With its beaches, coastal views, short hiking trails, and scenic drives, Acadia National Park is a joy to visit. Just outside of the park is Bar Harbor, a charming town filled with hotels and inns, restaurants and shops. Acadia National Park makes an excellent weekend getaway or a quick visit while road tripping through New England. In this Acadia National Park itinerary, learn how to spend two to three perfect days in the park, with lots of planning tips to have the best experience.
About this Acadia National Park Itinerary
This itinerary works best between May and December. During the winter and early spring, most of Park Loop Road is closed. You can still visit during the winter, but rather than hiking or going on a scenic drive, your time will be spent snowshoeing or skiing.
Crowds are at their highest in the summer months, in July and August. The park gets another bump in visitation in October, since this is a gorgeous place to see fall colors. In general, early to mid-October is when fall colors reach their peak.
Our visit (and all of the photos in this Acadia National Park itinerary) was from October 11 to 13, when fall colors were considered to be “high.”
The other thing to be aware of is that vehicle reservations are required to drive up Cadillac Summit Road between the end of May and mid-October. You can either reserve a sunrise reservation or a daytime reservation. These are made in advance on recreation.gov and cost $6 per reservation. I cover this in more detail later in this guide, or you can skip ahead now.
How to Plan Your Acadia National Park Itinerary
A Quick Geography Lesson
Best Things to do in Acadia
How Many Days Do You Need in Acadia?
How to Get to Acadia National Park
Day One: Park Loop Road & Jordan Pond
Day Two: Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor & More Time in Acadia
Day Three: Schoodic Peninsula or Isle au Haut
Weekend Getaway in Acadia
Tips for Planning Your Trip
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
While in Acadia National Park, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
A Quick Geography Lesson
Called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” this national park protects part of the rocky coastline in Maine. Granite coastal cliffs, islands, estuary and intertidal habitats, and the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast of the United States can be found here.
There are three main regions of Acadia National Park.
Mount Desert Island (abbreviated MDI), is the main region and this is where most people spend their time. This island is the largest region of Acadia National Park and this is where you will find Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain, Park Loop Road, and many of the top things to do in the park.
To the north is the small but scenic Schoodic Peninsula. You can get here by car or by ferry from Bar Harbor. It’s worth the visit if you want to see a quieter, more rugged area of Acadia National Park.
To the south is Isle au Haut, a remote island that you can reach by ferry. It takes a full day to visit Isle au Haut from Mount Desert Island.
Best Things to do in Acadia National Park
Here is a list of the best things to do in Acadia National Park:
- Drive Park Loop Road
- Go Hiking: the Beehive Trail, Precipice Trail, and Jordan Cliffs Trail are the most thrilling hikes in the park. But there are also easy strolls (Ocean Path, Cadillac Summit Loop Trail, and the easy walk around Jordan Pond all make great options) and more challenging mountain summits (South Bubble, Door Mountain, the Beech Cliff Ladder Trail, and summiting Cadillac Mountain on foot are all popular hikes).
- Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain
- Visit Sand Beach
- Thunder Hole
- Bike the Carriage Roads
- Eat popovers at Jordan Pond House
- Watch the sunset at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
- Visit Echo Lake
- Visit Schoodic Point
- Spend some time in Bar Harbor
For a detailed list of the best things to do in Acadia, with many more photos, take a look at our article 14 Best Things to do in Acadia National Park.
How Many Days Do You Need in Acadia National Park?
If you want to see and do everything listed above, you will need three days in Acadia National Park. Mount Desert Island is relatively small and compact, but it is packed with scenic drives and short hiking trails.
If you are an avid hiker, consider spending three days in Acadia, because there are a lot of fun trails here.
If you only want to see the main highlights and spend some time in lovely Bar Harbor, two full days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Acadia National Park. In fact, this makes an excellent weekend getaway destination.
We spent three days in Acadia and it was the perfect amount of time for us. We had plenty of time to explore Mount Desert Island, visit Bar Harbor, and journey north to Schoodic Peninsula. Our second day started off rainy, so it was nice to have some extra time to be able to enjoy the main sights with nicer weather.
View from the Beehive Trail
How to Get to Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is located on the coast of Maine.
If you will be arriving to Maine by plane, the closest airport to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park is Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. This airport is just 12 miles from Bar Harbor. However, it is a small, local airport and flights here will be limited.
Bangor and Portland both have international airports. From Bangor, it is a 2 hour drive to Bar Harbor and from Portland it is a 3 hour drive to Bar Harbor.
