Breathe deep. Fresh air awaits in Acadia National Park. This 47,000-acre treasure sits perched on the Atlantic Ocean. Unique in terrain with mountains reaching down to the sea, craggy rocks continuously massaged by ocean waves and wildlife ranging from moose to bear to whales. This is Acadia National Park–a place like none other.
I recently spent a few days exploring Acadia National Park, it wasn’t enough! But here are some of my favorite experiences and I can’t wait to go back for more.
Drive Park Loop Road
Get acquainted with the park and an overview of its varying landscapes with a drive along the 27-mile Park Loop Road. The scenic drive winds around the east side of Mount Desert Island connecting Acadia’s lakes, mountains and shoreline. For our drive, we started at Hulls Cove Visitor Center heading south along Paradise Hill Road before starting the “loop” section.
Of course, every scenic overlook tempts you to stop as you meander through the island. We stopped at several, snapping photos and ultimately detouring to wander down a short trail to scramble across the rocks perched above the sea.
Watch a Sunrise (or Sunset) from the Cadillac Mountain Summit
Watching the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park ranks high on many visitor bucket lists. Some drive up while those with hardcore energy hike to the summit. With some of the best views of the Atlantic coast in all of New England, there’s a good reason Acadia is famous for mornings. Also, at 1,530 feet in elevation, Cadillac Mountain claims the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard making it one of the first places to see the sunrise in the United States at certain times of the year. Of course, that means you’ll find crowds at the top.
If rising from your cozy bed before daylight sounds dreadful, opt to catch the sunset. Being married to a late riser, we chose to sleep in and catch the sunset at the end of our adventure-filled day. We weren’t alone. As the temperature steadily dropped and the wind picked up, we donned our jackets and joined other sunset seekers on the west side of the mountain. The sun put on an unforgettable show as it eased its way below the horizon.
Take a Hike – Any Hike
With more than 150 hiking trails throughout Acadia National Park, you’re certain to find something that works for your hiking style. From flat trails leading to coastal vistas to mountain summits to carriage roads shared with horses and cyclists, there’s plenty to choose from. For the ultimate daredevils, some of the park’s more terrifying trails include precarious cliff walks and climbs up sheer rock faces. These often feature ladders and metal rings—via Ferrata style.
I’m not ready for that, so we stuck to a mountain trail tackling the popular North Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain. Doing things backward as I often do in life, we hiked down the mountain first. The mostly rocky terrain offered spectacular views in every direction. To the west, Eagle Lake shone a brilliant blue. To the north, the village of Bar Harbor and offshore islands spread out before us. I’ll confess, thanks to a bum knee, I opted not to go back up to the summit and sent my younger more fit husband up for the car! Meanwhile, I hung out in a scenic spot and soaked in all the beauty and fresh air I could handle.
Find Your Way to Wonderland
Located on what’s referred to by the locals as the quiet side of the park, the Wonderland Trail is an easy 1.3-mile walk through the forest leading to a stunning rocky beach. Here at low tide, tidal pools teeming with life take the stage. Tiny creatures move slowly through the shallow pools gathering nutrients while the waves roll out to sea. We stood mesmerized by these little creatures as the fog rolled in and out across the craggy rocks.
Stargaze on the Cadillac Mountain Summit
Clear skies prevailed during our brief time in Acadia National Park so we took advantage of it. Driving back up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain at nightfall, we indulged in a lobster mac & cheese picnic from the back of our Subaru Forester as we waited for the stars to come out. We weren’t disappointed, in the lobster mac & cheese or the stars.
Our heads tilted to the sky; my husband used his Night Sky app to identify constellations. At one point, a shooting star traveled across the expansive sky. It was the perfect ending to our day in this perfectly delightful park. Trust me, put this on your national park bucket list!