Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Carriage Roads

In 1901, a group of wealthy Mount Desert Island summer residents banded together to set aside the land that would later become Acadia National Park. One of the park’s early benefactors was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the millionaire industrialist and philanthropist who later planned and built New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller hoped the land would one day become “a real gem of the first order among national parks,” but, in 1913, that hope was threatened by an unforeseen menace: the arrival of the automobile on Mount Desert Island.

Rockefeller, however, did not take this threat lying down. Over the next 27 years, he built a system of carriage roads crisscrossing his property, most of which he later donated to the park. Gently graded and lined with broken stone, the “Rockefeller Roads” (as they were known) offered a refuge from the “horseless carriage” for hikers, horseback riders and the open, horse-drawn carriages, which were the summercators’ preferred mode of travel. Linking the 45 miles of carriage roads were a series of handsome bridges that were built with local granite and cobblestones. The Rockefeller Roads were not without controversy, however. Some summer residents considered them a scar on the wilderness.

Today, now that the automobile has all but conquered the island, visitors to Acadia can be thankful for Rockefeller’s generosity and foresight. Winding through the eastern half of the island, past lakes and mountains, these roads are now enjoyed by hikers, joggers, cyclists, cross-country skiers, carriage riders and horseback riders.