Maine coastline with rocks, ocean and evergreens in Acadia National Park

Fall in Acadia National Park: Tips and Trails for the Best Fall Foliage

Acadia National Park ranks among the most frequently visited national parks in the United States. Situated on Maine’s Atlantic coast, it draws over 4 million visitors annually who come to experience its 27 miles of picturesque driving routes, 158 miles of hiking paths, and lofty peaks offering stunning views of the rugged coast.

Although July and August are the peak months for visitors in Acadia National Park, the period from mid-September to mid-October is ideal for experiencing the vibrant fall foliage. Fall in Acadia National Park frequently regarded as the optimal time for experiencing the best Acadia has to offer.

Our family spent many years based on the East Coast, and while we love National parks (Bryce Canyon and Craters of the Moon are two of our favorites), we haven’t made it to Acadia National Park. We invited Kayla Mathieu of Camping with Kayla to share her experiences of Acadia National Park in autumn with her family.

Kayla is a wife, mother of two, and a registered nurse from the Midwest. She made the bold decision to leave her job and set off on a journey across the United States in an RV with her family. With the goal of visiting every state, they have traveled for more than eighteen months across the US. On their journey, they explored national parks, delved into U.S. history, and uncovered city gems.

In this post, we will discuss the top reasons to visit Acadia National Park in the Fall, the best hikes for views of Fall colors, where to stay near Acadia, as well as a few reasons Fall might not be the right season for your visit, and tips for visiting Acadia to help you get the most out of your trip.

This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. All our recommendations are our own and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.

At the bottom of this post download our Top Ten Tricks for Exploring National Parks with Kids.

What is Acadia National Park known for?

Founded in 1916, Acadia National Park encompasses 49,052 acres of stunning scenery along Maine’s Atlantic Coast. Bar Harbor, situated on Mount Desert Island, borders Acadia and serves as a favored rendezvous point for exploring the park.

Renowned for its dramatic coastline, Acadia was the first national park established east of the Mississippi River. Positioned at the highest point in the park is Cadillac Mountain. Part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, from October to March, visitors of the Cadillac Mountain have the opportunity to witness the sunrise first in the United States.

Acadia National Park, also known as the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, is renowned for its 45 miles of rustic carriage roads, a gift from philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. These roads were constructed to protect the natural landscape and preserve trees. Today, they are a favorite among bicyclists, pedestrians, and horse-drawn carriages.

In addition to the carriage roads, Acadia boasts a variety of hiking trails. Ranging from strenuous to easy, there is a trail for every ability, offering numerous ways to take in the scenic views. For bird lovers, Acadia is a haven with over 300 species of birds, including the swift peregrine falcon.

Ready to Book Your Trip? Use our Favorite Travel Resources!

Flight Deals: Skyscanner
Rental Cars: Discover Cars
Airport Transfers: Welcome Pickups

Digital SIM Cards: Airalo eSIM
Travel Insurance: SafetyWing

View from the Beehive Loop Trail showing evergreens and ocean beyond at Acadia National Park in Maine
View from the Beehive Loop Trail in Acadia National Park

5 Reasons to Visit Acadia National Park in the Fall

Here are five reasons to visit Acadia in the Fall- though we love this park any time of year!

1. The Fall Foliage

The birch, maple, and poplar trees transform Acadia National Park into vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown. Against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, the colorful foliage is breathtaking. Drive the Park Loop Road while leaf-peeping. Enjoy the panoramic view and be the first to witness the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. 

We’ll detail the best trails to hike or drive to see the best fall colors in Acadia below.

2. Off-Season Crowds

For those seeking a quieter visit, Fall in Acadia National Park is ideal. As schools reconvene and cooler temperatures set in, the park offers a serene escape. Between early September and mid-October, there are fewer visitors, providing a more peaceful experience than the busy summer season.

The Bubbles Trail is quite popular. To avoid the crowds, consider hiking the North Bubble instead. A 2.6-mile loop, this moderate trail is one that most families can tackle.

