So many of the most popular and gorgeous places in Acadia National Park can be accessed via the Park Loop Road. Visitors simply drive their vehicles into the park, pull over at any number of scenic vistas and take in the breathtaking beauty. One man, however, wanted people to experience this newly christened national park in a different way. In the early 1900s, his desire to make Acadia easily accessible without the barrier of a car became a true labor of love. That man was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
A man of great wealth, Rockefeller bought a summer home in 1910 in Seal Harbor (pictured above). He had the foresight to recognize that traffic could potentially mar a place as beautiful as Mount Desert Island, and that there should be an alternative route of transportation for visitors. Rockefeller had an idea: What if there was a system of roads in which cars were forbidden, and only visitors were able to navigate in order to enjoy the park’s awe-inspiring views?
Many ideas such as these die quickly. But Rockefeller was a man who had the resources to see such a crazy idea come to life. Considering his stature, it really wasn’t that crazy at all. He began purchasing land in the park and making designs on a plan for a carriage road system – something that has become a signifying feature Acadia. In the end, the roads cost Rockefeller $3.5 million and were made up of 10,000 acres of land that he personally donated.
The roads span 57 miles and include 17 stone bridges – bridges of elaborate design with a classic stone face. His carriage road system, comprised of easy-to-navigate paths for horse drawn carriages, was created to help transport visitors around the park to see the sights. Today, travelers use these roads to take their time and explore the park by hike or by bike. The roads were designed so that hikers of any skill and any age could get around; they are an incredibly easy walk, complete with well-marked signage.
It was a happy stroke of luck that this park was one of the subjects of Rockefeller’s charitable heart and commitment to conservation. The Carriage Roads and bridges are truly gifts to all of us for centuries to come.