The Ultimate Guide to Acadia National Park: Top Things to Do and See
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
During this COVID19 quarantine season, I wanted to immerse myself in the marvelous beauty of nature. What better way to do that than to visit the one and only, Acadia National Park?! Acadia National Park boasts 47,633 acres of beautiful land in Maine. This is the only national park in New England and gets millions of visitors every year. The gorgeous views and fresh, crisp air was unlike anything I’ve experienced. Since COVID19 is still very much real and around us, my boyfriend and I had to take several precautions during our trip. However, we had a great time regardless!
Most places were opened at the park and Bar Harbor when we went (July 10-13, 2020). The weather was not good during the first half of our trip. Thankfully, the sky gods listened to our prayers and blessed us with 1 day of picturesque views for miles and miles. Acadia has so many things to offer! Not gonna lie, I was overwhelmed looking at all the things we could do... Luckily for you, I have compiled several things to do, see, and eat that should be on your “MUST do” list during your visit to Acadia National Park. Also, read on to see what to expect regarding the safety precautions Maine has set in place during this COVID19 pandemic.
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What are the fees to enter the park?
The fees to enter the park are listed below. For an updated fee list, check out the website.
Entrance fee list as of 8/14/2020:
Private vehicle - $30 per car (includes occupants) (valid for 7 days)
Motorcycle - $25 (incl. 1 or 2 occupants) (valid for 7 days)
Bike, hiker, pedestrian - $15 (valid for 7 days)
Acadia annual pass - $55 (includes occupants)
You also have the ability to purchase an interagency annual pass for $80. This pass will give you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites and is valid for 1 year from the date of purchase. The interagency annual passes are only available for purchase at the Sand Beach entrance station or the Schoodic Woods ranger station. This pass is a good deal for those of you who are planning to visit more than one national park this year.
What to do in Acadia National Park…
There are plenty of trails in Acadia to choose from! Some are easier than others, but the views you’ll get on all of the trails are incredible! The three most popular trails are the Beehive Loop Trail, Bubble Rock Trail, and Ocean Path Trail.
Beehive Loop Trail:
Length - 1.4 miles
Elevation gain - 488 ft
Difficulty - hard
Parking - park at sand beach or on the right side of the street
The Beehive Loop trail is not for those with a faint of heart. Reason being that you have to climb iron rungs on ledges of the mountain to get to the top. To be honest with you, I almost backed out on hiking this trail. Those iron rungs looked super intimidating... Also adding height to the factor… yeah, let’s just say my anxiety was through the roof while on this hike. Despite the intimidation, I pushed through the trail and was extremely happy I finished it! The feeling you get after climbing the frightening ledges and being rewarded with a stunning view is so gratifying! From the top, you can see the aqua blue waters of Sand Beach merging along with Atlantic waters. For those of you who have a fear of heights, I suggest you go up the trail the opposite way (and come back down that same way- NOT by the ledges). You might have to scramble on some rocks when going that opposite way, but it’s definitely a lot better than climbing on the iron rungs. Be sure to make a stop at the Bowl when hiking this trail! The Bowl is a pond tucked in the mountainside and is a great way to reward yourself after the Beehive loop. You are allowed to swim in the pond, so bring a bathing suit! However, do be careful as I have heard there are leeches in the pond. Regardless, you can still kick back, relax, and enjoy the serenity the pond has to offer.
The Bubble Rock Trail: (South Bubble Mountain and Jordan Loop Pond)
Length - 1.4 miles
Elevation gain - 492 ft
Difficulty - moderate
Parking - designated parking lot
The Bubble Rock trail is a nice hike with a little scramble. When you arrive at the trail, make sure to take a left and start from “Jordan Pond Carry”!! There will be signs that state which turns to take, so don’t worry. This is extremely important to note as it will get you up there EASIER! By reversing the loop, you will climb up the steep rocky boulders instead of climbing down it. Trust me, this will save you some unnecessary stress! Unfortunately, due to the dense fog, we weren’t greeted with any view except for the Bubble Rock. However, the view up there is gorgeous during clear skies! When hiking up, look for wild blueberries. Little known fact: Maine is the United States’ largest producer of wild blueberries- hence why you see so many wild blueberries in Acadia! The South Bubble trail also loops to the North Bubble, so you can tackle both at once if you’d like.
