Planning A Trip To The Park
Just like any other destination, visiting the Acadia National Park requires proper planning and preparation. The preparation for the trip mostly depends on the season you are planning to visit, as well as the activities you want to do. You will have to pack clothes and gear accordingly. For instance, if you are planning on exploring the hiking trails, you must pack comfortable hiking shoes and other gear. If you are visiting during the peak season, then it is ideal to book your guided tours in advance. Make sure you are aware about all the rules and regulations about the park and follow the instructions given to you by the park personnel to have an enjoyable and stress-free trip.
When Should You Visit the Park?
The ideal time of visiting Acadia is from mid-September to early October, once the summer crowd has left and before winter arrives. However, there isn’t any right time to visit this park; it mostly depends on the type of activities and vacation you are looking for.
For a great summer family vacation – July and August are ideal. Want to experience the stunning fall foliage? October is the month to plan your trip. If you are hoping to visit between March and May, be prepared for rain and fog by packing waterproof gear.
Typically, people overlook spring and winter season, but there are still plenty of fun and adventurous activities offer in the park during these seasons.
How Much Will the Visiting the Park Cost?
To visit Acadia, you will have to buy a weekly or annual pass. There is also a lifetime pass available. Typically, visitors opt for a weekly pass as it gives them sufficient time to enjoy all the facilities and places inside the park.
Here are the different options available:
- Per person - $15 (pedestrian, hiker, biker)
- Per vehicle - $30 (non-commercial, private; 15 passengers or less)
- Per motorcycle - $25 (non-commercial, private; 2 passengers)
- Annual pass - $55 (pass holder and passengers in a vehicle)
How Long Should the Trip Be?
To explore the park properly, you should plan to stay for three to four days. However, if you want to visit the nearby places and villages, as well as the Schoodic Peninsula area of the park, then it is best to extend your trip by a few days.
Do You Need Special Permits?
You only need a special permit for activities which are beneficial for an organization, group or an individual, instead of the general public, as well as for the activities which will need to be managed by the National Park Service to protect public interest and park resources.
The events and activities for which you will need a special permit, includes:
- Military operations
- First amendment events or activities (25+ participants)
- Pageants, attractions, or sports events
- Commercial photography or filming events
- Weddings (10+ participants)
- Group events, including bicycling and running, walkathons, motorcycle rides (20+ participants)
- Stationary events, including family reunions and picnics (30+ participants)
All the areas which are accessible through trials are restricted to groups of a maximum of 20 individuals. For holding events at Frazer Point in Schoodic District, a special permit is needed for 30 and more participants. You don’t need a permit to hold an event at Schoodic Education and Research Center. It is best to consult the concerned authorities before you plan the event to avoid any delays and disappointments.
Must-See Attractions and Things to Do
There is plenty to do in Acadia National Park since there are various attractions and places to visit inside the park. The majority of the park in located on Mount Desert Island, but it also covers some parts of Isle au Haut and Schoodic Peninsula. Each section of the park has its own unique characteristics and qualities.
The carriage roads were created between 1913 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and are undoubtedly one of the most beloved and unique features of this national park. The roads are 45 miles long and have been designed for visitors to experience the breathtaking view of the park in horse-drawn carriage rides, away from the usual hustle and bustle.
This is surely an experience you don’t want to miss. The roads are seamlessly blended in the rocks and woods leveraging the natural landscape. The carriage roads are also great for biking during fall, summer, and spring season. However, in the winter season, these roads are groomed only for skiing. Micro-vehicles and electric bikes are not allowed on these roads.
If you are hoping to get a good swim, or just laze around enjoying the sun then sand beach is perfect. It is the perfect place to have a small picnic with your family. This beach features around 300 yards of sandy shoreline with beautiful granite cliffs.
Even if you are looking for a place to meditate or spend some alone time drawing, painting, journaling, or capturing pictures then sand beach is the ideal spot for you. What better way to spend a day lying on the sand, listening to the birds chirping and waves crashing!
