The Ultimate Acadia National Park Guide for Travelers

Last Updated:  4/19/23 – Acadia National Park Visitor Guide

While the national parks in the Western half of the United States tend to get most of the attention from travelers, one of the most beautiful national parklands in the United States may be located East of the Mississippi River. 

With its incredible coastline, beautiful mountains, and wonderful hiking and biking paths, Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the gems of the American National Parks system.

Acadia National Park Guide
View from the hike up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

The oldest national park East of the Mississippi River, Acadia National Park is located just Southwest of Bar Harbor, Maine.  If you like the ocean, beautiful lighthouses, excellent seafood, and some good hiking and rock climbing, then this park is for you. 

In this Acadia National Park Guide, I am going to give you all of the information that you need to plan your trip.   Included in this guide is information on top things to see in Acadia National Park, when to visit the park, where to stay while you are there, and what activities you can plan and enjoy during your visit.

How to Get to Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Guide

The Park reserves much of Mount Desert Island and the surrounding islands.  In the early 1900s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. oversaw the building of many carriage roads and bridges within the park to make it more accessible to the public.  The Rockefeller family loves the park so much that David Rockefeller, John’s son, donated over 1,000 acres of land on Mount Desert Island to the nonprofit Land and Garden Preserve.

Acadia National Park Guide Map

Acadia National Park is just 5 minutes Southwest of Bar Harbor, Maine and an easy 1-hour drive East of Bangor, Maine (the closest major airport that I am aware of).  If you are driving up from the South, Acadia National Park is roughly 4.5 hours from Boston, MA and 4 hours from Manchester, NH.  The drive up is beautiful if you have the time.

Acadia National Park Guide Area Map

View Larger Map

Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Guide

In my opinion, the best time to visit Acadia National Park is in the fall.  You miss the summer crowds and the short, cold days of winter in Maine.  Here is an idea of what you can expect at Acadia National Park throughout the year.

Spring (March thru May)

Although temperatures are starting to warm up, and the crowds are much thinner than in the summer, foggy mornings, mud, and cooler temperatures define the spring season in Acadia.  Many of the park facilities also operate on off-season hours until the end of April as well.  If none of these things phase you, then visiting Acadia in the spring may be worthwhile as you won’t have to deal with the crowds that arrive in early summer.

Summer (June thru August)

With moderate temperatures that see highs in the 70’s and ’80s, summertime at Acadia is beautiful.  However, that means that the park can often get quite crowded.  The Park Loop Road can get quite congested and it can be quite difficult to find last-minute accommodations.  If you do decide to visit in the summer, make sure you plan ahead and make reservations well in advance.  Also, you can beat the crowds in the summer by getting up really early to start your hikes and see the sights.

Fall (September thru November)

Autumn is my favorite time to visit Acadia National Park.  The temperatures cool a bit, but the temperatures aren’t terribly cold.  The crowds start to thin out as school starts for kids, making the Park Loop Road and the hiking trails much less congested.  If you can plan your trip for early-to-mid October, the scenery is gorgeous as the leaves start to change color.  Just be aware that some facilities start their off-season hours after Columbus Day weekend.

Winter (December thru February)

Beginning in December the park switches to winter hours, closing down parts of the Park Loop Road and some of the hiking trails.  Accommodations can also be more difficult to find.  But if you aren’t afraid of the cold temperatures, Acadia National Park’s carriage roads are great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Average Temperature by Month (°F)

For more information on the average temperatures in Bar Harbor, Maine throughout the year, I have included a chart for you to review in my Acadia National Park guide below.

Chart by Visualizer

Average Precipitation by Month (Inches)

For those who are starting to plan their trip to see Acadia National Park and would like to maximize their chances of having nice weather while there, I have included a chart that outlines the average amount of precipitation in the Bar Harbor, Maine area for you to review below.

