Exploring Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of America’s east coast and it’s rugged beauty attracts millions of visitors every year. Granite peaks give way to pine covered forests that transition into dramatic cliffs and rock strewn shores, the surrounding bays dotted with emerald green islands are the picture of tranquility. Bar Harbor, located on Mount Dessert Island in northeastern Maine, is a bustling tourist town that serves as the gateway for Acadia and can be quite crowded during the summer or whenever a cruise ship pulls into town but you’re never less than thirty minutes from finding solitude once you veer from the well worn tourist paths. The park occupies not only a good swath of Mount Desert Island but also parts of the nearby Schoodic Peninsula, and the more remote Baker Island and Isle de Haut. Mount Dessert Island served as a summer getaway for the well heeled in the mid 1800’s transforming the once sleepy island of farmers and fisherman into a popular tourist destination. Charles W. Eliot and George B. Dorr were instrumental in preservation efforts that eventually led to Acadia becoming the first national park east of the Mississippi River in 1919 and John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped created the park’s 45 mile carriage road system, originally designed to navigate parts of the island by horse drawn carriage that now serves as popular hiking and cycling trails.

Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

Acadia’s Park Loop Road is the easiest and most popular way to explore some of the park’s most stunning and varied scenery and can easily be done in a day. If you’re visiting  in the high season of July and August be prepared for traffic and crowds but your efforts are definitely well rewarded. Shortly after entering the Park Loop you’ll be greeted by by serene bay views and you’ll begin to understand why the 19th century 1% chose this area as their summer playground. As you continue along the loop you’ll begin to notice an increasing number of cars parked along the shoulder and I highly recommend you join them, the Ocean Path trail that stretches between Sandy Beach and Otter’s Point is easily one of the most stunning vistas on the east coast. The flat, cliff side path follows the park loop with ample vantage points to stop and admire the increasingly picturesque panoramas; use caution if you decide to walk out on the cliffs as they can become slick when wet and it’s a long way down. At 154 feet high Otter’s Cliff is one of the highest points on the entire Atlantic seaboard north of Rio de Janiero’s Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s easy to be mesmerized by the churning seas as they dramatically crash into the granite wind-worn cliffs and this was hands down my favorite section of the loop.

Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

Next on the agenda was a stop at Jordan’s Pond, a glacially formed lake capped at its north end by twin peaks given the cutesy monikers of the North and South Bubbles. No swimming is allowed here but there is canoe and boat access at the north end of the lake.This is also the site of aptly named Jordan Pond House, Acadia’s only onsite restaurant where you can partake in the tradition of enjoying popovers and tea. If lakeside popovers and tea are your thing you should definitely call ahead and make reservations, due to a two hour wait we decided to skip this in lieu of a little walking around the lake. The majority of the lakeside trail is actually a narrow, raised path as the shores of the lake can become pretty soggy . A better option would be one of the many carriage roads leaving from Jordan Pond.
Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comExploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comExploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comExploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

Cadillac Mountain is arguably Arcadia’s most famous landmark and would be our final stop along the Park Loop Road. Towering at 1530 feet high it’s the highest point along the Atlantic seaboard and dominates Maine’s Down East landscape. During the winter months Cadillac Mountain receives the first rays of sunlight in the United States and many people wake up early to drive to the summit to witness the sunrise. That was originally in my plans but with cloudy weather throughout our stay we opted to sleep in. The views are no less spectacular the rest of the day though and again its worth the traffic to get up to the summit for panoramic views of Bar Harbor and the surrounding islands.
Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comCadillac Mountain, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comCadillac Mountain, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

Want to break free from the crowds near Bar Harbor? Head to the western side of Somes Sound which is know to locals as The Quiet Side of Mount Desert Island. A quick 15 minute drive from the sleepy fishing village of Southwest Harbor brought us to Acadia’s southern loop offering up spectacular hikes with a bit more solitude. The Wonderland trail was our first stop and this trail lived up to its name. An easy walk through maple and pine forests ends at a rocky cove and while I was initially disapointed with the day’s foggy weather it ended up making for some of my favorite photos from all of Acadia. Artfully arranged piles of stone known as cairns serve as trail markers in this section of the park.Wonderland Trail, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comWonderland Trail, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comWonderland Trail, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com
Wonderland Trail, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

Ships Harbor was another quick Quiet Side hike and was equally as stunning. The trail leads to a perfect crescent shaped cove, its water smooth as glass with barely a ripple. The morning’s silent fog gave an almost mystical quality to the area which was far more perfect than the brightest sunny day would have been. A quick stop at the Bass Harbor Light, one of Maine’s iconic lighthouses, ended our day before the skies finally opened up to a steady rain shower.
Ship's Harbor Traill, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com
Ship's Harbor Traill, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comShip's Harbor Traill, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.comBass Harbor Light, Exploring Acadia National Park www.casualtravelist.com

There’s far more  to Arcadia National Park and we barely scratched the surface during our two days there. There are multiple campsites throughout the park as well as a variety of hotels, inns and vacation rentals in Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas.To reach Acadia you can fly into Portland, ME with a 3.5 hour drive or Boston, MA which is 5 hours away. Acadia National Park is open year round with summer and fall being the busiest seasons though some services and trails will be closed for the winter. Check out this post for a great 3-day itinerary for Acadia National Park.



