Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

Park Tally: 24/59

Orientation: Acadia National Park is located off the Atlantic coast in the state of Maine. The park occupies the majority of Mount Desert Island and some accompanying smaller islands. The region is often broken down into 6 areas – Winter Harbor, Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor and Isle au Haut. The various regions can be accessed via car, bus or passenger ferry.

The town of Bar Harbor is located just minutes from Acadia National Park and many visitors come to the area to sample the fresh local seafood, stroll around the downtown precinct and explore the park. Acadia is popular in the summer for bicycling, kayaking, camping, boating and swimming, whereas winter draws crowds for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

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Most iconic view:  One of the most well-known sights in the park is Cadillac Mountain. Standing at 1530 feet tall, Cadillac is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. It is also the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. The summit can be accessed via an easy 3.5 drive or a challenging 7.7-mile hike (mentioned in more detail below).

Visitors flock to the summit each morning in hopes of catching sunrise and witnessing the stunning panoramic views. On a clear day you can see Western Bay and Eagle Lake to the northwest, the Cranberry Islands to the south, and Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands and the Schoodic Peninsula to the northeast.

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Accessible activity: Acadia has a scenic 27-mile Park Loop Road that connects the areas lakes, mountains and seashore. The loop road can be explored via car, bicycle, or on the park’s shuttle bus – the Island Explorer. The shuttle bus runs from late June through early October each year and provides transportation around the Park Loop Road, as well as many other destinations in the park and surrounding communities. Popular stops along the Park Loop Road include Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Point, Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain.

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Jordan Pond is a wonderful spot to relax, enjoy the lake and mountain views, take a short stroll or have a bite to eat. The Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers (scones) and tea since the 1890s and to this day remains a well-liked location to enjoy a delicious afternoon tea.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is another accessible and scenic location to explore when visiting Acadia National Park. Located 35 minutes from Bar Harbor, the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is settled upon a rocky seashore on the southwestern corner of Mount Desert Island.  The lighthouse can be viewed via a short trail and a small set of stairs, though visitors often enjoy scrambling across the large boulders below for a better view.

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For the adventurous: Hiking to the summit of Cadillac Mountain is a challenging but rewarding activity. The Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail is a 7.7-mile roundtrip hike that rises more than 1,500 feet in elevation. Those who make it to the summit are treated to epic panoramic views and bragging rights of climbing the tallest peak in the park.

Another steep hike, though much shorter in distance, is the North Bubble Trail near Jordan Pond. The trail is only 1.1-mile roundtrip but consists of almost 500-feet elevation gain and some large steps. The summit is a wonderful place to rest and take in the peaceful views of Jordan Pond and surrounding areas.

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Best photo opportunities: Acadia National Park is a magnificent location to capture beautiful and diverse photographs. Two of the best sunrise locations include Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond. The most popular sunset spot is definitely Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse – though be prepared for many other photographers during summer! The park is also a popular location for bird photography.

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Quick facts

  • Acadia National Park was established on February 26, 1919 and it is the oldest designated national park east of the Mississippi River.
  • Acadia is open year-round, however many facilities within and nearby the park are closed from October through late May.
  • Birders flock from all over the world to Acadia in the hopes of viewing puffins, warblers, peregrine falcon and other birds of prey.
  • The park has 26 mountains within its boundaries, including the tallest peak along the North Atlantic Seaboard – Cadillac Mountain (1530 feet)
  • Acadia is home to at least 40 different species of mammals, including black bears, moose, beavers and coyotes. There used to be mountain lions and gray wolves in the park but they have since left the area.
  • In 2016 Acadia National Park had almost 3,500,000 visitors, making it one of the most popular parks in the National Park Service.

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