Chart by Visualizer

Average Number of Visitors by Month (in 1,000’s)

Acadia National Park is a popular park that can get fairly crowded during the peak season. If you are starting to plan your trip and would like to know how crowded the park gets throughout the year, I have included some information on the average number of visitors per month for you to review below.

Chart by Visualizer

Top Things to See and Do in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Guide

There is no shortage of things to do in Acadia National Park.  Whether you are into hiking, or biking, rock-climbing, or just gazing at the amazing views, Acadia has something to offer everyone.  Not to mention it is a stone’s throw from Bar Harbor, which is an absolutely wonderful town to spend a day shopping, dining, and socializing.  I have outlined my favorite sights and activities in my Acadia National Park Guide below, along with some links to some useful resources you can use to plan your trip.

Acadia National Park Guide Map

View Larger Map

Eat Lobster

Acadia National Park Guide
Lobster dinner at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor, Maine.

You can’t visit Maine without trying some fresh lobster.  Unless of course, you are allergic to shellfish, then I guess you probably have to visit Maine without trying the fresh lobster.  I must have had lobster at least once a day during my visit to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  Lobster rolls, lobster mac and cheese, lobster pot pie, and the wonderful goodness of a dinner pictured below.  And if your accommodations have a kitchen, try picking up some fresh lobster road-side and cooking a lobster dinner on your own.

Cadillac Mountain

Acadia National Park Guide

One of the most prominent features of Acadia National Park is Cadillac Mountain.  Sitting at 1,530 feet (466 meters) high, it is the highest mountain within 25 miles of the coast of the Atlantic in North America (between the Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia, and Mexican peaks).

For those up for the challenge, there are several hiking trails to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  Some are more challenging than others.

The Easy Hike – Cadillac Summit Trail

A third of a mile of paved path makes this trail an easy option for anyone that wants to get out and see Cadillac Mountain without having to complete a lengthy hike.  A paved road takes you to the top of the mountain where you are able to get out and walk the Summit trail and enjoy the views.

The Moderate Hike – Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail

This is the shorter alternative to hiking the South Ridge Trail.  At roughly 2.2 miles, this hike will take you between 1-3 hours each way, depending on your pace.  It’s a nice steady incline with a rise of about 1,150 feet.  It’s a fun hike if you want to hike to the top, but might not have the time necessary to hike the South Ridge Trail.

The Difficult Hike – Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail

If you want to conquer the mountain, and you have the time, then I would recommend the South Ridge Trail.  It’s a beautiful hike.  It’s also the longest trail in Acadia National Park, so if you are visiting to do some hiking, then this is one of the trails I would plan on tackling.  At roughly 3.5 miles, this hike will take you up 1,350 feet of elevation and will take between 2-4 hours to complete, depending on your pace.

Hot Tip:  Make sure you get up early and plan on being at the top of Cadillac Mountain at sunrise.  You will beat the crowds and the views from the top at sunrise are spectacular!

View from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.  Sitting at 1,530 feet (466 meters) high, it is the highest mountain within 25 miles of the coast of the Atlantic in North America (between the Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia and Mexican peaks).

Carriage Roads and Bridges

Acadia National Park Guide
Carriage road and bridge in Acadia National Park.

Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. between 1913 and 1940, there are over 45 miles of carriage roads and 16 beautiful stone bridges in Acadia National Park.  The carriage roads make excellent biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing trails, and the bridges are fantastic to photograph.

Bubble Pond

Acadia National Park Guide
Bubble Pond is a great place to relax and take some amazing photos of the pond and surrounding mountains.

The Bubble Pond is a beautiful little pond that rests between two mountains and is accessible via the park road with parking available.  It is a wonderful place to stop to eat a nice, quiet lunch.  And if you are into photography, the pond will often have a crystal clear reflection on calm days, making it a great spot for photography.

Bubble Mountain (North and South)

Acadia National Park Guide
The views from the Bubble Mountains are incredible.  The trails to the top of both the South and North mountains are moderate in distance and difficulty and are well worth the hikes.

