There are so many great hikes in Acadia that it's hard to count. I haven't done any yet that I don't like. While it's hard to pick a favorite I think that Penobscot and Sargent wins out for me. It's hard to find any fault with a hike that provides 360 degree views from almost beginning to end with everything from the surrounding mountains to the beautiful Acadia lakes to the ocean beyond.
The weather had been quite warm at the beginning of the week and the cold front that moved in on Wednesday night was a welcome change. Thursday was cool and breezy and almost felt like fall. We got a bit of a late start and by the time we arrived at Jordan Pond House in late morning the closest parking was about 1/4 mile down the street. The good part was that all these people seemed to be doing something else because we had the trails to ourselves most of the way.
Starting up the SpringTrail you immediately hit the toughest part of the hike (not that it's bad at all). It's pretty steep with some minor scrambling and a few typical "Acadia aids" in the form of railings, bridges, steps, etc. In a very short time the trail comes out of the trees to the first overlook on Jordan Pond and the mountains beyond. After that the views pretty much never stop. The Penobscot MountainTrail goes up the open south ridge of Penobscot in as beautiful a ridge walk as can be found just about anywhere. As a bonus the trail is flanked by endless blueberry, huckleberry and cranberry bushes - and there were lots of delicious berries to be had. Approaching the summit of Penobscot there are a few small ledges that provide some fun scrambling (but can be avoided if you prefer). The beautiful tarn near the summit is one of my favorite places on this hike. Amazingly beautiful.
From the summit of Penobscot you can use the Deer BrookTrail to descend back to Jordan Pond but it's much better to continue on to Sargent. The trail drops down through a col between the mountains and back into the woods for a short time. The trail in the col is pretty steep and it is a quick down and up. Before emerging from the trees there is a pond that many people stop at to swim (although we generally avoid it since there always seems to be a bit of a crowd there). The hike up the Sargent South RidgeTrail on the south ridge of Sargent is similar to that up Penobscot but the area has a different feel - hard to describe but the pictures should illustrate what I mean. At the top of Sargent we found a nice ledge on the east side of the summit to stop for lunch which was out of the wind (which by now was pretty strong) and away from the groups gathered on the summit. The views from Sargent are maybe even more spectacular than Penobscot going across Eagle Lake to Frenchman's Bay in the north and west over all of Somes Sound as well as to Cadillac (which is only slightly higher than Sargent) and south over Penobscot to the Atlantic.
Heading down the Sargent East CliffsTrail from Sargent gets you down quickly. There are a lot of steep spots and a few ledges that would probably be a bit dicey when wet. Plenty of good handholds to get down through the steep parts though. The trail joins up with the Deer BrookTrail from Penobscot and follows a brook down to the carriage road above Jordan Pond. Another steep descent along the brook on the other side of the carriage road and back to the north shore of the pond. From here you can take either the east shore or west shore paths around the pond back to the start. We like the west shore path best. It follows right along the edge of the water the whole way with beautiful view across the pond to the mountains including some great views of The Bubbles. This trail used to have split log bridges over about the last 1/2 to protect the fragile pondside environment and these have now been extended to cover about 80 of the length which makes the walking very easy (and much better than the mud that is usually under them).
I always seem to end this hike with the obligatory classic photos of The Bubbles over Jordan Pond but this time it was the clearest, most beautiful view of any of the times that we've been there so of course I took even more. As always we enjoyed walking back by the huge crowds at the Pond House for afternoon popovers and realizing that most of them have no idea what they're missing by not doing what we just finished. We're not going to tell them though...
Early views over Jordan Pond
The views back to the Cranberry Islands and the Atlantic
The trail up Penobscot
My favorite spot on the mountain
Surrounded by mountains and lakes
And the view of the Bubbles over Jordan Pond to end the day
A few photos below. The rest of the album is here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman4...cotAndSargent#
A 360 degree video from Penobscot is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD2UUBYqBFI