Entrance Fees

The following prices are good for 7 days.

Private Vehicle (15 passengers or less)- $20

Motorcycle- $5

Pedestrian or Hiker-$5

69 Comments on “Exploring Acadia National Park

  1. Looks absolutely lovely! I’ve heard great things about Acadia from numerous sources, so it feels like a place we’ll have to visit at some point.
    Bret recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

    • I highly recommend it, there’s nothing else on the east coast like it.

    • We absolutely love our time there Jenna. Your posts have me wanting to head out west, especially for the wine 🙂

    • New England is a great part of the US to explore and Maine has a great mix of history and nature. You should definitely make it to this side of the pond!

  2. Goodness, what lovely photos! I am reminded by Nova Scotia by looking at them! (The rocky shoreline,the lighthouse, etc).

    • It’s not too far from NS but is definitely a unique landscape for the eastern US.

  3. Beautiful photo tour, Brianna! I miss vacationing in New England precisely for reasons like Acadia National Park. I’ve never been there, but have been nearby plenty of times. Need to plan a few days to explore it the next time I’m nearby and the weather is pretty cooperative. I really love the shot of the uphill portion of the hiking trail – looks so mystical.
    Dave Cole recently posted…A Visit to the Ethnological Museum in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaMy Profile

    • Dave, it was really a great area of New England that I didn’t expect to fall in love with so much.

    • It is quite easy to do that but I’m sure the lure of the trails, lakes and shoreline will draw you out of the cottage.

    • When I travel I always try to visit a smaller town or natural area in addition to the larger cities.

    • It’s now my favorite eastern US National Park, it was very unique.

    • Its definitely worth a stop but I’m jealous of your road trip. I’m sure you’ll have tons to see!

  4. Oh perfect timing, I was just looking for ideas for hiking destinations! Would love to explore this area, it looks just beautiful. It’s a bit of a drive from Ottawa, but with a longer trip could be done..Thanks for the idea 🙂

    • There’s such a variety of hiking trails, lakes and other things to do. Definitely a great family location!

  5. Awesome pictures and very nice post Brianna! I really wish to visit one day. I love such kind of natural parks!

  6. Great Article Brianna, this really does look like my kind of place! Such an informative and useful post, and amazing photos. I like the colours of the rocks on the beaches, the wide-angle shots from the top of Cadillac Mountain, and that closeup of the bird – brilliant work!

    • Thanks for the compliments Paul. It’s easy to take great pictures with such stunning scenery.

  7. Acadia National Park looks incredibly gorgeous and in some of your photos, almost ethereal. I am always up for trekking the parks and will add this one to my list. To be honest I had not heard of it before.

    • It’s not as well know as the parks in the western US but definitely warrants a visit.

  8. Stunning photos Brianna! Acadia National Park looks absolutely beautiful. The rock formations (or cairns) look a little bit like Inukshuks that you can find here in Canada.

    • I had never seen them before and asked a park ranger about them. I thought they looked very artsy.

    • I really enjoyed my time there and would love to go back in the fall.

  9. Beautiful photos they remind me of some of the National Parks in Colorado! Thanks so much for sharing, especially how to avoid the crowds and get off the beaten path a bit. Another thing to add to our evey growing bucket list! 🙂
    Stacey Veikalas recently posted…How to Drink Wine Like a GermanMy Profile

  10. BEAUTIFUL photos, Brianna! It looks so serene and peaceful! Actually, it reminds me quite a bit of the parks we have in Minnesota, minus the ocean. But its very similar to the shores of Lake Superior, I’m sure I would love Maine. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’d love to visit Minnesota, there’s a lot of the midwest I have yet to visit.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Acadia is very peaceful once you get off the popular tourist trails

    • It was once the sun came out. I think I liked my foggy day better though.

  11. Looks really beautiful! Have not visited New England outside of Boston so would really love to explore more of this area.

    • Acadia is a 5 hour drive from Boston, we actually ended our Maine trip with a few days in Beantown

  12. Beautiful pictures! It looks like an amazing place to do some long hikes. Would love to visit, gonna have to add Acadia’s Park to my list of parks to visit in the US.

    • Thanks Corinne! This was my first visit to Maine and I fell in love, I’ll definitely be back.

  13. Acadia National Park is one my favorite trips in the USA, and your beautifully shot photos bring back many happy memories. I went up Cadillac Mountain both for sunrise and then in the afternoon with the rest of the family. It was definitely much hotter in the afternoon during the heat wave that hit while we were there. I also took time to explore the quieter side of Acadia and am so glad I did.

    • I love the National Park system in general. Acadia is just so different than any of the other east coast parks, we enjoyed our time there and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  14. Pingback: 38 Tips for Visiting the Best US National Parks - Luxe Adventure Traveler

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