Acadia National Park is a small national park in Maine. It boasts spectacular nature, great hiking trails, ample birdwatching opportunities, and some of the best foliage in all of Maine. But when is the ideal time to visit this hidden gem of a Maine national park?
The short answer is in the fall, but that’s not actually the park’s most popular season. Read on to get the long answer, as well as all the information you need to plan your perfect trip to the Acadia National Park!
The best time to visit Acadia National Park is in the fall. The weather is nice, the summer crowds are gone, and the autumn foliage is incredibly beautiful. But fall is not the most popular season in the park – that would be summer because of the nice weather and many park events.
One of the reasons why fall is the best season to visit the park is because the summer crowds disperse. There aren’t that many people on the trails, facilities are open until late October, and the mild weather is great whether you prefer the hot or the cold. But the main reason is foliage – it’s one of the things that Maine promotes a lot and they even have foliage report websites for the entire state. The stunning autumn colors are why you should visit the national park in the fall, preferably when the leaf color change is at its peak.
There are some advantages to visiting the Acadia NP in the off-season and I’ve covered them all in the rest of this detailed guide!
Spring is considered the off-season in the national park. Most of the facilities operate on reduced hours and some are entirely closed. Mid-April through May is when the park starts operating more normally, so plan a visit in the late spring if you want to have the summer experience without the summer crowds.
The temperature in spring varies drastically depending on the month. March still has a winter feel with highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s, April is slightly more comfortable with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s, and May is almost properly summer weather with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Fog is common in the mornings, there’s often mud because of the rain, and there are very few crowds at the park. If you want to visit the NP in the spring, you’ll have the best time if you plan that visit for late April or early May.
It’s worth noting that ticks become very active in spring, so you’ll want to wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself on hikes. Avoid walking through overgrown grass and don’t forget to check yourself for ticks after a long day of hiking. Unfortunately, ticks aren’t the only critters that thrive in the spring, so you might want to reconsider a spring visit if you’re not in the mood to deal with all kinds of bugs.
With ticks, mud, fog, and unfavorable weather, it’s easy to see why this isn’t such a popular season for the national park. But if you want to avoid the crowds and have nice weather, that’s the compromise you’ll need to make.
Acadia National Park is most popular in the summer. The warm weather draws in tourists from all over the country, making summer the park’s most crowded season. Last-minute lodging is very hard to find – if you want to visit the park in the summer, it’s best to book your camping spot months in advance.
Summer is the warmest and driest season in the national park, but that still doesn’t mean it’s warm and without rain. The average amount of precipitation in the summer is 3 inches, the average highs are in the mid-70s, and the lows are in the high 50s. Keep in mind that’s just the average – summer nights can get quite chilly thanks to the Canadian Arctic winds, so you’ll still need a warm jacket.
The nice weather is enough to draw in a lot of tourists, so be prepared for crowds. There’s a lot of people on the trails, some roads can get congested, and it’s almost impossible to get a camping spot without a reservation. If you are intent on visiting the national park in the summer, it’s better to go for a weekday visit. There won’t be as many people around on the trails since weekends are usually when things get hectic.
There are quite a few events at the park during the summer season. The Acadia Birding Festival is usually held in early June, and it’s a must for all of you who enjoy birdwatching. There’s also the Bar Harbor Music Festival that usually starts in late June and lasts for almost a month. Late summer sees the annual Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival, which features crafters and artists from all over the US.
Additionally, all of the hiking trails are easily accessible in the summer. If you just want to go hike around the park and you don’t care that much about colors and foliage, a summer visit is certainly a good option for you.
With so many interesting events, great weather, and excellent trail conditions, it’s easy to see why the Acadia National Park is so popular in the summer. But that popularity is the exact reason why summer is not the best time to visit the NP!
Funnily enough, the park’s busiest season is not the best time to visit Acadia National Park. Fall is the best season to visit this national park, mostly because of the beautiful foliage. This plays such a large role in the park’s popularity that there’s a thorough foliage report available for all visitors. It’s best to visit when the leaf color change hits the peak for the most picturesque park scenery and that’s usually early to mid-October.
If you’re at all into photography, there’s really nothing to think about – plan a fall visit for the best possible experience. Check the foliage report, reserve a camping spot for the week when the color change is at its peak, and get ready to take some magical landscape photographs.
