Acadia National Park: 3 Day Adventure

Acadia National Park is located on the coast of Maine, just outside the town of Bar Harbor.  Made up of several islands, with over 65 miles of coastline, 158 miles of hiking trails and another 45 miles of historic carriage roads to explore, Acadia is a park you will not want to miss!  The park’s stunning landscape is full of forests, mountain tops, lakes and ponds, and of course the beautiful Atlantic coastline.  Below is a 3-day itinerary, that will jump start your exploration of this amazing national park!   Please reach out if you have any questions!

Entrance Fee: $30 for 7 consecutive days, for private, noncommercial vehicles. 

If you are visiting multiple parks, and are not traveling with a 4th grader, I highly recommend an America the Beautiful Pass.  It covers the entrance fees for over 2,000 federal recreation sites, including all national parks.  It also makes your entrance into most parks a little quicker😊 If you do have a 4th grader in your crew, check out Every Kid Outdoors to get a free National Park Pass!

Cadillac Summit Road requires an additional pass/timed entry, May through October. Reservations are available at and cost $6/vehicle.  This year Cadillac Summit Road will close for the season Nov 14, 2022 and reopen April 15, 2023.

Lodging: There are 4 campgrounds in Acadia National Park- Blackwoods Campground, Seawall Campground, Schoodic Woods Campground, and Duck Harbor Campground.  All campgrounds are currently closed until May 2023.  There is no winter camping or overnight parking allowed inside the park.  All campgrounds require reservations in advance and can be obtained on 2 months prior to the date of arrival.  The lovely town of Bar Harbor is located just outside the park if you are looking for hotel or Airbnb options. 

Dining: The Jordan Pond House Restaurant is the only restaurant located inside the park. It is open for both lunch and dinner.  The food and atmosphere are lovely and worth the usually very long wait!  For more info on menus, reservations, and seasonal hours check out their site- Jordan Pond House.   

After many trips to Bar Harbor, I have many favorite places in town, but truthfully, I’ve never had a bad meal at any restaurant there.  A few of our faves include- Geddy’s, Paddy’s Irish Pub, The Thirsty Whale, Havana, Blaze, Jordan’s Restaurant (breakfast), and Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium (which we frequent almost every night😊).

Must Know Before You Go:

  1. The weather is often chillier than expected, even in the summer months, and especially with the high winds on the mountain summits.  Bring lots of layers!
  2. Almost every mountain trail in the park will have you doing some scrambling, near a cliff ledge.  Use caution, especially if you are hiking with young kiddos😊
  3. Between rock scrambling and trails that are often wet and muddy- bring sturdy, waterproof shoes/boots. 
  4. If you on hiking early or late- because sunrise and sunset at Acadia are spectacular- make sure to have headlamps and flashlights.
  5. Tidepooling is a favorite of ours!  Be aware of the direction of the tide, stay a safe distance from the crashing waves, black rocks are VERY slippery, and be gentle with sea creatures😊
  6. Always check for ticks post hike!
  7. Please remember to practice Leave No Trace😊

Cell Service: Cell Service is limited on the main roads.  No service on the trails. 

3 Day Itinerary

Day 1

*This will be your longest day.  I would suggest arriving at the Great Head Trailhead by 7 or 730am, if not earlier.   

Schooner Head Overlook- This Overlook is right off of Schooner Head Road on your way to the Great Head Lot.  It’s a short walk down to a stunning overlook with beautiful ocean views. 

Great Head- After the overlook, head to the Great Head Trailhead.  The entire “long loop” is just under 2 miles.  It is moderate in difficulty with around 250 ft of elevation gain.  Like most trails you will experience at Acadia, there will be short, steep areas and cliff ledges throughout the trail.  Please use caution, especially with little ones around cliff ledges. We prefer taking this trail clockwise, for a more gradual climb to the top. I would plan going all the way down to the beach.  Exploring the beach from the trail will allow you to skip the crowds later in the day at the Park Loop Road stop.    

*If you are looking to hike the shorter version of this hike, park in the Sand Beach lot. Begin the trail from the east end of Sand Beach.  The short version is 1.6 miles roundtrip.  Parking may be more difficult in the Sand Beach Lot. 

Scenic Drive- After you complete the Great Head Trail Long Loop, head back north on Schooner Head Road to jump on the one-way, scenic drive.  Enter Park Loop Road using the Sieur de Monts entrance.  There will be plenty of places to stop and take in the gorgeous views.  Below are a few of the must stops/hikes😊 The road in its entirety is 27 miles. 

Beaver Dam Pond- Beaver Dam Pond is located just under a mile from the Sieur de Monts entrance. It’s worth a quick stop to take in some lovely pond views just off the main road.

*Sand Beach is located between Beaver Dam Pond and Thunder Hole.  If you did not climb down to the beach from the Great Head Trail, or if you plan on starting the shorter version of the trail from the beach, plan to park in the main lot, about 2.5 miles from Beaver Dam Pond.   

Thunder Hole- Shortly after Sand Beach is Thunder Hole.  There is a parking lot on the west side of the road and Thunder Hole will be on the east side of the road. One to two hours prior to high tide is the best time to catch the highest water sprays (up to 40ft!), but this area is really stunning any time of day😊

Ocean Path/Otter Point- If you are interested in walking the Ocean Path Trail, I would jump on it at Thunder Hole and walk to Otter Point and back.  It will be an easy, 3 miles roundtrip.   If you would like to skip the Ocean Path Trail, there will be another lot at Otter Point.  From there, cross the street and turn left onto the Ocean Path Trail. Take the short walk to Otter Cliff.  Roundtrip from Otter Point to Otter Cliff is 0.8 miles. 