Kayaking, Canoeing, and Sailing
There are many safe places in and around Acadia Park for water sports. You can opt for a guided kayak tour from Bar Harbor towards the western side, where wildlife sightings are rather common. The transportation and equipment is provided, and your guide will give you all the instructions. There other guided wildlife excursions offered at the Southwest Harbor that will take you in Somes Sound, Blue Hill Bay, Western Bay, as well as a short stop at a beach. These excursions are four hour long, so plan your trip accordingly. Shorter tours are also offered, which are ideal for families with kids.
Would you rather go for quieter paddling? You can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes at the Long Pond to explore on your own. At Somes Sound, you can also rent out motorboats and sailboats. Sailing lessons are also offered for beginners.
This is probably the most remarkable spot in the park. The natural rock formation has formed a small cavern under the water surface. When the waves retreat, it creates a space in the cave for air to enter. When the next wave crashes on the cave, it smashes with the air and creates a thunderous roar. During high tides, the water shoots up to almost 40 feet in the air! It is certainly an awesome sight to behold. Be prepared to get wet when visiting the Thunder Hole – bring a towel or an extra pair of shirt along.
A long time back, a massive boulder was dropped by a glacier on the eastern side of the South Bubble Mountain. Now, it is one of the most popular sights in Acadia Park. The large boulder has been resting precariously on the edge. It is certainly an excellent glacial erratic example. The location is a short hike away from the Bubbles parking lot and offers scenic views of Penobscot Mountain, Pemetic Mountain, Jordan Pond, and Seal Harbor.
This is a secluded part of the park offering less crowded and unspoiled scenery. You can witness the stunning thick forest with granite formations. The must-visit spot is the Schoodic Point, a rocky barren tip offering breathtaking view of the Mount Desert Island and Atlantic Ocean. Other points of interests include the Raven’s Nest, Schoodic Institute and Education Center, Frazer Point, The Schoodic Loop Road, Visitor Center and Schoodic Woods Campground, Blueberry Hill, and Little Moose Island.
This museum is situated at Sieur de Monts Spring and displays a vast collection of art and artifacts of Wabanaki. You can learn about the Native Americans and how they lived their life about 12,000 years ago. All the exhibits highlight the history and culture through interactive displays and multimedia.
While you are visiting the Abbe Museum, don’t forget to visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia to view the small gardens loaded with native plants from different habitats. These gardens boast over 400 plant species which are maintained by volunteers.
Isle au Haut
This is one of the most beautiful islands in Maine and is accessible through mailboat. If you want to spend some time in a quiet place to recharge and do some exploring, then this is the most remote area of the park. Almost half of the island is in Acadia and the rest have private residences. There are around 20 miles of hiking trails on this island and it also has camping area.
Cruises and Boat Tours
Since the island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and three bays, the park is an ideal place for boat excursions and sea adventures. Many of the islands near the Acadia Park are connected by cruises or ferries. This means that aside from exploring the park through canoeing, kayaking, and sailing, you can discover the other islands and enjoy the view of the park from the water.
You can go on the whale watching cruise, the puffin cruise motor launch nature tour, or windjammer sail from Bar Harbor. There are lunch cruises that can take you to the Blue Hill Bay Island to the Frenchboro fishing village, nature cruises for seal and dolphin sightings, and ferry ride to take you to Swans Island and Frenchboro. From the Southwest Harbor, you can even opt for deep-sea fishing from Northeast Harbor, head to Cranberry Island, or take a Friendship Sloop to either one of them.
No matter what type of activity you are looking for, Acadia National Park has something for everyone.
The Best Trails in Acadia National Park
Acadia is filled with hiking trails throughout the park, and that too, with different levels of difficulty. This means whether you are a beginner or an expert, you will find a beautiful trail for hiking. All the trails offer a unique scenic view and even opportunities for wildlife sightings. Let’s have a look at the six best trails in the park and what makes them special:
The Beehive Trail
This is one of the most popular trails in Acadia. The Beehive Trail is situated right opposite the sand beach and basically forms a loop. You can enjoy the view of the beach and hear the waves crashing as you explore the trail. However, be warned that trial is definitely not for beginners. The difficulty level is the highest as you will have to take the assistance of handrails, iron rungs, ladders, and granite boulder steps to go through this path. Moreover, this hiking trail will lead you to the highest cliffs which is why it is better not to attempt hiking on this trail if you have fear of heights or are a beginner hiker.
