With windswept coastlines, rugged mountains, thick forests, and alpine meadows, Acadia National Park is one of the premier wilderness destinations in the entire US.
Located on the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island, the park covers more than 49,000 acres and includes a small chain of islands that are unique and wild in their own right. This gives Acadia some of the most diverse landscapes and ecosystems of any national park, which is why it attracts more than three million annual visitors.
Acadia is easily accessible and accommodating to every traveler, despite its remote location. It offers roadways to explore by vehicle, trails for hiking and biking, and plenty of water to canoe and kayak. There are also multiple campgrounds found within its boundaries, with even more options located nearby.
If you’re searching for outdoor adventure and breathtaking views, point your RV towards Acadia National Park. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Why Visit Acadia National Park in an RV?
With 27 miles of historic roads and three RV-friendly campgrounds, Acadia is an excellent destination for RVers, although patience is sometimes required.
The park’s narrow roads get congested during the peak travel season (late May through early September) and parking can be challenging throughout the summer. Knowing that ahead of time will save you a lot of hassle and frustration.
Nearby Bar Harbor serves as the gateway to Acadia and is home to several privately-owned campgrounds. Those locations are easier to get in and out of during the park’s busier seasons.
A free shuttle bus called the Island Explorer provides hop-on/hop-off service to destinations throughout the park, making it easy to explore Acadia without a vehicle.
When to Visit Acadia National Park
Acadia is open 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, but some of the park’s facilities have seasonal closures. For instance, the park’s roads are closed from late autumn until spring, and most of the campgrounds close down for winter and reopen in May.
The famous carriage roads are open all year round, although they can face seasonal closures based on inclement weather. Check the Acadia operating hours and seasons for more information.
Acadia National Park in the Spring
Spring in Acadia can be wet and chilly, so dress appropriately. Temperatures range from lows in the mid-20s to highs in the mid-50s, with morning fog common.
Snowmelt and frequent rain showers can make trails muddy and keep the number of visitors low. It is a quiet and peaceful time in the park, with empty campsites and hiking routes.
Acadia National Park in the Summer
Summer is a fantastic time to visit Acadia, Maine, with warm days and cool nights. On most days, the temperature climbs into the upper-70s and drops into the mid-50s at night.
Sunny weather is common this time of year, which is why it’s the busiest and most popular time for travelers to visit the park.
If you’re looking for the most stable and predictable weather, summer is the time to go. Just be prepared for large crowds, particularly on weekends and holidays.
Acadia National Park in Fall
Fall comes early in Acadia, with high temperatures quickly dropping into the 50s and overnight lows in the 20s. After Labor Day Weekend, the crowds diminish substantially, although they pick up again in mid-October, as the leaves turn orange, yellow, and crimson.
The leaf-peeping season is short but lovely, with most of the fall colors gone by the end of the month. After that, the park is very quiet and manageable.
Acadia National Park in Winter
Winter can be frigid in Acadia, with temperatures frequently dropping below freezing and staying there for extended periods of time. The park sees plenty of snow, too, averaging 60+ inches each year.
This causes many of the trails and most facilities to shut down for the season, although the park remains open for those adventurous enough to visit.
As you would imagine, it is all but abandoned throughout the winter, although cross country skiers, snowshoers, and winter hikers still like to wander the carriage roads.
Where to Stay
Camping in Acadia National Park is a fun way to experience everything the park has to offer. The Park Service manages four campgrounds inside the park, three of which can accommodate RVers.
Reservations for each site can be made up to six months in advance at recreation.gov. These locations are open from late May into October and include:
- Blackwoods Campground (60 RV only sites)
- Seawall Campground (59 RV only sites)
- Schoodic Woods Campground (41 RV only sites)
Staying Outside the Park
Acadia’s official campgrounds can get booked quickly, making staying inside the park a challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent private campsites nearby with ocean views, dump stations, picnic tables, and other excellent amenities. Those options include:
- Mt. Desert Narrows Camping Resort (Bar Harbor, ME)
- Narrows Too Camping Resort (Bar Harbor, ME)
- Timberland Acres RV Park (Trenton, ME)
- Patten Pond Camping Resort (Ellsworth, ME)
- West Bay Acadia RV Campground (Gouldsboro, ME)
These Acadia campground options are a short drive from the park’s entrance, making it easy to come and go. It is even possible to park in Bar Harbor and use the Island Explorer bus system to get around.
How to Get Around Acadia National Park
The easiest and most popular way to get around inside Acadia National Park is to drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road. However, the road is closed during the winter and can get quite crowded during the peak summer months.
The route starts at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and provides access to some of the most popular locations within the park, including Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.
Acadia boat and sailing tours are another fantastic way to see the park. Those tours can be booked out of Bar Harbor, with daily departures during the summer months. Sea kayaks can also be rented and launched from town for those who would rather paddle their way along the Acadia coastline.
