Visiting Acadia National Park in the winter means fewer tourists, more parking, and the chance to explore Maine’s natural beauty beneath a gorgeous snowy cover.
But visiting Acadia in the winter can be challenging because (duh) it’s Maine, so we’ve put together this guide to help you make the most of your time.
What to Know Before Visiting Acadia in Winter?
Things do slow down during the winter months in Acadia. During the winter in Bar Harbor, many businesses, including hotels, are closed.
Acadia National Park will also begin its winter hours and shut key hiking routes and portions of Park Loop Road in December.
However, this allows space for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing enthusiasts! And as long as you know when and where to go, visiting Acadia National Park in the winter can be a really awesome and unique experience.
Reasons to Visit Acadia in Winter:
Acadia National Park in Maine is far less congested during the winter months. If you don’t mind cold weather, you may be able to enjoy the park all to yourself (as long as you’re dressed adequately).
Acadia’s spectacular snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails are another incentive to spend the winter there.
There are plenty of trails in Acadia (almost 45 miles of carriage roads) and it is a lovely destination in winter for people wishing to appreciate the outdoors in a gorgeous environment. During February and other winter months, it is one of the most incredible places in the US to visit or to engage in winter sports.
When Is Considered Winter In Acadia?
Acadia’s winters are notoriously lengthy. The end of October through April or May are possible starting points, but it all depends on the year. Classic “winter” at Acadia National Park is most common in December, January, and February, lasting far into March.
Does Acadia National Park Get Snow?
It snows at Acadia National Park, and the amount varies depending on the month. Acadia National Park receives around 60 inches of snow on average.
How to Get to Acadia National Park?
To access Acadia National Park, you can travel to Boston Logan International Airport and get a direct flight to Hancock County–Bar Harbor Airport, provided by Cape Air, Silver Airways, JetBlue, and United Airlines, a short 10-minute drive from the park.
Your trip goes along Maine’s Coastal Route 1, which passes through several of the state’s most scenic coastal communities.
It takes roughly an hour to drive inland from Mount Desert Island to Bangor International Airport. But, only a tiny handful of airlines fly into this airport, including Allegiant, American, Delta, and United.
Portland International Jetport is still another choice, particularly if you wish to tour Portland additionally. Acadia National Park is within a three-hour drive south of this airport. Airlines servicing this airport include American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and United.
You’ll need a vehicle to go around Acadia National Park, whether you fly into Boston, Bangor, or Portland.
Where to Stay in Acadia National Park In Winter
There are several good lodging options in and near Acadia National Park. We’ll give you some of our favorite hotels, Airbnb, and camping/glamping recommendations in and around Acadia.
One of the famous lodging options in the park is Bar Harbor Hotels and Inns. However, hotels and restaurants shut-in Bar Harbor during the winter months. Thus, we recommend the following top-rated establishments that remain open and eager for business!
- Quimby House Inn & Spa
- Atlantic Oceanside Hotel
- Saltair Inn
Airbnbs in and Nearby Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor are home to several fantastic Airbnbs, but here are a few of our favorites:
- The Seamist Cottage
- Coyote’s Den at the Howling Woods
- Hulls Cove Cottage in Bar Harbor
- Little Frog at the Howling Woods
Winter Glamping and Camping Near Acadia
There are four campsites inside Acadia, but online reservations are not available. These are the:
- Schoodic Woods Campground
- Seawall Campground
- Blackwoods Campground
- Duck Harbor Campground
If you plan to camp in Acadia during the winter, these campsites are still available and near the park.
- Connors Family Compound
- The Howling Woods
- Schoodic Woods near Ocean
- Off-grid Oceanfront Acadia A-frame
Best Things to Do in Acadia During Winter
Acadia National Park in winter can be one of your best options if you want to enjoy a full-fledged winter tourist experience.
During the winter, there is less traffic than in the summer. There are a variety of exciting activities such as designated drives, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, birding, winter camping, and picturesque hiking sites.
Here are the best things to do in Acadia during winter:
Except for Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road, Park Loop Road closes on December 1st.
This trip will take you to some of the park’s most popular attractions, including Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, the Beehive, and other majestic cliffs.
Schooner Head Road leads to a tiny stretch of Acadia’s Loop Road. Snowmobiles only have access to the left side of the road, thus remaining in the right lane.
You can get off the Ocean Drive and onto Route 3 through Otter Cliff Road.
