Acadia National Park Camping and Campgrounds
Acadia National Park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States. There are an abundance of habitats with high biodiversity, clean air and water, and a rich cultural heritage within the park and many trails and opportunities to experience them all. Each year, more than 3.3 million people explore seven peaks above 1,000 feet, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads with 16 stone bridges. And, many of them like to stay in the park’s campgrounds.
There are three campgrounds in Acadia National Park, and roughly a dozen private campgrounds outside the park. Make reservations where possible as all three of the campgrounds fill up early. Acadia National Park is surrounded by scenic island harbors and quaint towns with something for everyone to see, experience and appreciate.
Bar Harbor is less than 30 minutes away, with restaurants, shops, museums, music festivals and whale-watching tours. If you like variety and a change of scenery, beautiful Lamoine State Park is just 21 miles from Acadia, with boating, fishing and scenic views of Frenchman’s Bay. No matter which campground you stay at, it’s worth the 50 mile, or hour long drive from to visit the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to a nesting habitat for diverse seabird and wading bird populations, as well as bald eagles.
Acadia National Park Campgrounds
Blackwoods is located five miles south of Bar Harbor just off Route 3, a short distance from Bar Harbor, the Park Loop Road and some of Acadia’s best hiking trails. Blackwoods is Acadia’s most popular campground, partly because of its proximity to so many attractions, access to the free Island Explorer Shuttle, and because of its size – 306 campsites, including RV sites, and price – in April and November campsites are $15 per site, per night (weather permitting). It is also the only Acadia campground open year-round.
All campsites at Blackwoods Campground are wooded, and the ocean is only a leisurely 10-minute stroll from the campground. Each campsite comes with a picnic table and campfire ring. Bathrooms with flush toilets are located nearby. There are no showers at the campground, but pay showers are offered by a private business in the nearby village of Otter Creek, only a half-mile from the campground.
The free Island Explorer Shuttle, which provides transportation to popular destinations around Mount Desert Island, makes regular stops at Blackwoods Campground. The shuttle features nine bus routes linking hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers.
The Seawall Campground is Acadia National Park’s second-most popular campground. It’s located on the western of Mount Desert Island, about 4 miles south of Southwest Harbor and approximately 18 miles from Bar Harbor and the park loop road.
Seawall has 200 wooded campsites. A beautiful oceanside picnic area is a short walk from the campground if you want to enjoy a water view. Each campsite comes with a picnic table and campfire ring. Bathrooms with flush toilets are located nearby. There are no showers at Seawall, but pay showers are available one mile from the campground. Motorhome sites can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length, but the majority of this family-oriented campground’s sites are for small and large tents.
Running water and a dump station are also provided, and the roads throughout the campground are paved. A picnic area is located on the shore across from the campground entrance. Reservations at Seawall Campground are available up to 6 months in advance. Reservations for group campsites can be made for the entire season starting on March 15th every year.
Schoodic Woods Campground
Schoodic Woods is Acadia’s newest campground. It opened in 2015, near Schoodic Peninsula, the only part of Acadia National Park that’s located on the mainland. Schoodic Woods Campground is located three miles southeast of Winter Harbor and 43 miles from Bar Harbor.
The campground has 94 campsites. Loop A has 37 campsites with parking spaces for cars, vans and campers. Loop B has 30 campsites for RVs. Campsites at both loops have picnic tables and fire rings, and there are washrooms with flush toilets and potable water nearby. There are also nine hike-in campsites, including some with ocean views. Fires are prohibited at the hike-in campsites.
The Island Explorer Shuttle also stops at the campground, and offers free rides to Schoodic Peninsula and Winter Harbor. However, if you prefer to walk or bike there are 8.5 miles of bike paths near the campground, plus a new hiking trail that goes to the top of Schoodic Head, the highest point on Schoodic Peninsula. Reservations are required for Schoodic Woods Campground. There are no first-come, first-served campsites.