The park’s carriage roads—which prohibit motorized vehicles—are fun to explore by bike, horseback, or horse-drawn carriage. They are also easy to explore on foot for those who like to hike but want to avoid some of Acadia’s more challenging trails.
Places to Go
While Acadia isn’t nearly as large as some other national parks, it still has plenty of places to go and things to see. If you’re planning a visit to the park, here are some destinations to have on your list.
Hulls Cove Visitor Center
Open from late spring through the end of October, the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is a hub of activity in Acadia. There, visitors can purchase their entry pass ($30/vehicle), grab a map, and check to see if there are any road or trail closures.
The visitor center also displays the park’s Artist in Residence’s work and a small shop for picking up gifts, souvenirs, drinks, and snacks. When the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is closed for the off-season, drop by the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce to get updated park information.
Standing at 1,530 feet in height, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest peak on the eastern seaboard. From the summit—which can be reached on foot or by car—visitors get a spectacular view of the park, including its lush forests and rocky and rugged coastline.
The top of the mountain is a popular place to watch the sunrise, as it is considered the first place in the US to be touched by the morning light each day. At night, the mountain becomes a hangout for amateur astronomers, offering some of the best stargazing in the country.
Sand Beach is one of only two beaches in Acadia National Park, but most visitors won’t want to go for a swim. With temperatures rarely climbing above 55ºF, the water remains chilly all year round.
The beach does offer breathtaking views from the shore and from the nearby Great Head Trail, with towering granite walls and evergreen forests adding to the scenery.
As the tides rise along the shores of Acadia, a unique phenomenon occurs at a place called Thunder Hole. An hour or two before high tide, water rushes into the semi-submerged cave, creating a loud boom in the process.
Catching this unique sound requires patience and a bit of luck, but it will undoubtedly leave an impression that you won’t forget.
The rocky shores of the Schoodic Peninsula are known for two things—their spectacular beauty and plenty of solitude.
This is a part of the park that few people venture into, making it a great place to escape the crowds while immersing yourself in the natural wonders of Acadia. Drive or hike to the top of the 440-foot tall Schoodic Head to get the best vantage point.
Bass Harbor Head Light Station
The Bass Harbor Head Light Station is one of three lighthouses managed by the Park Service in Acadia. Built atop a rocky cliff, the tower stands 56 feet in height, providing amazing views of the surrounding area.
It is one of the best places to catch the sunset in the entire park, although it can get very busy during the peak travel season.
Nestled in a valley carved by glaciers, Jordan Pond is one of Acadia’s most picturesque settings. The clear, still waters of the lake reflect the surrounding mountains, giving this place a sense of serenity that fills visitors with a calm peacefulness.
Go for a hike along its shores or canoe or kayak across the water, and then drop by the Jordan Pond House for a cup of tea and a snack.
Things to Do in Acadia National Park
Whether you’re looking to connect with nature, soak up some scenery, or relax in a tranquil environment, Acadia has something for you.
Acadia has more than 150 miles of hiking trails, making it a popular destination for day hikers and backpackers. Options include leisurely treks along the seashore to more demanding climbs to the top of one of the park’s numerous mountaintops.
The diversity of the landscape is one of Acadia’s biggest draws, with seaside cliffs, wetlands, open meadows, lakes and ponds, mountains, and forests to explore.
The top hikes include:
- Precipice Loop (3.2 miles): This challenging hike requires a lot of climbing but is one of the most scenic and popular trails in the entire park.
- Ocean Path (4.4 miles): An easy hike that’s perfect for the entire family but still offers a fantastic setting with beautiful vistas.
- Beehive Loop (1.4 miles): Short but strenuous, the Beehive loop climbs above Sand Beach, with plenty of stunning views en route.
- Cadillac North Ridge Trail (4.4 miles): A moderately challenging hike to the highest point in the park.
- Jordan Pond Path (3.3 miles): Wander through forest and along the shore of the lake with mountain bluffs towering overhead.
And for a more remote backpacking experience, check out Duck Harbor Campground (5 lean-to shelters; only accessible by mailboat).
While there are no options for mountain biking inside Acadia, it is one of the more bike-friendly national parks, thanks to the 45 miles of carriage roads. With no motor vehicles allowed on those routes, riders only share the road with horses and hikers. Speeds are limited to 20 mph, and Class 1 e-bikes are allowed.
Bikes are also permitted on the Park Loop Road, although heavy traffic can make that a challenging ride. The park’s gravel roads are also open to riders, although caution is advised as those routes often have deep ruts.
The park’s famous carriage roads are also open to horseback riding, making Acadia one of the best parks for that activity. These routes are smooth, well defined, and easy to follow, making them an excellent option for touring the area by horse.
