The ocean meets the mountains, and evergreen forests sprout out of granite rock and into miles of rocky rugged coastline. That is Acadia National Park. This Maine gem is the perfect mix of everything good nature has to offer. With over 4 million visits to Acadia National Park each year, according to the National Park Service, it is the 5th most visited National Park (in 2022). It is also one of the smallest with 49,052 acres of protected land. As a comparison, Grand Teton National Park, which has roughly the same number of visitors, is 310,000 acres. Careful planning in order to avoid crowds and parking congestion is necessary. I’ll review a few of the main highlights of Acadia National Park. Also see my blog on Schoodic Peninsula, the quiet side of Acadia National Park.
Cadillac Mountain is known for being the first location in the United States to see the sunrise from October 7 through March 6. It stands 1530 feet tall, and is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. There are stunning epic panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Make sure to spend some time walking the paths at the peak. The views continually change as you walk around.
Since Acadia National Park is a popular national park, there are more and more visitors each year. Therefore they implemented a reservation requirement for Cadillac Summit Road.
There are 2 types of vehicle reservations: sunrise reservation & day time reservation.
- Sunrise reservation: enter from 4am to 6am depending on the months and date. You have a 90 minute entry window
- Daytime reservation starts around 6am-8am (depending on the months and date). You have a 30 minute entry window.
Vehicle reservation is $6 per car and you can only purchase them online in advance. They are not sold at the park. Print a digital copy of this vehicle reservation with the QR code, or take a picture of the email you get with your phone. The sunrise passes sell out quickly so make sure you know when you can book. More information is in the link below.
You will also still need the National Park pass to get into the park as you do in the majority of National Parks.
Read more about the necessary passes on the National Park website here.
Bike the carriage roads
45 miles of rustic carriage roads were a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. in order to preserve the natural beauty of the park with no motor vehicles.
The 45-mile network of carriage roads that weave around the east side’s mountains and valleys are a biker’s paradise. They host a magnificent system of picturesque bridges, along with mountain vistas and waterfalls. All of the carriage roads are connected, with clear signage at intersections, so there are dozens of possibilities for loop rides of all lengths.
Some of the biking routes in Acadia National Park include the following:
- Eagle Lake Loop: 5.9 mile loop around Eagle Lake
- Tri-Lakes Loop: 10.9 miles to see Eagle Lake, Bubble Pond and Jordan Pond
- Jordan Pond Loop: 8.6 miles around Jordan Pond, starting at Jordan Pond House (you can park your car in the Jordan Pond Parking and bike from there)
- Around the Mountain Loop: 11.3 mile loop around Penobscot Mountain and the west side of Jordan Pond
My husband and I did the tri-lakes loop. It is a little hilly, but not too bad.
The first lake you see is Eagle Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Acadia National Park.
You go past Bubble pond to the spectacular Jordan Pond.
At the end of Jordan Pond are two mountains called the bubbles. The view from the carriage road trail is spectacular.
The Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers (scones) since the 1890s. The lovely outdoor seated area is a popular spot to stop.
We brought our own bikes, but there are several bike rental places in Bar Harbor to rent bikes. It is a great way to see some of the highlights of Acadia National Park.
Drive Park Loop Road
Acadia has miles of historic motor roads and the most well-known is the scenic 27-mile Park Loop Road that connects the area’s lakes, mountains, and seashore. The loop road can be explored via car, bicycle, or on the park’s shuttle bus – the Island Explorer and is another true Acadia National Park highlight. There are numerous stops along the park loop road, all with beautiful scenery. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours to see everything here.
While still on Mount Desert Island, the Somesville bridge is not technically in Acadia National Park, but rather in the quaint village of Somesville. The Somesville Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in Maine. The building behind the bridge is the Selectmen’s Building. It was constructed during the 1780s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who settled in the village in 1761.
I’m often asked what camera I shoot with. I’m a firm believer that any modern camera today can produce a good picture. I use a Canon R5 as my main camera. It is a mirrorless camera, and more importantly it is a great tool. I am able to get it to translate the vision that I see into a photograph. My key reasons for this camera are:
- It is 45 mp. For some photographers, that may be too much as it produces large files. As a landscape photographer it is my sweet spot.
- It’s a Canon. I have used a lot of Canon cameras and have always found them dependable, reliable and intuitive to use.
- The RF lenses are truly amazing. I have always had EF-L series lenses, but the RF lenses produce stunning images.
- The image stabilization is outstanding.
- It is not too large, and not too small and works well as a travel camera for landscape photography.
But this isn’t a blog about cameras. If you want to know more, please contact me.
Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Debbi is an award-winning and published travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography. She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.