BTS in Acadia National Park

Here’s the thing about photoshoots: they’re not always the glamorous, linen soirees they’re made out to be. When we went to Acadia National Park on the eastern shores of Maine for our Fall photoshoot, we got rain, snow, ice, stuck cars, closed roads, and an emergency drill. It was a far cry from blow dryers and lemon water – so naturally, we were stoked. 

Protruding into the Atlantic, Acadia National Park takes up the better half of Mount Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”, it’s a Maine thing) on the Schoodic Peninsula. It’s home to ragged cliffs, precarious lighthouses, bucolic lakes, and Cadillac Mountain — the tallest mountain on the eastern coastline and  first place in the USA to see the sunrise. Of course, the road to Cadillac Mountain is closed during the winter (news to us), so we changed the plans and started back at the beginning. 

The main entrance to Acadia NP is through Bar Harbor, ME – a shingled seaside town that ebbs and flows with tourists and the tides. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s a sea of baseball caps and tail lights. In the winter, you can have it all to yourselves (and a few hearty locals). 

Just outside of Bar Harbor we picked up the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a one-way “best of” tour of the park. Driving slowly and with our Kodaks at the ready, we hopped out to explore when the mood struck us: a jaunt up Precipice Trailhead, scrambling to unnamed overlooks, and a heated debate over whether to take the plunge at Sand Beach or not (we settled for a toe dip – and yes, it was freezing). 

Just short of Otter Cove we stopped off at Thunder Hole, a formation named for the cacophony of sound emitted from waves crashing against rocks. It did not disappoint. 

Likewise, Otter Cliff coaxed a few holy mackerels from our lips. These 110-foot granite cliffs are dotted with evergreens and icy waterfalls that quietly spill down into crystal green waters, beckoning you to take a plunge… I mean, if the otters can do it… 

When we rounded the corner to Jordan Pond our excursion came to an abrupt end due to a Park Ranger safety drill. So we did some calisthenics and picked up Route 3 back to Bar Harbor, in search or the one joint still serving cold brews and hot chowder. 

 

Best National Park Lodges for a Drink

 

So you’ve spent the day traipsing great swaths of land, catching glimpses of bears and billygoats, staring up at sky-high waterfalls and down into prehistoric craters. You are, of course, exploring one of the great National Parks, America’s best idea. You’re also in need a cold one somethin’ fierce. Say hello to America’s second best idea: National Park Lodges. Grand, classic and unmistakably Americana, the National Park Lodges are worth a visit in and of themselves. Some have grand ballrooms, others have epic views, many have been featured in classic films, and all hit the spot after a long day on the trail. Here are some of our favorite National Park Lodges to grab a drink and let it all sink in.

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Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park

Nothing gets your heart pumping like staring 8,500 feet straight down. Better get a drink to calm your nerves. Perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, the North Rim Lodge and Roughrider Saloon make for a pretty epic stop after hiking nearby Kaibab Trail. Grab a Dark n’ Stormy and see if your drink doesn’t predict the future: At over 1,000 ft higher than the South Rim, the North Rim is known for it’s unpredictable weather. Sit back in the stellar common room and watch a summer storm roll through, or lounge on the patio listening as the piñons and ponderosas whisper across the canyon. Open May 15 – October 15, so get a move on!

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Stanley Hotel, Rocky Mountain National Park

Their slogan says it all, “7500 feet above the ordinary!” Sure, it’s the entrance of the rough n’ tumble Rockies, but make no mistake, the Stanley Hotel drips with glamour. Established in 1909 by a well-to-do yankee in search of a summer home, Freelan Oscar Stanley wanted his hotel to hold it’s own against the poshest hotels of the East Coast. Goal achieved, Mr. Stanley. Belly up to the Cascades Whiskey Bar and experience the Rockies the Stanley way – scotch in hand, beautiful views a plenty. The bar offers Colorado’s largest selection of whiskeys, bourbons and scotch (we like the Stanley Old Fashioned for the black walnut bitters), and a healthy dose of paranormal activity. In 1974 Stephen King spent some time at the Stanley Hotel and came up with a story about a haunted mountain hotel plagued by unkind spirits… perhaps your second drink will be The Shining Redrum Punch…

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Crater Lake Lodge, Crater Lake National Park

Sitting on the deck at Crater Lake Lodge, beer in hand and good friends at your side, you think to yourself, “Well this is pleasant.” But as you look down to the crystal blue lake below, you realize just how terrifying this place really is: You are teetering on the edge of a massive caldera, just a step away from falling into the deepest lake in the United States which, only 8,000 years ago, was a massive volcano. So it’s okay if you’re feeling a little jumpy all of a sudden. But by your second beer you’ve come to grips with the fact that you’re having happy hour on the edge of an abyss.Grab a flight of local Oregonian beers on tap and watch the lake change as the sun sets. No reservations.

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Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite National Park

No “Best of” list would be complete without mentioning the beloved Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly  the Awahnee Hotel) at the heart of Yosemite Valley. Where else can you sip champagne and gaze upon Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point? Sitting in the great dining room, you can’t help but sit up a little straighter and tap into your inner President Roosevelt – no matter how sweaty you were just a few hours ago. Towering 34-ft ceilings, glowing chandeliers and enormous pine rafters evoke the great pioneer days of yore. But unlike the mountain men and women who came before us, you can’t just roll in off the wagon. Men are required to wear long pants and shirts with a collar, while ladies are asked to cover their knees and shoulders. It’s a small price to pay for an evening in one of America’s grandest hotels.

THE GREAT FIREPLACE AT HERMITS REST. CONSTRUCTED IN 1915 BY THE SANTA FE RAILROAD. DESIGNED BY MARY COLTER.

Hermit’s Rest, Grand Canyon National Park

Ok, so Hermit’s Rest isn’t actually a National Park Lodge at all, but bear with us. Originally commissioned by the first tourism companies in the west, Hermit’s Rest was built in 1914 as a rest stop for weary coach travelers. They’d stretch their legs, peruse the native crafts sold on site, and warm themselves by a the fireplace during the colder months. Sure, it’s not an authentic historical ruin and the whole thing is a little kitschy, but there’s something kind of sweet about 1920’s Americana tourism marketing. There’s still a good snack bar to grab a can of cold beer and it makes for a great photo-op. What more could you want on a road trip pit-stop?