Additionally, the off-season provides more economically friendly rates. It’s worth noting that autumn marks the arrival of the majority of cruise ships in nearby Bar Harbor, Maine. While the town may be bustling during this period, Acadia National Park typically does not experience an increase in visitor numbers.

3. Dry Trail Conditions

Acadia National Park is open throughout the year; however, not all hiking trails are accessible year-round. In the park’s “mud season,” from March to early June, numerous carriage roads are closed due to the muddy conditions. Additionally, hiking the trails during this period can be difficult and may render the challenging trails of Acadia exceptionally dangerous.

During the Fall, you’re more likely to experience drier trails that are easier to hike, though we did have some wet weather during our visit that led to slippery conditions.

4. Great Hiking Weather

Autumn in Maine provides perfect hiking weather, with temperatures comfortably settling in the 50s and 60s, creating ideal conditions for traversing the terrain and enjoying the panoramic views.

However, with the cooler weather, there’s often an increase in rainfall. It’s important to consider the weather forecast when planning which hiking trail to explore. Certain trails, like the Beehive Loop, become extremely hazardous in the rain.

As a precaution, it is advisable to wear waterproof hiking boots and carry a poncho with your gear. Additionally, it’s best to steer clear of the more difficult trails during wet conditions.

5. The Precipice Trail

For adventure seekers and experienced hikers, fall presents a unique opportunity to tackle Acadia’s most demanding trail, the Precipice Trail. It remains closed from March through summer due to Peregrine Falcon nesting, and winter’s ice and snow pose too great a danger. Thus, autumn with its outstanding fall colors is the perfect season to plan an ascent on this trail.

Climbing the east face of Champlain Mountain, hikers face a 1000-foot elevation gain over 0.8 miles, aided by metal rungs and ladders. Completing this 2.5-mile loop and reaching the 1,060-foot summit offers hikers stunning panoramic views. This trail is designed for experienced hikers and is not suitable for children or individuals with a fear of heights.

A Few Reasons You Might Not Enjoy Acadia in the Fall

For every reason to love Acadia in the Fall, here are a few reasons you might prefer another season to visit this stunning National Park.

The Crowds

While Acadia may not be as bustling in the fall as it is during the summer months, it remains a popular tourist destination with a steady influx of visitors every day, particularly on weekends. If you’re seeking a solitary hike, you might want to reconsider.

Our family opted for hiking the Beehive Trail, branching off towards the Bowl Trail up to the Beehive Summit. Throughout the hike, there was a continuous flow of groups from both directions, making it challenging to fully immerse oneself in the experience amidst the constant coming and going of people.

Kayla and her family at the summit of Beehive Loop Trail Summit in Acadia National Park
Kayla and her family at the Beehive Loop Trail Summit in Acadia

You May Need Reservations

Once we reached Acadia National Park, we discovered we needed a reservation to drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. I tried to secure a reservation on the morning of our arrival but to no avail.

Although hiking to the summit doesn’t require a reservation, my children weren’t keen on the 4.4-mile round trip. Regrettably, we missed the chance to see the summit of the renowned Cadillac Mountain. We even thought about buying tickets for a carriage ride along the carriage roads, but those were fully booked as well. Plan ahead so you don’t miss this famous viewpoint!

The Gloomy Weather

While Acadia’s fall landscape is stunning, the overcast skies can be less so. It’s wise to dress in layers visiting Acadia in the fall, as temperatures are cool in the morning, warmer in the afternoon, and cool again by evening.

Fortunately for us, it didn’t rain during our visit, though it had rained the previous evening. Heavy fog and mist plagued us on the day we traveled to the park.

Be aware that during this time of year, the hiking trails can be muddy and slick. We did witness a hiker slip and fall on the trail. She was okay, just slightly scuffed and a little embarrassed. 

You Love Whale Watching

Whale watching and boat tours usually conclude in September. If whale watching is a top priority for you, visiting Acadia in the Fall might not be the ideal choice for you.

The Best Hikes to See Fall Colors in Acadia National Park 

If you are visiting Acadia hoping to see fabulous displays of fall foliage, these are the best hikes to consider.