Ocean Path Trail:
Length - 4.5 miles
Difficulty - easy
Parking - park at Sand Beach or Otter Point
The Ocean Path trail takes you from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole and Otter Point. While on this trail, you will be guaranteed with gorgeous, scenic views of Acadia! Most of the trail is alongside the ocean. My boyfriend and I didn’t get a chance to do this trail because it was extremely foggy during our time there, so there was not much to see. We did however get a chance to drive by the trail during the only sunny day on our trip and can attest to the stunning views on this trail!
Sights to see in Acadia National Park…
Sand Beach is a little beach spot in Acadia that’s sure to refresh your body after a long day’s hike. The changing rooms and restrooms are located by the parking area of the beach. The water on this beach is COLD- regardless if you’re visiting in the midst of a heatwave… it’ll still be cold! There is also a trail called the Great Head Trail that starts from the beach. I personally did not go on this trail, however, I have heard that the trail will give you another beautiful perspective of Sand Beach. This trail is different from the Ocean Path Trail (which also starts from Sand Beach).
A little down the way from Sand Beach lies Thunder Hole. Thunder hole is a beautiful spot in Acadia! The reason it’s called “Thunder Hole” is because the sound of the waves crashing against the small cave in the rocks is similar to that of thunder. This phenomenon occurs at various times during the day, depending on the tides. The rangers will post the best time to view Thunder Hole at the Sand Beach entrance station. Thunder Hole is also a great spot to watch the waves! Please take caution when trying to get on the rocks as it can get slippery due to the waves.
From Thunder Hole, you can make your way down to Otter Point! This is another gorgeous location to immerse yourself in. This place is great if you want to enjoy views of the coastline peacefully!! There were very few people in this area, so you can definitely practice your social distancing safely. This place also has some interesting rock formations that’ll make your inner geologist geek out! Otter Point has a little parking area on the right side of Park Loop Road. You do have to walk down a little trail from the parking lot to get to the actual Otter Point area.
About 6 miles down the road from Otter Point is the Jordan Pond. This pond has exceptionally clean & clear water and is used as the main water source at the Jordan Pond House. In fact, there is a tap water source near the pond that you can use to fill up your water bottle! The Jordan Pond House is the only restaurant in Acadia National Park. This restaurant has a stunning view of the pond itself and is known for their popovers! The popovers come with butter and their homemade strawberry jelly. My boyfriend and I really liked their popovers that we bought a pre-made mix to make at home! They have indoor and outdoor seating on their lawn. To protect Jordan Pond’s clean water, swimming is not allowed. However, canoes and kayaks are allowed. If you want a peaceful nature walk, the pond has a trail that loops around the shore of the pond and connects to the Bubble Rock trail.
Cadillac Mountain is about 1,530 feet high and is the tallest point on Mount Desert Island. This is the BEST place to watch the sunrise! There are two ways of getting there. One way is through the Park Loop Road (starts from Sand Beach Entrance Station). The second way is through the north end of the island (where Eagle Lake Rd meets with Paradise Hill Rd). The second way is the ideal way of getting to Cadillac Mountain during sunrise. Also, don't worry… you don’t have to hike up the mountain to see the sunrise! The Summit Road will take you up to the top of the mountain with ease! There are also small viewing points on Summit Road with scenic views. From the summit, you get 360 views of the whole Mount Desert Island! Since seeing the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is probably on everyone’s Acadia bucket list, plan your drive up accordingly as the parking spots tend to fill up quickly. When we went, we made our way to the top at around 4:20 am to make it for the 5 am sunrise. Although waking up was a struggle, the view was 100% worth it!!! The beautiful, serene sunrise seen from this mountain was unlike anything I’ve ever seen!
