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Fall is the best time of year to visit New England’s pride and joy, Acadia National Park. It’s here you’ll find peak fall colors, picturesque hikes, scrumptious lobster rolls, and that ephemeral spookiness that only truly exists along the East Coast in the last weeks of October.
If Acadia’s been on your bucket-list for a while, there’s no better time to cross it off than this autumn! Keep reading, and I’ll tell you the when, where, and how of visiting Acadia National Park in the fall.
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When to Find Peak Fall Colors in Acadia
Catching sight of Acadia National Park’s vibrant autumn colors is all about timing. Get there too early, and all you see is green. Get there too late, and all the leaves have already fallen. And while the leaves can generally be relied upon to cooperate from late October to early November, this really isn’t something you want to leave to chance, right?
Hence, our family has started to rely on Fall Foliage Maps to predict the peak season for autumn colors throughout the United States. These are astonishingly accurate, and there hasn’t been a time since we’ve started using them that we’ve been let down.
MaineFoliage is our go-to site for searching up fall foliage times. The site begins posting reports in late September when the fall season begins. It’s used by hardcore leaf peepers and has yet to steer us wrong.
Cadillac Mountain is one of the best places to visit in Acadia — no matter the season! From its summit, there are some lovely panoramic views of Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, and the rest of Acadia National Park. In fall, the sights are even better, as the park is an ocean of reds, yellows, and oranges.
Something not a lot of tourists know about Cadillac is that peregrine falcons sometimes nest in the rocky crags. Keep your eyes peeled (and bring some binoculars!) to catch sight of these rare and wonderful raptors.
Park Loop Road
Park Look Road is 27 miles of paved roads that take you by some of the most iconic locations in Acadia National Park. There’s really nothing better than grabbing a hot coffee (and some apple cider donuts) and taking a toodle along the scenic drives of Acadia to marvel at the vibrant colors.
Along the way you’ll have the option of turning off at some of the park’s most iconic locations:
What’s great about Park Loop Road is you can fit so many destinations into one trip. It’s easy to hop out, look around, take a couple of family photos in front of the changing leaves, and continue on your way. This road is ideal for families looking to get the most out of their trip to Acadia without compromising on enjoying the lovely natural scenery.
Some of the best views in Acadia can be found along the Precipice Trail — but be warned! This trail is not for the faint of heart.
Considered one of the best hikes in Acadia, Precipice Trail is also one of the most technically challenging. The trail begins with a series of staircases carved into Champlain Mountain. These eventually devolve into a rock scramble with (occasional) iron bars to help support you.
At the top of the scrabble is a wooden bridge. And it’s from there that you’ll get your first peak at the views to come: Stretched below you, as far as you’ll be able to see, is Acadia in the foreground, with the Atlantic Ocean in the backdrop. In fall, the colors from up there look stunning.
Needless to say, skip this hike if you’re traveling with young children. There are plenty of other places to catch incredible views without traversing “Acadia’s Most Thrilling Hike.”
Top of South Bubble and Bubble Rock
We always make time for a quick trip up to South Bubble when we’re in Acadia. And in stark contrast to my last pick, I recommend taking children hiking there.
The hike up to South Bubble is short — only about an hour each way. Along the way you’ll find lovely views of Acadia’s changing leaves, especially in early October. And at the summit, your kids will get to see one of Acadia’s top tourist attractions: Bubble Rock!
Bubble Rock — as the name suggests — is a rock that looks like a bubble. A bubble the size of a house that is. The rock is perched on the top of South Bubble, and is a popular spot for families to take photos together.
Okay — last trail, I promise! The Beehive Trail — named after the vaguely bee-shaped granite hump that it traverses — is another popular hike in Acadia.
From the top of Beehive, there is a 365-degree view of the national park. Visit in the fall, and you’ll be rewarded with a patchwork of greens, reds, browns, and golds as the trees in Acadia dress for winter.
The hike takes about an hour and has some narrow and sheer points. If your children are experienced hikers, they should be okay. If you’re not sure, I say skip it and spend your time enjoying the other spots on this list instead.
Walk Along the Shores of Jordan Pond
Okay — technically, this isn’t a hike… But taking a walk around Jordan Pond is a must for first-timers to Acadia. The loop path is flat and relaxing, perfectly for people who just want to enjoy fall leaves without breaking a sweat.
Jordan Pond itself lies in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains. It’s is one of our family’s favorite spots in all of Acadia. In fall, the mountains are blazing with changing leaves, many of which scatter along the rocky shore. Our girls love to gather these up and build daisy-chains (or fall-leaf chains?)
If you’re up for a fun trip, I recommend biking around Jordan Pond on the old carriage roads. These are simply stunning from early October until November when all the deciduous trees are losing their leaves. We usually rent a bike in Bar Harbor and then take a trip on the Jordan Pond Loop.
