In no other place do mountains and forest meet the sea in the gripping way they do at Acadia National Park. On the rugged acres of island and coast that are protected here, you can embrace the independent spirit of New England and see what Maine really has to offer.
You’re into this trip for more than a lobster buoy keychain. Make your RV base camp at Acadia and scale the face at Otter Cliffs. Explore historic carriage roads and stone-clad bridges by foot, bike, or horseback. Fish for bluefish and brook trout in the same day. Swim at a rare sand beach tucked away in the rocky coastline. Bask in the nation’s first light from the highest peak on the North Atlantic seaboard.
From its beginnings as a 6,000-acre national monument in 1916, Acadia National Park has stretched to cover 47,000 acres of land on and around Mt. Desert Island, Maine. And whether your rig is all-inclusive and plush, or just covers the basics to get you settled where you want to be, Acadia’s campgrounds have you covered. From three park-managed spots that are a breeze to navigate, dozens of sites give your RV a coveted place in the Maine woods, whether you're hauling your own, or renting one from nearby. Claim a spot here and you can be steps away from the crashing waves of the Atlantic, but may need to squint through the trees to catch a glimpse of other campers.
No matter your speed, pick and choose from everything on offer in the northeast. Acadia serves up hiking and climbing, horseback riding, cycling, and both lake and ocean swimming and fishing. Experience unmatched views of autumn colors, encounter wildlife from both land and sea, and explore half a dozen ecosystems in a single day, all just steps from your motorhome.
Acadia National Park is easily reached from major routes. Though the main park grounds are situated on an island, a bridge provides access to vehicles; there are no ferries to negotiate with a trailer or motorhome. Most vehicles can navigate the main route through the park, the Park Loop Road. Some side routes and steep or unpaved roads have restrictions on motorhomes and other vehicles larger than a 15-passenger van, and a few bridges in the park provide less than one foot of clearance. Most of the roads in the park are closed typically from December 1st through April 14th, though a few sections of the Park Loop Road remain open all year.
Parking lots are situated throughout Acadia to provide easy access to the park’s trailheads and attractions. Vehicles larger than a 15-passenger van are restricted from certain lots though, so plan accordingly for visits to areas served by the Sand Beach, Bubble Pond, and Jordan Pond lots, or any gravel parking areas.
Free transportation is offered from June through October by the Island Explorer shuttle service in the park and surrounding towns of Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor and Trenton. The shuttles serve nine routes with regular stops throughout the park, including its campgrounds. Keep the miles down on your Airstream and travel exclusively on the Island Explorer. Or, add your bike to the mix and take advantage of the shuttle’s Bicycle Express. Ride where you want and move your bike between certain stops on their bike transport trailer.
A stay at Blackwoods Campground on Mount Desert Island puts you within a 10-minute walk to the Atlantic. Large, private sites nestle your rig in the thick of the Maine woods, but within easy reach of everything on Acadia’s must-see list. Sites are not equipped with hookups, so you’re dry camping here, but bathrooms, a water pump, and dump station are available. Hot showers and a convenience store are half a mile mile away. Blackwoods can suit an RV up to 35 feet and you can make general or site-specific reservations up to six months in advance for the peak season, which is May through October.
Get authentic and make the hour-long drive to Schoodic Peninsula. Located on the mainland, Schoodic Woods Campground delivers the infusion of dense woods and rugged coastline you came for, but without the traffic. Even better, Schoodic Woods Campground offers electric at every RV site, water at some, and welcomes rigs up to 45 feet long. You’ll find potable water, bathrooms, and a dump station handy, but will need to go exploring for provisions – those are found a couple of miles away in the town of Winter Harbor. Note that vehicles larger than a 15-passenger van cannot make the entire scenic trip on the Schoodic Loop Road, so plan to hike it, bike it, or cruise in a tow vehicle or dinghy once you get settled. Take a departure and soak up Schoodic between May and Columbus Day. This campground doesn’t fill as fast as those in the main park area, but reservations are required and can be made up to six months in advance.
The multiple award-winning Bangor/Holden KOA is pet-friendly and family friendly in a wooded, natural setting. Bangor is just down the road, and Acadia National Park is less than an hour’s drive away, allowing for you to indulge in the amenities of a developed campground while still being close to the action. Campsites include full hookups, cable, and Wi-Fi. Some have terraces, furnished patios, grills, or fire rings. The campground features restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, a pool, a pavilion, a camping kitchen, a general store with groceries, recreational facilities, a bounce house, a dog walk, tractor rides, and planned activities. There is a snack bar on the grounds and pizza can be delivered to individual sites.