Kayaking and Boating
Acadia’s miles of coastline—and most of its freshwater ponds and lakes—are open to kayaking, canoeing, and boating. Visitors are encouraged to check local regulations before launching, as some locations prohibit motorized watercraft.
Be sure to wear a lifejacket at all times and stay aware of weather conditions, particularly when setting out on the ocean.
Anglers will find plenty to love in Acadia, with access to both fresh and saltwater fishing. Common species found within the park include golden shiners, American eels, brook trout, stickleback, redbelly dace, and alewife. A valid Maine fishing license is required, and all anglers must follow local regulations.
Acadia’s granite rock cliffs make for excellent rock climbing, with Otter Cliff and Great Head the most popular destinations. Both locations offer seaside climbing in a pristine setting. First-time visitors are encouraged to hire a local guide, bring all the proper gear, and take safety seriously.
Acadia’s remote location—far from city lights and pollution—makes it an excellent destination for stargazing. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to bring their telescopes to take in the views of the night sky as the park offers some of the best celestial viewings on the eastern seaboard.
Winter in Acadia can be long and cold, but there is plenty of adventure to be had for those who embrace the season. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are permitted on the carriage roads, and hiking is allowed on all of the trails.
Snowmobiles can travel along the Park Loop Road, including the route to Cadillac Mountain’s summit road. Dog sledding is a popular activity, too, with options to book local guides in Bar Harbor. Ice fishing is also permitted under the same regulations for angling during other parts of the year.
The park is virtually empty during the winter, and conditions can be challenging. It is a time for experienced and well-equipped visitors to enjoy everything Acadia has to offer, with safety remaining a top priority.
What to Bring and How to Prepare
Whether you’re visiting Acadia for a day or staying for a while, knowing what to bring with you will make your experience a better one. Here are a few suggestions:
- Food and Drinks: While visitor centers do have some drinks and snacks available for sale, they aren’t always easily accessible while exploring the park. If you are spending an extended amount of time in Acadia, be sure to pack a cooler with lunch, water, and other items to nibble on.
- Extra Layers of Clothing: Even at the height of summer, Acadia can experience cool temperatures from time to time. Bring an extra layer of clothing or two just in case you need some additional warmth. Dressing in layers gives visitors the versatility to adjust to changing conditions no matter the season.
- Rain Jacket: With its proximity to the coast, the weather in Acadia can change quickly. Always bring a rain jacket to help you stay dry should unexpected showers appear.
- Water Shoes: If you plan to walk along the beach or wade into the chilly waters, a pair of water shoes will keep your feet drier, warmer, and well protected.
- Hiking Gear: Hiking is one of the best ways to explore Acadia, but you’ll enjoy those walks more if you have the proper gear. Hiking clothes, comfortable and well-broken-in boots, trekking poles, and a daypack will make life on the trail more enjoyable.
- Headlamp: A headlamp is one of the handiest pieces of gear to have with you on any adventure. They are great for finding your way on the trail after dark, but they are also helpful around the campsite.
A Brief History of Acadia National Park
The region that is now home to Acadia National Park has welcomed travelers for centuries. Archaeological records indicate that indigenous nomadic tribes have lived in the area for nearly 15,000 years, thanks in part to the abundance of wildlife and access to fishing along the Atlantic Coast.
The first Europeans arrived in the early 16th century, establishing a vital fur-trading outpost for the French, English, and Dutch. In the 1800s, Maine’s beautiful coastline became a popular summer destination for the East Coast’s wealthiest and most influential families.
By that time, most of the land was no longer occupied by Native Americans but instead belonged to wealthy industrialists looking for a wilderness retreat. The region also attracted painters, authors, and poets who came in search of solitude and inspiration.
By the turn of the 20th century, there was a significant movement in the US to create a national park east of the Mississippi River. Until then, all of the parks were located in the western part of the country, far from where most Americans lived.
Maine’s rocky coastline soon became a leading candidate for that honor, with several private owners stepping up to donate land. In July of 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created Sieur de Monts National Monument on that donated land. Three years later, the monument would be renamed and promoted, becoming Lafayette National Park.
When that happened, it also became the first national park east of the Mississippi River and the first to be created from lands donated to the Park Service by private owners. A decade later, the US Congress would change the name to Acadia National Park in honor of a 17th-century French colony. By then, the park had gained a wealthy benefactor in John D. Rockefeller.
The billionaire industrialist funded much of the early planning and construction of the park, including building 45+ miles of carriage roads. A century after their completion, those roads remain an integral part of the park’s identity, allowing for non-motorized exploration of its landscapes.
Today, Acadia is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves America’s national parks. Whether you’re camping in a tent, renting a cabin, or visiting in an RV, it is a place that should be on any traveler’s bucket list, generating memories that will last a lifetime.
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