Cadillac Mountain

One of the finest spots to experience Acadia in the fall is the summit of Cadillac Mountain. To reach the summit, you can either hike one of the trails or drive the 3-mile Cadillac Summit Road.

From the last week of May to the end of October, driving to the summit requires a reservation. Permits cost $6 and can sell out quickly, even during the off-season. Thirty percent of vehicle reservations are released 90 days in advance, and the remaining seventy percent become available two days prior.

Arriving early is advisable as the parking lot tends to fill quickly. If you’re unable to obtain a vehicle reservation, hiking to the summit is still an option, though walking on the road is discouraged due to traffic.

Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road is a 27-mile scenic drive encircling the eastern part of Acadia National Park. This route offers access to many of the park’s well-known spots.

Although there are ample parking lots at various key stops, overlooks, and trail entrances, they often reach capacity, leading to a significant number of vehicles parked along the roadside. Exercise caution when driving on the one-way Park Loop Road to avoid pedestrians and bicyclists.

Water rushing through the rocks at Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park in the Fall
Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park

Beehive Trail

If the Precipice Trail is too daunting, yet you desire a comparable adventure, consider the Beehive Trail. This 1.4-mile round-trip hike boasts breathtaking summit views.

Similar to the Precipice Trail, the Beehive Trail is not recommended for young children or anyone with a fear of heights. This trail features a brief staircase, slender ledges, and iron rungs. Although it’s less strenuous than the Precipice, the Beehive still provides many similar appealing features.

Fall colors on the last day of September visible from the summit of the Beehive Loop Trail looking over the ocean in Maine's Acadia National Park
Fall colors on the last day of September from the summit of the Beehive Loop Trail

If you’re interested in the views but prefer a less strenuous journey to the top, you’ll encounter a fork in the road about a quarter of the way into the Beehive Trail. The right path continues to the Beehive Trail, while the left path diverges to the Bowl Trail. The Bowl Trail route takes you along the less strenuous back side of the Beehive Trail, offering the same breathtaking views and a safer path. This is the path our family chose to hike, and we felt it was a good choice for us.

Weather in Acadia National Park in Autumn

The weather in Acadia National Park changes quickly in the Autumn. The best times to visit are September and October before the cooler winter months. You’ll find the average high temperatures in the 70s (20s C) in September plummet to the 40s (below 10 C) by November.

Cloud cover and rainfall also rise during the fall, with November typically being Acadia’s rainiest month. Freezing rain becomes more frequent as November lows often fall below freezing.

Weather in Acadia in September

In September, Acadia usually experiences cool, comfortable weather with average high temperatures in the low 70s (21-23C). Cloud coverage is common towards the end of the month, while the sunniest days are often in the first week of September. This is a great time to visit, though you’ll be too early for Fall foliage.

Weather in Acadia in October

The fall colors usually peak around mid-October in Acadia, though the exact dates will vary from year to year based on weather. Expect to see peak crowds for the forecasted “peak colors” weekend.

From late October to early November, expect cooler and overcast weather. The average high temperatures drop by about 10 degrees from September’s average. Anticipate a mix of overcast and rainy days.

Weather in Acadia in November

In November, temperatures become considerably cooler, with highs averaging around 45 degrees and lows often dropping below freezing. Snow is also a common occurrence during this time. Consequently, Cadillac Summit Road typically closes in mid-November, though it may close earlier depending on the weather conditions.

How to Get to Acadia National Park

If you’re considering flying to Acadia National Park, the nearest airport is Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, ME, just ten minutes away. However, it’s only serviced by Cape Air and JetBlue, so it’s usually not the most efficient way to get to the park.

For more airline options, Bangor International Airport (BGR) is a viable alternative, situated 45 minutes from the park and offering services from American Airlines, Delta, United, and Allegiant Air.

Keep in mind, that you’ll need a car to explore Acadia. We recommend Discover Cars if you need to rent a car once you’ve arrived in Maine.

Book Now: Rental Car from Discover Cars

Most people choose to get to Acadia via car. In fact, Acadia makes a great family road trip. Check out our recommended road trip route from Boston to Portland, Maine. Portland is just a half-day drive (about three hours) from Acadia.

