Difficulty: Moderate. The loop is 4.2 miles long, including the short 0.2 section to and from the loop from the Brown Mountain Parking Area. Whichever direction you ski the loop, you’ll climb gradually uphill for the first half and then ski gradually downhill for the second half. There are no steep sections on this route. Snow conditions can make this outing more or less challenging.
How to get there: Travel onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3, and after crossing the causeway, veer right on Route 198-Route 102 and drive 4.3 miles. Right after passing Somesville One Stop, turn left onto Route 3-Route 198 and drive 5.1 miles, then turn left into the Brown Mountain Parking Area. The trailhead to the carriage road network is at the east side of the parking lot and a short distance into the woods is a kiosk displaying a trail map.
Information: The Hadlock Loop is one of several cross-country skiing routes in Acadia National Park. Measuring 4.2 miles round trip from the Brown Mountain Parking Area, the route follows carriage roads, which are wide, gravel, multi-use trails used in the summer by walkers, bicyclists and horseback riders. If skied clockwise, the Hadlock Loop soon passes near the eastern shore of Upper Hadlock Pond, then climbs gradually and travels along the lower elevations of Parkman Mountain, Bald Peak and Penobscot Mountain as it gradually descends and returns to Brown Mountain Parking Area. Along the way, the route crosses over three beautiful stone bridges, the last of which gives a great view of Hadlock Falls.
A number of cross-country ski routes branch off from the Hadlock Loop, including the Amphitheater Loop and the Around the Mountain Loop, as well as a trail that veers east to visit Jordan Pond.
In addition, from the winter parking lot at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, there are popular cross country ski routes on Paradise Hill and around Witch Hole Pond, as well as the 1.1 Eagle Lake Connector Trail that ends at Park Headquarters on Eagle Lake Road. And from the winter parking lot at Park Headquarters, there is the 5.8-mile Aunt Betty Pond Loop.
These routes, totaling more than 30 miles, are groomed by volunteers for cross-country skiing if the snow conditions are right and time permits. In addition, there are a number of carriage roads and unplowed roads in the park that are good for cross country skiing but are not groomed.
Dogs are permitted but must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times, and owners should do their best to keep them off the ski tracks. Similarly, snowshoers are asked to stay off ski tracks by simply snowshoeing to the side.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October, regardless of whether to pass through a fee collection area. Park passes, which are $25 per private vehicle for a seven-day pass or $50 for an annual pass are sold at many locations throughout Mount Desert Island, including park visitor centers, and online at https://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit.
The best map for cross-country ski loops in the park is available on the Friends of Acadia website at https://friendsofacadia.org/get-involved/acadia-winter-trails-association/. I suggest pairing that map with a detailed park trail map (which includes all the small hiking trails) so you can really keep track of where you are in the trail system in the winter.
For more information about Acadia National Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.
Personal note: It was beginning to look and feel like spring in Maine, then a snowstorm dumped two feet of snow on the state, reminding us all that March is very much still a month of winter here in the Northeast. The storm was spectacular, trapping me in my little house in the woods for nearly two days as I watched the wind whip freshly fallen powder into the trees and around my yard. And while I was eagerly awaiting the warm breeze and wildflowers of spring, it seemed pointless to pout, so instead, I planned where I might explore on my skis.
A few days later, the park administration for Acadia National Park announced the carriage roads were open for skiing and snowshoeing, though they wouldn’t be groomed because the base was too soft for grooming equipment to travel over without risk of damaging the gravel trail beneath. So I did a little research on the park’s cross-country ski routes online and selected the Hadlock Loop because it was the loop of top priority for groomers operating out of the Brown Mountain Station, which implied to me it was one of the more popular routes and maybe other skiers would be out there, laying tracks for me. Luckily, I was right.
On Saturday, March 17, as I skied around the Hadlock Ponds Loop, I came across about seven other skiers, a couple snowshoers and a big fluffy white dog.
“It’s beautiful out there,” one skier assured me as I passed him. He was headed back to the parking lot, and I was just beginning my journey.
I asked him about the conditions of the trail, and he admitted it wasn’t easy going, and that at the far end of the loop, I’d get into some deep, soft snow.
“Maybe you’ll stay on top of it,” he said, referring to me being less weight than him. “But I didn’t. It was a good workout though. Keeps you warm.”
And it was a good thing because it was a cold day. The temperatures were in the 20s and the wind was relentless, whistling through the tall evergreens and over the hills. Fortunately, the thick forest sheltered me for the most part, and the sun offered some warmth in the open stretches of trail.
My skis did sink into the snow quite a bit in some spots, but it wasn’t until I stepped out of them to take a photo of a bridge that I realized just how much they kept me afloat. Wearing just ski boots, I sunk up to my hips in snow, then struggled for a few minutes to extract myself, then crawled back to my skis. I didn’t take them off again.
My favorite part of the route was Hadlock Falls, which was half frozen with water trickling between bands of ice, over the rosy granite cliffs. And if I were to do the trip again, I’d plan for more time so I could add a short 0.5 hike up to Bald Peak; the hiking trail veers right off the ski trail. I’ve been to the top of that mountain in the fall. The view would have been worth the struggle through the snow.
More photos from the trip: