Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, Maine
Geography & History
Acadia National Park , near Bar Harbor, Maine, comprises 49,000+ acres of rock-bound coast on Mount Desert Island, a portion of the Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland, and offshore islands. Here in Acadia National Park you will find granite cliffs side by side with sand and cobblestone beaches. Glacier-carved mountains rise from the sea, cupping deep lakes in their valleys. Here, too, are meadows and marshes and dense evergreen forests. Everywhere the ocean makes its presence felt, whether by sight, sound, or smell.
Much of Acadia National Park's outstanding scenery is the result of glaciers carving through an east-west ridge of granite, leaving mountains separated by valleys. Many glaciers have covered Maine, and the last melted 11,000 years ago. Big blocks of ice were left behind forming lakes and ponds. As the glacier retreated, sea level rose and flooded the valley that is now the only fjord located on the eastern seaboard of the United States, Somes Sound.
Today a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest cloaks the granite backbone of the island, but the work of the glaciers is still evident in U-Shaped valleys, the whale backed ridges of the mountains, and glacial debris called erratics. The most prominent erratic is the huge boulder sitting atop South Bubble Mountain. It is thought to have been carried by the last glacier from some 50 miles away. The geologic sculpting of the island did not end with the glaciers, but continues today along the shoreline where the ocean constantly shapes and reshapes the rocky coast of Down East Maine.
Human history in the Acadia National Park area extends at least 5,000 years into the past. Shell heaps are evidence of native American Indian encampments. Explorer Samuel Champlain made the first European contribution to the area's recorded history when he landed on Mount Desert Island in 1604. It is he who named it Isle des Monts Deserts, island of barren mountains. The first visitors, artists of the Hudson River School of Art, arrived in the mid-1800s. Their depictions of the island lured others to experience its beauty. As word of the island's appeal spread, Mount Desert evolved into a favorite summer retreat for the wealthy Americans who transformed the landscape with elegant estates – called "cottages." From their ranks came a strong commitment to conservation. Concerned by development pressures, George B. Dorr, Charles Eliot, and others worked to preserve the land and ensure public access. They sought donations of private land and their efforts culminated in the establishment of the first national park east of the Mississippi River.
Thanks to their foresight and stewardship, today's generation, and future generations, can enjoy this island where the mountains meet the sea. Little did Secretary Lane know that 80 years later, millions, not thousands, of visitors from around the world would find "pleasure" at Acadia National Park annually. From sitting along the rocky shoreline in contemplation, to more active pursuits like hiking, there are numerous ways to explore this national treasure.
Ranger-led Programs at Acadia National Park
Join Park Rangers for walks, talks, cruises, hikes, and evening slide programs from late May to mid-October in Acadia National Park. Topics include geology, shoreline, birds, plant life, and human history. When you arrive in Acadia National Park, ask for a schedule of ranger-led activities. Program schedules are not available by mail. Children can participate in the Junior Ranger program during the summer. There are also several ranger-led programs specifically for children.
Acadia National Park Hiking Trails
Acadia National Park offers about 120 miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous. Terrain varies from rugged shoreline and deep woods, to open mountain summits with views of the ocean and outer islands. Acadia National Park's approximately 50 miles of carriage roads are also suitable for walking.
Biking in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Parks's carriage roads, and over 27 miles of paved motor roads, are suitable for bicycle riding. The carriage roads have crushed rock surfaces and wind through the heart of the park. Acadia National Park hiking trails and private carriage roads are off-limits to bicycles. Bicyclists must yield to walkers and horseback riders.
Acadia National Parks's 27 mile scenic Park Loop Road begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain. A CD and cassette tape tour is available for rent or purchase at the visitor center. Park entrance fees are collected at the Entrance Station North of Sand Beach on the Park Loop Road. Call 207-288-3338 for current fee information. In addition to the Park Loop Road, other state and county roads may offer scenic views. The road located on Schoodic Peninsula, one hour north of Bar Harbor, offers views of the rugged coast on the only part of the park on the mainland.
Beautiful Sand Beach in Acadia National Park – Ocean & Lake Swimming
Acadia National Park has two lifeguarded beaches: Sand Beach, located off Park Loop Road, offers ocean swimming. The water temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees. Echo Lake Beach offers a somewhat warmer, freshwater swimming experience on the west side of the island. Other than Echo Lake, freshwater lakes located in the park serve as drinking water reservoirs and are off-limits to swimming and wading.
Acadia National Park Accommodations – Camping
- Blackwoods Campground: Open all year. Reservations recommended, May 1st to October 31st. Call National Recreation Reservation Service at 877-444-6777.
- Seawall Campground: Open Memorial Day to September 30. Reservations recommended at 877-444-6777. Also first come, first served. One vehicle, six people, and two small tents or one large tent are allowed at a campsite. Designated campsites accommodate trailers up to 35 feet. Neither campground has utility hookups. From early spring to late fall, the campgrounds provide comfort stations, cold running water, dump station, picnic tables, fire rings, and water faucets. Showers and a camping supply store are within 1/2 mile of both campgrounds.
Click here for camping related area business listings.
Acadia National Park Museums
- Nature Center: Features the diversity of natural resources that make up Acadia and how they are studied and protected. The Nature Center is located at Sieur de Monts Spring off Route 3 and Park Loop Road.
- Islesford Historical Museum: Exhibits tell the story of the Cranberry Islands and its people through ship models, navigation aids, dolls and toys, photographs and tools. The museum is located on Little Cranberry Island and can be reached by mailboat or tour boats from Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor.
Stop by the Hulls Cove Visitor Center located on Route 3 just north of Bar Harbor, open from mid-May through October. At the visitor center, park staff can help you plan your visit. An audiovisual program is shown every half hour, and books, maps, and other literature are available for sale.
For more information
Follow this link for our expanded park information page, or visit the park's website at www.nps.gov/acad, or phone 207-288-3338.