Acadia National Park Itinerary
Below I list a three day Acadia National Park itinerary. These three days can be done in any order. If you plan to watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain (which is on day two of this Acadia itinerary), you need to do so when the weather is clear. So, put day two on the day with the clearest morning weather forecast.
If you only have time for two days in Acadia National Park, follow days 1 and 2 of this itinerary and omit day #3.
Acadia National Park Itinerary Day One: Park Loop Road & Jordan Pond
Day one of this Acadia National Park itinerary is spent visiting the highlights of Mount Desert Island, many of which are located along Park Loop Road, hiking some of the most thrilling trails, and spending some time at Jordan Pond.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Precipice Trail (Optional)
Distance: 2.5 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Total Ascent: 1,060 feet | Time: 1 to 3 hours
The Precipice Trail is Acadia’s most thrilling hike. It is optional because it’s not for everyone.
This short, tough hike features a steep climb, numerous climbs up metal rungs and ladders, and short walks along narrow ledges. Due to the cliff walks and the amount of exposure on this trail, this hike is not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
It is our favorite hike in Acadia and a great introduction to this park.
Tim climbing one of many sets of ladders on the Precipice Trail.
Plan on getting here before 8 am (we started this hike around 7:30 am). Parking is extremely limited and fills up fast. To get here from Bar Harbor, take Route 3 south to Park Loop Road (4 miles, 10 minute drive).
Note: From late March into the summer, this trail closes during peregrine falcon nesting. The best time to do this hike is late summer through the fall.
Learn more about how to hike the Precipice Trail, and see it in photos, in our Guide to the Precipice Trail.
Continue south on Park Loop Road to the parking lot for Sand Beach and the Ocean Path Trailhead. This large parking lot has restrooms and from here, you can take your pick from several wonderful short hikes. During our visit, this parking lot filled by 10 am, so try to get here early if possible.
It’s a very quick walk out to Sand Beach for this view.
From this parking area, you can also hike the Beehive Trail and the Ocean Path Trail, both mentioned next.
Hike the Beehive Trail
Distance: 1.4 miles round trip | Difficulty: Strenuous | Total Ascent: 450 feet | Time: 1 to 2 hours
The Beehive Trail is a shorter version of the Precipice Trail and it has slightly less exposure. It features sections of cliff walks with metal rungs, but with less elevation gain and less exposure, this is a good option if you are not quite sure if you can handle the Precipice Trail.
From Sand Beach Parking lot, cross Park Loop Road. There is a trail that leads from the parking lot to the trailhead. The Beehive Trailhead is marked with a large trail sign.
Learn more about how to hike the Beehive Trail, and see it in photos, in our Guide to the Beehive Trail.
Distance: 2 to 4 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Elevation Gain: Minimal | Time: 1 to 3 hours
View from the rocks along Ocean Path
This easy walk from Sand Beach to Otter Point is one of Acadia’s most popular walks. It’s flat, it’s easy, and along the entire walk you have wonderful coastline views. Thunder Hole, a spot where the waves hit the rocks just right to create a thundering sound, is one of the highlights.
This hike is 4 miles out-and-back, if you walk the entire distance of the trail (to Otter Point). However, if you only walk from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole and back, it’s 2 miles total.
Get back into your car and continue the drive south on Park Loop Road. If you did not walk the Ocean Path Trail, stop off to see Thunder Hole.
Thunder Hole is a small inlet where the waves roll up against the rocks, creating a thunderous sound. The water can spray up to 40 feet in the air.
This is one of Acadia’s landmarks so expect big crowds here.
I read that the best time to visit Thunder Hole is two hours before high tide, if you want to hear the thunder clap that the waves create. If you are here on a calm day or during low tide, you will not get the full experience. Check the tides here.
This is a beautiful stretch of coastline. I personally liked the coastal views more than watching the waves hit the rocks.
Scenic Drive along Park Loop Road
Continue along Park Loop Road. This road winds along the coast and on the drive, there will be several viewpoints where you can take a photo (Otter Cliff Overlook and the Otter Cove Bridge are nice).
Be aware that Park Loop Road is one-way between the intersection with Route 3 and Wildwood Stables. On this section of road, which includes the Precipice Trail, Sand Beach, the Beehive Trail, Thunder Hole, and Otter Point, this part of the loop can only be driven in a clockwise direction. The western side of Park Loop Road (which is where you will find Jordan Pond House and Cadillac Summit Road) is two-way.
Jordan Pond House
Jordan Pond House is famous for their popovers. Located on the shore of Jordan Pond, you can enjoy these tasty treats before or after doing one of several great walks in the area. They also serve sandwiches, chowder, and various entrees, so this is a great place to grab lunch. See the menu here.