The multiple award-winning Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA campground is the only one on the west side of the island. There is a free shuttle to Acadia National Park that leaves from the grounds, so you can be close to the park while still having the comfort of a developed campground. RV sites include full hookups, Wi-Fi and cable, and some have patios. Campground amenities include restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, a playground, recreational facilities, a pavilion, a fun train, planned activities, and a fully-stocked general store including adult beverages and camping supplies. Groceries and supplies can be delivered to individual sites. Food available on the grounds include pancake breakfasts, fresh lobsters, and a pie lady.
The award-winning Bar Harbor/Woodlands KOA campground is nearly at the gates of Acadia National Park. This campground offers a seasonal island shuttle, so you can drop the RV and enjoy the park without worrying about driving restrictions. Sites feature full hookups, cable, and Wi-Fi. Restrooms and showers, laundry facilities, a pool, a playground, a jumping pillow, recreational facilities, a pavilion, a Kamping Kitchen, bike rentals, and a convenience store are all available on the campground. There is also a community campfire with free s’mores and a variety of planned activities, celebrations, and themed weekends perfect for the whole family. Children who find special rocks hidden on the grounds can redeem them for treats at the office.
Stunning Acadia National Park is in this campground’s backyard. Surrounded by breathtaking nature, as well as several quaint Maine coastal towns, you’ll have a true Downeast experience. The campground itself features spacious grounds, weekly potlucks, ice cream socials, kids’ crafts, themed weekends and nightly card games. If that’s not enough, the kids will surely enjoy the seasonal swimming pool and playground. Bring your pups to Kamp K-9! Easy pull-through RV sites can accommodate just about any camper, and propane and firewood are available. Just a few minutes from Maine’s scenic coastline and Penobscot Bay, here you can enjoy a real Maine vacation while still being up close to all Acadia has to offer.
Located about 20 miles from the most traveled areas of Acadia, Seawall Campground sits on the western side of Mount Desert Island. Get just a little farther off the beaten path at Seawall, where there’s a good chance you won’t see your neighbors through the trees. Convenience stores and hot showers are a short drive away. Though you won’t find hookups at your site, you’ll have easy access to potable water, a dump station, and bathrooms at the campground. Take a rig up to 45 feet to Seawall and get to know the more rugged side of the island. Reserve up to six months ahead for the peak season, which runs from May through September.
Setting up at Seawall Campground keeps you and your RV in the park, but just a little bit deeper and wilder. Seawall is a reservation-only campground, but you may be able to snag a spot at this quieter, better-hidden sweet spot if you check for cancellations or openings after noon on any day between May and September. You’ll be on your own for power at Seawall but can easily access water, bathrooms, and a dump station.
A departure to Schoodic Peninsula is about as far as you can get from the hustle of the island while sticking to park grounds. This spot is an hour’s drive from Acadia proper, but it’s a hidden gem that’s worth the trip – and the only RV-friendly campground in the system that offers water and power hookups. Like the other campgrounds at Acadia, Schoodic Woods is a reservation-only park, but you may be able to grab a spot after noon if it’s not at capacity or if there have been cancellations.
Blackwoods positions you right in the best of both worlds, steps from the ocean while hunkered down in the woods in the comfort of your RV. The campground is a 100% reservation facility in peak season, but you may be able to make a walk-up reservation after noon on any day if there are cancellations or if the sites are not full. Sites are dry, but water, toilets, and a dump station are available, with showers and a convenience store nearby. You’ll have a better chance of getting a spot during the shoulder season, in April and November – weather permitting and with limited facilities. The campground may also be open all year, but only for hike-in primitive camping from December through March.
If your Acadia excursion is spontaneous and you aren’t able to camp inside the park -- or if you just want to get in on the quirky coastal vibe nearby-- you’ll find plenty of private campgrounds in the area. The towns of Trenton, Bar Harbor, and Mount Desert Island (MDI), among others, are welcoming hosts to travelers of all walks and rides.
If your extremes run to the rustic rather than the Ritz, there is an option for you in the Acadia system: Duck Harbor Campground. Park the RV in town or in Acadia proper and go primitive on Isle au Haut, an island six miles off the mainland. No vehicles of any shape or sort here; after an hour-long mail boat ride, you’ll hike into one of just five primitive campsites that feature wooden shelters and the ultimate break from, well, everything.
If you happen to be in this neck of the woods during the winter months, consider taking a scenic tour. Although most of the Park Loop Road is closed in the winter, two sections remain open year-round. Other scenic areas within Acadia National Park can be reached from public roads nearby. Sargeant Drive and Route 102 present beautiful winter views of Acadia and Mount Desert Island. Be sure to check current weather conditions before heading out in the camper as some roads may be icy or snowed in.
Access to Acadia is limited in the winter, but once you get there you’ll find cross-country ski trails that will spoil you for the rest. The park’s legendary carriage roads are available for skiing and snowshoeing, giving you 45 miles of ground to cover at your own pace. Many of those miles are groomed by local volunteers, weather and resource-permitting, and any unplowed park road is yours to use as well. Grooming conditions are reported regularly throughout the season by the member organization, Friends of Acadia.