After all the hard effort to reach the cliff, you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the Frenchman’s Bay and Sand Beach. The view is particularly stunning on a clear day and it is surely the best one in the entire park. Keep in mind that you don’t have to go all the way down the Beehive, but instead continue on hiking the loop to the Bowl trail from where you will reach the starting point of your hike. If you are an intermediate hiker then you might be able to hike this trail from the backside to catch the glimpse of the views.
Length: Less than 2 miles for the complete loop
Difficulty: Strenuous, not recommended for beginners
South Bubble to Bubble Rock
You would definitely want to see the massive Bubble Rock boulder sitting at an edge. The rock seems to be at the brink of tipping over but amazingly has been in that position for years. It is bigger than you would even imagine and is certainly worth the hike. You will also get to enjoy the great views of the surrounding mountains and the Jordan Pond from up there.
Make sure you take this hike on a clear day so you can enjoy the views beyond the Bubble Rock. It is impossible to see anything else aside from the famous boulder when the weather is foggy. It is best not to take children or pets on this trail since there are plenty of steep drop offs.
Length: Just a mile
This is a family friendly hiking trail which goes through the Park Loop Road and the coast, beginning from Sand Beach and ending at Otter Point. Best of all, you get to enjoy many of the popular spots of Acadia during this hike, including the Thunder Hole and Monument Cove. There are various parking lots on this trial, which means you don’t have to complete the entire hike if you are short on time or if the kids are getting tired. You can also drive up most of the way and start hiking from the point you want to.
The entire hiking trial is almost leveled so it is safe for the entire family, including your pets! This is a must-try hike, especially if this is the first time you will be visiting Acadia Park.
Length: 2 miles for the complete hike (one way)
Jordan Pond Path
The Jordan Pond is the most beautiful part of the park, and is also another great family friendly hiking trial. The Bubble is located at the end of the lake, providing a scenic view while you rest and enjoy some snacks with your family. The hike forms a loop around the pond and stays very near the shoreline. The pathway is level all the way so it is easy for beginners and families. There is plenty to explore here, including a beaver dam!
Length: 3.5 miles
Cadillac Mountain Loop
When visiting Acadia National Park, you must see the Cadillac Mountain. Whether you plant to hike or not, catching the sunrise or the sunset from the top of the mountain is something you won’t want to miss. This is also a family friendly hike so you can enjoy the trail with the whole family.
To thoroughly capture and enjoy the beauty this mountain has to offer, you should hike the Cadillac Mountain Loop. This paved, short trial will take you all the way to the top of the mountain with breathtaking views on all sides. You can spend as much time as you want on the mountain, but be sure to follow any warnings, signs or roped off areas to protect the fragile plants.
Your hike up the mountain has various stops, each with great views of the surrounding areas. If you want to drive up, then there are plenty of parking spaces for cars. There is a gift shop, as well as restrooms at the top. However, it might be difficult to find a spot if you are visiting during the summer season.
Length: 0.5 mile
The Precipice Trail
This trail is the hardest and steepest one Acadia has to offer, and certainly has the best thrill factor. You will have to use ladders and iron rungs during this hike, more than the ones you’d experience while hiking the Beehive Trail. The views are definitely worth the effort, but this hike is not for everyone. If you are a beginner hiker or have a fear of heights then leave this one out.
Length: 1.6 miles
Difficulty: Highly Strenuous
Whichever hiking trial you plan to go, make sure that you are well-prepared. Always bring a water bottle with you, along with some high protein snacks. Wear comfortable clothes and hiking boots. Keep yourself hydrated at all times, especially if you are hiking during the summer season. Follow all instructions provided to you by the park’s personnel and never ignore any warning signs, if any, posted around the hike. When you are properly prepared for the hikes, the experience is bound to be highly rewarding.