Go Hiking at Jordan Pond
I have three hikes to recommend at Jordan Pond. These range from an easy lake stroll to another thrilling cliff trail. It’s also possible to link these all together (that’s what we did).
We did a lot of hiking our first day in Acadia…the Precipice Trail, the Beehive Trail, the Ocean Path Trail, and the combo of the three hikes below. But what an awesome day!
Jordan Pond Path
Distance: 3.3 miles round trip | Difficulty: Easy | Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
This easy hiking path does a full loop around Jordan Pond. It’s flat and it’s easy so it’s great for all ages and ability levels.
Jordan Pond Path
South Bubble Trail
Distance: 1 to 2.5 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 1.5 to 3 hours
For one of the best views over Jordan Pond, hike to the top of South Bubble.
The “Bubbles” are two small mountains that sit side by side at the north end of Jordan Pond. South Bubble, with its exposed granite face, offers amazing views from the summit. You also can see Bubble Rock, an enormous granite boulder that precariously sits on the edge of a cliff.
How to Do This: This can be done as a short, strenuous, round-trip hike from the Jordan Pond parking lot (1-mile round trip on the Bubbles Divide Trail). Or, turn this into a point-to-point hike. Start at the Bubble Pond parking lot, hike to the summit of Bubble Rock, take the South Bubble Trail down to Jordan Pond, and walk the Jordan Pond Path to Jordan Pond House (about 2.5 miles one-way). If you like option #2, park at Jordan Pond House and ride the free park shuttle to the Bubble Pond parking lot, so that you can do this hike point-to-point.
Jordan Cliffs Trail
Distance: 3.5 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 2 to 3 hours
For another spot to enjoy amazing views over Jordan Pond, plus the chance to hike along narrow ledges with the aid of iron rungs, put the Jordan Cliffs Trail on your list.
From the Jordan Pond House, it is a steep, strenuous climb up to the highest point of the trail, but once up here, the views are beautiful. Due to the difficult nature of this trail and the exposed ledges, the Jordan Cliffs Trail tends to be less crowded than the easier Jordan Pond Path.
Jordan Cliffs + South Bubble + Jordan Pond Path
Distance: 4.8 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
Take the Spring Trail from the Jordan Pond House, hike the Jordan Cliffs Trail to the Bubbles Divide Trail, and enjoy the view from South Bubble. To get back to the Jordan Pond House, hike down the South Bubble Trail to the Jordan Pond Path.
Tim and I did this and loved it. It is a tough hike, with two strenuous climbs and one very steep descent down the South Bubble Trail, so this hike can trash your quads. But you get to enjoy the view over Jordan Pond from two different vantage points, hike along narrow ledges, and finish the hike off with an easy, leisurely stroll along Jordan Pond. Plus, once you are finished, you can eat all the popovers you like!
For more information about hiking in Acadia, check out our Acadia National Park Hiking Guide.
From Jordan Pond, return to Bar Harbor and have dinner.
Acadia National Park Itinerary Day Two: Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor & More Time in Acadia
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain
Due to its location and height, Cadillac Mountain is one of the first spots in the United States to view the sunrise, making this Acadia National Park’s most popular sunrise spot.
Before your visit, check sunrise times here.
Be aware that you might not have clear skies in the morning during your visit to Acadia National Park. It happened to us. We had three mornings and each one was either completely clouded in, rainy, or foggy. Fortunately, the weather conditions improved each day, so we had an overall great experience, but we never got to see the legendary sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.
After the sunrise, hike the short but sweet Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. It’s only 0.3 miles and offers panoramic views of the park, Bar Harbor, and the coastline.
View of Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain
Advance Reservations for Cadillac Mountain
To visit Cadillac Mountain, you must make a vehicle reservation in advance.
Reservations are required from May 26 through October 19. These cost $6 ($4 for the vehicle fee and $2 for the reservation fee) and are sold online in advance at Recreation.gov.
30% of the tickets become available 90 days in advance of your reservation date. The remaining 70% will be available at 10 am EST two days before the reservation date. Note, this reservation is per vehicle, not per person. You will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you enter Acadia National Park.
There are two windows of visitation: sunrise and daytime. There is a 2 hour window of time at sunrise and a daytime reservation that is valid for the entire day, after the end of the sunrise window. These times vary according to the time of year and you can get the full details on the National Park Service website.
Print or save a digital copy of your ticket since cellular service is limited inside of the park.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: You can either reserve your ticket 90 days in advance or wait until 2 days before your trip, if you want to watch the weather. Just be prepared to make your reservation right at 10 am EST because tickets can sell out fast.