There’s plenty of snow to go around, and in Acadia National Park, there’s enough road for everyone, too. Since they are closed to car traffic in the winter, the park allows snowmobiling on the Park Loop Road, the Cadillac Summit Road, and most fire roads. So if you like your winter explorations with a little more speed, you will not be disappointed. As gorgeous as the riding is, you may not be able to find snowmobile rentals nearby, so plan to haul in your own machines behind the campervan if you can.
What better way to savor the silent stillness of winter than on foot? You can navigate a number of easier trails and roads without special equipment in good conditions, but a set of crampons and trekking poles are definitely recommended for more challenging trails. Winter hiking is discouraged on advanced trails, but you can still cover a lot of ground, including the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
For the colder half of the year, the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise. Those hardy enough to hike in before dawn between mid October and early March will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of first light over the Atlantic. In fact, this sunrise is on the list of the top spectacular sunrise hikes in the U.S. and Canada. For extra bragging rights, plan your late-night ascent for December 31st and be among the elite who’ll see the first sunrise of the New Year. The hike is a milestone for some, an annual exercise for others. Either way, being there at all makes you a part of something remarkable.
There’s plenty going on under the ice in the lakes and ponds of the park. Ice fishing is enjoyed by visitors and locals alike, who may be rewarded with brook trout, togue, pickerel, and landlocked salmon. Some good spots are easy to access by car in winter, such as Echo and Eagle Lakes. You may need to hike in to others, though, so check ahead for conditions and recommendations.
After a long winter, the park comes alive again in the spring with hundreds of species of animals welcoming the warmer weather. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and marine invertebrates call Acadia home. And if you're lucky, you may be able to spot some of these critters. Black bears, bald eagles, otters, moose, and turtles all make the occasional appearance, so don't forget to pack the camera in the RV. Be sure to keep your distance from park animals at all times for their safety as well as your own.
Take to the water and see Acadia from the outside looking in. Private companies offer a variety of cruises in the surrounding waters that will give you an unforgettable perspective on the park. You can opt for a tour with ranger-led education, a cruise with stops for a bit of island exploration, or a wind-powered journey on a four-masted schooner. Boat cruises are available throughout the peak season, but if you’re venturing out early on, be prepared for cold conditions out on the water.
Even the hardiest and most dedicated can appreciate a stop for tea while making the park rounds. At Acadia’s only full-service restaurant, Jordan Pond House, indulging in the legendary popovers has become a tradition in itself. A stop here provides a unique and idyllic setting for a refined bite, whether from inside or out on the tea lawn, where you can even have your trusty canine join you. Parking can be tricky. Avoid hassles and park the RV at your campsite or a visitor’s center, then make your way in by trails, carriage roads, or a shuttle.
Open water fishing on lakes and streams is a welcome herald of spring in these parts. From April through September, anglers can pursue a number of freshwater species. Whether you want to pull up a spot of shoreline or launch a boat, your perfect fishing spot awaits. Boating rules vary on the many lakes and ponds in the park, so be sure to check your options when you pick up your fishing license.
Acadia doesn’t usually hit its stride until sometime in May, but the Park Loop Road opens after a long winter around mid-April. If it’s still too cool to scramble about the park, make the loop in style by campervan and watch the park awaken for spring. This scenic route takes you on a 27-mile jaunt that gives access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, Cadillac Mountain, and Otter Cliffs. The entire loop can be covered in most RVs, though there are height limits in some areas with historic bridge underpasses.
Located east of MDI, Schoodic Peninsula makes up the only mainland portion of Acadia National Park in the town of Winter Harbor. A tour of Schoodic will reveal many of the same features you’ll find in the main body of the park, but with less congestion. Ease into spring on one of several easy to moderate hiking trails, or take the scenic six-mile loop on bike or by car. Only a portion of the road is open to RVs, but if you’re staying at Schoodic Woods Campground, you’ll be all set. It could take an hour or so to get to the peninsula from MDI, but it’s worth the trip to get a little piece of rocky coastline to yourself.
For those on a hunt for, well, a hunt, Acadia National Park's EarthCache Program will keep you on your toes. Like a modern-day scavenger hunt, this program gives you clues to find the park's most intriguing geological features via GPS. The park roads needed to complete the program are usually open from April through November. Parking is available at or near all geocaching locations, so it's possible to participate in the venture with the help of your campervan. Head to the park in the fall to beat the crowds and get a chance to enjoy the spectacular autumn colors.
Few things rival the beauty of the fall colors of New England. Leaf peeping has its own season in Maine, and the level of color throughout the state is formally tracked and reported on a state-run website. Peak foliage season usually hits Acadia in mid-October. Since much of the park closes around Columbus Day, including some RV-friendly campgrounds, you may need to hit the early part of the season. You won’t be disappointed, though. Any spot in Acadia is a brilliant place to see the blaze of colors this region is famous for, whether you drive, bike, hike, or just sit.
John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s carriage roads were designed for equestrian use, and they perform to this day. Whether on your own horse or on a horse-drawn carriage ride, take in the spectacular views on these carefully planned roads, shared only with pedestrians and cyclists. Any time of year is great for a trail ride, but the crisp autumn air is somehow sweeter from horseback or carriage. And, the pace is just right for checking out Rockefeller’s famous stone-faced bridges and the careful preservation of the landscape in his road design.
Magical things happen when the tide goes out. Get up close and personal with sea life that stays on shore between the tides. There are several great spots for tide pooling at Acadia National Park, and when the weather is cooler and the crowds thinner, you can take your time getting to know sea stars, crabs, barnacles, mussels, and more. Dress warmly and be careful; conditions can be cool and the terrain slick.
More than 300 species provide plenty for birdwatchers to see at Acadia any time of year, but only in fall can you witness the migration of those headed for warmer climes. An exciting group to catch sight of is the powerful birds of prey that pass through in number. Acadia’s annual HawkWatch takes place atop Cadillac Mountain, where both casual observers and hardcore birders can get a closer-than-normal look at these incredible raptors. Rangers and local volunteers are on hand to help spot and identify various species, and to collect data that helps monitor populations in the region.
To get a stellar view of autumn leaves or migrating hawks, make the climb up Beech Mountain fire tower if you get the chance. This lookout hasn’t been manned since 1976 and is on the National Registry of Historic Fire Towers. The upper platform of the structure is occasionally opened to the public, giving visitors the chance to climb to the top and take in the 360° view of the area. During an open house event, a park ranger will be on hand to answer questions and share the history of the tower.
Acadia's superb location makes it possible to fish right on the Atlantic. Sargent Drive on the Somes Sound is a favorite amongst fishermen where you can try your luck at catching mackerel, bluefish, and striped bass. Don't forget to pack appropriate shoes with your fishing gear in the RV as some areas can be slippery from algae and seaweed. Be sure you are up to date on Maine's current ocean fishing regulations.
Acadia National Park boasts nearly two dozen lakes and ponds where you can launch virtually any kind of craft. Whether you’re paddling or motoring, fishing or cruising, you can find a freshwater sweet spot anywhere you turn. And, of course, there is the Atlantic. Sea kayaking the coves and harbors in the area is an unforgettable way to spend the day. For those with experience, head out on your own from a number of prime spots. For paddlers new to the ocean, hook up with a local company for lessons or a guided tour.
You packed your boots and gear in the camper, and you won’t be disappointed by the options at Acadia National Park. All trails are open in the summer- from an easy coastal stroll, to moderate hikes with log or granite stairs, or a bit of scrambling on iron rung routes. The climbers in your party can find several good spots, whether their speed is a 3 pitch or more like 5.12, and a few good bouldering opportunities along the ocean. Some areas are closed for inclement weather, construction, or for peregrine falcon nesting from April to August, so be sure to know your options before heading out.
Whether your flavor is freshwater or the salty waters of the sea, you’ll have places to cool off at Acadia. The park provides staffed swimming beaches at Echo Lake and at Sand Beach. Sand Beach offers a rare sandy spot on this otherwise rocky coastline, so don't forget to pack your bathing suits in the Sprinter. Be prepared for a swim here to take your breath away; the water temperature averages about 55°F in the summer. For a still refreshing but somewhat less dramatic dip, take your towel and sunscreen to Echo Lake. Crystal clear water, gradual deepening, and an incredible setting make this a perfect spot for a day at the beach.
Acadia’s carriage roads give cyclists plenty of places to explore without having to share the road with cars--or anything else motorized. The 45 miles of road have a firm crushed rock surface and pass plenty of points of interest, though the roads themselves are a major attraction. Commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as a motor-free place to travel by horse and carriage, the carriage roads are carefully maintained and kept safe for equestrian, pedestrian, and bicycle travelers.
No matter your camping style, a trip to Isle au Haut is the perfect way to top off your trip, or put it in perspective. Half of this six-mile long island is home to a community of about 70 full-time residents. The other half is virtually untamed national park land. A limited number of visitors is allowed on the island’s park grounds each day, so show up early to take the passenger ferry for a day trip. Bring your bike, or rent one on the island, and ride over ten miles of both paved and unpaved roads to see the beauty of this incredible find. Or, come prepared to hike nearly 20 miles of rugged trails through the woods and marsh or along the coast.