It usually takes at least four to five days to explore Acadia National Park and the surrounding areas, which is why there are plenty of accommodation options available in and around the park. You can select a camping site to have a great camping experience, stay at a hotel if camping is not your thing, or you can do both!
Let’s have a look at all the accommodation options available to the visitors.
There is no shortage of camping sites in Acadia. There are various campgrounds located all over the park, one each on Schoodic Peninsula, Southwest Harbor, Bar Harbor, and on Isle Au Haut Island. The most popular time for camping starts from May to October, which means you would have to reserve a tent early on to avoid disappointments. Most of these campsites can feel like peaceful retreats, and some also offer onsite ranger-led programs.
In this campground, you will see various recreational vehicles, including vehicle campers, pop-ups, RVs along with tents. The Blackwoods campground also has various restrooms with running waters; you can also take showers there. The reservation for this campground is usually half the price in April and November since there are only limited facilities available and no ranger staffing. From December all the way to March, the reservations are free at certain primitive sites. However, the winter campers must be prepared and self-sufficient for Maine winters.
Schoodic Woods Campground
An hour away from Bar Harbor, the Schoodic campground offers 203 wooded camping sites for both TVs and tent camping. The place is open from mid May all the way until Columbus Day. This campground is an ideal place for a relaxing retreat in the woods. Restrooms are also available here.
This campground is situated about 25 minutes drive away from Bar Harbor. The Seawall Campground is has plenty of room for drive-up and walk-in campers, including RV and other camper vehicles. The campsite is open for campers from May to September. It also has a sufficient number of restrooms.
Duck Harbor Campground
Duck Harbor on Isle au Haut can be accessed through mail boat or you would have to hike all the way there. It is open from 15th May to 15th October. There are five camping sites available here. You will have to make advanced reservations for to get a spot. The facilities on this campground include pump water and compositing toilets. The mail boat runs from June to September, but during off-season, you will have to hike towards the campground from Town Landing.
Make sure you get all the information you need to determine which campground would work best for you. It is ideal to reserve a spot in advance to get a good spot. Campfires are traditional all over Acadia’s campgrounds. However, you can only use local wood that help in keeping non-native insects away from the Acadia forests. You can get the firewood from Schoodic Woods, Seawall, and Blackwoods campgrounds
If you prefer staying at a hotel while you explore Acadia National Park then there are various options available for you. Following are five hotels near the park that you can consider for your stay:
Balance Rock Inn
This hotel is situated on top of a rocky peninsula with breathtaking views of the Frenchman’s Bay. The Balance Rock Inn has the best possible scenic view any hotel near the park has to offer. It is a historic building located in a rural wooded area with a waterfront, offering privacy and seclusion to the visitors. Since the hotel is within walking distance to the town, the visitors can easily explore Bar Harbor.
All the suits and guestrooms have antique and handcrafted furnishings and décor. Few rooms also have porches, whirlpool baths, saunas, and fireplaces. There is a Verandah Bar in the hotel where you can enjoy its stunning design with the ocean view, while eating delicious food.
There is also a sundeck overlooking flower gardens and lawns. It is also furnished with a fire pit, shaded gazebo, and heated pool. The hotel offers a breakfast buffet in the morning and a round of freshly cooked food in the afternoon. You can also keep up with your fitness in the well-equipped gym. They even offer a variety of outdoor and sailing packages to the visitors.
Quimby House Inn & Spa
Just like most of the hotels, the Quimby House also has the antique design but with modern touches and facilities. This is an ideal lounging if you want to have a quiet time to relax and unwind from the usual hustle bustle of city life. It is near enough to the town for you to walk around and explore the main attractions, but far enough to enjoy a peaceful time with its beautiful forest views.
