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10 Things To Know About Visiting Acadia In The Fall

10 Things To Know About Visiting Acadia In The Fall

If you visit Acadia National Park in the fall you can expect vibrant fall foliage colors, comfortable hiking conditions, later sunrises and earlier sunsets, heavy crowds and inflated hotel prices. After exploring Acadia in October ourselves, we think the peak fall foliage season is by far the best time of year to visit the park.

In this guide we walk you through 10 things you need to know about visiting Acadia National Park in the fall based on our experiences.

Our Experience

Couple hiking in Acadia national park in October with windy but warm weather
Here we are in light layers on a windy but warm day in Acadia in October

We spent 3 full days hiking and photographing Acadia from dawn ’til dusk in early October 2020, and we were maybe 3 or 4 days too late for peak colors that year. But it was still beautiful, and we had magnificent weather throughout our trip, so our hikes and sunrise photo shoots were awesome.

Overall, we loved Acadia. It’s such an attractive landscape, it’s easy to visit, the hikes are short and achievable, there’s plenty of great photo spots and it has a relaxed vibe. The next time we visit Acadia, we’ll definitely go for the fall foliage colors again. Read more about us.

Need a hand planning your New England fall road trip?

Our popular 40+ page New England Fall Road Trip Guidebook includes the 10 best places to visit and 8 example itineraries ranging from 5-14 days to help you plan a successful leaf-peeping vacation.

1. Crowds

Hiker in red shirt standing on flat rocks overlooking deep blue lake and fall foliage colors in Acadia, Maine
Kristen overlooking picturesque lakes and trees from a hike in the park

New England is one of the best places in the world to enjoy fall foliage colors, so Acadia naturally becomes busier for 3 weeks at the end of September and beginning of October. It’s not quite as busy as the warmer summer months when kids are off school, but it’s still very popular. So if avoiding crowds is your top priority, we recommend you plan your trip for the end of October or beginning of November.

Our experience: Our trip to Acadia was unique because it was during the coronavirus pandemic, so visitor numbers weren’t like a normal fall foliage season. You’ll likely have to contend with things like parking, busy trails, restaurant reservations and hotels being full. But again, not to the same extent as you would in summer.

Annual Visitors

Acadia National Park hosted 4.07 million visitors in 2021 and 3.97 million visitors in 2022 (Statista). Both years following covid lockdowns yielded higher tourist numbers than ever before, so it’s important to have realistic expectations about crowds in Acadia.

But there is good news: The NPS states that July, August and September are the busiest months of the year in the park. So in reality, the number of visitors decreases in late September and early October when vibrant colors are lighting up Acadia’s rolling hills.

What Does It Mean For You?

Well, it means that visiting Acadia in the fall is about as good as it gets from a crowds versus experience perspective. You’re benefiting from slightly fewer tourists (which results in more availability and better prices at hotels), as well as the radiant colors on display.

We think May would also be a fantastic time to visit Acadia to avoid crowds, but then you’d miss out on the leaves. And trust us, we can tell you the colors are worth it after spending 5 weeks driving around New England in fall.

Major benefits:

  • Lower occupancy rates at hotels
  • Less busy at restaurants
  • Better chance getting parked at trailheads
  • Less crowded hiking trails

* All compared to summer. Visiting later in the fall season will increase all benefits exponentially.

2. Weather

Hiker holding hat on a windy weather day in Acadia in October
Kristen holding her cap down on a very windy afternoon at The Bubbles

Acadia’s weather is typically comfortable, cool, clear and often wet in September and early October. Whereas in late October and November you can expect the weather to turn colder, cloudier and wetter still. You might even see snowfall if you visit Acadia much later in the fall season, around the middle to end of November.

Our experience: We were hiking on our second day and had to contend with some seriously strong gusts, which made photography challenging. You can see Kristen having to hold her cap in place in the photo above because it was so windy! Overall, we were very lucky not to get any rain in Acadia, but it rained plenty during the rest of our 2 week New England road trip. So our advice is to plan for rain, and hope for dry weather.

September temperatures:

  • High – 65°F (18°C)
  • Average – 58°F (14°C)
  • Low – 51°F (11°C)

October temperatures:

  • High – 56°F (13°C)
  • Average – 49°F (9°C)
  • Low – 43°F (6°C)

November temperatures:

  • High – 46°F (8°C)
  • Average – 40°F (4°C)
  • Low – 34°F (1°C)

Source: Weather Spark

3. Hotels

Anchorage Motel in Bar Harbor is a popular budget hotel

Bar Harbor is the best and most convenient place to stay when you visit Acadia. It’s a lovely small town on the coastline with excellent restaurants and hotels. But it’s also expensive. So we recommend looking at other areas around Mt Desert Island or even Ellsworth if you’re visiting Acadia on a tight budget.

