Carriage Roads, Bridges, and Jordan Pond House
Acadia National Park
The well-known philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. made many significant contributions to the landscape of Acadia National Park; one was a system of carriage roads along with 17 unique bridges for visitors to enjoy. Our national parks need more people like that!
Carriage roads and hiking trails weave together to provide a variety of routes to explore the rivers and bridges on the East side of the park (Schoodic also has a newly-built network of “carriage roads”). Due to time constraints, we chose to visit just two of the bridges.
First, we visited Cobblestone Bridge. It was the first bridge, completed in 1917, and is the only one built from individual cobblestones. We parked near Jordan Pond House, a restaurant in the park that’s famous for serving tea and popovers. Our plan was to get lunch there after our hike. There are a number of trails leading into the woods from JPH, and we weren’t sure which to take at first. After studying our map, we crossed our fingers and chose one (fortunately, it was the correct one). We quickly found ourselves on the Jordan Stream Path, which follows the river as well as the carriage road to the bridge. It would be about 0.7 miles to the bridge, for a total of 1.4 miles out and back.
There are many photo opportunities along the way. We took a number of selfies (hey, we were on our honeymoon), particularly once the bridge was in view. The stream was next to our dirt and stone path (photo). We also spotted several “mini-waterfalls” as I called them, where stream water rushed through the rocks.
There was a fair amount of wildlife along this trail. First, we saw a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) scamper among the trees and logs. We saw these small squirrels everywhere in Acadia, and heard them chattering, which seemed to startle some visitors. They’re much cuter than the grey squirrels we see in DC. Next, we saw a bullfrog (Rana catesbeina) sunbathing in a puddle. T stopped to photograph it for quite some time, and ended up getting a pretty good shot. I also spotted a snake; after looking it up online we believe it was a juvenile garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). Apparently, there are no poisonous snakes in Maine, which is comforting. The sound of birds chirping was also a welcome addition to our short hike.
After hiking near the stream over rocks, dirt paths, and boardwalks, we caught our first glimpse of the Cobblestone Bridge. We went “off-trail” and went from rock to rock over the stream as we approached the bridge, which provided a better view. As we got closer, we began to see the individual cobblestones and their colors. It was really neat to spot the bridge from further away, and see the details come into focus. We stopped under the bridge to explore, and attempt to take some artsy photos that show off Cobblestone Bridge’s texture and color variation. There are many photos online showing the bridge with enhanced colors, but these don’t compare to seeing it in person. The detail and craftsmanship of the bridge are impressive, but you have to stop and look closely to really appreciate it.
After taking the trail out to Cobblestone Bridge, we followed the carriage road back to Jordan Pond House for a change of pace. The road itself wasn’t super exciting to walk on, but it was faster and we didn’t have to retrace our steps. Plus, the road system has an interesting history. In retrospect, it would have been fun to bike the carriage roads. Something to remember for next time!
Jordan Pond House
After our hike, it was time for lunch at Jordan Pond House. This restaurant has been serving popovers and tea since the 1890s, so it’s something special. The original building burned down in 1979, and the current building was built in 1982.
The place was crowded, but there was no wait for our party of 2. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer or if you have a larger party. We sat at a table on the patio with a view of the lawn, the Bubbles, and Jordan Pond. We were in the shade, which was cool and relaxing, though lawn seats would’ve given us a better view.
T ordered a popover with butter and strawberry jam, and a blueberry soda. I’m allergic to milk products, sadly, or I would have ordered a popover as well. It looked rather crispy and inviting. T says the popover was iconic and tasty.
I ordered the BLTT (a BLT with turkey) and T ordered a Grilled Chicken Caprese. The food was okay, but not anything too special. The turkey on the BLTT was a little dry, so at this point I commandeered T’s leftover strawberry jam to put on my sandwich. Go ahead, try it. The strawberry jam, which I believe is homemade, is amaaaaazing. It was so good and improved the sandwich so much that I asked the waitress to bring me another pot of it. I didn’t even care that she probably thought I was crazy.
Our visit wouldn’t have been complete without visiting this Acadia icon. No matter where you sit, it’s good for people-watching and enjoying the gorgeous Maine weather (which during our visit was sunny and warm with low humidity). After lunch, we wandered down a short path to enjoy the view of Jordan Pond and the twin mountains known as the Bubbles. It was gorgeous; we wish we had more time to relax on the lawn and take in the views.
The following day, after our hike up Pemetic Mountain, we had some extra time. We decided to check out another bridge on the carriage road system. We had looked at photos of all 17 bridges before traveling to Acadia. I knew I wanted to see Cobblestone Bridge, but decided at the last minute that I also wanted to check out Waterfall Bridge because of a gorgeous photo I saw on Joe’s Guide to Acadia.
There are several ways to get to the bridge. We took the Hadlock Brook Trail, which is an easy 1.8 mile out-and-back hike. The carriage also goes there, but that appeared to be a longer (and less exciting) route. The trail wasn’t anything special either, but it was a peaceful hike through the forest. Before long, we were at the bridge.
Waterfall Bridge has a beautiful, austere design. It is meant to frame the adjacent waterfall, but the view was a bit underwhelming due to the timing of our visit. We had to search for the waterfall on the rock face; it was barely a trickle. As we neared the bridge we walked from boulder to boulder, which I really enjoyed. We walked under the bridge and up close to the waterfall. This would have been a great view on a spring day when the water was flowing heavily. If you can, I recommend visiting in the spring or otherwise when there has been a lot of rain. Also, Hemlock Bridge is nearby. We didn’t visit, but it’s so close I wish we had.