Individuals who prefer snowshoeing have an excellent opportunity to spend their time on six trails out of 120 miles of hiking terrain.
Gorham Mountain, which is 525 feet, is one of the six trails and has several breathtaking natural landscapes. The moderate slope of the cliff makes it an ideal spot for snowshoeing.
Cadillac South Ridge has an even gentler slope than Gorham and is the longest path at 3.5 miles.
Ship Harbor and Wonderland are better options for inexperienced hikers due to their length (about 1.5 miles), but they are also renowned for breathtaking ocean views. Choose the Day Mountain Trail if you wish to walk a carriage road that continues to the summit.
It is accessible through Jordan Pond and Seal Harbor to the south.
Last but not least, the alternative 6-mile path of Witch Hole Pond has one of the wildest auras in the area, but along this route, you will be able to witness the Duck Brook Bridge and Paradise Hill, both of which are well worth the time and effort spent on the trip.
Hiking Cadillac North Ridge Trail
Cadillac North Ridge Trail is a 6.4-kilometer out-and-back trail situated in Bar Harbor that gains 341 meters in height. This trail is suitable for hikers who like seeing the dawn or sunset.
It provides a variety of exercise opportunities accessible throughout the year, and it’s worth noting that it has the enticing beauty of nature. On these trails, dogs are permitted but must remain on a leash.
The hikers have two alternatives from Park Loop Road to begin their journey.
The first option begins at the Take Kebo Brook Trail intersection and the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, while the second option begins at the one-way stretch leading to Sand Beach. Please be aware that there is no parking at all at this location.
It’s vital to note that you can only do snowmobiling on unplowed highways, including the 27-mile Park Loop Road. The maximum speed allowed is 35 miles per hour. The park’s winter activities website has all of the rules and restrictions.
If there is enough snow, people can drive snowmobiles in the park. During excellent weather, a portion of the road remains open to offer free access to tourists of Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, and Otter Cliffs.
Hiking Pemetic Mountain
If you want a hike that includes both easy treks and challenging ascents while still taking in the beauty of the terrain, Pemetic Mountain should be at the top of your Acadia bucket list.
The mountain is 1,248 feet tall (380m). The hike’s difficulty level is “advanced,” so we don’t think it will be easy.
Native Americans gave the peak its name, which translates to “sloping land” and accurately defines the whole island. The region is accessible from the north (Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, etc.) and the south (Mt. Desert Island).
If you’re an experienced hiker, you should know that when you reach the top, you’ll be able to see Jordan Pond, Bubble Pond, Little and Great Cranberry Islands, and many other places as clearly as if you were holding them in your hand.
If you like the outdoors and are adequately dressed, hiking in Acadia in the winter is one of the most remarkable activities.
Jordan Pond might have a few ice fishing shacks. The pond is accessible throughout the winter via the Park Loop Road, which ends at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant, and is known for an ample supply of landlocked salmon and lake trout, making it an ideal site to cast a line. Although the restaurant is closed during the winter, the views of Jordan Pond are breathtaking.
The routes around Jordan Pond will have your pulse racing and your lungs filled with fresh mountain air. Prepare yourself before embarking on the 3.4-mile Jordan Pond Full Loop Trail. In the summer, it’s a moderate level, and in the winter, it’s a great step up from intermediate.
Hiking Carriage Roads
The carriage roads are ideal for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing since they are wide and level. The Carriage Roads are the core of Acadia’s winter wonderland, with 45 miles of groomed tracks and ungroomed regions.
Make sure you have crampons on hand for any winter hiking. Hiking poles will help maintain balance. When hiking, stay to one side of the groomed cross-country routes to avoid cutting into the ski lanes.
The spacious meadows and mild slopes of the carriage roads will appeal to cross-country skiers. The thrilling ride along the picture-perfect tree-lined pathways is terrific.
Friend of Acadia volunteers and the Acadia Winter Trails Association groom and track the region if there are at least 6 inches of snow and the road is frozen, allowing cross-country skiers to enjoy the park during the winter fully.
The grooming process utilizes cutting-edge technology. There are 45 miles of carriage roads, 32 maintained, and include skate lanes.
Check the cross-country skiing conditions before going since they are not always consistent and often vary.
Ice climbing is a fantastic winter task. The Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School is eager to teach you how to climb securely and enjoyably.
Their professional guides will teach you the fundamentals of waterfall climbing in an introductory ice climbing program. They also provide half-day and full-day climbs that will put your abilities to the test while pumping your adrenaline.