*I would recommend doing the 0.8 miles on the Ocean Path Trail for this itinerary, especially if you are traveling with littles.  The last hike of the day will be the most difficult but also the one you won’t want to miss.   Also, the Ocean Path Trail runs immediately next to the Park Loop Road so you will still see those lovely views from the main road. 

Jordan Pond/Bubble Rock Loop- We love these trails so much we hiked them twice on our last visit! Sunset at Jordan Pond should not be missed😊

For this 4-mile combo trail, park in the Jordan Pond lot. You will begin the Jordan Pond Path at the south end of Jordan Pond and head east (right).  About 1.3 miles in, you will see a small sign for Bubble Rock that says, “Bubble Rock 0.4 mi”. There will be other signs that say Bubble Rock-skip those. Follow the blue markers all the way up.  The entire 0.4 mi to Bubble Rock is very strenuous and consists of mostly scrambling, however the rewarding view at the top makes it completely worth it!  After taking in the unbelievable views, head down the same way you came. Continue the Jordan Pond Trail for another 2 miles before arriving back at your vehicle.  And that is the end of Day 1!

Day 2

Cadillac Mountain Summit Road- When visiting Acadia, sunrise on Cadillac Mountain should not be missed!  It is stunning and one of the first places in the country where you can see the sun rise!  For sunrise, plan on heading up an hour beforehand.  I would also recommend bringing blankets and extra layers as the wind at the summit will make it extra chilly!  There is also a gift shop, restrooms, and a 0.5-mile loop trail near the summit parking areas.  If you were not able to secure a sunrise timed entry ticket, sunset at Cadillac Mountain is also remarkable!

Bubble Pond- After exploring Cadillac Mountain, I recommend making a quick stop at Bubble Pond.  It is a beautiful area to explore and is extra peaceful in the mornings😊   

Hadlock Ponds Loop- There are a few spots to pick up this trail off State Route 3.  We “chose” to park at Lower Hadlock Pond- because that’s where a parking spot was available, but you could also start these loops at the Norumbega Mountain lot.  This entire hike is essentially two large pond loop trails that are linked in the middle by a short connector trail.  It is well labeled and easy to follow.  There are several other trails and carriage roads that intersect these trails.  You will need to follow the Hadlock Ponds Trail or Lower Hadlock Pond Trail to stay on the right path. 

Also, if your crew is not up for a 4-mile hike you could easily just hike one of the loops and still get spectacular views.  If you do choose to hike the entire trail, it is just over 4 miles with a little over 200 ft of elevation gain.  It is also a great way to end Day 2 in Acadia!

Day 3

Beech Mountain Trail– This 1.2-mile loop trail is moderate in difficulty with roughly 350ft of elevation gain.  It will give you amazing views of both Long Pond and Mansell Mountain and our kiddos loved checking out one of Acadia’s few remaining fire towers. When you arrive at the first trail junction, you can head in either direction to begin the loop, however, heading left is a slightly more difficult hike.  Something to note- Beech Mountain has many trails!  Some are significantly more difficult than others.  For this trail, make sure to follow the markers for “Beech Mountain Trail”.

Beech Cliffs Trail via Beech Cliffs Loop- If you love heights, cliff ledges, and a challenge, you could swap out the Beech Mountain Trail for the Beech Cliffs Trail.  The Beech Cliffs Loop begins in the same lot, is 1.4 miles in length and has over 500 ft of elevation gain. Each trail leads to different views so if your crew is up for it I would recommend doing them both! 

Echo Lake- After exploring Beech Mountain, check out Echo Lake from Echo Lake Beach.  Even when it is chilly, the lake is stunning and peaceful.  It is a great place for a snack or lunch break and our kiddos waded in the crystal clear, freshwater lake- even in the cold!

Wonderland- This is a flat, easy, out-and-back trail that is great for all ages!  It is 1.4 miles roundtrip to amazing ocean views.  There are no restrooms at the trail head and when we were there in October of 2022, it was not labeled.  The trail, however, is apparent and easy to follow. 

Ship Harbor- Ship Harbor is one of our favorite Acadia Trails😊 This figure-8 loop trail, is 1.4 miles in length, with stunning ocean views, a rocky cove to check out, and plenty of tide pools is explore! 

Bass Harbor Lighthouse- The last stop of the day is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  It is probably one of the best places to catch the sunset in Acadia.  However, for that reason, it can get very crowded during peak season.  If you want to avoid crowds, especially in July, do this itinerary in reverse, and catch the sunset from Beech Mountain instead! 

If you are willing to arrive a little early, sunset at the lighthouse will not disappoint.  To the right of the parking lot, is a short walk right up to the lighthouse.  After checking out the lighthouse up close, walk to the other end of the parking lot and head down the trail. At the bottom there will be stunning views of the lighthouse perched on the rocky cliffs😊 It is a beautiful way to end your time at Acadia National Park! 

Hope you have a wonderful adventure!

family photo for Always Exploring

Meet the Johnsons

Welcome to Always Exploring! We are the Johnsons. We would love to have you follow along as we explore the world one adventure at a time! Here you will find itineraries to all of our explorations that will hopefully be helpful in your own adventure planning!

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