The Acadia National Park Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
If you're looking for one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring national parks in the United States, look no further than Acadia National Park. Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia is home to soaring cliffs, granite peaks, picturesque lakes and ponds, and miles of pristine coastline. In this travel guide, we will outline everything you need to know before planning your trip. We'll discuss where to stay, what to see and do, and when is the best time to visit Acadia National Park. So whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, this guide will help you make the most of your trip to Acadia.
What is Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The park encompasses more than 47,000 acres of land, making it the largest national park in New England. Acadia National Park is approximately two hours by car from Portland, Maine, and four hours from Boston, Massachusetts.
Acadia is actually one of the most dog-friendly national parks that I've ever been to. Apart from a few areas where dogs are not allowed (such as the boardwalks in Acadia's rainforest), you can bring your four-legged friend almost anywhere in the park. There are even a few dog-friendly hikes, like the Beehive Loop Trail and the Gorham Mountain Trail. Acadia is also a great place to take your dog swimming. Many of the lakes and ponds allow dogs, and there's even a dog beach at Echo Lake.
History of Acadia National Park
The first Europeans to settle Mount Desert Island were the French in the early 1600s. The French called the island Acadia, and the park preserves many Acadian place names including Cadillac Mountain, Isle Au Haut, and Bass Harbor Head Light. In 1760, during the Seven Years' War, Acadia was conquered by the British. The British renamed the island Mount Desert Island and deported the Acadian people. In 1834, George B. Dorr, considered to be the "Father of Acadia National Park," began a movement to preserve the island's natural beauty. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established Sieur de Monts National Monument, which later became Acadia National Park.
When to Visit Acadia National Park
The best time to visit Acadia National Park is in the late spring or early fall when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. The park is open year-round, but some roads and trails are closed in the winter due to snow. A lot of the restaurants also close down during the off-season.
I loved visiting the first week of October, which is the best time to visit in my opinion. The leaves were just starting to change color and the weather was perfect for hiking. We actually ended up going the last weekend before everything started closing down, and it was the perfect fall sweater weather.
Where to Stay in Acadia National Park
There are a few different options for lodging inside Acadia National Park. You can stay at one of the park's two campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall, which are open from mid-May to late October. There are also several hotels and inns in the towns surrounding Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor is a great place to stay if you're looking for a little more activity and nightlife. If you're looking for a quiet place to stay, I would recommend Bass Harbor.
There are also a number of Airbnb options in the area if you're looking for something more affordable. We stayed in an Airbnb in Ellsworth, which is about a 20-minute drive from Acadia National Park.
What to See and Do in Acadia National Park
There are plenty of things to see and do in Acadia National Park. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Acadia National Park:
Schooner Head Overlook
Acadia National Park is home to some of the most stunning views in all of New England. One of the best places to catch a glimpse of Acadia's natural beauty is at Schooner Head Overlook. This overlook offers panoramic views of the coastline, and on a clear day, you can even see the islands of Frenchboro and Swan's Island.
Thunder Hole is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia National Park. Thunder Hole is a geologic formation that creates a thunderous sound when the waves crash into it. The best time to visit Thunder Hole is at high tide when the waves are the biggest. The timing of Thunder Hole can be kind of tricky to time though since the conditions have to be perfect for it to work.
Beehive Summit Trail
One of the best hikes in Acadia National Park is the Beehive Summit Trail. This moderate 1.5-mile hike takes you to the top of Acadia Mountain where you're rewarded with stunning views of Sand Beach and the surrounding area. The Beehive Summit Trail is a popular hike, so make sure to start early to avoid crowds. It can be especially difficult to find parking as the lot fills up fast, so I recommend starting with this hike first thing in the morning or waiting until the evening.
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on Mount Desert Island and the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. Cadillac Mountain offers sweeping views of Acadia National Park, and on a clear day, you can even see the islands of Frenchboro and Swan's Island.
Little Hunter's Beach
Little Hunter's Beach is a beautiful spot for picnicking, swimming, and exploring tide pools. The beach is located near the Acadia National Park Visitor Center, making it the perfect place to stop and take a break from hiking.
Wild Gardens of Acadia
The Wild Gardens of Acadia are a must-see for any nature lover. The gardens are home to more than 200 species of native plants, and it's the perfect place to take a break from hiking and explore Acadia's natural beauty.
Penobscot Mountain is one of the best spots in Acadia National Park for picnicking and taking in the views. The mountain offers stunning 360-degree views of Acadia National Park, and on a clear day, you can even see the islands of Frenchboro and Swan's Island.
The Bubbles are a must-see for any nature lover. The Bubbles are a series of small mountain ponds that are connected by a stream. The best time to visit the Bubbles is in the summer when the water is warm enough to swim in.
Jordan Pond is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia National Park. The pond is a great spot for picnicking, swimming, and kayaking. Jordan Pond is also home to the Jordan Pond House, a restaurant that offers stunning views of Acadia National Park.
Things to Keep in Mind When Visiting Acadia National Park
There are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Acadia National Park. First, the park is located in a remote part of Maine, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly. Especially in the off-season, it's really hard to find restaurants that are open outside of Bar Harbor.
Second, Acadia National Park is home to some of the most popular hiking trails in the country. Be sure to bring proper footwear and clothing, as well as plenty of water and snacks.
Finally, Acadia National Park is a popular destination, so make sure to arrive early to avoid crowds. Parking can be especially difficult to find during peak season. I would recommend getting into the park earlier than 7:00 am to ensure you find a spot.
Whether you're looking for a place to hike, picnic, or simply take in the views, Acadia National Park is the perfect destination. With its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife, Acadia National Park is a must-see for any nature lover.