This excursion is perfect for those seeking that one-of-a-kind, Instagrammable experience.
Birdwatching at Schoodic Point
Birdwatchers flock to Schoodic Point in particular. Visitors to Acadia National Park may join a guided tour to learn about the park’s distinctive bird species.
Examples include eagles, owls, razorbills, murres and dovekies, black-capped chickadees, and Harlequin ducks. The Schoodic Peninsula is about an hour’s drive from Mount Desert Island’s Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
The Frazer Point Picnic Spot, featuring a picnic area, is located immediately after entering the park, followed by the one-way route to Schoodic Point.
You can enjoy the splendor of the vistas along the route and visit Mount Desert Island on your way to the destination.
Exploring the Eagle Lake
The Eagle Lake Circuit is a 6-mile-long circuit that offers one of the most breathtaking experiences in the park. To acquire the best perspective, you can reach the ice and take in the scenery.
With a view of the lake, mountains, and trees, Eagle Lake is one of the park’s most spectacular places. The hike to the lake isn’t tricky; there are a few ups and downs.
The west side of the lake’s 3.7-mile route is maintained and bordered by carriage roads.
Those who prefer a smoother and flatter approach can ski the lake itself when the lake is frozen in the winter.
Witnessing The Sunrise On Cadillac Mountain Summit
Cadillac Mountain’s peak is the first place in the nation to watch the dawn between October and early March. The sun’s first rays shine brightly over the Gulf of Maine, Frenchman Bay, and Bar Harbor, displacing the drab morning light. During the winter, you can watch the event from the privacy of your own home.
Typically, you’d drive up Cadillac Mountain to reach the peak, but during the winter, it’s closed. Make the 3.5-mile journey on foot, skis, snowshoes, or even a skimobile if you’re a brave walker.
The morning is spectacular, but you’ll notice that other hikers have arrived for their “first break” when the light shifts and the stars disappear. If you decide to go, be aware that the peak will have a minimum of a 20-degree plunge.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
On Mount Desert Island, the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is accessible by car. The Bass Head Harbor Light Station is positioned on Maine’s famously rugged shoreline. The Lighthouse offers a spectacular picture of Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay while safeguarding seafaring boats from the rocky terrain.
Thunder Hole is a semi-submerged cave that resounds like thunder an hour or two before high tide. The waves pounding against the cliffs are visible and audible from the viewing platform. The path down to the caverns is slick and needs considerable agility during the warmer months. It’s particularly hazardous in the winter. The vistas, though, make it worthwhile to pause.
Seafood From The East Coast
The daily catch in Maine is seafood, especially Maine lobster. At Peekytoe Provision, you can order a Local Lobster Roll on a toasted split-top bun with mayo or sautéed in butter. Try the Fresh Haddock Sandwich on a Challah bread with avocado or bacon as an alternative. Order your Lobstah roll with a New England accent to mix with the locals.
What to Pack for Winter Trip in Acadia National Park?
The most challenging element of packing is choosing the correct clothing, but you must also consider other items. Here are some things we usually bring with us when we go to cold regions in the winter.
Hiking Boots: These are the way to choose if you want comfort on your trip
Socks: Socks are also essential for convenience while exploring.
Hiking Backpack: For weekend trips, we usually bring a hiking backpack. It makes a significant difference to have it since we can get food, clothing, and whatever else we need on our adventures.
Water Bottles: It’s critical to carry adequate water, whether hiking or simply exploring!
Mobile Power Bank: Weather will drain your phone’s battery. Bring a mobile power bank so you can take pictures anytime you want!
Extra Camera Batteries: If you like photography but have never attempted it in a freezing environment, you’ll want to pack additional batteries. Like phone batteries, the camera battery drains faster in cold weather. We also carry a USB charger for camera batteries in our mobile power bank in case of need.
Dry Bags: Some days during your winter trip to Acadia will be snowy and cold, so don’t destroy your stuff!
Where to Eat During Winter in Acadia National Park?
Here are the two establishments you should visit for some delicious food for your winter trip to Acadia National Park
For 20 years, Havana has been dishing up American food with a Latin twist. The restaurant in Bar Harbor is noted for its local and organic meat, fish, and vegetables. It also offers an extensive wine selection, especially in the off-season.
