Acadia national park is found on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Acadia covers 47,000 acres and has over 120 miles of hiking trails to explore its natural beauty. This includes 45 miles of carriage roads for biking and 32 miles of wooded trails for hikers. Adjacent to the park is a large body of water called Somes Sound, where you’ll find the Otter Cliffs. What’s the best time to visit Acadia National Park?
Here is the best time to go to Acadia National Park
You can visit Acadia any time of the year, but it’s important to know the situation in the various seasons. Let’s discuss each of the four seasons:
Summer (June to August)
Summer is one of the best time times to visit Acadia National Park because all facilities are open. Temperatures usually range between the 50s-70s. Considering this is one of the peak seasons, expect to deal with crowds.
You can pick blueberries in almost all parts of the park during this season. Some popular activities include hiking, boating, and horse-drawn carriage rides. Notable events are Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival, Bar Harbor Music Festival, and Acadia Birding Festival.
Since this is a busy season, ensure you make reservations early enough to avoid missing out on accommodation and some activities. Also, remember to carry layers, as the Canadian Arctic winds make the nights cold even in the summer. Here is a guide on what to wear during hot weather.
Spring (March to May)
March isn’t usually a great time to visit because even though snow is usually melted. You can visit in mid-April when temperatures range between the 20s and 50s and most facilities begin to open up.
But this is not to say spring isn’t a great time to go to Acadia National Park. The weather in spring is usually unpredictable, so expect to deal with mud because of the melting snow and annoying bugs. Most roads and trails aren’t usually open till mid-April. The good thing is that you won’t find crowds during this period.
Winter (November to February)
This offseason isn’t for everyone. Because of the freezing temperatures, some parts of the Park Loop Road and some major trails are usually closed. The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is normally closed, but you can go to Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce to find information about the park.
Few people visit during the winter, so you will have a lot of space to explore the picturesque snow-covered park. If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you should visit during this time. You can snowmobile on Loop Park Road till the Cadillac Mountain’s top. Other winter sports you can participate in include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
So if you feel like you can brave the cold or aren’t afraid to go out during the cold season, this is your best time. Remember to have all the necessary winter gear. Here are some tips on what to carry for the cold weather.
Autumn (September to October)
If you’ve always wanted to see the changing colors of the foliage at Acadia National Park, this is the ideal time to visit. In September, the summer crowd begins reducing, and you have more space to go to enjoy the various sights at the park. From the start till mid-September, temperatures range between the 50s and the high 60s.
But from late September, more people stream into the park as mid-October is the best time to see the colorful plants. Note that October’s last week is usually rainy and cold, so avoid going to the park at that time.
So when should you visit?
The best season to go to Acadia National Park is during the spring and summer months. If you like hiking, biking, and sightseeing, this is the perfect time to plan your trip. However, just because summer is the most popular season, it doesn’t mean that’s when you should visit.
The weather during these times can be unpredictable, especially in Maine. It’s best to pack for hot or cold temperatures depending on when you’re visiting. You can even try to time your visit when the weather is nice, and there’s a festival going on. If you want to save money, visit in September or May.
13 Fun Things to do at Acadia National Park
1. Enjoy the carriage roads
The carriage roads are some of the top attractions at Acadia National Park. These roads were built from 1913-40 by John D. Rockefeller, and they lead to the most spectacular areas of the park like Eagle Lake and Mount Desert Island.
The roads were modernized in the 90s, meaning they’re in good condition for bikes and horse-drawn carriages (vehicles aren’t allowed). Remember, they are open for snowshoeing and skiing in the winter. To get the best experience on these carriage roads, visit in the mornings on weekdays and avoid busy months.
2. Sand Beach
Sand Beach is found on Park Loop Road. Various great trails start from this beautiful beach with rock formations that touch the waters. You can hike the Beehive Trail and come down to take a dip at the beach. Sand Beach also offers impressive views, so you might spend a few hours enjoying the trails around it. Make sure you avoid the busy months as the beach’s parking lot tends to fill up fast.
3. Cadillac Mountain
At 1,530 feet (466 m), it’s the highest mountain on the US Atlantic Coast. It’s even the first place in the US to see the sunrise each day. When you visit Acadia during the “leaf-peeping” season (fall), this is a must-see because of the changing colors and views of the ocean and mountains. Watching the sunset from here is also fun.
4. Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole is one of the top attractions at the park. It is a small cove where the waters hit the rocks, producing a sound similar to thunder, as the name suggests. The water that splashes can rise to 40 feet.
You can walk from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole (2 miles or park across the street and stroll to this popular spot. If you are visiting during peak seasons, expect to see many people here. The best time to visit is just before high tide, as you get to enjoy the thunderous sounds and sprays. The surrounding views are awesome.
5. Explore the park on a boat
Bass Harbor Cruises and Acadian Boat Tours are some companies that provide cruising services at the park. You can tour the coastlines or the islands. Some cruising options include going on a Puffin cruise, a sunset nature cruise, fishing, and a sightseeing cruise.
6. Go to Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is a small town outside Acadia National. When visiting the park, you can shop, eat or find accommodation in this beautiful town. Reel Pizza Cinerama is one of the top attractions. You can enjoy a movie night with food and drink from the facility.
7. Otter Cliff
This is a 110-feet granite cliff found along the Park Loop Road. The spot offers unrivaled views of the East Coast. You can also see whale pods from here. In summer, many rock climbers scale this granite cliff.
