With beautiful scenery and tons of activities, every season is a good time to visit Acadia National Park. Even the cold winter months have a lot to offer. In fact, there are some adventures you can only have when visiting Acadia during winter!
But winter does bring some unique challenges. To make the most of an Acadia National Park winter visit, you need to be prepared.
In this guide, you’ll learn all you need to know about visiting Acadia during winter. The tips and information in this guide will help you stay safe and have a great time!
What’s Special About Acadia National Park in Winter?
Not surprisingly, most people visit Acadia National Park during the summer. It can get so busy at times that you can hardly find a peaceful spot to enjoy!
That doesn’t happen in the winter months. With far fewer crowds, there’s more space to venture out and explore without running into people everywhere you go.
If you enjoy a bit more solitude when visiting national parks, then winter is a perfect time to visit.
Summer has peak crowds and peak prices to match. During winter in Acadia National Park, the lower crowds cause prices to go down.
Not only is lodging more affordable but activities and equipment rentals are also often cheaper during the winter months as well.
It looks different from summer, but winter in Acadia National Park is stunningly beautiful.
The cold winter weather brings its own unique beauty with sights you can’t see any other time of the year.
Imagine thick snow on evergreen trees, icicles cascading over huge rocks, and an icy, snow-covered coastline. The stunning white scenery can blow your mind with how beautiful it is. It’s truly a winter wonderland.
Plenty to Do
It may be cold, but there is still plenty to do in Acadia National Park during winter! You can enjoy many of the traditional park favorites like hiking, scenic drives, picnicking, and bird watching.
Plus there’s a whole plethora of activities that are only available in the winter like ice fishing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
With so much to choose from, you won’t run out of things to do.
Acadia National Park Winter Activities
Snowmobiling is allowed in many areas of the park. It’s a great way to get around quickly and see some beautiful sights while you do it.
Park at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center lot for the most convenient access to the snowmobile trails.
Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Forty-five miles of carriage roads offer the perfect place for cross-country skiing in Acadia during winter. Unplowed park roads are also open for skiing, though these are also open for snowmobiles so you’ll want to be careful.
Hiking trails are good for snowshoeing, but usually not skiing. The snow often isn’t deep enough to cover roots and rocks along the trail. Plus some trails are steep, making it dangerous to traverse safely on skis. It’s also common to find hiking trails blocked by ice.
With over a dozen lakes and ponds, Acadia is a great place to go ice fishing. You can catch bass, trout, landlocked salmon, perch, and much more.
The Acadia National Park winter ice fishing season is typically January through March. Of course, it all depends on the weather.
A freshwater fishing license is required from the state of Maine in order to fish in the park. The license is easy to obtain either online or from local businesses and town offices located near the park.
Many trails are open in winter with hikes of varying difficulty levels.
It’s important to keep safety in mind when doing an Acadia National Park winter hike. Hiking trails that are challenging in summer can often be completely impassible in winter.
Stick to trails marked easy to moderate and be aware that these may still be hazardous. Packed snow and ice are common and trails can be incredibly slippery.
Before hitting the trail, make sure you have the proper equipment. Good footwear with traction is essential. Trekking poles are strongly recommended
Don’t rely on your phone for a map. Bring a paper map and be prepared for early darkness in the evenings.
A nice drive along the Park Loop Road is perfect for enjoying the scenery while taking a break from a cold Arcadia National Park winter day.
For a coastal drive, take the Schooner Head Road from Bar Harbor to the Park Loop road. Exit at Otter Cliff Road to return to Bar Harbor.
To head away from the coast, start from Seal Harbor and take the Jordan Pond Road to the Park Loop Road. This road takes you to the Jordan Pond area. Public restrooms and picnic facilities are located near the south section of Jordan Pond.
Ice climbing is one of the more adventurous Arcada National Park winter activities.
Climbing up frozen waterfalls is an unforgettable experience but it can be dangerous, so make sure you go with a trained guide.