The problem with Bar Harbor is that it’s a high-end seaside town on the Maine coast, so hotel prices are much higher than average before you even factor in Acadia or the fall foliage season. With that said, if you book far in enough in advance you can get reasonably good rates in early fall, and excellent rates in late fall.

Our experience: We stayed at Acadia Hotel Downtown and it was a fantastic experience. It cost a lot more than anywhere else we stayed in New England during our 2020 road trip, but it made life so easy for us getting into Acadia early for sunrise and getting back to our hotel once it was dark in the evening.

Hotel recommendations:

READ: Where to stay near Acadia National Park

4. Restaurants

Person in red hoody sat at a table with two pints of beer in a bar in Bar Harbor Maine
Our craft beers in a Bar Harbor bar after a long day hiking in the park

Bar Harbor has a wide range of quality restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seafood like lobster rolls and clam chowder are the famous dishes you should try in Maine, but there’s lots of great alternatives if you’re not a fan of seafood. We strongly recommend booking reservations for all meals in advance (where it’s possible) to avoid waiting in lines or missing out all together.

Our experience: Restaurants were at half capacity and outdoor seating when we visited Acadia in 2020. But even during covid it was busy enough in Bar Harbor for us to struggle to get in many places. So, we wished we’d booked ahead and next time we definitely will be more organized.

Restaurant recommendations:

Travel tip: Shop for lunch food at Hannaford grocery store either the night before or early morning before entering Acadia for the day. There are very few places to eat in the park and time is of the essence!

5. Things To Do

Distant views over rolling hills and the Gulf of Maine from a mountain peak in Acadia national park
Views over rolling hills and the Gulf of Maine from a mountain peak

We think fall is the best time to visit Acadia National Park because all hikes, carriageways and attractions are fully open. Plus, if you visit Acadia in September or October you get the added bonus of spectacular fall foliage colors. So in essence, it turns into an adventure playground for hikers and photographers. The only downside is you won’t be able to sunbathe on the beaches or swim in the lakes because it’s not warm enough and the water is far too cold.

Our experience: We’re hikers and travel photographers, so we spent 3 full days from sunrise to sunset exploring far and wide in Acadia. Our favorite memories include photographing sunrise near Schooner Head Overlook, hiking Precipice Trail and watching sunset at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Activity recommendations:

  • Fall foliage photography
  • The adrenaline pumping Precipice Trail
  • Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain summit
  • Sunset at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
  • The easy walk around Jordan Pond
  • Bike ride on the carriage roads
  • Various mountain summits for impressive views
  • Drive the Acadia loop road

READ: The best things to do in Acadia National Park

6. Hiking

Hiker scrambling up steep rocks with metal ladders and rails
Mark climbing a steep and narrow section of the Precipice Trail hike

Acadia is one of our favorite US national parks for hiking because the trails are mostly short, picturesque and lead to magnificent summit viewpoints. We think fall is the best time of year to hike because temperatures are comfortable, crowds are fewer than summer and the surrounding colors are magical.

But here’s the biggest plus-point for visiting Acadia in the fall: The flagship hike at Acadia is called Precipice Trail, and it closes each year between late Spring and mid-August for peregrine falcon nesting season. So you’d miss the park’s iconic adventure trail if you visited in summer, but it’s open in fall!

Our experience: We hiked more than a dozen trails when we visited Acadia. Our favorites included Beehive and Precipice (the two adventurous ladder climbs), Acadia Mountain, Beech Mountain and The Bubbles. Next time, we’ll night hike to Cadillac Mountain summit in time for sunrise.

Hiking recommendations:

READ: The best hikes in Acadia National Park

7. Photography

Sunrise over the ocean with water gently crashing onto rocks
We watched a stunning sunrise on the rocky Maine coastline

Acadia’s topography consists of tree-lined rolling hills bursting into the sky from the shores of lakes and ponds, so it’s a fantastic place to take your camera. And during the vibrant fall foliage season, this already beautiful landscape transforms into a photographers’ dream come true. Other benefits include later sunrises and earlier sunsets, fewer crowds and did we mention the colors yet?!

