ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: BEST 2-DAY GUIDE FOR 9 AMAZING ACTIVITIES

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Reflection from Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

Acadia is one of the most beloved parks in the United States, and a must-stop destination in Maine. Situated on a Mount Desert Island and other surrounding islands, the park has so much to offer with beautiful coastline scenery, mountains for hiking, lakes, ponds and more. A stop in Bar Harbor, a small town acting as a gateway to the park, is also a great addition to roam a little downtown. It’s no mystery why it’s one of the most popular destinations in the Northeast, and provides an awesome weekend getaway in the area.

Some of the most popular summer activities in the park include hiking, bicycling, rock climbing, kayaking, swimming, and more. There’s even the option to take a horse-drawn carriage through an expansive network of roads that cars can’t drive on. During the less-crowded winter months, snowmobiling and ice finishing are some of the more popular activities.

Due to its popularity, expect crowds in the summer months of June – August. It’s best to make any reservations ahead of time, and start activities (like hiking) as early as possible in the morning to avoid crowds and congestion. Also worth nothing – most of Acadia is shut down between December and April. Do research before picking a time to go.

GUIDE DETAILS

This 2-day guide is intended for warmer months and includes a diverse list of activities in the park – hiking, biking, camping, swimming, etc. More of the physically-strenuous activity is placed on the first day, so that the second day can be more relaxing and provide more flexibility if you don’t have a full day available. If some activities are not of interest or not feasible, alternative options have been included so you can create your best experience in the park.

This guide is focused on budget-friendly options – a breakdown of costs where appropriate are included below. Biking around the area is one of the only paid-for activities included, but is well-worth the price to explore the area. Other suggestions, such as meals and accommodation, stick to a more budget-friendly experience.

ACADIA AT A GLANCE

PRINTABLE ACADIA MAP FOR LATER REFERENCE
(More details, higher quality)

DAY 1

1. Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
– 15 min from Bar Harbor
2. Drive along Park Loop Road
3. Beehive Hike
– 25 min to Beehive trailhead lot from Cadillac Mountain
ALTERNATIVE: Precipice Hike
4. Lunch on Park Loop Road or Sand Beach
5. Bike through Carriage Roads to Jordan Pond
– 20 minutes to Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop from Beehive trailhead
ALTERNATIVE 1: stay on Ring Road and see Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliff
ALTERNATIVE 2: drive to Jordan Pond House Restaurant
6. Stroll through Bar Harbor town
7. Seawall Campground
– 1 hour 40 minutes to campground from downtown Bar Harbor
ALTERNATIVE: stay at Blackwoods Campground (40 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor) or one of the many AirBnb’s, bed and breakfasts, or hotels in the area

DAY 2

1. Echo Lake Beach
– 20 minutes from Seawall Campground
ALTERNATIVE: go to Sand Beach if you stay at Blackwoods Campground (20 minutes from grounds)
2. Walk through Bar Harbor town
ALTERNATIVE: bike to Jordan Pond if you choose to stay on Park Loop Road on Day 1
3. Head home or spend an additional day visiting Portland

TOTAL COSTS

Park Entrance fee (for car): $30
Biking: $25 / half day
Camping: $30
(Factor in your costs of gas & food)
= $85 + food + gas

ACADIA DAY 1 DETAILS

1. SUNRISE ON CADILLAC MOUNTAIN

Waking up to see sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in the park. Although you’ll be amongst many others, it’s well worth it for the view up top.
– Be sure to do research on when sunrise is for the day you’re going. Throughout the year, the time of sunrise can range between 4-7AM.
– Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise time to ensure you don’t get caught in a traffic jam, can get decent parking, and claim a good spot to see the views.
– Prepare for the drive itself up Cadillac Summit Road to also take at least 30 minutes.
– Summit Marker is the most popular spot to see the actual sunrise, but if you’re looking for some more solitude, hiking down the trail a little bit is your best option.

2. PARK LOOP ROAD

After witnessing an undoubtedly beautiful sunrise, head back down the mountain and to the entrance of Park Loop Road. This 27-mile expanse of road is an iconic scenic driving route around the eastern part of Mount Desert Island. It also serves as the primary road to navigate the many hikes, lakes, shorelines, and other attractions that Acadia has to offer.
– Note that there is an entrance fee to enter the park. The detailed breakdown of costs can be found on Acadia’s website here.
– Keep in mind majority of the road is one-way only, so be mindful of what attractions you want to do and what order you plan to do them in.

3. BEEHIVE LOOP TRAIL

The Beehive Trail is a popular hiking option in the park. It takes 25 minutes to reach the trailhead from the park entrance. Look for signs for the Bowl Trail across from the Sand Beach parking lot. Take some time to eat breakfast if you haven’t already, get your daypack in order, and prepare for the gorgeous views ahead. Detailed hiking notes can be found here on the Alltrails website to prepare.
– Beehive is rated as difficult due to exposed cliffs and iron rungs needed to summit. Total mileage is around 2 miles.
– Try to start as early as possible as the trail is normally heavily trafficked and can cause backup on the cliffy parts.

ALTERNATIVE:

Precipice Hike is another fantastic hiking option, but is not for the faint of heart. It takes around 20 minutes from the entrance to reach the trailhead. More information can be found here on the Alltrails website to prepare.

Both of these hikes should take around 2 – 4 hours to complete.

4. LUNCH ON PARK LOOP ROAD OR SAND BEACH

After finishing a long and exciting hike, reward yourself with lunch and a roadside view. There’s plenty of places to park on the road or in one of the many parking lots. Find a path off the road without a lot of people and enjoy the views! Another lunch spot close to the Beehive trailhead is Sand Beach.