Sitting to the North and the South of Jordan Pond, the peaks of both the Bubble Mountains are accessible by hiking path.  If you are looking for a hike of moderate length and difficulty, then these are the hikes for you.  The views of the ocean, and across Jordan Pond, are breathtaking.

If you have to pick between either the North or the South Bubble Mountain trails, I would choose the South trail.  The South Trails takes you by the famous Bubble Rock, which is a large boulder that was deposited on the mountainside by glaciers.  You really can’t do wrong with either trail though as both have amazing views.

Acadia National Park Guide
The summit of South Bubble Mountain.

Jordan Pond House

Acadia National Park Guide
The Jordan Pond House serves their famous popovers with jam.

The Jordan Pond House is an absolute must stop if you are visiting Acadia National Park.  It is a historic house that is a great stop for a beverage (historically tea) and a famous popover with jam.  The Jordan Pond House also serves larger meals and is a great place to stop for lunch.  You have to try the popovers!

Boulder Beach

Acadia National Park Guide
The shoreline at Boulder Beach in Acadia National Park.

Snuggled between the Otter Cliffs and Monument Cove, Boulder Beach is an amazing beach that is littered with large boulders.  It’s not the best beach to sunbathe on, but if you are looking for some epic coastline photos, this should be a stop high on your list.  You can get some amazing shots of the rocky beach with the cliffs and forest along the waterline.

Thunder Hole

Acadia National Park Guide
The Thunder Hole viewing area is a great place to check out the thunderous waves but be prepared to possibly get wet.

One of the star attractions of Acadia National Park, the Thunder Hole does not disappoint.  The Thunder Hole is a natural rock inlet near the Otter Cliffs where waves crash and make a thunderous noise.  On days where the waves are big, the sound is absolutely spectacular.

The Thunder Hole viewing area lets you get up-close-and-personal with the thunderous waves, but be prepared to get wet if the Thunder Hole is especially boisterous.

Acadia National Park Guide
The waves crashing into the rocky shore near the Thunder Hole make for some fantastic photographs as well.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Acadia National Park Guide
The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is one of the most iconic images of the Bar Harbor area.

One of the most iconic images of Acadia National Park and the Bar Harbor area is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  Perched upon the rock cliffs in Bass Harbor, the Bass Harbor light is one of the most gorgeous lighthouses in the United States.

While there are paths that allow you to get down onto the rocks to get some great pictures, if you take the lighthouse tour boat ride you can also get some fantastic photos of the Bass Harbor light looking in at the shore as well.

Bar Harbor

If you are looking for a place to unwind after a long day of exploring Acadia National Park, then look no further than downtown Bar Harbor.  With plenty of nice restaurants, shopping, and entertainment, Bar Harbor is a great place to spend a day off from the park or an evening with friends.

If you do decide to spend some time in Bar Harbor, make sure you check out the ice cream shop and try the lobster flavored ice cream.

Bar Harbor is a great place to unwind after spending a busy day adventuring in Acadia National Park.

Whale Watching or Lighthouse Sightseeing Boat Ride

A whale watching or lighthouse tour is a great way to enhance any trip to Acadia National Park.

A great way to further enhance your trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park is to go on a whale watching tour.  There is some spectacular whale activity off the coast of Maine and the boat tours are very good.  If you tend to get seasick, then I would recommend that you bring some Dramamine or other motion sickness medication with you as the sea can be choppy at times.

If you would like to take a scenic boat ride, but prefer to stay closer to shore, then I would suggest you check out the lighthouse tour.  The tour takes you near many of the beautiful lighthouses in the Bar Harbor area and is well worth the time.  You will get a completely different perspective of Bass Harbor Lighthouse and you will get to see other gorgeous lighthouses, such as Egg Harbor Lighthouse.


Egg Harbor Lighthouse is just one of many beautiful lighthouses you will see on the lighthouse tour.

