made some of the rocks a bit slippery, but we felt safe the entire way.
Though only a short distance from the South Bubble, the North Bubble had a much different set of views. We could see the beach on the north shore of Jordan Pond to the south. There was also a better view of the surrounding mountains. The North Bubble was also quieter, with only one family of hikers showing up at the peak during the entire 20 minutes we were there.
HIKING FROM THE NORTH BUBBLE BACK TO THE PARKING LOT
Returning to the parking area is straightforward. After retracing your steps that you took up the North Bubble, you’ll turn left on the Bubbles Divide Trail and continue 0.3 miles all the way back to the parking lot.
The entire hike should take right around 90 minutes if you take your time at the peaks and enjoy the scenery, which we highly recommend.
BUBBLES TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Amazing Views. We managed to be lucky enough to take this trail during the fall, and the colors were absolutely amazing. From the photos we’ve seen, this hike has great views no matter when you hike it.
- Variety. We loved walking through the cover of the forest before coming out to a rockface on the way up to the viewpoints. We also loved the mix of flat hiking and rock scrambling. It wasn’t easy, but we really loved it!
- Crowds. While the hike can get busy, the small parking area definitely limits the number of people on the trail at any given time. The peaks also have plenty of room, so don’t let the popularity of the trail scare you away.
- We don’t recommend hiking this trail too late in the day, as the sun goes behind the mountains to the west a bit earlier than the published sunset time. This can make the trail dark and dangerous on the way down if you are not prepared.
- Some people combine this hike with the Jordan Pond Loop trail, or with a hike to the Nubbles (by continuing on the North Bubble Trail toward Eagle Lake). If you have an afternoon, it is really easy to spend at least four hours hiking around and exploring the area.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON ACADIA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- For those of you who are sold on the idea of going to Acadia National Park but not wanting to do all the research on things to do while in the park, check out our downloadable Acadia National Park itinerary which covers things to see and do in Acadia National Park. We include maps, a ton of links, rank all the hikes and prioritize how to spend your time in the park. In addition to Mount Desert Island, we also cover Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut (reachable by boat from Stonington, Maine).
- For an overview of the entire park, check out our blog post on Things to See and Do in Acadia National Park. This article is full of great information on the park and is the companion post to our itinerary. It really is a “must read” ahead of any trip to the park.
- While the Bubbles Trail is a fantastic hike, Hiking the Beehive Loop provides an even bigger punch in a shorter distance. It’s no wonder why this hike is thought of as the best hike in the park. To read about this wonderful hike, read our blog post on Hiking the Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park. We also hiked the more challenging Precipice Trail, which was an amazing experience as well. If you are just looking for an overview of hiking in Acadia National Park, read our blog on The Best Hikes in Acadia National Park. Another great short trail that is worth investigating is the Ship Harbor Trail.
- Our business started by creating vintage-style travel posters from photos sent to us by our customers. We’ve created more than we can count, and would love to work with you to help you remember your vacations forever. When you get back from your trip, make sure to look us up so we can help create the perfect vacation memory!
OTHER USEFUL LINKS INFORMATION ON ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
- Near to the Bubbles Trail is the Bubble Pond. This gorgeous spot is totally worth checking out, and is a good place to start a bike ride on the carriage roads or take a short hike.
- You will enjoy the information that Margie has put together on the best family hikes to do in Acadia National Park. Check out her site for further information on locations all around the United States as well!
- Jamie from “The Daily Adventures of Me” has a complete 3-day itinerary for Acadia National Park. You’ll want to look at her travel resources, especially the information she provides on international travel as well.