Chow Down At The Jordan Pond House
There’s no better place to grab a bite to eat than at the Jordan Pond House. Located right next to Jordan Pond itself, the Pond House is a restaurant with a view!
Learn the WHEN, WHERE, and HOW of getting the most out of a visit to beautiful Acadia National Park in the fall with kids! 🍂🍁🎃🍎
From the house’s lawn, you can devour a succulent lobster roll—a Maine delicacy—while also enjoying the fall leaves that cover the nearby mountains (see my previous pick!) Afterward, why not take a walk around the Pond itself? You’re guaranteed to find some lovely spots for a family fall photo or two.
Returning to the Pond House, I highly recommend the blueberry sorbet for dessert. It’s made from locally sourced blueberries and tastes about as delicious as you might imagine. There’s nothing like savoring a couple scoops while gazing out at the placid waters of Jordan Pond in autumn.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
You thought you were going to get to the end of this list without me mentioning a lighthouse, didn’t you? Close—but no cigar!
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Several different lighthouses dot the islands and coves around Acadia. And while they’re all worth seeing, the most famous and popular of the bunch is Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
Located at the very bottom of Mount Desert Island, Bass Harbor Head has guarded the waters around Acadia since 1858. In 1974 the lighthouse was automated and today serves as a private residence for the Coast Guard.
Those eager to check out the lighthouse can do so by starting at the parking lots at the end of Lighthouse Road. From there, you’ll take a path down to the rocky shore. That’s where most of the stunning photos (like the one below) were taken.
As the lighthouse is technically private property, I’m sorry to say you can’t take your kids inside it. Nevertheless, this is an enduring attraction for many tourists, eager to have their pictures taken at sunset in front of this gorgeous sentinel of the sea.
Bonus Activity: Take The Bar Harbor Ghost Walk
While not a strictly Acadia activity, The Bar Harbor Ghost Walk is perfect for anyone looking to get the most out of their trip to New England during the spooky season. By visiting some of the purportedly haunted places of Bar Harbor, you get a peek into the town’s past, as well as the colorful (and at times tragic) characters that inhabited it.
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It’s a blast to do with kids as it isn’t super scary, just eerie at parts. Funnily enough, we happened to be staying at the Bar Harbor Inn, which is one of the stops on the tour. Our girls took this incredibly seriously and spent the rest of the trip with their eyes peeled for ghosts. Trust me, it’s a blast and something unique not a lot of tourists can say they’ve done.
When You Go
How to Get to Acadia National Park from Los Angeles
Direct flights from LAX to the Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) are available. While BHB is the closest airport to Acadia National Park, tickets there can get pricey fast. Unless you’ve booked your trip well in advance, I recommend looking for alternative airports to fly to. That said, tourism in Acadia drops off staring in early September, so I still recommend taking a look at BHB.
The next closest airport is Bangor. Not only are the prices more reasonable, but more airlines fly there directly from LAX, providing you with more options to pick from to find the best deal. The drive from Bangor to Acadia is little over an hour. That’s a big savings for a small inconvenience.
For those really looking to save, it’s worth looking into flying to the Portland Jetport or Boston Logan. Both of these airports — especially Boston — are heavily trafficked, so you’re almost guaranteed to find a great deal. The downside is they’re significantly farther from Acadia than BHB or Bangor. Portland is about 3 hours away; whereas Boston is 5-6.
A wonderful resource we use to start our research on flights is Expedia!
Where to Stay Near Acadia National Park
Located in the heart of Bar Harbor, the Acadia Hotel is perfect for families looking to spend equal time in town as in Acadia National Park. Within walking distance of this hotel are 130 restaurants, 200 shops and galleries, the waterfront, and Acadia National Park itself. With so much to do and see, you’ll never feel at a loss for how to spend you time. In fact, the hardest to do will be knowing where to go first! Luckily, the excellent staff are always willing to help point you in the right direction. After a long day of exploring, relax in the outdoor hot tub and enjoy the incredibly clear night skies you can only find in national parks.
Next up is the Acadia Inn, also located in downtown Bar Harbor. This lovely home away from home is set quietly back in four-acre grounds, ensuring that you’ll enjoy a peaceful and private stay on Mount Desert Island. Nothing’s more satisfying than leaving the hustle and bustle of town-life behind and stepping into your own little Maine oasis. Plus, Acadia National Park is less than a stone’s throw away from this cozy inn, meaning all you’ve got to do is get up, get ready, and get going!
Lastly, the Holiday Inn Resort is the perfect spot for anyone looking to visit Acadia without breaking the bank. This luxe hotel has front-row seats to Bar Harbor’s waterfront, providing a uniquely intimate view of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands.
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