A Guide to Acadia National Park: Everything to See and Do along Park Loop Road

A Guide to Acadia National Park: Everything to See and Do along Park Loop Road

Acadia National Park is located mostly on Mount Desert Island in northeastern Maine. The busiest part of the park with the most popular sights and hikes is on the eastern side of the island, but the western part is worth seeing as well (especially when you’re ready for a break from the crowds). We went in late May, so we missed some of the crowds – though the park was by no means dead. From what we’ve heard, it gets a bit insane during the heart of summer – to the point that they have shuttle buses throughout the park to transport people because there’s not enough parking. Late May turned out to be perfect for us – it still felt like a warm, summer vacation (we had perfect weather!) with toned down crowds. It was a win-win-win as Michael Scott would say (anyone with us here???).

We’re going to talk about Acadia in two different posts. This first one will focus on the oh so popular Park Loop Road, and then next week we’ll discuss the best things to do in Acadia beyond Park Loop Road. Now that you know the plan, sit back, relax, and enjoy the tour.

River at Acadia National Park

Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road is a 27 mile road that winds through the eastern part of Acadia National Park and hits many of the must-see spots. Many of the sights along the route are immediately accessible from the road, while others range from needing a short to long hike. But even if you’re not up for leaving your car at all, Park Loop Road is an absolutely lovely drive with breathtaking vistas. If you’re ready to do some hiking and exploring, it’s even better.

Because Park Loop Road goes by so many amazing parts of Acadia, you could spend days exploring it without running out of things to do. You could also parse it down to a few hours – basically driving the loop and popping out for a picture from time to time. However you choose to experience it, we’re pretty confident you’ll love it.

Be warned – part of Park Loop Road traffic is restricted to one direction. As we were making our way around Park Loop Road, we skipped a certain sight (that was in the one-way traffic part of the road) near our campground, thinking we’d pop back to it after a rest. But because of how the road is laid out, we couldn’t go directly back to the place we skipped without circling all the way around Park Loop Road. So instead of driving 5 minutes back, we ended up in the car for nearly an hour. Summary: Go in order and don’t skip anything!

Park Loop Road at Sunset in Acadia National Park, Maine

Best Sights along Park Loop Road

Jordan Pond

There is a 3.5 mile (easy) trail around the Jordan Pond, which is located deep in a valley with mountains coming up around it. This was the first thing we did after setting up camp in Acadia, and it felt great to stretch our legs and take in the views.

Jordan Pond in Maine's Acadia National Park

The trail around Jordan Pond In Acadia National Park

Great Head Trail and Sand Beach

Sand Beach is sandwiched between two peninsula-like pieces of tree covered land, making it feel like you’re in a remote cove. This is northern Maine, so the Atlantic waters are obviously quite frigid, but it’s still a scenic set up.

If you walk across the Sand Beach you’ll end up at the start of the Great Head Trail. Can we just pause for a second here and ponder who the heck named this trail? We like to keep things PG here, so we’ll just say that quite a few jokes were made on this hike.

The trail takes you to several patches of high, rocky cliffs over the Atlantic. It was by no means a treacherous hike, but there were a few points that required scrambling up some big rocks and boulders. The views were fantastic, and the trail makes a loop (so much more fun than an out-and-back).

Great Head Trail in Acadia National Park in Maine
Enjoying the cliffs along the trail with Sand Beach in the background

Acadia National Park's Sand Beach in Maine

Precipice Trail

If you recall, we had a fatality during the beginning of our trip in Portland, when the observatory wasn’t yet opened for the season. We thought we were bummed about that, and then we came to Precipice Trail. From what we had read, this was supposed to be the best (and toughest) hike in the park, involving lots of sharp drop offs and metal ladders attached sheer cliffs. Sounds like just our cup of tea. Unfortunately, it was closed to allow the falcons to nest in peace. Please go if you get the chance and then tell us lots of lies about how horrible and boring it is so we can heal our broken hearts.

Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain

The highest point in Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain is accessible by both road (car or bike) and trail. We chose to drive to the top of this peak, packed a picnic lunch, and spent a couple hours soaking in the views of the park.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine

View of Acadia National Park from Cadillac Mountain

Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff

Thunder Hole is a cave along the coast that booms every time a wave crashes into it. It’s unique and surprisingly loud, especially if you go during high tide. Otter Cliff is about a mile away from Thunder Hole with a trail in between, so we’d recommend you leave your car at one spot and hike between them. Otter Cliff is another place with great access to the rocky shores and cliffs. We liked Great Head Trail more, but enjoyed this short hike as well.

Otter Cliff in Acadia National Park, Maine

That’s all for now, folks! Join us next Monday for all the scoop on what to do off of Park Loop Road, the best place to camp, and some amazing running routes. You won’t want to miss it.

Rocky Cliffs in Acadia

 

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