Three Different Ways to Spend the Day
Here are three different ways to spend day two of this Acadia National Park itinerary, depending on your interests.
#1 Bar Harbor & a Scenic Boat Tour
After watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, have breakfast in Bar Harbor. Café this Way serves an awesome breakfast. They don’t take reservations and wait times can be long (we waited an hour for a table) but it’s worth the wait.
Spend the remainder of day strolling through the shops in Bar Harbor and taking a boat tour.
There are numerous companies offering tours of the islands and coastline of Acadia National Park. Take a sightseeing cruise, go fishing, cruise past Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, go on a puffin cruise, or take a sunset nature cruise.
#2 Spend Some More Time on the Hiking Trails
If you like the idea of spending more time on Acadia’s trails, we have a few more great hikes to recommend. You can either do one of the hikes listed on day one of this Acadia National Park itinerary or take your pick from these:
Beech Cliff Ladder Trail
Distance: 2.2 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
We really liked this hike. The views are spectacular and this trail is tons of fun.
This hike has a little bit of everything: iron rungs and ladders, scenic views over lakes and the coastline, and brief cliff walks. It’s not quite as hair-raising as Precipice or Beehive, so this is a nice option if you are looking for a thrill without the danger of these other cliff trails. Plus, we saw very few people on this trail, a nice bonus.
The view over Echo Beach from the Beech Cliff Loop
How to Do This: Park at the Echo Lake Beach Entrance. Take the Beech Cliffs Trail to the summit, a short but strenuous climb to the summit of Beech Mountain. Once here, the views are amazing. The highlight is the short but sweet Beech Cliff Loop, where you get the best views of the day. There are some exposed sections here, but the cliffs are wide and if you have a fear of heights, you can stand far enough away from the edge and still enjoy the view. Hike the Canada Cliffs Trail back to the Echo Lake Beach Parking Lot.
Door Mountain via the Ladder Trail
Distance: 3.4 mile loop | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 3 to 4 hours
From the peak of Dorr Mountain, you get spectacular views over Acadia National Park, or so we have heard. Unfortunately, low-lying clouds covered the peak of Dorr Mountain during our hike, so we never got to see the views that so many others have raved about. However, on the hike back down to sea level, while on the Dorr South Ridge Trail, we had beautiful views of the park.
The Ladder Trail will make your thighs scream. It is essentially one massive stair climb to the top with a few ladders thrown in, just to keep things interesting. It is important to pace yourself at the beginning of this hike because it is challenging. Tim and I thought that this was one of the toughest climbs we did in Acadia National Park.
We both liked this hike, but we thought that views from Cadillac Mountain, Champlain Mountain (via the Precipice Trail), and Beech Cliffs were better. However, this seems to be a low traffic trail, so if you don’t mind a brutal stair climb and want a break from the crowds, this is one to consider.
How to Do This: Hike the Ladder Trail to the summit of Dorr Mountain. Take the Dorr South Ridge Trail and enjoy the views of the coastline. Once on the Canon Brook Trail, the hike is flat and easy and gorgeous in October. Our favorite part of the hike was seeing the two small ponds in the Gorge, not far from the Dorr Mountain Trailhead.
#3 Bike the Carriage Roads
John D. Rockfeller Jr. played a huge role in funding and building the carriage roads that crisscross Mount Desert Island. Originally constructed to travel by horse drawn carriage through the park, these roads were built between 1913 and 1940.
Now, these historic roads are now also open to hikers, walkers, and bikers.
Afternoon/Sunset at Bass Head Harbor Lighthouse
If you want to see another iconic spot in Acadia National Park, visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in the afternoon.
This is a very popular place to visit in Acadia and the parking lot is tiny. Which is a good thing…a larger parking lot would make these cliffs even more crowded. We visited mid-afternoon on a Sunday and park rangers were turning people away. It gets that crowded.
If you have hopes to watch the sunset here, you are going to have to get here very early. How early depends upon the time of year, but I have read that people arrive as much as 3 hours before sunset to get a parking space (and the perfect tripod location).
From Bar Harbor, it takes over 30 minutes to drive here. Along the way, you will pass Echo Lake (worth the stop!!) and Seawall (nice coastal views but the views along Ocean Path and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse are better).
In the evening, have dinner in Bar Harbor.
Acadia Itinerary Day Three: Schoodic Peninsula or Isle au Haut
The above two day Acadia itinerary covers the main highlights on Mount Desert Island. If you have more time, you can visit the Schoodic Peninsula or Isle au Haut.
Schoodic Point is one of the best places in Acadia National Park to watch the surf pounding on the rocky coastline. The best time to visit is when the seas are rough.
