Outsider’s national parks team breaks down what to do, see, and where to stay while making the best of your Acadia National Park trip in Maine.
Ready to take the North Atlantic’s crown jewel for all it’s worth? Famous for breathtaking sunrises, impressive coastal cliffs, and gorgeous mountain forests, few places offer as much as Acadia in a single park. Which is why millions of visitors flock in from around the world every single year. Due to this diversity and challenging landscape, however, Acadia shouldn’t be tackled blindly or taken lightly.
What you need to know:
- Acadia National Park Wildlife: Which Animals You’ll Spot and How to Stay Safe
- Acadia National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Blackwoods, Duck Harbor and More
- Acadia National Park Safety: Best Practices to Stay Safe While Exploring the National Park
To help fellow Outsiders navigate these 47,000 acres, 158 miles of hiking trails, 27 miles of historic roads and the highest rocklands along the Atlantic coastline, we’re breaking down the best views, hikes, lodging, camping, wildlife viewing, and safety tips for Maine’s Acadia National Park below.
What To Do: Best Hiking Trails and Views in Acadia National Park
With over 150 miles of hiking trails, Acadia offers some of the best views on America’s broad East Coast. And it’s these six trails that mark the national park as the “North Atlantic’s Crown Jewel”:
- Cadillac Summit Loop (easy)
- Ocean Path Trail (easy)
- Around Mountain Carriage Road (moderate)
- Western Head and Cliff Trail (moderate)
- Beehive Loop (moderate to strenuous)
- Precipice Loop (strenuous)
Acadia National Park has a wide variety of landscapes and vistas within its 35,000 acres. You can traverse rocky edges, step through lush forest and rest your feed in soft sand all in one hike! If you want to walk along the coastline, there are trails for that. Want to be vertical on the side of a mountain? There are trails for that, too. Your experience in the popular East Coast national park will depend purely on your interests and limitations. Some hikes are friendly for outdoor adventurists of all experience levels, and others are best suited for more advanced hikers. You can be sure of one thing though – no matter which trail you choose, you’re guaranteed to find gorgeous views. – Amy Myers
For a detailed breakdown of each hike, please see Amy’s Acadia National Park Must-Sees: Hikes, Views, and Landmarks, from Cadillac Summit to Precipice Loop next.
What To See: Wildlife of Acadia National Park
Maine’s stunning coastal national park is full of surprises. Did you know Acadia National Park is one of the world’s premiere birding destinations? Or that it’s one of the few parks in America where you’re likely to spot a porcupine? In addition to plentiful white-tailed deer, the wildlife below are highlighted by Acadia park staff for their likelihood of viewing:
- Birdwatching: A record of 338 bird species have been encountered in Acadia National Park, making it one of the premier bird-watching areas in the world. Rare raptors like falcons, owls and eagles call the park home alongside water-based birds like loons, ducks, and shorebirds, and landlocked woodpeckers, songbirds, and warblers.
- Acadia’s Bats: “Bats may only be seen at night in Acadia, but they shine a light on the many challenges animals face due to environmental threats such as climate change,” the park states. “Bats in Acadia National Park have declined over 80% and are a major focus of park research activities.”
- Beavers make incredible impacts on the Acadia land and waterscapes as they transform the environments they inhabit. Keep an eye out for these busy-builders and their impressive dams within the park.
- North American Porcupines are also a rare treat in Acadia National Park. But be sure to give them plenty of space and never approach – their massive quills are no joke!
- Marine Wildlife: Scouting rocks, tidepools, and salt water marshes reveals snails and mussels clinging to the rocks and burrowing in the mud. Crabs, lobster and other crustaceans seek shelter on the ocean floor. Deeper in the ocean, marine mammals such as seals, whales, and porpoises join fish such as sunfish and can wow visitors on the open sea during boat tours.
Black Bear Safety in Acadia National Park
Megafauna such as moose and black bears are incredibly rare in the park, but always be prepared for potentially dangerous encounters. For extended information on wildlife viewing and black bear safety in Acadia, please see Jon D. B.’s Acadia National Park Wildlife: Which Animals You’ll Spot and How to Stay Safe.
Where To Stay: Lodging and Camping
- Beach-Goers: Reserve a Blackwoods Campground site here
- Anglers & Fish-Lovers: Reserve a Seawall site here
- Biking & Camping? Reserve a Schoodic Woods site here
- Backcountry Enthusiasts: Reserve a Duck Harbor site here
- For all lodging reservations in Acadia National Park: book here
Acadia National Park in Maine has a total of four campgrounds (three front-country, one backcountry), and while this might not seem like a lot, there are plenty of sites at each of these four locations. The park also requires reservations for staying at any of these grounds. There are no sites available upon arrival, but you can book your reservation up to two months in advance. – Amy Myers
For in-depth breakdowns of each camping and lodging option above, please see Amy’s Acadia National Park Lodging: Campgrounds, Cabins, Securing Reservations in Blackwoods, Duck Harbor and More next.
How To Stay Safe: Challenges of Acadia
With everything from steep cliffs and dense forests to freezing Atlantic waters, safety is paramount when visiting Acadia National Park. Safety should always be #1 priority while exploring anytime, anywhere. And with the sheer ecological diversity of Acadia National Park, a bit of safety prep goes a long way.
Acadia Park Staff Recommend:
- Never rely on cell connectivity for trail navigation. Instead, buy a trail map with detailed topography at park stores
- Always have more than one back-up plan to make the most of your visit during Acadia’s busiest months from June into October
- Find ideas and resources on the Plan Your Visit pages of the official Acadia National Park website
- If hiking or journeying alone, always give someone a detailed breakdown of your destination; where you plan to enter, stay, and exit, with estimated times of arrival, departure, etc.
- Never attempt free-climbing or bouldering in Acadia without proper equipment, supervision, or a guide. There are a number of climbing classes and excursions offered by the park
- And as with any national park, always stay on designated trails within Acadia. Failure to do so greatly increases the risk of injury, becoming lost, or death
- If camping or traveling alone, always give someone a detailed breakdown of your destination; where you plan to enter, stay, and exit, with estimated times of arrival, departure, etc.
- No camping, campfires, or overnight parking are permitted outside of designated campgrounds
Safety Precautions on Acadia Beaches:
- There are no lifeguards on duty at park beaches, including Sand Beach and Echo Lake
- Ocean water here is wicked cold, as low as 55°F/13°C in August
- Watch for symptoms of hypothermia during or after your swim. In an emergency, dial 911
- Watch for rogue waves, and never turn your back to the ocean
- If caught in a rip tide, remain calm and swim parallel to the beach.
For more on how to safely visit and enjoy Acadia National Park, please see Jon’s Acadia National Park Safety: Best Practices to Stay Safe While Exploring the National Park next.
Download the National Park App and Save Acadia for Offline Use
Additionally, you can use the NPS app to track your current location on the map, discover new places, hikes, and trip ideas, and learn more about the park while visiting. It’s a great way to make the best of your time in Acadia National Park with inside information. But remember, never rely on your cellphone as a source of navigation in the wilderness.
- For more on how to properly prepare to navigate our beautiful national parks, please see our National Parks Journal: Review These 10 Must-Know Essentials Before Your Next Trip
- In addition, see ‘Leave No Trace’ in U.S. National Parks: Breaking Down the Seven Principles
Also, be sure to view Acadia National Park’s Rules and Regulations on their NPS website. Enjoy your Acadia adventures, Outsiders!