We’ve spent countless hours on road trips, from exploring Yosemite or Yellowstone to crossing the country. We’ve rounded up all the best supplies to pack, a ton of fun songs, games, and activities for the car, and the best road trip snacks to keep you fueled along the way.

Where to Stay Near Acadia National Park

During our Maine visit, we stayed in Oxford. Oxford is located a three-hour drive south of Acadia National Park. We also planned to visit Boothbay Harbor, which is an hour’s drive east.

Oxford gave us the best option that fit our unique situation. Our brief time in Acadia National Park was enjoyable, but the six-hour round-trip drive limited our activity options. For the best experience, I suggest staying closer to the park. Plan at least a few days to explore and appreciate all that Acadia offers.

Numerous towns near Acadia are worth visiting, any of these below can be a good base for visiting the park.

  • Bar Harbor, renowned for its proximity to the park’s entrance, provides a diverse array of lodging and dining options.
  • Southwest Harbor, situated further from the main park entrance and on the island’s opposite side, is a less frequented town. It boasts the same scenic beauty as Bar Harbor but promises a more tranquil experience.
  • Northeast Harbor, albeit a bit farther from the park entrance, is still a destination worth considering for its quintessential New England charm and upscale lodgings. It is approximately a 20-minute drive from the main entrance of Acadia.
  • Winter Harbor serves as the entrance to the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia. For those seeking a tranquil, less-traveled vibe, this town offers precisely that.
  • Corea is a lobster port near Winter Harbor. Although Corea and Winter Harbor are both wonderful places to visit, it’s important to note that each town is an hour’s drive from the main entrance of Acadia.  

Staying near the downtown region of Bar Harbor is the most expensive option, with more budget-friendly options further from the center of town.

Recommended Hotel: Bar Harbor Grand Hotel

This hotel is in the center of Bar Harbor and includes an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. You’ll find comfortable rooms, and an included breakfast to start your day ready to tackle the park.

Book Now: Bar Harbor Grand Hotel

Recommended Hotel: Bar Harbor Inn & Spa

This lovely inn has ocean views, rooms with clawfoot tubs, two onsite restaurants, and an outdoor pool as well as a full spa. A delightful place to relax after a long day of hiking.

Book Now: Bar Harbor Inn & Spa

For a more budget-friendly option close to Acadia National Park, we recommend Island Place.

Located a 15-minute walk from the center of Bar Harbor, this motel offers a clean, comfortable space with a sun terrace. It’s in a quiet location with easy parking.

Book Now: Island Place

Tips for Visiting Acadia National Park in the Fall

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your trip to Acadia National Park in the Fall.

Purchase a Park Pass in Advance.

If you possess an Annual National Park Pass (also called a federal land pass), this will cover your entry into Acadia National Park. Without a pass, entry to Acadia National Park costs $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle, with both passes valid for seven days. Pedestrians and bicyclists are charged an entry fee of $20 per person for a seven-day pass.

An annual pass, exclusive to Acadia National Park, is available for $70. This pass only makes sense if you plan to visit Acadia multiple times throughout the year. Passes can be acquired at the Automated Fee Machine at Hulls Cove Visitor Center or directly at a sales location. It is mandatory to display your park pass on your dashboard throughout your visit. To avoid standing in line at the kiosk for your pass, purchase online in advance.    

Buy Now: America the Beautiful National Parks Pass

Pets are welcome

Acadia is among the few parks that permit pets, though certain restrictions apply. Pets must be leashed at all times, with leashes not exceeding 6 feet in length. Some areas and trails are off-limits to pets. As a responsible pet owner, it is important to clean up and properly dispose of your pet’s waste. 

Book Camping Reservations in Advance

Reservations are accepted up to two months prior. Mount Desert Island boasts two campgrounds, with an additional one on Schoodic Peninsula. Backcountry, “out-of-bounds,” overnight, and winter camping are prohibited.