This hotel is located at Bar Harbor on a secluded wooded hillside, ideal for a peaceful vacation. It is also near the town, making it convenient for you to head towards the downtown area and the Main Street to explore the attractions and interact with the locals. The hotel also provides easy access to Acadia Park through the West Street Extension which is right behind the hotel property. The place has 26 units with flat-screen TVs, armchairs, and private bathrooms.
The Highbrook Motel also offers mini-suites and deluxe rooms with secluded locations, double vanities, and extra space. All these rooms have front door parking, a furnished porch, and come with complimentary facilities like grab-and-go breakfast options, hot beverages, and WiFi access.
Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor
The Holiday Inn is the most ideal place to stay for traveling families. Children can stay and eat for free (do have a look at the terms and conditions first). The resort has its own private marine on the Frenchman’s Bay. The outdoor pool, oceanfront lounge, and even the surrounding gardens offer scenic views. There are two tennis courts in the resort as well.
There are a range of different accommodations offered in this resort, including suites with living areas, kitchen, and an outdoor deck. You can also get complimentary infant beds or cribs if you have young children. For larger families, adjoining or connecting rooms are also available. There are plenty of children’s activities arranged in the resort to keep them entertained while you relax at the spa or enjoy other facilities.
Dining options include Encota and La Bella Vita, while the Splash bar offers refreshing drinks and causal snacks. The Stewman’s Lobster Pound offers the authentic seafood experience and their lobster bisque and clam chowder is a must try!
This inn served as the home of a sea captain during in the 1904, and was later converted into a public lodging. The cottage has maintained its wooden floors and architecture, while offering era-specific rooms for the travelers. This place is ideal for visitors looking for a coastal down-to-earth getaway. The Lindenwood Inn is located on the Southwest Harbor of Mount Desert, which the most secluded and quieter areas of the island. If you are looking for total escape then this is the right choice. They even offer home cooked breakfast, along with an honor bar, and a cozy pool area.
These are among the many accommodation options available to you when you plan your visit to Acadia National Park. Make sure that you go through the terms and conditions of the place you are selecting and reserve the room in advance, especially if you are visiting during the peak season.
Tips For a Safe and Stress-Free Trip
To have an enjoyable trip to Acadia, it is essential to keep a few things in mind during your visit. Safety should be your number one priority, especially if you are planning to go on hikes. Since Acadia National Park is among the most popular parks in the country, with over 3.5 million people visiting annually, you should be prepared for large crowds.
- Always be cautious when walking near cliffs.
- Make sure a friend or a family member has your itinerary.
- Pick out a prominent spot in the park to come back to in case the group gets separated.
- Have insect repellent with you at all times.
- Make sure everyone has a map with them to avoid getting lost.
- Ask a ranger for directions or instructions whenever in doubt.
Climbing and Hiking Safety
If you are hiking or climbing, then keep these tips in mind:
- Always have a water bottle with you.
- Keep a map, flash light, and a first aid kit in your bag.
- Wear the right clothing, especially hiking shoes.
- Keep a warm jacket with you in case of sudden rain or change in weather.
- Be sure to follow the blue colored trail blazes.
- Never modify the cairns. If you make any changes in the trail markings then it might endanger other hikers.
- Pick the trial as per your experience, limitations, and physical abilities. Never opt for a hiking trail which might be too challenging for you.
- Climbers are responsible for their own safety. Never neglect any warnings or instructions on the park signs.
- When climbing Otter Cliff, use the fixed anchors provided by the park instead of the trees.
- If you notice safety concerns, immediately notify the rangers or park personnel immediately.
- Check the weather and tides forecasts before you head out on hikes or climbs, especially at Otter Cliff and Great Head. The climbs are extremely dangerous in heavy rain or high tides.
Safety on Carriage Roads
There might be heavy trucks or machinery on the carriage road for maintenance purposes. Here are a few tips to follow:
- You must give way to others if you are using a bike.
- Whether you are hiking or biking, you must give way to the carriages as the horses get startled by sudden movements.
- Never speed as you might have to make sudden stops.
- Keep towards the right side of the road.
