The Complete Guide to Acadia National Park 🍂 | What to Do when Visiting Acadia!

The Complete Guide to Acadia National Park 🍂 | What to Do when Visiting Acadia!

Nestled along the rugged northeast coast where the Atlantic Ocean meets towering mountains, Acadia National Park is nothing short of stunning.

Although Acadia is Maine's only national park, it packs everything in, from incredible coastal views to adrenaline-pumping hikes and spectacular sunrises. Whether you're an avid hiker, an aspiring nature photographer, or simply planning your next summer adventure, this guide will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Acadia!

Dig the Acadia National Park Poster or the Acadia National Park Sticker? Shop these and other sweet Gifts for Nature Photographers after learning about Acadia!

Where is Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park offers a breathtaking expanse of wilderness and is located along the wild coast of northeast Maine. This park, celebrated for its stunning summits and diverse ecosystems, lies primarily on Mount Desert Island, with additional areas on the Isle au Haut and parts of the Schoodic Peninsula.

How to Get to Acadia National Park

Accessing this coastal gem is a journey through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the Northeast. To get to Acadia National Park, you'll first travel to Ellsworth, Maine, and then take Bar Harbor Road to Trenton. Once in Trenton, Maine, which is just outside Mount Desert Island, you'll cross the Mt.Desert Narrows via Trenton Bridge. From there, you can now access Acadia via the entrance station on Acadia's Park Loop Rd., the Hull Cove Visitors Center, or Sand Beach Entrance Station.

- How Far is Acadia National Park from Portland Maine?

Portland Maine to Acadia National Park is approximately 160 to 170 miles, translating to a scenic drive of around 2.5 to 3 hours​​​​​​.

- How Far is Acadia National Park to Boston?

Driving from Boston to Acadia National Park is a longer 280 mile trek that will take around 4.5-5.5 hours when leaving from the bustling city, but offers plentiful opportunity to enjoy other scenic stops along the way​​​​​​​​.

- How Far is Bar Harbor from Acadia National Park?

Bar Harbor, a classic New England town, borders the park and is a gateway to Acadia. Bar Harbor to Acadia is just a short drive of about 2 miles or approximately 5 minutes! Bar Harbor makes for a lovely, ideal base camp for exploring the area​​.

Where to Fly Into For Acadia National Park

Most people access Acadia by flying into the Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) or the Portland International Jetport (PWM) to take a short one-way flight to The Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB), which is the closest airport to Acadia at only about 8 miles away. Others, of course, will rent a car and make the drive.

What Time Does Acadia National Park Open?

Beautiful Photo of Acadia at Night by Rajiv Krishnan

Maine winters are cold and snowy but absolutely beautiful, while summers are warm and gorgeous. Fall is colorful and alluring, while spring blossoms in wildflowers. Regardless of when you visit Maine's natural beauty, Acadia National Park is open year-round for 24 hours a day!

That means you have non-stop access to Acadia 365 days a year, day and night!

However, do note that access to facilities and visitor centers is limited to certain hours.

When is the Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park?

This is a hard question to answer, as it varies for everyone! The best time to visit Acadia National Park depends on the type of adventure you're searching for and what you plan to do.

However, by breaking down the things to do during and the benefits of each season, perhaps we can provide some insight.

Planning a trip to Acadia? Our 2024 National Park Calendar is the perfect way to mark the date!

Spring (March, April, May)

This is a hard question to answer, as it varies for everyone! The best time to visit Acadia National Park depends on the type of adventure you're searching for and what you plan to do.

However, by breaking down the things to do during and the benefits of each season, perhaps we can provide some insight.

Summer (June, July, August)

Summer in Acadia means sunny days, ideal temperatures in the high 70s, and a refreshing ocean breeze. However, summer fog can sometimes envelop the island, making the views tough to see. July marks the start of the tourist season in Acadia, with August being even busier as families and locals enjoy the summer's last days. Expect crowded hotels and restaurants during this peak season​​, which most hail as the best time to visit Acadia.

Fall (September, October, November)

Fall is a spectacular time to visit, with crisp weather, lighter crowds, and stunning fall foliage. Early September offers great weather, but temperatures start to dip towards the end of the month, so bring warmer clothes and expect a wide temperature fluctuation between morning and afternoon.

When is Peak Fall Foliage in Acadia National Park?

The colorful fall foliage usually peaks between October 13-22, making it a popular time for "leaf peeping". Fall is also a busy time for cruise ships in Bar Harbor​​, a great way to view the leaves from the perspective of the sea or even see a whale!

