Boardwalk on Ship Harbor Trail
(photo by Chip Lary)
Boardwalk on Ship Harbor Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

Wonderland, Ship Harbor, and
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Destinations:  Wonderland, Ship Harbor, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
Trails:  Wonderland Trail, Ship Harbor Trail
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Western Region
Location:  South Harbor, ME
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Ocean, loop hike
Distance:  2.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Minimal  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 1:30  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 1:30   Typical: 3:30  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/18/2009 (Monday)  
Last Updated:  09/08/2009  
Weather:  Overcast and cool (upper 50's)
Author:  Chip Lary

View from Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
View from Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)

Route Summary   

This trail guide covers two easy hikes on the western side of Mount Desert Island. The nearby Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is also mentioned. The typical outing time noted above includes time to enjoy all three locations as well to do the short drives from place to place. Although the walks are easy, the footing is rough in spots so please wear appropriate footwear (in other woods, something like sandals would not be the best thing to wear).

A small spruce growing on the ledges at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
A small spruce growing on the ledges at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
Hike 1: Wonderland Trail
  • Walk on the wide gravel trail for about 0.7 mile.
  • Then the trail will split, forming a small loop with several spur paths off of it. Follow the loop in either direction and check out the spurs to enjoy views of the ocean.
  • When you return to where the main trail meets the loop, turn back onto the main trail and retrace your steps to return to the parking area.

Hike 2: Ship Harbor Trail
  • Ship Harbor Trail forms a figure eight with an offshoot leading from the parking area.
  • From the parking area, head down the trail.
  • You will soon reach a split in the trail – this is the bottom of the "8". You can take either branch at this, and the next trail split, so I will just describe the route as a perimeter loop.
  • So turn left here and keep walking.
  • You will soon reach the next trail split – this is the center of the "8". Turn left again.
  • Soon the trail will break out of the woods and arrive at the ocean.
  • There is a rough path on the edge of the woods to the left that will lead to more expansive views. You may walk right down to the water but take care, as the "beach" is a jumble of smallish rocks that will move under your feet.
  • When you're done enjoying the scenery, go back up to where you first came out of the woods and then continue walking the loop. So coming out of the woods, you would curve to the right.
  • This section starts out on open ledges above the water and runs right next to Ship Harbor where you can look across to the opposite shore.
  • Soon you will reenter the woods and walk on a neat narrow boardwalk.
  • Then look for a spur path on the left. Descend the trail on stairs to the shore of Ship Harbor. Depending on the tide, there may be a sand bar you walk out on for more views of the interior of the harbor.
  • When finished exploring there, walk back up to the main trail and turn left.
  • Soon you will return to the trail split that forms the center of the "8".
  • Turn left and keep walking with a few views out to Ship Harbor en route.
  • When you reach the next trail split, bear left again and this leg will quickly return you to the parking area.

Ship Harbor (photo by Chip Lary)
Ship Harbor (photo by Chip Lary)

Hike 1: Wonderland
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Wonderland Trailhead (40') 0.0 0.0
Ocean Outlook (10') 0.7 0.7
Wonderland Trailhead (40') 0.7 1.4

Hike 1 Rating: Easy
Hike 1 Elevation Gain: Minimal
Hike 1 Typical Hiking Time: 0:45
Hike 1 Typical Outing Duration: 1:15

Hike 2: Ship Harbor
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Ship Harbor Trailhead (40') 0.0 0.0
Ocean Outlook (20') 0.7 0.7
Ship Harbor Trailhead (40') 0.7 1.4

Hike 2 Rating: Easy
Hike 2 Elevation Gain: Minimal
Hike 2 Typical Hiking Time: 0:45
Hike 2 Typical Outing Duration: 1:15

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Trail map of hike route to Wonderland and Ship Harbor (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

The east side of Mount Desert Island gets most of the attention when it comes to hiking in Acadia National Park. If you want to get away to some quieter hikes try the west side of the island. Among these more quiet trails are two short hikes that bring you right down to the ocean. After the hikes are completed, you can visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

This trail report is divided into sections for easier reference:

Wonderland    |    Ship Harbor    |    Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse


View from Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
View from Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)

Wonderland   

Start with Wonderland Trail. This is more of a walk than a hike. It is level and the trail is very well maintained with gravel. The parking area is on the left of Route 102A after you drive west past Seawall (heading south). It is easy to see and holds several vehicles.

