Acadia National ParkBar Harbor, Maine
A perennial favorite for ocean breezes, fall foliage and cross country skiing.
Acadia National Park
Explore Maine’s National Park.
Acadia is both one of the most visited national parks as well as one of the smaller national parks in the country.
Around three million visitors go to Acadia National Park in its busiest years, with the majority visiting during summer. Another popular time to visit is fall, especially in September and October. The peak fall foliage colors are typically in mid-October, according to the National Park Service.
Winter brings cross-country skiing to Acadia’s carriage routes, ice fishing to larger ponds and lakes, and snowmobiles to the Park Loop Road. Although most of Park Loop Road is closed to driving in the winter, Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road remain open with Sargeant Drive another popular option for scenic winter views of Acadia and Mount Desert Island. Cross Country ski trails are maintained by volunteer groomers when the carriage road bed is frozen and snow exceeds four to six inches. A limited number of campsites are open for winter camping at Blackwoods Campground if you are interested in braving the freezing temperatures.
Spring brings fog and rain to Acadia from March through May. Park facilities typically operate a limited schedule until mid-April and you’ll want to bring waterproof gear if you are visiting during this season.
Native American peoples, the Wabanaki, have inhabited the land we now call Maine for 12,000 years. Samuel de Champlain observed the coast in 1604 as he was sailing down the coast. He named the island he saw Mount Desert Island, and the wilderness he observed is much the same today as it was then.
The area was first established as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson. It became a national park in 1919, under the name Lafayette National Park, in honor of Marquis de Lafayette, a French supporter of the American Revolution. It was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. In 1929, the name was changed once more to Acadia, in honor of the French colony of which Maine was once a part.
Wealthy philanthropist John D Rockefeller Jr, a supporter of the national parks, oversaw the creation of carriage trails throughout the park from 1915-1933. Overall, 50 miles of trails, 17 bridges of trails, and 2 lodges were constructed, many of which are still in use today.
Acadia is bordered by private property and its land was acquired by donations. Congress didn’t actually set the official boundaries of the park until 1986.
An entrance fee of $20 for motorcycles and $25 for private, noncommercial vehicles is charged at entry between May and October. The passes are good for seven days. The park offers an annual pass for $50 that is good for 12 months from the purchase date. The national park pass ($80), senior pass ($10) and other national park passes are accepted at Acadia National Park.
Bar Harbor is a small coastal seashore community on Mount Desert Island surrounded by Acadia National Park. It was once a summer colony for the super affluent and is still a popular summer tourist destination. During September and October, it is a popular stop for fall foliage cruises in the northeast. The 2010 census listed its population as 5,235. Some Bar Harbor businesses close up after Columbus Day weekend.
Park Loop Road
The primary means of travel through the park is a 27 mile scenic loop called the Park Loop Road. It is open from mid-April through November, with a few small sections open for driving year round. In the winter, sections are opened for snowmobiling and cross country skiing.
To relieve driving congestion during the summer, a free and popular option is to take the Island Explorer shuttle bus. Run by Downeast Transportation and sponsored by LL Bean and Friends of Acadia, it offers passengers access to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park via eight bus routes that stop at popular points around the island. The bus service starts from late May (Schoodic peninsula) or late June and goes through Columbus Day. Note: The fall schedule goes in effect on September 1st.
Distance from Nearby Major Cities:
New York City, NY:
Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) is located between Bar Harbor and Ellsworth about ten minutes from the Acadia National Park. Flights are available to BHB from Boston’s Logan International Airport aboard Cape Air, a partner with Jet Blue. PenAir offers flights to Bar Harbor from Boston daily during the summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Elite Airways also offers service to Bar Harbor direct from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) on Fridays and Sundays during the summer.
There are a few different transportation options coming out of Bar Harbor Airport. Bus service is available free of charge to Mount Desert Island on the Island Explorer from late June through Columbus Day. Hertz provides year-round car rentals, with Enterprise offering seasonal car rental from May to October. Taxi service is also available from several different cab companies.
Bangor International Airport is located about 50 miles from Bar Harbor. Delta, US Airways and Allegiant Air all fly to and from Bangor. For those flying into Bangor, Bar Harbor Shuttle offers daily trips during the summer from Bar Harbor to Bangor. Downeast Transportation offers year-round transport on Mondays and Fridays between Bangor and Bar Harbor The cost starts at $45 one way and $90 round trip. Car rental is also available in Bangor through Avis, Budget, Hertz and Alamo/National.
Boston’s Logan Airport is about a five hour drive from Acadia National Park. All major car rental companies service the airport. Concord Coach also offers year round bus service from Boston to Bar Harbor.
Roundtrip Flights to Portland
Busiest Months (Percentage of Annual Visits)
- Cross Country Skiing
- Cross Country Skiing
Acadia National Park Lighthouses
The only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island is the Bass Harbor Head Light, first lit in 1858. Although the lighthouse is not open to the public, spectacular views of the coast and lighthouse are available from short trails in the vicinity of the lighthouse which are part of the national park.