5. CARRIAGE ROADS AND JORDAN POND

After lunch, head to Bar Harbor town – specifically to Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. It should be around a 20 minute drive from the Beehive trailhead. Once you’ve gotten on your bikes, head away from town towards the Carriage Roads and the famous Jordan Pond.
– A bike rental (with helmet included) costs $25 for a half day trip. You can find the full pricing table here.
– Carriage Roads is a network of 57 miles of paved pathways around Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, and Mount Desert Island. No cars are allowed, and it is a popular destination for horse-drawn carriages.
– Jordan Pond is a popular spot in the park given its stunning views, and reputation as the clearest water in Maine. Its central location make it a popular stop in the park for a variety of different activities.
– The distance between the bike shop and the popular Jordan Pond viewpoint is roughly 7 miles one way. If you don’t feel like going the entire distance, Eagle Lake is a lot closer and also has some stunning views.

ALTERNATIVE:

If you’re feeling a little tired after the early wake up and hiking, there’s also a few additional stops along the Park Loop Road. Some popular options include Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliff. Thunder Hole is a natural rock inlet where the crashing waves can sound like a thunderous boom. The right timing on this is essential; some say you’ll have better luck when the tides are changing. Otter Cliff, spanning 110 feet high, provides stunning views, and is popular for avid rock climbers. Thunder Hole

ALTERNATIVE:

Otherwise, you can also drive to the Jordan Pond House Restaurant and trailhead. Options for trails, hikes, canoeing, and kayaking are all fantastic options in the area. The restaurant there is also known to have delicious food, but reservations are frequently required.

The bike ride should take around 2 – 3 hours to complete.

6. STROLL THROUGH BAR HARBOR TOWN

After returning your bikes, stroll through the cute downtown area of Bar Harbor. There’s plenty of small shops to roam around in. Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium and Mount Desert Island Ice Cream are two amazing options to get a sweet treat before heading down to the waterfront! Before leaving town and heading to your campsite, don’t forget to pick up some firewood. There are plenty of shops selling it in the area. (Be sure to not bring firewood from anywhere more than 50 miles away)

7. SEAWALL CAMPGROUND IN ACADIA

After a nice stroll through town, head over to Seawall Campground. It is a bit of a far drive, and will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Enjoy a nice campfire dinner, and bask in the beauty of the night sky. When I camped in Acadia, I saw plenty of shooting starts throughout the sky!
– Tent sites cost around $30, and group sites are closer to $60 (for 15-20 people) . A better breakdown on costs and campground options can be found here.
– Check-in is at 12PM, check-out is at 10AM.
– Have the following information ready at arrival because cell service can be spotty in the area: name on booking, site letter & number, and check-in date.
– If you plan to arrive after hours, your name and site number will be posted at the ranger station at the entrance. Be sure to check-in before 10:00AM the next day to avoid fees. If you can’t make it by 10:00AM, you can call +1 (207)-244-3600.

ALTERNATIVE:

A closer Acadia campground alternative is the Blackwoods campgrounds. Situated on Park Loop Road, it is only a 40 minute drive to the site.

ACADIA DAY 2 DETAILS

1. ECHO LAKE

After packing up your campsite, head out to Echo Lake Beach. It’s roughly a 20 minute drive from the campgrounds. This was one of my favorite stops on the trip! It definitely feels like one of the lesser known activities in the park, but it’s a great spot.
– Changing rooms and restrooms are available on site
– Lifeguards are on-site between mid-May through early September
– The lake is situated directly on the side of Beech Mountain, which creates stunning cliff views on one side
– The water remains shallow creating warm water, and there’s a good expanse of sand for soaking in the sun

ALTERNATIVE:

If you choose to stay at Blackwoods Campground, check out Sand Beach. It’s a 15 minute drive from the campground back around Park Loop Road. Changing rooms and restrooms are also available, but the water is much colder due to its direct connection to the ocean currents.

2. OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Jordan Pond – If you chose to stay and explore more of Park Loop Road on Day 1, be sure to stop at Jordan Pond. Whether you hike from Bar Harbor or drive directly to the trailhead, the views are at least worth stopping at for a bit of time.

Bar Harbor Town – Don’t leave your Acadia adventure without spending at least an hour or two walking and exploring the area.

3. HEAD HOME WITH AWESOME MEMORIES!

After a jampacked two days in the park, it’s time to head home – or onto your next destination. If you’re looking for other close-by destinations in Maine, Baxter State Park offers phenomenal hiking and a bit more of an offgrid experience. To change up the pace a bit, Portland is also a great option for more city vibes. If you use this guide, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! Don’t forget, Always Embrace the Adventure.

ARE YOU PLANNING YOUR OWN HIKING ROAD TRIP THROUGH NEW ENGLAND?

There’s plenty of articles and resources on the site to help you best prepare for your own adventure! Check out the 1-2 Weeks Ultimate New England Hiking Road Trip Guide to get a comprehensive look at the region, or read some article highlights below:

PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE: Weekend Trip in the White Mountains
FRANCONIA RIDGE GUIDE | 360 Views
MOUNT KATAHDIN, Highest point in Maine
DOUBLETOP MOUNTAIN, Baxter State Park

Want to make your own epic road trip adventure but don’t know where to start? Check out these
8 Simple Steps to Planning a Hiking Road Trip that will bring you from a basic concept all the way to your final checks before heading out.

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