Our experience: We wanted to watch sunrise from Cadillac Mountain but the permit system had just been implemented and we didn’t realize. But we were able to photograph sunrise at Schooner Head Overlook and sunset at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, which were both amazing. Our advice is to carry your camera at all times because you never know when you’ll need it in such a stunning environment.

Photography recommendations:

  • Mountain summits overlooking lakes, ponds, hills and the ocean
  • Jordan Pond in particular is very photogenic
  • Sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain is unmissable
  • Or sunrise from anywhere along the eastern coastline is amazing
  • Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at sunset is a classic Acadia photo spot
  • Hidden white bridge reflection photo in Sommesville

8. Fall Foliage

Vibrant fall foliage colors around Jordan Pond in Acadia national park
Vibrant fall foliage colors on the Jordan Pond loop hike

Visiting Acadia in fall affords you a unique opportunity to see one of the busiest and most highly regarded US national parks in all its glory. You can find brilliantly bright leaves spread far and wide throughout the park, so our advice is to walk, hike, cycle and drive to the popular attractions and off the beaten path areas.

Our experience: We visited Acadia from October 8-11, and we were around 4 days too late for peak colors. So we recommend you aim for closer to the beginning of October. But we still saw lots of gorgeous reds, oranges, yellows, browns and greens glowing under sunlight. Our favorite place in Acadia for foliage was Jordan Pond because the colors were brightest.

Fall foliage recommendations:

  • Jordan Pond – The trees encircling Jordan Pond are filled with vibrant autumnal leaves.
  • Beehive Trail – Views over rolling hills covered in radiant leaves and the ocean.
  • Cadillac Mountain – Gaze over colorful leaves for miles from the highest point in Acadia.
  • Loop Road – Driving the Acadia Loop Road takes you past countless fall foliage spots.
  • Carriage Roads – Hire a bike and cycle through the quieter parts of Acadia.

9. Whale Watching

Whale watching ticket office in Bar Harbor Maine on a sunny day
Whale watching ticket office in Bar Harbor

If you’re looking for fun things to do outside of Acadia, you can book a whale watching tour until as late as October 8th. One thing to consider is that your chances of seeing whales decreases in the last few weeks, so it’s better to pay for a tour if you plan to visit earlier in the fall season, rather than later.

Our experience: We couldn’t do a whale watching tour because it closed the day we arrived. In truth we wouldn’t have had time because we were in the park, but we think it’s a great idea for families. You can find more information with Bar Harbor Whales.

10. Packing

Hiker with boots, fleece and sunglasses sat on a boulder with a grey backpack with trees and a blue sky behind
Kristen in light and middle layers hiking Beehive Trail

Packing for your trip to Acadia National Park in the fall is all about layers. Make sure you have lots of moisture wicking shirts, shorts and pants for hiking. Middle and heavy layers will keep you warm in the mornings, evenings and after hiking. You’ll need hiking shoes and shoes to wear at night, with plenty of spare socks. And leave your swimsuit at home!

Our experience: We were on a 2 week New England road trip so we had a lot of gear with us. In Acadia, we ended up wearing heavy winter coats for sunrise and sunset photography, light middle layers for hiking in the day and casual evening clothes for dinner.

Packing recommendations:

  • Underwear and evening socks
  • Hiking socks
  • Shorts and long pants for hiking
  • Moisture wicking t-shirts for hiking
  • Light and medium layers to day pack
  • Evening clothes for dinner and drinks in Bar Harbor
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and sunhat or baseball cap
  • Heavy coat for sunrise and sunset photography
  • At least 2 pairs of shoes (hiking and evenings)
  • Camera, lenses, tripod and plenty of data storage

Travel tip: Bar Harbor is an upscale town but most people go out in hiking gear.

The Morgan Conclusion

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Bar Harbor Maine on a sunny afternoon
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is one of the top highlights

To wrap things up, we think peak fall foliage at the end of September and beginning of October is the best two weeks of the year to visit Acadia National Park. It’s busy and expensive, but not at summer levels. And you get to see the park in all its majesty.

The next time we plan a trip to Acadia, it will be for the first few days in October. It’s a special park made even more special by nature’s light show!

More Seasonal Guides

Want more Maine content? Head over to our Maine Travel Guides to explore Acadia National Park and beyond. 


We hope this guide to visiting Acadia National Park in the fall helps with planning your trip to Maine this autumn!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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