Take a Drive at Acadia National Park
For driving enthusiasts, there’s a summer destination for you and your horse(s) — check out Acadia National Park’s carriage trails in Maine.
Top photo: A carriage team reaches the summit of Day Mountain, rewarded with a beautiful view of the coastline. Photo: Carol Norquist/Flickr Creative Commons
Trail riders seem to have endless opportunities to load up the trailer and head to a state or national park for a weekend of riding. For carriage drivers, these opportunities seem to be fewer and far-between. Maine’s Acadia National Park answers that need for driving destinations, offering 57 miles of designated stone carriage roads and bridges winding around Mount Desert Island.
Funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the trails required decades of hands-on work. Rockefeller wished to travel around the beautiful mountains, valleys and coastlines of Mount Desert Island just off the coast of Maine in a safe and motor-free setting. He supervised road construction from 1913 to 1940, including carefully-graded roads safe for passage as well as 17 beautiful stone bridges and tunnels. The broken-stone roadway required a lot of work by hand as granite was mined, crushed and transported all over the island. Today, maintenance work is funded by the park service matched by funds from the non-profit “Friends of Acadia” to continue the expensive and time-consuming upkeep of the roads.
Carriage roads are closed to motorized traffic but are open to hikers and bicyclists as well as horseback riders. Horses always have the right-of-way on trails and roads. Roads are built into the sides of hills, taking full advantage of the natural lay of the land and allowing drivers to experience a close look at the natural environment as well as beautiful vistas. 12 miles of trails pass onto privately-owned land, but land owners have been generous in granting easements for permanent use.
If you plan to bring your own horse for riding or driving, box stalls are available for rent at Wildwood Stables, home of Carriages of Acadia, the only authorized horse service within the park. (The company also provides one- or two-hour carriage tours with their own horses and vehicles for the non-driver.)
These Maine wilds are perfectly suited for exploration on horseback, or by carriage. Rockefeller’s legacy for equine enthusiasts will continue to be appreciated and used, hopefully forever.
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