Wonderland Trail is mostly straight and starts out going through trees. You quickly get near the ocean and the path splits. It forms a loop out around the tip of a peninsula. You can follow this trail in either direction. There are many small side trails leading out to views from the trees and down onto the rocks for unimpeded views. You can see many islands off the coast. Go ahead and explore all of these paths then return to the main trail.

I only saw a couple other people on this short hike. I did startle a rabbit just as I finished the loop to come back off the peninsula. When you finish the loop simply head back out the trail you came in on and return to your car.

Wonderland Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Wonderland Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

Ship Harbor   

Next, drive a little further west on Route 102A and on your left you will come to an even bigger parking area for Ship Harbor Trail.

This trail appears to get more people and the day I was there a local school had a class outing to hear a park ranger talk to them about the plants and animals on the trail.

This trail forms a figure eight and can be hiked in three different ways: around the entire perimeter or in a figure eight in either direction. I chose to walk it in a figure eight since I was catching up to the class. I ended up passing through them as I came back around.

Lichen and moss along Ship Harbor Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Lichen and moss along Ship Harbor Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

This trail also goes right down to the water. Ship Harbor is a small harbor that juts up into the land to the west of this trail. When I was there it was just after low tide. I noticed that the water was actually flowing into the harbor up over a small rise as the tide started to come in. The ranger explained that it was a normal event – that the tide was strong enough to overcome the outflow of water going over this small drop.

This trail does have one section with some roots and rocks, but otherwise is mostly flat. It also has several side trails leading out onto the rocks. There was a small sandbar near the entrance to the harbor that you could get to at low tide. You could see islands from this trail, too.

When you are done with the views continue back on whichever part of the trail you have not covered yet. It will come back together where you started out and you can then return to the parking lot.

Root ball of fallen tree along Ship Harbor Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Root ball of fallen tree along Ship Harbor Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse   

At this point you are near the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Drive west on Route 102A until you see the sign on the left for it. Turn into the entrance and park. You cannot go into the lighthouse, but there is a boardwalk and stairs that will enable you to take scenic pictures of it. There are also informational signs telling you the history of the lighthouse.

Ocean waves at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
Ocean waves at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
 



 


ME - Central Southeast


Unfurling skunk cabbage leaves (photo by Chip Lary)
Unfurling skunk cabbage leaves (photo by Chip Lary)
  Driving Directions   

These hikes start from Route 102A, located within Acadia National Park in South Harbor, Maine. It is in the western half of Mount Desert Island.

To Wonderland From the North:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 102 in Bar Harbor, pick up Rt. 102 South.
  • Follow Rt. 102 South for about 11.6 miles.
  • At the junction with Routes 102 and 102A in Southwest Harbor, turn left onto Rt. 102A.
  • Follow Rt. 102A for about 4.1 miles, then turn into the roadside parking are for Wonderland on the left. This is 1.0 mile past Seawall Campground.

To Wonderland From the East:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 233 in Bar Harbor, pick up Rt. 233 West.
  • Follow Rt. 233 West for about 5.9 miles where it will end upon meeting Routes 3 and 198.
  • Turn right and follow Rt. 198 North for about 1.4 miles where it will reach a junction with Rt. 102.
  • Turn left and follow Rt. 102 South for about 7.2 miles.
  • At the junction with Routes 102 and 102A in Southwest Harbor, turn left onto Rt. 102A.
  • Follow Rt. 102A for about 4.1 miles, then turn into the roadside parking are for Wonderland on the left. This is 1.0 mile past Seawall Campground.