- When stopping, make sure to move towards the side to give space to other users.
Poison Ivy Protection
Poison Ivy is present all around Acadia. It isn’t an exotic plant but is a native component of Maine’s plant community. It usually flourishes well when growing on areas of disturbance, including along shoreline. The berries from Poison Ivy are highly nutritious to animals and plants. The plant itself offers protection and cover to the soil.
Since it is beneficial to the natural inhabitants of the park, Poison Ivy is preserved. Therefore, the visitors must follow the precautions to avoid getting in contact with the poison ivy. Here are some tips:
- Learn to identify the vine. If a plant has leaves with three petals, it might be Poison Ivy. Stay clear.
- If you or your family member accidently touches the ivy, wash the affected part with water and soap.
- Wash all your clothes if you might have brushed the poison ivy with your clothes.
- Immediately get medical attention in case of a rash.
- To avoid ticks while you hike, stay on the middle of the pathway to avoid tall vegetation, wear light colored clothes, tuck your pants inside the socks, and keep a repellent spray with you.
- Wash your clothes after your hike to remove any tick that might have crawled on your clothing.
More Useful Tips
Here are a few more tips for travelers to enjoy a stress-free time exploring the park:
- Buy your passes online if you are visiting during the popular seasons. This will help you in avoiding standing in queues to get the ticket. Having a smooth start to the vacation will ensure a pleasurable visit.
- Check the timings of the park whenever you are visiting and plan the entire day accordingly.
- Before heading to the park, check and reconfirm any tours you have booked for any changes.
- If you plan to participate in any of the recreational activities then book your spot well in advance.
- Since the parking typically fills up early, it is ideal to arrive early or opt for the fare free shuttle services to get reach the hiking trails, carriage roads, and Park Loop Road.
- The parking areas which are typically congested during peak seasons are Echo Lake Beach parking, Acadia Mountain parking, Sand Beach Parking Lot, Park Loop Road, Jordan Pond area, and Cadillac Summit Road. Arrive early if you want to get a parking spot in these areas.
- Roadside parking is not allowed.
- Using and possessing firecrackers or fireworks is prohibited in the park.
- Download the Island Explorer app that shows the location and arrival times of the buses. These buses are fare free and can be taken to reach different parts of the park. Be sure to look at the map.
- Reserve a spot for your preferred campsite beforehand to get a good place to camp. You can make the reservations online. There are various private camping spots available but since they are limited, they can only be booked through reservations.
- Map out the things you want to do in Acadia and also have a backup plan ready. This way, in case the activity you wanted to do looks too crowded, you will still have other things to do.
- It is ideal to visit the park during the off season to avoid the crowd and properly enjoy the facilities.
- Hike the popular hiking trails early in the morning, so you can take in the beautiful views and increase your chances of wildlife sightings.
- Always have a water bottle with you, along with a few energy snacks to refuel yourself during hikes.
- Be aware of your surroundings throughout your hike to ensure your safety. Buy the hiking guide from the visitor’s center and follow it closely to avoid any hurdles.
- Checkout Acadia’s online calendar for ranger-led activities and book your spot online.
- Always clean up the campsite before leaving so that others can enjoy their camping experience as well.
When you plan your trip to Acadia National Park properly, you will have a better time enjoying the park. Follow these tips to keep yourself and others safe.
Acadia National Park is definitely one of the must-visits parks in the country. No matter what time of the year to plan your visit, you are bound to have an amazing time. It provides the ideal blend of comfortable modern lodgings and thrilling outdoor adventures. The park has something for everyone, making it an ideal family vacation spot.
To maximize your experience, you should plan an itinerary as per the season you are visiting in and the activities you are planning to do. Be sure to reserve your accommodations and book the tours beforehand for a smooth experience. Pack your luggage according to the season to be comfortable throughout your trip and always follow the instructions and guidelines highlighted by the park personnel.
With all the useful information from this guide, you will surely have a fun-filled and relaxing time exploring the wonders Acadia has to offer.