Things to Do in Maine: Acadia National Park Camping & Other Activities

Things to Do in Maine: Acadia National Park Camping & Other Activities. Jagged rocks leading into the ocean with pine trees in background.

Camping, hiking, and so much more...

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Spring 2019

Acadia National Park is an outdoorsman's (or woman's) paradise. Recreational opportunities are seemingly endless and range from kayaking in the summer to Nordic skiing in the winter, with Acadia National Park camping available year round. For nature lovers who would prefer to let someone else do the heavy lifting, there are whale watching tours, guided tours by park rangers, beautiful beaches, and scenic overlooks for sitting and taking-in the views.

Lay of the land

Colorful sunset over lake with pine trees surrounding.

Located mainly on Mount Desert Island, Acadia is spread over 47,000 acres, with some private in-holdings throughout the park.

Park loop road runs through most of the park, but closes routinely every year on December 1st.

Peak season is from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. However, perhaps the best time to visit Acadia is in late-September through mid-October when fall leaves are at their peak.

Bar Harbor is the town most closely associated with Acadia and, although it isn't part of the park, it can be a convenient base of operation. In addition to its beautiful seaside setting, Bar Harbor is filled with enough shops and restaurants to keep you busy without ever venturing into the park.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Between the mountains, the forest, the lakes and the sea, there are too many special spots in Acadia to list. If you have a limited amount of time, though, you can't go wrong with these longtime favorites:

Cadillac Mountain

Cloud-filled sky above with dense forest interspersed with bodies of water below.

By national standards, this isn't an especially high mountain, but the view from the 1,500' summit is truly spectacular. To reach the top, you can hike one of several trails or drive up the paved road and park at the information center located at the summit. The top of Cadillac Mountain is a popular spot for watching the sunrise, as it's the first place in the US to see the sunrise from early October through early March. For safety reasons, the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain is closed during winter months.

Jordan Pond House

Blue house with two steps leading up to open sliding doors and green shrubbery around.

A holdover from a more genteel time, the Jordan Pond House serves lunch, tea, and dinner throughout the spring, summer and fall. Known for their huge popovers and hearty lobster stew, the restaurant offers both indoor seating and umbrella-covered tables on the lawn with a view of Jordan Pond. There are also Adirondack chairs on the lawn to relax in and imagine what life was like in a different era.

Carriage Roads

A road divides into two with a split sign and colorful, starry nigh sky above.

Perhaps the most unique element of Acadia is the system of carriage roads that meander through the park. Financed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the roads were constructed between 1913 and 1940 and have crushed rock surfaces. There are no cars permitted on the carriage roads, so walkers, hikers and cyclists have the 45 miles of roads all to themselves. In the winter months, the roads are groomed for Nordic skiing and the park lakes are dotted with ice houses set up by locals for ice fishing.

Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park

Dock leading out to a boat house with empty boats below.

Acadia National Park is open year round, at least partially, and each season offers a different set of activities. Summer is, of course, the busiest time at Acadia, and numerous operators offer coastal boat tours, whale watching tours and kayaking trips to explore the coastline. Bike rentals are available and there are more than 120 miles of hiking trails ranging in level of difficulty. In the winter, Maine weather keeps some of the roads and trails closed, but when the snow comes there is skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Spring and fall are also good times to visit, before and after peak summer crowds.

Camping

An old, half-brown camping van with bicycles attached to the back and camper extension protruding from the top.

Acadia National Park camping is very popular, which makes securing a walk-in campsite reservation upon arrival nearly impossible. To avoid this, it is best to book well in advance through the recreation.gov website.

It is possible to make reservations for park campgrounds such as Blackwoods Campground, Seawall Campground, Schoodic Woods Campground, and Duck Harbor Campground (Isle au Haut) through the site. Of these, Shoodic Woods Campground, located on the Schoodic Peninsula near Winter Harbor, is the most recommended. Blackwoods Campground, Seawall Campground (near Bass Harbor), and Duck Harbor Campground are all equally recommended.

If visitors prefer relative isolation, Duck Harbor Campground, located on the Isle au Haut, is the way to go. The island contains five primitive sites, each with a fire ring, a picnic table, and a lean-to shelter for tent sites. But be careful when making a reservation as the ferry that runs to the island only operates during certain times of year.

Reservations are made through the recreation.gov site on a 6- and 7-month rolling basis for individual and group campsites, respectively.

If park campground spots fill up early, there is also plenty of camping around Acadia National Park, including Mount Desert Campground - popular and highly-recommended location with running water, hot showers (for a price), and flush toilets. A few others worth noting include Bar Harbor Campground, Hadley's Point Campground, Smuggler's Den Campground (near Southwest Harbor), Bass Harbor Campground, Quietside Campground, and Somes Sound View Campground.

Looking for more on Acadia National Park camping and other outdoor adventures? Try these:

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

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Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Spring 2019

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