Duck Harbor Campground
If you like remote, quiet, and beautiful campgrounds, try Duck Harbor. The campground is located on Isle au Haut, a small, but rugged island 16 miles southwest of Mount Desert Island. Many of the campers who make the journey to the island consider it Acadia’s best campground. Five primitive sites are perched on a wooded hill overlooking Duck Harbor, making for great views, but there’s more to the campground than its scenic vistas. The campground is also perfectly positioned to take advantage of Isle au Haut’s terrific network of hiking trails.
You need to make an advanced reservation to camp at Duck Harbor, and sites are only available from May 15 to October 15. Camping is limited to one stay per year, for a maximum of three nights, and party size is limited to six persons per site. All campsites include one three-sided, lean-to shelter with a roof and floor. All tents must be set up within the shelter. Each campsite also includes a fire ring, a picnic table and a storage locker for food and toiletries. Duck Harbor Campground has composting toilets. A hand pump for water is located 0.25 miles from the campground.
Wildwood Stables Campground
Wildwood Stables Campground caters specifically to campers who bring their horses with them to Acadia National Park. It’s the ideal spot for horsemen to enjoy the lovely trails and gorgeous scenery. The campground offers visitors a place to camp and stable their horses at night so their daytimes can be filled with riding the Maine trails. There are ten sites with box stalls for camper’s horses. Cost is $15 per night for campers, and $25 for their horses. There are 45 miles of rustic carriage roads that weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park and provide excellent riding, hiking or biking paths. Most of those roads are available for horseback travel either on a carriage ride with Wildwood Stables or on your own horse.
The Island Explorer Shuttle
The Island Explorer is a free shuttle that features nine bus routes that link hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers.
The shuttles are clean propane-powered vehicles offering Mount Desert Island visitors and residents free transportation to hiking trails, carriage roads, island beaches, and in-town shops and restaurants. There’s even a “bicycle express” shuttle that can carry up to six bicycles.
The Bicycle Express operates June 23 through September 30 between the Bar Harbor Village Green and Eagle Lake. Cyclists can access the Acadia National Park carriage road system at Eagle Lake. In September, the Bicycle Express ends at 4:07 p.m. The Bicycle Express trailer cannot accommodate tandem bicycles.
Routes on the shuttle’s routes include:
An educational, hands-on aquarium with a lobster hatchery & ecological marsh walk, the Oceanarium is a must visit if you have kids, or are a curious kid at heart. Part of the Oceanarium is the Lobster Hatchery. The hatchery returns hatched lobsters back to the ocean. Visitors enjoy seeing mother lobsters, little lobsters up to 2 weeks old, lobsters being released, even the beating hearts of little lobsters.
Sand Beach is a gorgeous 290 yard long beach nestled in a small inlet between the granite mountains and rocky shores of Mount Desert Island. It’s one of the most popular and visited points of interest on the island. The emerald green waters pound the shoreline and the beach – which is comprised primarily of crushed shells and sand. No pets are allowed on the beach from May 15 through September 15.
The 27 mile Park Loop Road is the primary avenue for navigating through Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island by vehicle. It begins near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on the north side of the island in Bar Harbor and connects the park’s lakes, mountains, forests and rocky shores for easy exploration.
Jordan Pond is a glacier formed tarn with a maximum water depth of 150 feet (46 m). The water is exceptionally clear with an average visibility depth of 46 feet (14 m) but this has been measured as high as 60 feet (18 m), the most ever recorded in the State of Maine. Swimming is not allowed. However, non motor boats such as canoes and kayaks are permitted. There are a variety of things to see and do at the pond, including dining at the only full service restaurant within Acadia National Park, a gift shop, hiking trails, and photography workshops. There is also the Jordan Pond Nature Trail. Park at Jordan Pond parking area and make the easy and level 1.0 mile loop/1.6 km loop.