While you are here, there are several short hikes to do. We hiked the Sundew Trail, a flat, easy trail through a dense forest with detours out to the coastline. You can also hike the Schoodic Head Trails.
Getting Here: From Bar Harbor, it is an hour and fifteen minute drive to get to Schoodic Point. You can also take the Bar Harbor Ferry from mid-June through mid-September.
Isle au Haut
“High Island” is a small island that sits off of the coast of Maine. To visit Isle au Haut from Bar Harbor, it will take most of a day.
To get here, you will need to take the ferry. The ferry runs year-round. From Stonington, it takes 45 minutes by ferry to reach Isle au Haut.
To get to Stonington from Bar Harbor, it is an hour and a half drive.
Once on Isle au Haut, you can go hiking or camping.
Weekend Getaway in Acadia National Park
Acadia makes a wonderful weekend getaway.
Arrive in Bar Harbor on Friday evening. If you get into town in time, have dinner at one of the restaurants in town.
Then, follow days one and two of this Acadia itinerary. To shorten day 2, watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, have brunch in Bar Harbor, and then either go hiking or take a boat cruise. Consider stopping by Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse before driving back to the airport.
The Ladder Trail
Tips for Planning Your Acadia National Park Itinerary
National Park Fee: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days.
Hours of Operation: Acadia National Park is open 7 days a week, 365 days per year. However, there are sections of the park that close during the winter. Park Loop Road is closed from December 1 through April 15. Echo Lake Beach is also closed from December 1 through April 15. Many onsite restaurants and visitor centers are closed from mid-October through the end of April or early May.
Don’t forget to make your reservation for Cadillac Mountain.
There is a park shuttle that runs during peak season. The shuttle includes stops in Bar Harbor, Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and various places in the park. If you are struggling to find a parking space, or you are traveling without a car, you can get around by shuttle. Click here to learn more.
As you plan your trip and just before your visit, check road and trail conditions on the National Park Service website.
If you want to see Acadia National Park during the peak of fall colors, plan your visit from early to mid-October. For the past five years, fall colors were at their peak anywhere from October 8 to October 21. Get more information on the Maine Foliage website.
Where to Stay
All of these properties are located in Bar Harbor.
Bar Harbor Grand Hotel. Located in central Bar Harbor, this is one of the highest rated properties in town. Rooms can accommodate up to six people and this hotel has a pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
Bar Harbor Inn and Spa. This is where we stayed and we had a great experience. This is a big property with a beautiful setting right on the coast. From the Bar Harbor Inn, it is less than a five-minute walk to the shops and restaurants in the center of town. If you book a room with a view, you can look out at the harbor or the islands that sit just off the coast. The Bar Harbor Inn also has a spa, heated outdoor pool with hot tub, and one of the highest rated restaurants in town, The Reading Room.
Bar Harbor Inn in October
The Elmhurst Inn. This bed and breakfast also gets glowing reviews and is a great value for the money. Rooms can accommodate up to two people and guests rave about the breakfast.
Bar Harbor Motel. If you are looking for a cheaper stay, this property gets rave reviews and it is one of the highest rated properties in Bar Harbor on Booking.com. This motel is located north of town, so you will have to drive and park in town if you want to eat or shop here. But this motel can accommodate up to six people in one room so it is also a great pick for families.
Where to Eat
Café This Way. Yum! We had breakfast here and it was awesome. This popular restaurant is open in the morning for breakfast and the evening for dinner.
Side Street Café. This is another popular restaurant in Bar Harbor and they are famous for their lobster rolls. We ate dinner here and the wait time was very long. However, you can shorten your wait by checking in online on their website.
If you are looking for something to do in the evening, have dinner and watch a movie at Reel Pizza Cinerama. This movie theater serves pizza, drinks, and dessert and shows two movies a night. Get here early, reserve your “table” with a paper plate, and come back 30 minutes before show time to order your pizza and drinks.
If you want to eat a whole Maine lobster, there are two highly-rated lobster shacks just outside of Bar Harbor. Rose Eden Lobster and C-Ray Lobster offer the best quality lobsters at affordable prices. We ate at both lobster shacks and Rose Eden was our favorite.
If you have any questions about this Acadia National Park itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Acadia National Park
TRAVEL GUIDE: The Complete Guide to Acadia National Park
BEST OF ACADIA: 14 Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park
ACADIA HIKES: 10 Great Hikes in Acadia National Park
PRECIPICE TRAIL: How to Hike the Precipice Trail, Acadia’s Most Thrilling Hike
BEEHIVE TRAIL: How to Hike the Beehive Trail
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