For those with access to a boat or boat rental, two other lighthouses on park grounds in the Cranberry Isles are an option. The Bear Island Lighthouse is located on Bear Island at the southern entrance of Somes Sound. The Baker Island Lighthouse is one of the older lighthouses in the area (commissioned in 1828 and present version built in 1855). Although they are both located on national park land, they are closed to the public.
Acadia National Park Beaches
Sand Beach is a 290 yard beach carved out of the rocky shores of Mount Desert Island. It is located on the northeastern portion of the island accessible via Park Loop Road. A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The water rarely gets above 55 degrees though. The Island Explorer shuttle bus stops here. Sand Beach is near The Beehive, a small 520 foot mountain with a short but popular strenuous climb via the Beehive Trail that provides spectacular views of the area.
Echo Lake Beach on is a better option for swimming because it is warmer than the ocean. Echo Lake is a 237 acre freshwater lake along Route 102 just north of Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island. The beach is on the southern shore and is staffed with a lifeguard from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Island Explorer shuttle bus also stops here.
Acadia, with more than 120 miles of trails for hiking, has been called a day hiker’s paradise. Popular trails include the Beehive Trail, Jordan Pond Path, the Precipice, Acadia Mountain Trail, Gorham Mountain Trail, Cadillac North Ridge Trail and Cadillac South Ridge Trail. Be sure to check the difficulty rating before going, however, since some Acadia trails require climbing iron rungs or walking on narrow ledges.
A number of ponds and rivers in the park are home to brook trout. There are also landlocked salmon in Eagle Lake, Echo Lake, Jordan Pond and Long Pond. Both brook trout and Atlantic salmon are stocked in the park. Fishing for chain pickerel and smallmouth bass are also options. Bring a canoe or kayak for the best fishing of the lakes and ponds.
Ocean fishing is also an option when the fish are running. Sargent Drive on Somes Sound is known for mackeral, bluefish and striped bass from July through September. You may also try Frazer Point on Schoodic Peninsula for mackeral from mid-July through September. Outside the national park, the Lamoine State Park dock (just north of Mt Desert Island) is another option.
Atlantic mackerel are a schooling fish. Most people fishing for mackeral will use a multi-hook fishing rig. Streamers, wobbling spoons and jigs are all used to attract fish. The best time to catch them from shore is during high tide.
Deep sea fishing and lobster tours are available from Bar Harbor as well as nearby oceanfront cities.
Kayaking is a popular activity in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park from June through September. Both guided tours and kayak rentals are available in Bar Harbor as well as other locations around Mount Desert Island. The west side of Mount Desert Island is popular to view wildlife and explore the undeveloped coastline. Another option for those that don’t want to travel on the ocean is Long Pond.
The birds found in the national park which are listed as abundant or common by the park service include: Alder Flycatcher, American Bittern, American Black Duck, American Crow, American Eider, American Golden-eye, American Goldfinch, American Herring Gull, American Kestrel, American Osprey, American Pipit, American Redstart, American Robin, American Tree Sparrow, American Woodcock, Bald Eagle, Baltimore Oriole, Barn Swallow, Bay-breasted Warbler, Belted Kingfisher, Black and White Creeper, Black Guillemot, Black-bellied Plover, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blue Jay, Blue-headed Solitary Vireo, Broad-winged Hawk, Bronzed Grackle, Brown Creeper, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bufflehead, Butter Butt, Canada Goose, Canada Ruffed Grouse, Canada Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Chebec, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Chimney Swift, Chipping Sparrow, Cliff Swallow, Common Flicker, Common Loon, Common Mallard, Common Nighthawk, Common Oven-bird, Common Raven, Common Tern, Common Yellowthroat, Crested Flycatcher, Dark-eyed Junco, Double-crested Cormorant, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Dowitcher, Eastern Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Harlequin Duck, Eastern Hermit Thrush, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Mourning Dove, Eastern Nashville Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Pigeon Hawk, Eastern Purple Finch, Eastern Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Red-wing, Eastern Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Snow Bunting, Eastern Solitary Sandpiper, Eastern Song Sparrow, Eastern Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Turkey Vulture, Eastern Veery, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Winter Wren, Eastern Wood Pewee, Eastern Yellow Warbler, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Greater Scaup, Greater Yellowlegs, Green-winged Teal, House Finch, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper, Magnolia Warbler, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Northern Parula, Northern Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Pine Siskin, Northern Sharp-shinned Hawk, Olive-backed Swainson’s Thrush, Palm Warbler, Purple Sandpiper, Red Crossbill, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-eyed Vireo, Ring-billed Gull, Ring-necked Duck, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Ruddy Turnstone, Rusty Blackbird, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sora Rail, Spotted Sandpiper, Tennessee Warbler, Tree Swallow, White-throated Sparrow, Wilson’s Pileolated Warbler, Wood Duck, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Current Astronomy Chart
Courtesy of the AstroViewer night sky map.
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