Rocky coastline, amazing sunrises, and dozens of hiking trails: there is no shortage of reasons to visit Acadia National Park.
Set on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia sees the bulk of its visitors in the summer (when the weather is warm) and the fall (when New England foliage is at its best).
But if you’re willing to brave a Northeast winter, you’ll be treated to an Acadia National Park experience unlike any other. While many businesses will be closed for the season, Acadia’s nature is extra stunning when blanketed in a sparkling layer of snow.
Winter also means fewer crowds and a sense of escape. It’s a popular park that doesn’t feel very remote for most of the year. Winter in Acadia National Park is a different story.
This Winter in Acadia National Park: What to Do
Bundle up and bring extra photo storage. Acadia National Park offers a stunning winter landscape to those who will brave the winter chill.
Drive (some of) Park Loop Road.
While the bulk of Acadia’s 27-mile Park Loop Road closes for the winter, some sections near popular sights remain open. Weather permitting, you can still access Jordan Pond, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole via Park Loop Road during the winter.
Watch the first sunlight hit the USA.
The summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park boasts the honor of being the first place in the USA to see sunlight during the winter season, and no winter trip to Acadia would be complete without watching this very special sunrise.
Though Cadillac Mountain Road is closed to vehicles in the winter, you can still use that road or one of several trails to hike to the summit in time for sunrise. Be prepared for a very cold hike (it’s about 15-20 degrees colder on the summit than in Bar Harbor) and to be self-sufficient–all facilities at the summit will be closed for the season.
Also note that sunrise on Cadillac Mountain will occur a few minutes before the predicted sunrise for the area. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get there!
Take a hike (or 3)
While winter conditions do require extra caution, many of Acadia’s hiking trails remain open, including the Ship Harbor Trail, Ocean Path, and the Carriage Roads.
The National Park Service warns that particularly steep and challenging trails can be dangerous during the winter–sadly, this probably isn’t the time to check out the Beehive Trail or similar.
Watch the sunset at the Bass Harbor Head Light.
The Bass Harbor Head Light is set almost directly onto Acadia’s classic, rocky coastline–and that coastline makes the perfect place to watch the sunset in Acadia National Park.
Be sure to arrive early and be cautious climbing over the rocks down to the seashore!
Go cross-country skiing.
More than half of Acadia’s 47-miles of carriage roads (used for horse-and-carriage rides during the summer season) are prepped for cross-country skiers during winter, making Acadia the perfect destination for those wanting a chance to enjoy the sport.
Winter Camping in Acadia National Park
There are many campgrounds in and around Acadia National Park, but your options will be more limited in the winter months.
Blackwoods Campground is the only campground in the park that is open year-round. Campers should obtain a free camping permit from the Dispatch Office or Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
“I absolutely love this campground and this park. I lived in New England most of my life and didn’t make it here until later on. Very very stupid. Its really wonderful. Where the mountains meet the ocean, and some of the funniest people and best sea food exist.” — The Dyrt camperCamp Here
What to Bring
Winter brings cold weather to Acadia National Park, with temperatures regularly dipping below freezing.
Be sure to bring warm clothes and boots, including all accessories such as thick gloves and a warm hat–don’t take any chances with the cold.
If you’re planning on some winter hiking in Acadia, consider bringing trail crampons for your shoes, trekking poles for balance, and snowshoes.
A headlamp is also recommended, and will be absolutely necessary if you plan to see the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
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