If you are lucky, you will see flocks of ducks at the shore. They usually migrate to the south before the winter season. When you’re at Sand Beach, you can take the Ocean Path trail to the cliff. Otter Cliff usually doesn’t get overcrowded, so it is the perfect spot if you are looking for peace and quiet.
8. Visit Echo Lake
Echo Lake is located in the western part of Park Loop Road. Because of its location, this Mount Desert Island lake doesn’t get many visitors compared to Jordan Pond. You can take the Beech Cliff Ladder Trail and enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and its surroundings. If you don’t want to take a walk, you can relax on the beach
9. Go to Schoodic Point
Schoodic Point is a unique place to watch waves splashing on the rocks at the coast. Go to the site when the sea is rough to get the best experience. The Schoodic Head Trails and the Sundew Trail are some short hikes to do here. If you are in Bar Harbor, it will take around an hour to drive to Schoodic Point.
10. Jordan Pond
If you love photography, this is a fantastic place to visit in Acadia. There’s a lot of scenery and activities around the pond (biking, walking paths). Visit during lunchtime when you can stop for a picnic and enjoy eating by the water.
The Jordan Pond House restaurant is famed for its popovers and is kid-friendly. During the summer, many people visit the restaurant so try coming early or late in the afternoon. Several trails around the pond will allow you to enjoy the scenic views.
11. Park Loop Road Drive
This scenic road is 27 miles long and connects visitors to popular areas at the park. Begin the drive at Bar Harbor, head to the coast, and pass through Beehive and Precipice trailheads. You will pass Ocean Path, Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach.
The road then goes towards Otter Point and then Jordan Pond. You will then go north, pass Cadillac Mountain and arrive at Bar Harbor, where you started. Note that Park Loop Road is one way until Jordan Pond and then two-way between Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond.
12. Island Explorer Shuttle
The island explorer shuttle does a loop around the whole island of Mount Desert. It enables visitors to see all of Acadia, and it’s free. You can hop on and off as you please and even bring along your bike for a ride. The shuttles provide access to island beaches, carriage roads, shops/restaurants, and hiking trails. Read more about the shuttle services here.
This is one of the best activities to do in Acadia. There are over 120 miles of trails, where you can take a short 3-mile hike or a long 12-mile hike. You can even tag your furry friend along for the adventure! The best time to go on hikes is during the summer and fall. For winter hikes, it’s best to check ahead of time because some trails may be closed. Some popular trails include:
Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail (7.7 miles)
This trail is excellent for a nice morning hike. It’s a short 3-mile hike, but it’s also steep and can be strenuous. Views from the summit are impressive, and you may see deer or moose along the way. This is a 7.1 miles round-trip that will take you anywhere between two to four hours to complete.
Precipice Trail is for any hiker who’s looking for a thrill. It’s a two-mile round-trip route that involves going up Champlain Mountain using ladders and iron rungs on the sides of cliffs. This isn’t the best hike for people who fear heights. Once you reach the top, you will have the best views of Sand Beach.
Ocean Path (one-way)
It is also referred to as Coastal Trail or Ocean trail and is 4.4 miles long. The trailhead is at Sand Beach and ends at Otter Point (you could also start the hike at Otter point). This hike is mostly flat and easy, making it one of the most popular at the park. Start the trek early to avoid crowds.
Beehive Loop Trail (1.4 miles round-trip)
This trail attracts many visitors, especially during busy months. It is a challenging trail that comprises cliff faces, iron rungs, and granite staircases. If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to avoid this trail.
It starts from Bowl Trail near Park Loop Road. When you take your time to climb the 450 feet cliff, you will be rewarded with unparalleled views of The Gulf of Maine, Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach. Do not hike this trail during rainy weather as the granite becomes slippery.
Jordan Pond Loop
It is a 3.4 miles round-trip loop trail. The gravel rail goes around Jordan Pond and offers scenic views of the surroundings. The path also has rocks and wooden planks, which will make your hike more fun. During busy seasons arrive early as the parking lot fills up fast. After your walk, you can grab a bite at Jordan Pond House restaurant.
Bar Island Trail (2 miles round-trip)
The Bar Island Trail is a great choice, especially if you are bringing your family along. The sandbar is the main attraction, and you can only access it for around 3 hours each day (approximately an hour and a half before and after low tide). You can park at Bar Harbor and then begin the hike at Bridge Street.
Wildlife at Acadia National Park
The wildlife in Acadia National Park is not to be overlooked. Many moose live inside the park and other animals like deer, foxes, coyotes, etc.
Along with many types of waterfowl found on either side of the peninsula, there are also seagulls and other small bird species. In addition to all the land animals, Acadia National Park is a great place for birdwatchers from May to September when many migrating species come through. Perhaps even rarer than seeing a moose or deer in the park is spotting a red fox. Seeing a red fox in the wild is a great experience because they are elusive.
How to prepare for a trip to Acadia National Park
Acadia great place to visit, but it’s crucial to make sure you are prepared for your trip. Add these things to your packing list: binoculars, food, water, a camera with a telephoto lens if photographing wildlife is a priority – don’t forget spare batteries! Also, while there is cell phone service in the park, it is limited and not guaranteed. Further, consider investing in a good pair of hiking boots and appropriate clothing for your trip.
There is no best time to visit Acadia National Park. All four seasons are enjoyable, but if you’re planning a trip during the summer months, arrive early in the morning to avoid congestion during peak hours. When visiting in other seasons, check the official websites to see the open facilities or events.