To Ship Harbor from Wonderland:
  • From the Wonderland parking area, continue along Rt. 102A in a westerly direction for 0.4 mile.
  • Park at the roadside parking area for Ship Harbor on the left.

To Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse from Ship Harbor:
  • From the Ship Harbor parking area, continue along Rt. 102A in a westerly direction for 0.8 mile.
  • At a sign for the lighthouse, turn left onto Lighthouse Road and travel for about 0.5 to the end of the road where there is parking.

Skunk cabbage along Wonderland Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Skunk cabbage along Wonderland Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

Facilities   

Bathrooms at the parking area for Ship Harbor Trail.

Other Notes   

A fee is required to enter Acadia National Park between May 1st and October 31st.

For more information on entrance fees please refer to the Acadia National Park website.

Rates:
  • $20 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the regular season (June 23rd–Early October)
  • $10 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the off-season (May 1st–June 22nd and Early October–October 31st)
  • $40 for a year-long pass for one vehicle
  • $5 for a week-long pass for one pedestrian

Ship Harbor (photo by Chip Lary)
Ship Harbor (photo by Chip Lary)

About Acadia National Park   

Acadia National Park, covering about 48,000 acres, is located on Mount Desert Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the "Downeast" region of the state of Maine. The park spans several villages including Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor. Acadia includes miles of ocean shoreline, many freshwater ponds, a couple lakes, waterfalls, bare ledgy mountaintops, and deciduous and softwood forests. There are two sections of the park that are not on Mount Desert Island: Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut.

Acadia National Park offers a unique hiking experience in New England. From the many bare summits, not only can you see other mountains, but also gorgeous vistas of the sea along with islands, promontories, coves, and boats. The hiking is rugged with many easy rock scrambles, yet the elevations are low, making the ledgy peaks accessible to most people. The incredible network of trails allows you to tailor hiking distances to your wishes – you can devise a route that will keep you going all day; or simply choose a short jaunt to give you great vistas without a lot of effort. There are a couple dozen peaks and well over 100 miles of hiking trails.

View from Pemetic Mtn. at Acadia National Park (photo by Webmaster)


There is an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities at Acadia. Spend some time sunbathing at Sand Beach, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Atlantic shoreline, bicycle or ride a horse on the 57 miles of carriage roads, paddle in the many ponds, swim at Echo Lake, take a boat tour on the sea or to an island, stay overnight at the park's campgrounds, and of course you can hike up mountains, through forests, and around ponds. The winter season provides great terrain for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If your taste runs to less physical activity, then you can drive up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – Acadia's highest peak at 1,532 feet elevation – in fact the highest point on the United States' Atlantic seaboard. From Cadillac's bare summit are views in every direction – you can watch the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening. The forest service offers many ranger-led programs from mid-May through mid-October to introduce you to the nature and wildlife of the park. You can drive on Park Loop Road for a tour of the park with many picnic areas and pullout spots offering scenic vistas available. Or stop in at Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea. Shopping, restaurants, and lodging are available in Bar Harbor as well as the other villages within or next to the park. Whale watching and bird watching are other popular activates.

Rhodora bloom (photo by Webmaster)


The varied natural habitat of Acadia National Park – from ocean to mountains – offers a plethora of plants and wildlife – both marine and land-bound. It is home to about 50 species of mammals, 325 bird species, and 1,000 species of flowering plants. Both bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest on the island. Mammals include deer, porcupine, and beaver. Whales and harbor seals are common marine animals.

The park was established in 1916 under a different name and became Acadia National Park in 1929. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated about one-third of the park's acreage and was responsible for creating the gorgeous carriage roads that wind through forests, around ponds, past waterfalls, and over beautiful granite bridges.

An entrance fee is required to enter the park. See the forest service's Fees and Reservations page for more information.

The park is open all year, although services are reduced and many roads closed during the winter season.

Acadia National Park
P.O. Box 177
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207.288.3338

More Wonderland / Ship Harbor Trail Reports   


Rocks and ocean at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
Rocks and ocean at Wonderland (photo by Chip Lary)
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