Winter (December, January, February)

Winter in Acadia is marked by cold and often harsh conditions. Despite the average snowfall of 61 inches, the snow tends to melt quickly due to coastal proximity, providing opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on the carriage roads and Park Loop Road. There are also downhill ski and snowboard opportunities in winter, but not directly in Acadia. Most businesses close for the winter, but some restaurants and hotels remain open​​. Winter is the quietest, least crowded season in Acadia.

How Big is Acadia National Park?

Rad Image of Acadia National Park from Trevor Hayes!

Acadia National Park encompasses an area of approximately 49,075 acres (about 76.7 square miles or 198.6 square kilometers). This size includes a diverse range of landscapes, from the highest mountains along the Atlantic coast to forests, lakes, streams, and a rugged shoreline.

Where Can I Buy a Pass for Acadia National Park?

An Acadia National Park Entrance Pass is required year-round to visit Acadia. A standard entrance pass will cost you $35 for a private vehicle, $30 for a motorcycle, or $20 per person if entering with no car. An annual pass is available for $70, which is ideal if you spend more than two days in Acadia. Please note that a SEPARATE vehicle registration pass is required to drive on Cadillac Mountain Road.

Here's a handful of ways to buy a pass for Acadia National Park.

In-Person Purchase Locations

You can buy a pass at various locations within and near the park. Some key spots include:

  • Hulls Cove Visitor Center
  • Schoodic Institute Welcome Center at Rockefeller Hall
  • Winter Information at the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce
  • Blackwoods, Schoodic Woods, and Seawall Campgrounds
  • Entrance Station on Acadia's Park Loop Road

These locations accept cash or credit/debit, with campgrounds specifically accepting credit/debit only​​.

Third-Party Sellers

In addition to National Park Service locations, entrance passes can also be purchased in person at third-party sellers such as:

Online Purchase and Print

For convenience, you can purchase your pass online before your visit. Once printed, you can head straight to a trailhead or parking lot and display the pass on your dashboard. Note that due to limited cell service in Acadia, it's advisable to print your pass and Cadillac Summit Vehicle Reservation QR code before arriving at the park​​!

Having a pass not only grants you entry but also contributes to the preservation and maintenance of this magnificent national park. Whether you choose to buy your pass in person or online, make sure to have it displayed clearly on your vehicle's dashboard throughout your visit.

Are Dogs Allowed in Acadia National Park?

Yes! Dogs are allowed in Acadia National Park, but make sure you follow the essential guidelines:

  • Leash Requirement: Dogs must always be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose of pet waste properly in designated receptacles.
  • Restricted Areas: Pets are not allowed in most lakes, Sand Beach (June 15-Sept 8), Echo Lake (May 15-Sept 15), public buildings, ranger-led programs, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and Duck Harbor Campground.
  • Pet-Friendly Areas: Dogs are permitted on 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods campgrounds, as well as for day hiking on Isle au Haut​​​​.

When visiting Acadia National Park with your pet, following these rules is essential to maintain the park's natural environment and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Wildlife in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park offers an incredible variety of wildlife, both on land and in the surrounding waters.

  • Birds: Acadia is a bird-watching paradise with 338 recorded bird species. The park's varied habitats support a diverse bird population, including falcons, owls, eagles, loons, ducks, shorebirds, and various songbirds​​.
  • Mammals: The park is home to about 40 mammal species, including bats, beavers, and the more commonly seen white-tailed deer.
  • Marine Life: Acadia's coastal location also makes it an excellent spot for observing marine life, like seals, dolphins, and seabirds. While whale sightings are not as common within the park's immediate vicinity, whale-watching tours on Mt.Desert Island offer a fantastic opportunity to see these majestic creatures.

Are There Bears in Acadia National Park?

Black bears are present but rarely seen in Acadia. The park has a year-round black bear population on Mount Desert Island, but spotting them is quite uncommon due to their elusive nature​​​​​​.

Are There Moose in Acadia National Park?

Yes, there are moose in Acadia National Park, but overall, moose sightings in Acadia are rare. These large mammals prefer less populated, more northern areas of Maine. While part of the ungulate family in Acadia, moose are far less common than white-tailed deer​​​​.

Where to Stay in Acadia National Park

Nearby Ells Pier in Bar Harbor, Maine shot by Photo by Michael & Diane Weidner.

While there are no overnight lodging options inside Acadia National Park (aside from camping) itself, several nearby areas offer a range of accommodations. If you're wondering where to stay near Acadia National Park, these cities and towns cater to a plethora of preferences and needs.