Brown Mountain Gatehouse
Beginning in about 1890, Mount Desert Island became a summer resort haven for a number of wealthy families, including the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Vanderbilts. Despite their efforts to keep the island free of motor vehicles, the automobiles won out – at least on part of the island. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had a large summer house on the southeastern part of the island, responded to the encroachment of the cars by building a network of carriage roads on the eastern half of the island. This blocked the roads to motor vehicles, and provided access to the scenic views of the area. The entire project resulted in the construction of more than 50 miles (80 km) of roads, sixteen bridges, and two Tudor Revival gatehouses, including Brown Mountain Gatehouse
Southwest Harbor is located just west of the southern entrance to Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County. It is the largest municipality on the southwestern “quiet side” of the island. The town has some great shops, galleries and eateries worth checking out, and overall has a more relaxed, quiet feel. It’s known for the many excellent accommodation options available from single home vacation rentals to bed & breakfasts and inns.
Trenton, Maine, has an approximate population of 1,481 and covers 12,529 acres or 28.39 square miles. It is the last town you will drive through on Route 3 just before crossing onto Mount Desert Island. There is a large general store, ample camping facilities, an airport and car rental services. The Great Maine Lumberjack Show (as seen on ESPN) is on Route 3 as well. Participate by cheering on your favorite team of lumberjacks during evening shows featuring chopping, sawing, log rolling, speed climbing and much more. The 35 acre Acadia Zoological Park, a preserve of native and exotic species including buffalo, moose and caribou, is on the left side as you drive toward the island. For the younger kids, there is a petting zoo.
Hiking in Acadia
There are dozens of hiking trails in Acadia, ranging from easy to strenuous, short to lengthy. It’s possible to combine trails to make for a unique and tailored adventure. Some of the more popular hikes are:
Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
Hike up Acadia’s tallest mountain in any season (but winter) for stunning views of the park and plenty of peregrine falcon sightings. Starting at sea level, this trail takes you all the way to the summit (with 1380 feet of elevation gain) over the course of 7 miles. Cedar grove forests, rocky face steps, and a quaint pond await.
Ship Harbor Trail
An easy hike that includes ocean views and bird-watching. This 1.8-mile forest jaunt is a simple loop trail that highlights some Acadia’s best wildlife: great blue heron, osprey, and bustling tidal pools. Pack in a snack and stop for a picnic by the rocky headlands.
If you’re older, slower, have young kids, or are out-of-shape or not up for a strenuous hike, this is probably the best introductory hike to Acadia. The Jesup Path is a 2-mile out-and-back route that takes hikers along a charming boardwalk path through the forest before opening out into a meadow buzzing with wildlife. Complete with informational displays, and located nearby visitor centers, it’s a good way to start or end any outdoor Acadia excursion.
Champlain Mountain via South Ridge Trail
Champlain Mountain is Acadia’s second highest peak, which you’d think would make it a very popular and people packed trail. But it’s not. There are far fewer hikers on this trail than any other out-and-back trails in the area. Only 5-miles (2.5 out and 2.5 back) this trail boasts amazing ocean views as well as sweeping panoramas of neighboring peaks. Try this trail on a dry day, as any moisture can make the footing tricky.
Beehive Loop Trail
This trail is for adventure lovers only. Beehive Loop is a short but fast-paced trail for the well conditioned and athletic hiker. It will have you clinging to iron rungs drilled into bedrock and climbing up boulders along the cliff. No formal rock climbing experience is necessary. If you have the strength and courage to climb to the side of a rock route of metal ladders, this short and daring route is perfect for those craving an adrenaline rush.
Ocean Path is a short, but adventure packed trail, with views and things to do and explore along the way. This 2 mile coastal trail is rugged, but popular, so be prepared to share it with the crowds that flock to it. You’ll hike past tidal pools with crashing waves, then on past other popular destination sites like Sand Beach, Otter Point, and Otter Cliff.
Gorham Mountain Trail
If you love long hikes, you’ll enjoy this trail. Pair it with Ocean Path or Beehive Loop to add even a few extra miles. The trail winds through rocky forest paths, but comes out into breathtaking ocean views. Very popular, this busy trail is a good way to see a lot of Mount Desert Island all at once.