Chef-owned Choco-Latte Cafe serves fresh-baked goodies, sandwiches, and locally-roasted coffee. The cafe’s walls are covered with vibrant artwork from Maine and New England artists. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. all year.
Tips for Visiting Acadia National Park in the Winter
Acadia National Park is no exception to Maine’s winter enchantment. If you visited during the busy summer months, you might not recognize it; popular places during the summer are frequently shockingly silent during the winter.
Here are some tips for making the most of your visit to Acadia National Park during the winter.
What’s Open and What Isn’t
Off-season access to several of Acadia’s most famous sites is limited. Park Loop Road is closed from December until early April except for the stretch between Sand Beach and Otter Cliff Road; Park Loop Road is closed from December until early April. (Winter weather may prolong its closure.) It includes the Cadillac Mountain road.
Many businesses in neighboring Bar Harbor are also shuttered for the winter. While year-round shops in this Maine small town will still carry staples, you won’t have the same shopping possibilities as in the summer!
Many fantastic hikes await daring hikers, mainly when the ground is bare. Acadia’s services, including most restrooms, are unavailable in the winter. Know your limitations, and don’t push yourself too far.
The Shuttle Ceases in October
From late June through mid-October, the Island Explorer operates. You will need a vehicle to visit Acadia National Park in the winter since it does not provide services.
Never Forget To Leave No Trace
It’s critical to pack away everything you brought in and not leave any rubbish behind. You can quickly dispose of your waste at some locations, including trash containers. You can dispose of your waste at a local gas station or convenience shop if they do not have trash containers.
Remember to Purchase Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance Master looks at your insurance choices and finds the best fit for you! All you have to do now is plan your getaway!
Prepare for a Winter Acadia Visit
Maine’s winters are famous. It’s crucial to plan your activities around the weather. Maine’s weather is unpredictable and might catch you by surprise.
Spend a lot of time outside? Layer up! Remember that Acadia National Park has intermittent mobile phone connections, so notify someone of your intentions ahead of time.
FAQs About Visiting Acadia National Park In Winter:
What are the main attractions to explore & activities to do in Acadia National Park in winter?
A winter visit to Acadia National Park opens the door to a variety of captivating activities that allow you to engage with the park’s natural wonders in a whole new way. One of the most popular pursuits is snowshoeing, an exhilarating experience that lets you traverse snow-covered trails and explore hidden corners of the park that might be inaccessible during other seasons. As you navigate through the serene landscape, you’ll have the chance to witness stunning vistas, discover frozen waterfalls, and encounter wildlife that’s adapted to the winter conditions.
Cross-country skiing is another fantastic option for immersing yourself in Acadia’s winter charm. The park’s carriage roads, with their gently rolling terrain and sweeping views, transform into a winter playground for skiers. Glide through the tranquil forest, taking in the sight of snow-draped trees and pristine lakes, while enjoying the cardiovascular workout that skiing provides.
If you’re seeking a more leisurely activity, winter photography in Acadia is a rewarding pursuit. The park’s natural beauty takes on a new dimension when cloaked in snow, and the interplay of light and shadow creates captivating scenes for photographers to capture. From the iconic silhouette of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse against a snowy backdrop to the intricate patterns formed by frost on plant life, Acadia’s winter landscape provides ample opportunities for creative expression.
Can I drive along the Park Loop Road in winter?
While most of the Park Loop Road is closed during winter due to snow and ice, the section from the entrance station to Otter Cliff Road remains open year-round, providing access to some beautiful coastal views.
Are there guided tours or ranger programs in the winter?
While ranger programs are limited during the winter months, the park occasionally offers guided snowshoe hikes and talks. Check the official Acadia National Park website for the latest information on winter programs.
Can I go wildlife watching during the winter months?
Yes, winter can be an excellent time for wildlife watching in Acadia. Keep an eye out for deer, squirrels, and even snowy owls. Remember to maintain a respectful distance and avoid disturbing the animals.
What makes Acadia National Park special in the winter?
The tranquility and unique beauty of Acadia in winter are truly captivating. The peacefulness of the snow-covered landscapes, the crisp air, and the chance to experience the park in its quieter state make winter visits a memorable and rewarding experience.
How’s the weather during the winter in Acadia National Park?
The winter weather in Acadia National Park creates a captivating and ever-changing landscape that’s a world away from the bustling summer crowds. From December through February, the park experiences a true New England winter, characterized by cold temperatures, snowfall, and occasional storms. This seasonal transformation blankets the park in a serene and magical aura, offering a unique and enchanting experience for visitors.