In addition to dramatic scenery, the fall season is also great because there aren’t that many visitors. The summer crowds are long gone by October, so you’re free to explore the park and hike the trails at your own pace. It’s also easier to find a last-minute camping spot but you’re still not guaranteed a place to stay the night if you haven’t booked one in advance.
The weather is nice in the fall. The average highs are in the 60s and 70s so it’s quite warm during the day. Evenings are much colder though, with the average lows in the 40s.
If you’re visiting in late October, keep in mind that some businesses will be closed. A lot of them close shop after Columbus Day weekend and they stay closed for the entire offseason. It’s not as bad as in the winter, but it is something you should know.
Acadia Night Sky Festival is held at the park each fall, and it’s a great reason to visit the park if you’re into astronomy. The light pollution in Maine is minimal, resulting in some of the most spectacular starry skies you’ve ever seen. This festival is usually held in the last week of September/first week of October and it lasts for four-five days. Photograph the changing landscape colors during the day and the starry sky at night to get the most of what this national park has to offer!
Also, there’s usually a second iteration of the Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival in the fall. It’s like a continuation of the summer festival and reason enough to visit for all art lovers.
Winter is the least popular season in Acadia National Park because of the below-freezing temperature. Most restaurants and hotels are closed for the season, so it’s not so easy to find lodging and food. If you want to visit the park during winter, you’ll need to make arrangements a few months in advance.
Additionally, some hiking trails and sections of the Park Loop Road are closed for the season, so it’s a totally different experience from a summer visit. On the other hand, the park becomes popular for winter sports during this season, so there are still ways to have fun!
Carriage roads are still open in the winter, but they’re used for cross-country skiing. The picturesque landscapes are an excellent backdrop to the great skiing trails and you’re even allowed to ski on unplowed roads. Snowshoeing is also popular in the winter and you can rent all the equipment you need at Bar Harbor.
Winter hikes are possible, but the number of accessible trails is much smaller than during warmer seasons. The conditions are not great though, and you might struggle even if you have all the necessary winter equipment.
Acadia National Park is one of the smallest NPs in the US, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time there to explore most of it. Two or three days are enough to see all the top sights – drive the Park Loop Road, do a few short hikes, take some stunning photos, and maybe even attend an event at the park.
It’s worth noting that most of the hikes in the national park are short and can be completed in just a few hours. A stay of three days would give you plenty of time to explore all the most popular trails and do a few other things while you’re there!
If you’re visiting the park for a specific reason, you should plan your stay accordingly. Maybe you’re going there just for the foliage views in autumn – you should probably plan a longer stay, just to ensure that you’ll see the foliage at its peak. If you’re going for a festival or an event, make sure your stay overlaps with the entire duration of that specific event.
One thing to note is that you should plan your stay months in advance. Because this is one of the smallest NPs in the United States, there aren’t that many campsites in it. It’s more difficult to find an available camping spot the closer you get to the date of your visit, so it’s best to take care of that a few months earlier.
The best thing to do at the park depends on the season you’re visiting it. Hiking is the most popular activity in the park, but not all trails are accessible year-round. If you’re visiting the park for hiking and rock climbing, plan a visit between May and October.
The Cadillac trail is easily the best and most popular hike in the park. There’s also the Beehive Loop, the Jordan Pond loop, the trail to Gorham Mountain, and more than two hundred other trails that can keep you busy during your stay at this national park.
In addition to that, the park also attracts quite a few birdwatchers and not just for the Acadia Birding Festival. A lot of different bird species can be found at the Acadia NP and they’re there year-round. Just don’t go during the winter season if you’re into birdwatching, since some species migrate to warmer areas.
I’ve mentioned that Maine draws in tourists with promises of spectacular autumn foliage. Travelers who manage to visit the state when the leaf color change is at its peak will certainly not be disappointed. If you enjoy taking photographs of pretty landscapes, an early October visit to the park is just what you want.
In the winter, the park becomes popular for winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The closed roads and trails become cross-country ski trails, drawing in winter sports enthusiasts from all over the country. It’s a great way of exploring the national park, but it’s also an entirely different experience from a summer or fall visit.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.