Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sieur De Monts Spring and the Wild Gardens of Acadia - Acadia National Park, Maine

If you’re visiting Acadia National Park, one stop you can’t miss is Sieur de Monts Spring, which is home to a nature center, spring house, hiking trails and the Abbe Museum. In addition, the Wild Gardens of Acadia are next to the site.

The Spring makes a great stop as you travel along Acadia National Park’s drive and gives you a chance to explore both the natural and human history of the Park.

Where is it? 

Sieur de Monts Spring is off of the park’s main loop drive and also accessible from Route 3 where it crosses the loop drive. It’s well signed, both on the loop drive and on Route 3. There is parking provided along the roadway to the site, but during busier times it does tend to fill up and parking is allowed along the side of the roadways. During those times, it can be quite a walk from your car to the site.

For the least crowds, try to hit the area early in the morning or later in the afternoon, as the parking and the crowds tend to be lighter, especially on weekends.

What’s there? 

Sieur de Monts Spring is home to the spring itself, a small nature center, the Abbe Museum, several hiking trails and adjacent to the site, the Wild Gardens of Acadia are accessible.

When you park along the access drive, you first encounter the nature center. This center, run by the National Park Service showcases the nature of Acadia National Park with dioramas, exhibits and stuffed animals you can look at and touch. There are also rangers on duty to answer any questions and who offer interpretive presentations throughout the day during the tourist season (Memorial Day through Columbus Day).

Leaving the Nature Center, the Wild Gardens of Acadia are off to your right, but you continue along the paths, walking by the outlet of the Sieur de Monts Spring. Continuing on you come to the spring itself, which is encased in a canopy that protect that spring. This canopy was built by George Dorr in early 1900s, and he was the one who carved “Sweet Waters of Acadia” on the boulder next to the spring house. From the spring, the waters drain to the small stream by the Nature Center and then continue on down through the Wild Gardens of Acadia and into the valley beyond.

From the spring house, there are two routes to explore. One takes you to the hiking trails that radiate away from the area. The most impressive of these trails is probably the Dorr Mountain Trail, which was built in the early 1900s and features numerous stone steps and staircases up the side of the mountain, which the builders hoped would allow anyone to be able to reach the summit of the mountain. You don’t have to walk very far to find some of these steps, which are well worth the short walk because of their impressiveness. If you are going to hike Dorr Mountain, it’s advisable to bring plenty of water and wear good hiking boots, as even though the trail is very well constructed, it’s still quite a climb to the summit of the mountain. The other trails are equally well constructed and any of them make for an interesting hike. Should you be interested in hiking, I’d suggest you pick up a copy of a hiking guide to Acadia (they’re available in almost every gift shop in the park) - which will provide a map and descriptions of all the trails in the area.

In addition to the hiking trails that radiate away from the Sieur de Monts Spring, you can visit the Abbe Museum, which is just up the hill from the spring and is an easy walk for anyone. The museum showcases the Native American history and culture in Maine.

There’s a small admission fee for the museum, which also gets you into the Abbe Museum location in downtown Bar Harbor. The museum is fairly small – and is located within a round building, so you can enter and then work your way around the museum. Displays, exhibits and dioramas are present in order to explain and illustrate the various pre-historic periods and the Native American culture – there are over 10,000 years of human history is presented in the museum There’s also a small gift shop that sells Native American goods and other items such as books on the natural and human history of the area.

There are full bathroom facilities next to the Nature Center.

How long will I spend there? 

Depending upon how interested you are in the various portions of the Sieur de Monts Spring area, you can probably spend anywhere from about an hour to a full day (if you decide to go hiking up Dorr Mountain). To really view the nature center, the spring and the Abbe Museum, plan on at least 2 hours of time. If you also visit the nearby gardens, tack on another hour and if you go on any longer hikes, expect to spend several hours climbing the mountain.


On my latest visit to the area, my partner and I spent the better part of one of our afternoons in Acadia at the Sieur de Monts Spring area. We were visiting on Columbus Day Weekend and while the park was busy, it wasn’t overwhelming. At the Sieur de Monts Spring parking was tight and we ended up parking down the road a distance and walking back. At the nature center we browsed through the exhibits and then sat in on a nature talk by one of the rangers. Following that, we walked up the spring, up the Dorr Mountain trail a short distance and then over to the Abbe Museum where we spent a good amount of time going through the exhibits and browsing the gift shop.

Is it worth visiting? 

I think the answer here is an unqualified yes. The nature center, the spring and the hiking trails are all open to the public and the small admission fee for the Abbe Museum is well worth the price.

While it might be busy at times, especially on the weekends, you really shouldn’t skip this area as part of your tour of Acadia National Park. It gives you an opportunity to learn about the natural and human history of the park through the nature center and the Abbe Museum. There’s also an opportunity for hiking and if you visit the nearby Wild Gardens, you can learn about all of the plant life living in the park.

Final Thoughts 

Don’t skip a visit to the Sieur de Monts Spring if you are visiting Acadia National Park. It’s an easy stop along the Park’s loop drive and is well worth the time.

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