In addition to whales, there is a lot of other beautiful wildlife that calls Maine’s coastline their home.  You have a good chance of seeing whales, colorful puffins, bald eagles, and other fantastic wildlife along the coast.

Bald eagle takes off near Acadia National Park in Maine

Sand Beach

Beautiful Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.  The 290-yard-long beach is one of the most popular spots in the park.

Sand beach is a beautiful 290-yard long beach that is set in between the granite mountains and rocky shores on Mount Desert Island. It is one of the most popular spots in Acadia National Park, so it can get quite busy on nice summer days.

You can access the beach easily from the Park Loop Road on the northeastern side of Mount Desert Island. There is a lifeguard on duty from Memorial Day thru Labor Day and a changing room is available next to the parking area.

From the beach, you will get a good vantage point of the Beehive mountain, and if you look closely you will likely see people climbing the mountain via the Beehive Trail. If that gets you in the mood for hiking, there is a nice ocean-side trail with a trailhead near the beach. It follows the shore’s edge past the Thunder Hole and the Otter Cliffs. It’s a fantastic little hike.

Beehive Hike

The Bee Hive hike in Acadia National Park.  It is one of the park’s most difficult hikes and includes traversing cliff faces using steel ladders.

The Bee Hive Hike is one of my favorite hikes in Acadia National Park.  It is also one of the park’s most difficult hikes.  The hike takes you thru woods and it requires traversing exposed cliff faces using steel ladders planted into the cliffs.

While the hike itself can be rather daunting for novice hikers, the views the trial offers are absolutely fantastic.  So if you are feeling adventurous, I would highly recommend tackling the Bee Hive hike.

The trailhead for the Bee Hive hike can be found just north of Sand Beach and parking can be found next to the beach access as well.  If you aren’t interested in tackling this difficult hike but are interested in doing some hiking in the park, check out some of Acadia’s other great hiking trails.

The views from the Beehive trail are absolutely amazing.

Otter Cliffs


The Otter Cliffs are sheer rock cliffs on the shoreline of Acadia National Park.  They make for some of the more picturesque photo opportunities in Acadia National Park.  If you are looking for some activities to try, there is plenty to do around the Otter Cliffs.

For those of you who are more on the adventurous side, you can try your hand at rock climbing on the otter cliffs.  For those of you who would like to give it a try, but don’t have any experience, you can find several companies near Acadia that offer climbing lessons.

If climbing isn’t your thing, but you would still like to explore the cliffs, there is an excellent trail that follows the shoreline along the top of the cliffs.  It is a great trail that isn’t too difficult and has some great views of the cliffs.  The trailhead for this trail can be found by Sand Beach.

Where to Stay Near Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park-6838

Because of its close proximity to Acadia National Park, the town of Bar Harbor makes a really great hub of operations when you visit the national parkland.  If you are visiting Acadia National Park and would like to find some accommodations in the area, I have listed a number of great hotel options at various price points for you to review in my Acadia National Park Guide below.

Acadia National Park Hotels Map

View Larger Map

Tours and Excursions Near Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor

There are a lot of beautiful and amazing things to see in the Acadia National Park area, but there are also a lot of really fun activities as well. If you are starting to plan your trip and are looking for some fun activities, I have included some suggestions for you to review in my Acadia National Park guide below.

Acadia National Park is one of America’s most stunning national parklands.  From landscapes to wildlife, to cityscapes, there is so much to see and photograph within the park.  If you are interested, I have included a gallery of some of the pictures I took while visiting the park in my Acadia National Park Guide below.

If you would like to view some more of my top photos from this trip, as well as photos from some of my many other travel adventures, make sure you are following me on Instagram as well!


Wanderlust Travel and Photos Blog

Don’t Forget to Subscribe to My Adventures!

Join 12,902 other subscribers
Please follow along with our adventures:
Follow by Email
Visit Us
Follow Me
Categories: Maine, National Parks, New England Park Guides, New England Parks, North America, North America Travel Guides, Travel, Travel Guides, United StatesTags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: