Acadia National Park
Guide

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Introduction

In no other place do mountains and forest meet the sea in the gripping way they do at Acadia. 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. 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.

Park Alerts (5)

[Park Closure] Wildlife Closure: Several Trails Are Off Limits During Peregrine Falcon Nesting Period [+ Info]

The Precipice Trail, Jordan Cliffs Trail, Valley Cove Trail, and a portion of the Orange & Black Path are closed to public entry until further notice. Park staff have observed adult peregrine falcons engaging in courtship and pre-nesting behavior.

[Park Closure] Lighthouse Trail To Close For Repairs May 13-30 [+ Info]

Repairs will close a trail at the east end of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse parking lot, which travels down to the rocky coastline, for about two weeks starting on May 13. An asphalt trail at the west of the parking lot will remain open.

[Information] New CUA application and entrance fees coming Oct 1, 2019 [+ Info]

The National Park Service is standardizing road-based commercial tour commercial use authorization (CUA) requirements and fees agency-wide. The CUA application fee will be $300 and the entrance fee will be $15 per person, and passes will not apply.

[Caution] Parking reduced at Sieur de Monts. Watch for workers and equipment. [+ Info]

Expect intermittent reduced parking at the Sieur de Monts parking lot area in late April through May as the site of a former septic system is restored to a natural forested wetland. Be on the lookout for workers and equipment.

[Park Closure] Opening Delayed for Hulls Cove Visitor Center [+ Info]

Acadia's main visitor center remains closed due to ongoing construction. For particulars, click "more." Entry pass sales begin May 1 at Thompson Island. Avoid lines by buying your pass online and printing it before you get here.

RV Rentals in Acadia National Park

Transportation in Acadia National Park

Driving

Acadia National Park is easily reached from major routes. Though the main park grounds are situated on an island, a bridge provides access – 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 12’ of clearance. Most of the roads in the park are closed from December 1st through April 14th, though a few sections of the Park Loop Road remain open all year.

Parking

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.

Public Transport

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 tow vehicle 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.

Campgrounds and parking in Acadia National Park

Campsites in Acadia National Park

Reservations camping

Blackwoods Campground

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 ½ mile away. Blackwoods can suit an RV up to 35’ and you can make general or site-specific reservations up to six months in advance for peak season (May through October).

Seawall Campground

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 and 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’ to Seawall and get to know the more rugged side of the island. Reserve up to six months ahead for the season, which runs from May through September.

Schoodic Woods Campground

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’. You’ll find potable water, bathrooms and a dump station handy, but will need to go exploring for provisions – those are 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.

First-come first-served

Blackwoods Campground Walk-up

Blackwoods positions you right in the best of both worlds, steps from the ocean while hunkered down in the woods. 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 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.

Seawall Campground Walk-up

Setting up at Seawall Campground keeps you and your RV in the park, but just little bit deeper and wilder. Sewall 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.

Schoodic Woods Campground Walk-up

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 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 there have been cancellations.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

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.

Duck Harbor Campground

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 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 in to one of just five primitive campsites that feature wooden shelters and the ultimate break from… everything.

Seasonal activities in Acadia National Park

Spring

Boat Tour

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.

Popovers and Tea at Jordan Pond House

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.

Freshwater Fishing

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.

Park Loop Road

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 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 as low as 11’8”.

Schoodic Peninsula

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.

Summer

Hiking and Climing

You packed your boots and gear, and you won’t be disappointed by the options at Acadia. 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 peregrine falcon nesting from April to August, so be sure to know your options before heading out.

Swimming

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. 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.

Cycling

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.

Boating

Acadia 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.

Isle au Haut

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.

Fall

Leaf Peeping

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.

Horseback RIding

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.

Tide Pooling

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, 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.

Bird Watching

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.

Fire Tower Open House

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.

Winter

Skiing and Snowshoeing

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.

Snowmobiling

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 though, so plan to haul in your own machines if you can.

Winter Hiking

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.

Ice Fishing

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.

New Year's Sunrise

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. 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.

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