Temperature: During the winter months, temperatures in Acadia National Park typically range from the mid-teens to mid-30s Fahrenheit (-9°C to 1°C), although they can occasionally drop even lower. It’s important to dress warmly in layers, including insulated clothing, waterproof outerwear, gloves, and a hat to stay comfortable while exploring the park.
Snowfall: Snowfall is a defining feature of Acadia’s winter climate. The park receives an average of around 61 inches (155 cm) of snow annually, covering its trails, mountains, and forests in a pristine blanket of white. The snow creates a picturesque setting that’s perfect for winter sports and photography.
Winter Storms: Winter storms are not uncommon in Acadia, and they can add an extra layer of drama to the landscape. Snowstorms can bring heavy snowfall, strong winds, and challenging conditions for outdoor activities. However, they also offer a chance to witness the park in a beautifully wild state, with snow-draped trees and cliffs.
Icy Conditions: With the freezing temperatures, trails and pathways can become icy and slippery. It’s essential to exercise caution while hiking and exploring, and it’s recommended to use appropriate footwear with good traction, such as crampons or ice cleats, to prevent accidents.
Changing Weather: The weather in Acadia National Park during the winter can be unpredictable, with rapid changes from clear, sunny days to overcast skies and snowfall. Checking the weather forecast before heading out and being prepared for changing conditions is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
Benefits of Winter Weather: Despite the challenges, the winter weather in Acadia offers a unique and quieter experience compared to the bustling summer months. The tranquility of the snow-covered landscapes, the crispness of the air, and the absence of large crowds create an atmosphere of serenity and solitude. It’s a time to connect with nature on a more intimate level, to hear the crunch of snow underfoot, and to appreciate the park’s natural beauty in a different light.
How do I prepare for a winter hike in Acadia National Park?
Winter hiking in Acadia National Park offers a unique and invigorating experience, but it also requires careful preparation to ensure your safety and enjoyment. First and foremost, dressing appropriately is crucial. Layering is key to regulating your body temperature, so start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Add an insulating layer to retain body heat, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements. Don’t forget to wear warm gloves, a hat, and sturdy waterproof boots with good traction to navigate icy trails.
Before embarking on your hike, it’s essential to check the weather forecast and trail conditions. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so being informed about any incoming storms or rapidly changing conditions is vital. Make sure to bring essential items like a map, compass, headlamp, and a fully charged cell phone, as daylight hours are shorter during winter.
Safety should always be a top priority, so let someone know your hiking plans, including your intended route and estimated return time. It’s a good idea to hike with a companion whenever possible, as having a partner can provide assistance in case of emergencies. Lastly, be flexible with your plans. Winter conditions can sometimes lead to unexpected trail closures or challenging circumstances, so having a backup plan or being willing to adjust your itinerary ensures a safe and enjoyable hiking experience in Acadia’s winter wonderland.
What are the benefits of experiencing Acadia National Park in the winter compared to other seasons?
Experiencing Acadia National Park during the winter offers a distinct and captivating perspective that sets it apart from the more bustling seasons. While summer draws large crowds seeking warm weather and vibrant landscapes, the winter months provide a tranquil and serene ambiance that allows for a deeper connection with nature.
One of the most notable benefits of a winter visit is the opportunity for solitude and introspection. The park’s trails, which may be crowded in the summer, often become quiet pathways for introspective exploration. The hush of falling snow, the crunch of your footsteps on the trail, and the absence of bustling crowds create a serene environment that encourages mindfulness and reflection.
Photographers and artists also find inspiration in Acadia’s winter landscapes. The interplay of sunlight on snow, frost-covered vegetation, and the striking contrast of dark evergreen trees against the white backdrop offer endless creative possibilities. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a seasoned artist, the winter scenery invites you to capture its beauty in unique and captivating ways.
Moreover, experiencing Acadia’s iconic landmarks, such as Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond, under a blanket of snow provides a new perspective on their grandeur. The transformation of these familiar sights adds an element of novelty and intrigue, even for those who have visited during other seasons.
In conclusion, the benefits of experiencing Acadia National Park in the winter extend beyond the surface beauty of snow-covered landscapes. The solitude, creative inspiration, and unique perspective offered during this quieter time of year make a winter visit a truly memorable and enriching experience for nature enthusiasts, adventurers, and anyone seeking a deeper connection with the natural world.