  1. Bar Harbor: The closest town to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is located on Mount Desert Island and is a popular choice for visitors. It offers immediate access to some of the park's most stunning scenery, along with a variety of lodging options. The town is particularly busy in the summer, with many accommodations operating only in the high season​​​​.
  2. Ellsworth: Just north of Mount Desert Island, Ellsworth is less than 20 miles from Acadia and offers year-round lodging options. It's an ideal choice for those looking for more budget-friendly accommodations, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes available​​​​.
  3. Bangor: As the closest city to Acadia National Park, Bangor serves as a great base for those who prefer urban areas. It's only an hour's drive from the park and offers a well-connected gateway to the rest of New England​​.
  4. Southwest Harbor: Located on the south side of Mount Desert Island, this town provides a quieter alternative to Bar Harbor. It's an excellent option for those seeking a more relaxed and less crowded experience​​.
  5. Blue Hill: Situated across the water from Acadia National Park, Blue Hill is about a 40-minute drive away. It's particularly suited for families looking for a peaceful destination near the park, especially during the busy summer months​​.

These areas surrounding Acadia National Park offer a diverse range of accommodations, from bustling urban settings to tranquil coastal towns, ensuring that every visitor can find the perfect place to stay during their visit to this beautiful region.

Can You Camp in Acadia National Park?

Yes, you can absolutely camp in Acadia National Park. The park offers several camping options (in & around) Acadia:

  1. Blackwoods Campground: Situated on the eastern area of Mount Desert Island, this campground is close to many popular spots along the Park Loop Road.
  2. Seawall Campground: Situated on the west side of Mount Desert Island near the coastline, offering a different perspective of the island.
  3. Schoodic Woods Campground: This campground is on the Schoodic Peninsula, technically the only part of Acadia that's on the mainland.
  4. Duck Harbor Campground: Found on Isle au Haut and accessible only by a ferry from Stonington, it offers a more secluded experience​​​​.

Each campground provides a unique way to experience the diverse landscapes and environments of Acadia National Park, from forested areas to coastal settings, and makes for ideal lodging during summer and fall!

What to Do in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park offers a huge variety of outdoor activities for visitors of all interests, ages, and skills. Here's a breakdown of some of the top things to do in Acadia National Park:

Hiking in Acadia

Acadia is a hiker's paradise, with over 120 miles of trails ranging from leisurely seaside strolls like the stunning Ocean Path Trail to more challenging hikes like the Precipice Trail and Beehive Trail that feature difficult sections with runs, ladders, and rock scrambling.

Biking in Acadia

Explore the 45 miles of carriage roads that are car-free and perfect for biking amidst stunning natural scenery.

Wildlife Watching in Acadia

The park's diverse habitats are home to an array of wildlife, including birds, mammals, and marine life. Maybe if you're lucky you'll see a few or snap some shots from behind the lens!

Scenic Drives in Acadia

Drive along the Park Loop Road for breathtaking views of the coastline, forests, and mountains. Don't miss the sunrise or sunset at Cadillac Mountain.

Be the First to See the Sunrise in Acadia

Cadillac Mountain, accessible by hiking or driving, is renowned for being among the first places in the United States to see the sunrise. This makes it a popular spot for early risers who want to witness the breathtaking spectacle of the sun emerging over the Atlantic. Whether you hike up the mountain (learn more about the Cadillac Mountain Trail) or drive (be sure to make a vehicle reservation!), this experience is truly unforgettable and a must-do for anyone visiting Acadia.

Water Activities in Acadia

Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and sailing in the pristine waters around the park, or go for a cold dip at Sand Beach or Echo Lake. Please be aware that all other bodies of water in Acadia are off limits for swimming, as many are a drinking source for nearby towns.

Ranger-Led Programs in Acadia

Participate in educational ranger-led programs to learn more about the park's natural and cultural history and have the kids become Junior Rangers!

Photography in Acadia

With its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, Acadia is a fantastic destination for nature photography & travel photography enthusiasts. Snag a Parks in Color Camera Strap (featuring Acadia in its design!) or any of our custom designed Camera Neck Straps to embody your love for Acadia and other National Parks!

Picnicking in Acadia

Find a spot at one of the park's many picnic areas for a relaxing lunch in nature with beautiful views to go along.

Winter Sports in Acadia

In winter time, the park transforms into a haven ideal for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.

This variety of activities ensures that there's something for everyone at Acadia National Park, making it an enticing destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and families alike.

Acadia National Park: A Northeast Treasure

From the serene sunrises atop Cadillac Mountain to the peaceful trails winding through lush forests and rugged coastlines, Acadia National Park offers an escape into nature's diverse beauty. Whether it's your first visit or a long-awaited return, this guide ensures a memorable journey through one of America's most beloved national treasures.

Have something to say about Acadia or images to share from a trip? Drop a comment below so we can connect!

Back to blog