It may be one of the smaller national parks, but Acadia National Park is by far one of the most scenic and picturesque parks in the U.S. Whether you come in the fall to enjoy the foliage or visit in the summer to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, Maine is a beautiful area to tour. Seaside villages offer shops for antiques, fresh lobster, and homemade fudge, while the national park houses rugged trails for hiking and biking.
Over 20,000 years ago, Mount Desert Island was once a continental mainland that was covered with glacial sheets of ice. As the ice melted, valleys were flooded, lakes were formed, and mountainous islands were shaped.
In 1604, Samuel de Champlain first explored the coast but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that people began to build cottages along Mount Desert. To preserve the land, they donated the main area of the park, formerly known as Lafayette National Park. The park is one of the nation’s smallest and actually relied on donated land until Congress set official boundaries in 1986.
When to Visit
The main visitor center is open from mid-April through October, but the park is open year-round. Crowds are most prevalent during July and August, as the park boasts some of the best fall foliage on the east coast. If you are looking for a great cross-country skiing destination, try Acadia in December.
From Ellsworth, Maine, travel on Me. 3 South for 18 miles to Mount Desert Island—where the majority of Acadia is located. The visitor center is located 3 miles north of Bar Harbor. Convenient airports are also located in Bar Harbor and Bangor.
The park will be testing a timed-entry reservation system for drivers in October 2020. The system is meant to limit car traffic and safeguard the park. After a two-to-three-week test, the reservation system will launch Summer 2021.
An entrance fee is required from May 1 to Oct. 31. Fees are charged per vehicle and per person, even if you enter the park by bike or on foot. Annual passes, as well as standard park passes like senior passes, are also available and may be used at Acadia. Note that camping fees are in addition to entrance fees.
Cadillac Mountain stands 1,530 feet high and is the highest mountain on the east coast north of Brazil. Grab a blanket and head up to the top, accessible by car or foot, and catch the sunrise for an amazing view of the coast.
Two worthwhile stops are the Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center and the Wild Gardens of Acadia, both touring the habitats of Mount Desert Island.
Since pieces of the national park are located on islands, be sure to check out Isle au Haut, as well as little Cranberry Island, which houses a historical museum.
Various manors, suites, and inns are located in and around Bar Harbor. Try Bar Harbor Inn or Cleftstone Manor for charming rooms in the seaside town. If you came to camp, sites are available at Blackwoods, Seawall, and Duck Harbor—all with reserved and first-come, first served sites.
Areas of Interest Outside the Park
Be sure to step outside of the park walls to enjoy the town of Bar Harbor. You can spend your time relaxing by the water, sign up for a whale watching tour, or go shopping for antiques at one of the town's many shops.
Those looking to view forest wildlife and migrating seabirds needn’t look further than Maine’s top wildlife refugees: Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (Calais), Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Steuben), and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Wells).