RVs are permitted; however, Blackwoods Campground has limited RV sites without electricity. Modern bathrooms are available, but showers are not. Seawall Campground accommodates RVs up to 35 feet, though maneuvering may be difficult. Smuggler’s Den Campground, while not in Acadia, is a top RV park nearby, offering both back-in and pull-through sites with full hookups. 

Dress in Layers

Afternoons can be warm but mornings and evenings are often cooler. It’s wise to carry a rain jacket for sudden showers or when visiting places like the Thunder Hole, where water can spray up to 40 feet high. A sturdy pair of hiking shoes is essential for navigating the terrain. Remember to bring ample water and snacks.

Become a Junior Ranger

Children (and anyone, really) can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitors Center. After completing the activities, they can be sworn in by a park ranger and receive a badge. These booklets are great for getting kids involved in the science behind the parks, and help them understand the wildlife and geography around them.

Editors Note: Our kids have completed Junior Ranger packets at parks across the country, from Arches in Utah to the Grand Canyon to Great Sand Dunes National Park. These activities are some of their favorite memories of these parks!

Plan a Picnic

The Jordan Pond House is the sole dining establishment within Acadia National Park, offering lunch, tea, and dinner. It operates from mid-May until late October. Due to its popularity, the restaurant can be quite busy and somewhat pricey. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you might consider packing lunch for a picnic instead.

Ranger Guided Programs

Acadia offers a variety of Ranger Programs at no charge. You can choose from guided hiking tours that vary in length and difficulty. Participate in Night Sky talks at Acadia’s Sand Beach or take a ranger-led bike tour to explore the carriage roads. Boat tours are available as well.

There are programs, especially for kids, including “touch tank talks” that teach about the tidepools of the park, an 1800s farm homestead, and campfire talks.

For dates and times of tours and activities, make sure to check the park’s program calendar.

Be An Early Bird

Even as the crowds thin out in the Fall, the park remains bustling, and securing a parking spot can prove challenging. Should you manage to park at the visitor center, bus shuttles are on hand to escort tourists to various park locations.

For those opting to drive the Park Loop Road, be aware that while parking lots are available, they tend to reach capacity quickly. It’s not uncommon to see a long line of vehicles parked along the roadside.

FAQ: Fall in Acadia National Park

What is the best time to see fall colors in Acadia National Park?

The best time to see the most vibrant fall colors in Acadia is mid-October, between October 10-20th, though the dates vary each year.

Is Acadia National Park Busy in the Fall?

While crowds decrease after Labor Day compared to the summer months, Acadia is still busy in the Fall. Plan to arrive early each morning as parking lots do fill up fast. 

Can you see the northern lights in Acadia National Park in October?

Although it’s possible to observe the northern lights in Acadia, such occurrences are quite uncommon. The likelihood of witnessing this phenomenon hinges on several factors, including your geographical location, current weather conditions, and the intensity of geomagnetic storms.

Can you see the Milky Way in Acadia National Park?

Acadia offers an exceptional setting for stargazing and observing the Milky Way. Cadillac Mountain, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond, Ocean Path, and Sand Beach provide ideal spots for night sky viewing and photography. Optimal stargazing conditions occur during a new moon, on a cloudless night, one hour after sunset. 

Is October a good time to visit Acadia National Park?

October is an ideal time to visit Acadia National Park. The crowds are fewer than in the summer, the autumn foliage is at its peak vibrancy, and the likelihood that all trails are open is high.

There You Have It: Fall in Acadia National Park

No matter when you decide to visit Acadia National Park, you’re assured breathtaking views from the rugged coastline’s edge. From the fresh scent of the ocean breeze to the sweeping views from the mountaintops, Acadia is a must-visit destination.

Visiting in the fall adds to the beauty as the leaves change to vivid oranges and reds, and the crisp air brushes against your skin. While it may not be possible to completely avoid crowds, fewer people are expected. With careful planning, your visit to Acadia in the fall is sure to be unforgettable.

Love National Parks? Don’t miss our full section on National Parks, including large parks like Glacier National Park and Mesa Verde National Park as well as smaller sites like the Wright Brothers Memorial.

Similar Posts