Several companies in the area have ice climbing tours that you can book in advance of your trip. Some of them don’t require any experience so these tours are perfect for any adventurous visitor, even beginners.
If you’re interested in some of these activities but you don’t have the right equipment, that’s okay! Local businesses around the park offer rentals for all kinds of winter gear.
Where to Stay when Visiting Acadia National Park in Winter
Winter camping is cold, but it can still be a lot of fun!
Acadia National Park has three campgrounds, unfortunately, these are all closed during the winter months. Backcountry camping is not allowed in Acadia at any time of year.
Don’t worry though, there are several campgrounds near the park that are open during the winter months,
The Inn on Mount Desert located in Bar Harbor is just minutes away from the park entrance. This convenient hotel includes free breakfast and free parking.
If you’d like to stay closer to the city, The Country Inn at the Mall is a cozy hotel in Bangor. The homey lobby with daily fresh cookies is the perfect place to warm up after a cold day out in the park.
Bed and Breakfasts
The Harbour Cottage Inn has accommodations to suit a wide variety of travelers. The three-bedroom suite is perfect for a family or larger group. They also have smaller rooms for solo travelers or couples.
Chocolate Chip Bed and Breakfast is a country house with a homey feel. They have a library and a game room to keep you busy on the days you don’t venture into the park. In addition to the yummy morning breakfast, turndown service with cookies is provided each night.
An entrance pass is required to enter the park. These can be obtained online ahead of time or at pay stations near the park entrance.
Annual passes and lifetime passes are also accepted.
When parking in the park, display your pass on the dashboard with the expiration date clearly visible.
The park maintains seven public restrooms throughout the park during the winter months. A list of these can be found on the park website.
The Fabbri, Seawall, and Frazer Point picnic areas are open year-round
The main visitor center for Acadia is closed during the winter. The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce is open for park information. You can also purchase an entrance pass there.
It’s always a good idea to check current conditions, especially in winter.
Before heading to the park, check the Acadia National Park website for any relevant alerts.
The current conditions page has up-to-date information on road closures, facility closures, and things of that nature.
Check the local weather forecast to make sure you’re prepared with proper clothing and gear.
Be Prepared for the Cold
Speaking of being prepared, for an Acadia National Park winter visit, it’s essential to plan ahead for the unique challenges that the season brings.
With the right gear and equipment, you can stay safe and warm while enjoying the park, even during the cold winter season.
What to Wear
Bring proper attire for the elements. You know it’s going to be cold, so make sure to have a good coat to keep you warm.
Thick wool socks, a hat, gloves, earmuffs, a scarf, and other cold-weather accessories are also a good idea to give you protection from the elements.
Winter hiking boots are a must. They keep your feet warm and dry while giving you improved traction while out on the trails.
Crampons make a big difference when walking over icy areas. They’re inexpensive and easy to pack. If you haven’t used crampons before they can take a little time to get used to, but it’s much better than slipping and falling!
Trekking poles make it easier to keep your balance on slippery trails. They’re strongly recommended for hiking in Acadia National Park during winter.
If you’re planning on camping, you’ll want a proper sleeping bag to keep you warm during the (very) cold nights.
A Dry bag keeps electronics and other moisture-sensitive items out of the snow and ice. Weather can change quickly on the coast. Even if it looks clear when you set out, it’s good to be prepared for inclement weather.
Bring a Weather-resistant flashlight for camping, hiking, and other Arcadia National Park winter activities. It gets dark early in the winter and you don’t want to be caught out in the cold without a light.
Don’t rely on your cell phone for a flashlight, especially if you’re also using it to take pictures or videos. Remember, batteries drain much faster in the cold.
Time to Book an Acadia National Park Winter Visit
Acadia National Park is a beautiful place. It’s well worth a visit any time of year, even during the cold winter months. With a bit of preparation and the right equipment, visiting Acadia National Park in winter can be a wonderful experience.