Beech Cliff Trail
This thrilling and less-trafficked trail features ladders and light climbing along the west side of Mount Desert Island. The trailhead begins at Echo Lake. It’s not long into the trail that hikers reach the first climbing section of what are many to come. If the climb proves to be too much, don’t worry. There are alternative routes near the trailhead without the ladders. Save this hike for a dry day as the ladders can be slippery and hazardous when wet.
Beech Mountain Fire Tower
Who doesn’t love a fire tower? And historic ones are even better. At the top of Beech Mountain sits a historic fire tower—and a number of trails leading up to it. Most trails are steep and involve a bit of climbing or scrambling, but the views by the tower make it all worth it.
Things For Kids To Do While Camping in Acadia National Park
Attend a ranger-led program
The National Park Service offers a variety of fun, interactive programs on subjects ranging from the constellations to birds of prey. Your kid will probably agree with most kids – that it’s really cool that owls and peregrines eat their prey whole and then regurgitate what’s not digestible in pellets. Ranger-led programs include hikes, cruises, and simple drop-ins at interesting places.
Learn about lobsters
On the Lulu Lobster Boat Tour, kids can learn about lobstering from Captain John and look for harbor seals in Frenchman Bay off of Bar Harbor. Or, for a rainy day activity, visit the lobster hatchery at the Mount Desert Oceanarium.
Sail on a Friendship Sloop
These graceful sloops were actually the hard-working lobstering boats of the late 1800s. Today there is no lovelier way to experience Mount Desert Island and the many islands surrounding it than from the water on one of the charters offered by Downeast Friendship Sloop. http://www.downeastfriendshipsloop.com
Go sea kayaking
You don’t have to be athletic to go on a short sea kayaking trip. Maine State Kayak offers breathtakingly beautiful and educational tours on “the quiet side” of Acadia National Park. If you have children you want to share the experience with however, know that each child is required to paddle in tandem with an adult and must be at least 8-years-old (and 4 feet, 8 inches tall).
Take a horse-drawn carriage drive
Explore the Acadia National Park carriage road system. These picturesque car-free roads wind up mountains, along brooks, and through spruce forests. One great way to explore them is to take a horse-drawn carriage trip from Wildwood Stables in the park. Try to book early enough to get spots on the sunset drive to Day Mountain, which is a favorite.
Go to the Great Maine Lumberjack Show
Whether you’ve ever held a chainsaw, chopped firewood, or held an ax, you’ll find something to appreciate at the The Great Maine Lumberjack Show. The show is actually a real live demonstration of what a logging camp competition would have looked like in the Maine woods over 100 years ago…except the host of the show is Timber Tina, not a burly lumberjack.
Go miniature golfing at Pirate’s Cove
No matter where you are or what else there is to do, there’s always time for a couple of hours of mini-golfing. Bar Harbor’s “award-winning” adventure golf has a pirates theme. Putt your way through caves, over footbridges, and under cascading waterfalls.
Touch a starfish
The Dive-In Theatre gets rave reviews from both kids and parents, and for good reason. After a cruise in Frenchman’s Bay, Diver Ed takes the plunge, explores the bay while on view on a topside LCD screen, and surfaces to provide a hands-on experience of what he has found. Kids and adults get a chance to hold amazing creatures of the deep like starfish, sea cucumbers, crabs, and scallops.
Explore the tidepools
Sea stars, barnacles, mussels, anemones, crabs, and young lobsters live in the intertidal zone and are exposed twice each day by the withdrawing tide. Focused, quiet observation will open up a whole new world for your kids and provide a special kind of experience that’s an interesting alternative to some of the more commercialized options.
Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House
Ask for a table on the lawn and order popovers and strawberry ice cream, too. After eating your popovers and ice cream, explore the area, skip rocks in Jordan Pond, and hike the trail around its shoreline.
Swim in Echo Lake
After a hike on Beech Mountain or Acadia Mountain, take a refreshing plunge. You can relax in the sun on a beach at the lake’s southern end or on wide granite cliffs on the eastern shoreline.