Bar Island Sandbar
The Bar Island Sandbar is only accessible on foot during low tide! It is extremely important to plan your visit to this sandbar only during low tide if you want to cross to Bar Island. This will prevent you from being stuck on Bar Island when high tide occurs. If you do get stuck on the island, there is a number to call on the information board and they will pick you up by boat for $50. The other less ideal option is to just wait it out on the island… which can take about 6+ hours. So please plan your trip accordingly to prevent unnecessary stress! During your walk on the sandbar, you can expect to see beautiful shells and interesting looking barnacles on rocks. There is a trail that takes you around the little island, but make sure you pay attention to the time and not run into high tide!
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. The lighthouse is open from 9 am to sunset and has a designated free parking area. This is the only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island. I have read a few times that this is THE spot to watch the sunset from. However, I disagree. There was no good place to watch the sunset on the rocks. Also, the majority of the sunset was blocked by the cliff and trees. There are so many other places on Mount Desert Island that will probably give you better views of the sunset. Regardless, you still should check this place out if you have the time as it is one-of-a-kind.
The Seal Cove is also on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island and is about 20 minutes away from Bar Harbor. This place is a little off the beaten path, as not many tourists usually stop by here. Even though we didn’t see the sunset from here, I would imagine that it is a far better option than watching the sunset from the lighthouse. Since there are not many tourists that stop by here, the area is extremely peaceful! There is a boat launch and picnic area here as well. My boyfriend and I actually went here because I wanted to see seals lol… but we didn’t see any seals and were blessed with a beautiful view of the coast instead.
Traveling to Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor during the COVID19 pandemic? Here’s what you should know…
COVID19 is still among us and it is EXTREMELY important that we take it seriously. During our trip, we made sure we had a stock of masks ready to use. Also, I packed disinfecting wipes, disinfecting spray, and a big jar of hand sanitizer in my luggage. Don’t forget to pack a small travel size hand sanitizer for your backpack/purse.
My boyfriend and I stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor during our trip. There was a glass barrier between us and the receptionist. The staff did a great job of maintaining safety precautions and social distancing. When we checked in, we had to sign a waiver stating that we did not have COVID19 symptoms. We also had to show our IDs as proof that we were from New Hampshire. As of now, the only states Maine has exempted from quarantine or testing requirements are Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. To prevent their staff from unnecessary contact with guests, housekeeping only cleans the room if you request it. Otherwise, housekeeping will not clean your room during your stay there. The pool and hot tub at our hotel were open. If you want to go to the pool or hot tub, go at your own risk. I am sure hotels are following strict protocols in regards to cleaning recreation areas, however, I can’t attest to that.
Almost all of the restaurants and stores in Bar Harbor were open for business when we were there. You must wear a mask when entering these establishments. If you forget your mask or don’t have one, some stores will provide you with one. The state of Maine also provides free masks on the streets of Bar Harbor. These free masks can be found inside a mailbox looking contraption and there is a big sign on it that says “FREE MASKS”. The masks are actually good quality and individually wrapped to ensure its cleanliness. If you are planning to dine at the restaurants, they will take your name and phone number. This is done so that in the case of a COVID19 outbreak in the area, the state can contact those who might be affected.
What are some good places to eat at Mount Desert Island/Bar Harbor?
Mount Desert Island (MDI) has a variety of eateries bound to make you drool!! Almost all the restaurants in MDI have a dish involving lobsters. If you think eating a lobster roll for lunch isn’t enough, then you can go ahead and top your meal off with lobster flavored ice cream from a local ice cream parlor. Click here to explore the ultimate food guide to Bar Harbor, Maine!
Acadia National Park is a wondrous beauty! As you drive into the park, you can already feel fresh air seeping into your lungs. This cool, crisp air and being surrounded by beautiful, luscious trees will make your mind and body feel completely renewed! I have always sought nature to find comfort during tedious times. Acadia was a great place to do just that and rejuvenated my mind and soul from the monotonous 2020 way of living. If you decide to visit during the COVID19 pandemic, please make sure to wear your mask and practice social distancing. There were still many people from states outside of New England that I saw out and about during my trip, so don’t let your guard down. Acadia National Park is also not going anywhere, so if you can hold off your travels that would probably be safer for you! Below I have created a bucket list that you can complete during your time exploring the park and Mount Desert Island. Enjoy, stay safe, and happy travels ~