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Free Things To Do in Acadia National Park

If you have extra time, Schoodic Point is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Acadia National Park

Free
Standing about 1,530 feet in height, Cadillac Mountain wins a lot of superlatives. Not only is it the tallest mountain in the park, but it's the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard and the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun's rays from Oct. 6 to March 7. Whether you hike up the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or drive up the 3.5-mile narrow access road, go early. As the only attraction in the park that can be reached by car, Cadillac tends to draw crowds. If you do arrive by car, you should drive slowly, especially as the roadside cliffs get steep. Along the road, you'll find several small observation areas: take advantage of those before you reach the top, where the crowds and tour buses congregate.
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Hiking Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Cadillac Mountain
Standing about 1,530 feet in height, Cadillac Mountain wins a lot of superlatives. Not only is it the tallest mountain in the park, but it's the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard and the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun's rays from Oct. 6 to March 7. Whether you hike up the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or drive up the 3.5-mile narrow access road, go early. As the only attraction in the park that can be reached by car, Cadillac tends to draw crowds. If you do arrive by car, you should drive slowly, especially as the roadside cliffs get steep. Along the road, you'll find several small observation areas: take advantage of those before you reach the top, where the crowds and tour buses congregate.
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#3

#3 in Acadia National Park

Free
Both the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (an easy stroll through the evergreens) and the Jordan Pond Shore Trail (a more difficult trek along the rocky coast) spill out to the picturesque and pleasant respite that is Jordan Pond. Pick your poison (or trail) and at the end, you'll find crystal-clear waters that mirror the surrounding mountains. The nearby Jordan Pond House Restaurant serves soups, lobster rolls and its signature popovers and tea.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Jordan Pond
Both the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (an easy stroll through the evergreens) and the Jordan Pond Shore Trail (a more difficult trek along the rocky coast) spill out to the picturesque and pleasant respite that is Jordan Pond. Pick your poison (or trail) and at the end, you'll find crystal-clear waters that mirror the surrounding mountains. The nearby Jordan Pond House Restaurant serves soups, lobster rolls and its signature popovers and tea.
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#4

#4 in Acadia National Park

Free
As the only portion of Acadia National Park that's actually located on the mainland, Schoodic Point isn't as easily accessible as some of the park's other major attractions. But that's precisely why recent travelers found this area so special. Much like Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Point is composed of a craggy shoreline, granite headlands and spruce-fir forests. But unlike the island, its removed location lends a feeling of secluded intimacy.
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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Schoodic Point
As the only portion of Acadia National Park that's actually located on the mainland, Schoodic Point isn't as easily accessible as some of the park's other major attractions. But that's precisely why recent travelers found this area so special. Much like Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Point is composed of a craggy shoreline, granite headlands and spruce-fir forests. But unlike the island, its removed location lends a feeling of secluded intimacy.
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#5

#5 in Acadia National Park

Free
Sand Beach is filled with sharp shells and its water rarely warms above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But still, this is the most popular of the park's two beaches. Why? Because the views here are outstanding. Sandwiched between two walls of solid pink granite and surrounded by towering evergreens, the 290-yard-long shoreline is not your average beach. When you're not admiring the views from the shore, consider hiking up the Great Head Trail for an even better vantage point. This trail, which starts at the eastern end of the beach (the opposite end of the parking lot), has ascending granite steps that start at the base of the cliffs. Once you get to the top, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the beach and be able to spot The Beehive, a mountain that attracts experienced hikers.
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Beaches Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Sand Beach
Sand Beach is filled with sharp shells and its water rarely warms above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. But still, this is the most popular of the park's two beaches. Why? Because the views here are outstanding. Sandwiched between two walls of solid pink granite and surrounded by towering evergreens, the 290-yard-long shoreline is not your average beach. When you're not admiring the views from the shore, consider hiking up the Great Head Trail for an even better vantage point. This trail, which starts at the eastern end of the beach (the opposite end of the parking lot), has ascending granite steps that start at the base of the cliffs. Once you get to the top, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the beach and be able to spot The Beehive, a mountain that attracts experienced hikers.
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#6

#6 in Acadia National Park

Free
The Carriage Roads are a 57-mile long network of paved paths created and funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. from 1913 to 1940. Over the course of the 27-year project, Rockefeller hand-designed the paths to highlight the best scenery the park had to offer, circling around Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake and Mount Desert Island. After a weatherproofing and modernizing project in the 1990s, the Carriage Roads reopened to the public. The roads (which are off-limits to motor vehicles) are great for those on bikes, horses and inline skaters who want to explore some of Acadia's more rustic areas. And unlike most other trails, the Carriage Roads are kept open in the winter to be repurposed as skiing and snowshoeing routes.
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Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Carriage Roads
The Carriage Roads are a 57-mile long network of paved paths created and funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. from 1913 to 1940. Over the course of the 27-year project, Rockefeller hand-designed the paths to highlight the best scenery the park had to offer, circling around Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake and Mount Desert Island. After a weatherproofing and modernizing project in the 1990s, the Carriage Roads reopened to the public. The roads (which are off-limits to motor vehicles) are great for those on bikes, horses and inline skaters who want to explore some of Acadia's more rustic areas. And unlike most other trails, the Carriage Roads are kept open in the winter to be repurposed as skiing and snowshoeing routes.
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#7

#7 in Acadia National Park

Free
Another classic stop along the Park Loop Road, Otter Cliff is a giant 110-foot-high granite precipice with one of the most breathtaking ocean views on the East Coast. Be careful not to fall off the ledge as you burst through the spruce trees that cap the precipice. In the summer, you'll see adventurous rock climbers scrambling up the granite and whale pods spouting off the shore. In the fall, giant flocks of ducks gather here in the waves before migrating south for the winter.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Otter Cliff
Another classic stop along the Park Loop Road, Otter Cliff is a giant 110-foot-high granite precipice with one of the most breathtaking ocean views on the East Coast. Be careful not to fall off the ledge as you burst through the spruce trees that cap the precipice. In the summer, you'll see adventurous rock climbers scrambling up the granite and whale pods spouting off the shore. In the fall, giant flocks of ducks gather here in the waves before migrating south for the winter.
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#8

#8 in Acadia National Park

Free
A raucous natural phenomenon, this semi-submerged cave booms an hour or two before high tide. Waves fill the cave in such a way that the slapping is as loud as a thunderstorm — hence the name — and water can spray as far as 40 feet, so wear a poncho if you want to stay dry.
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Natural Wonders Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Thunder Hole
A raucous natural phenomenon, this semi-submerged cave booms an hour or two before high tide. Waves fill the cave in such a way that the slapping is as loud as a thunderstorm — hence the name — and water can spray as far as 40 feet, so wear a poncho if you want to stay dry.
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#9

#9 in Acadia National Park

Free
The Precipice Trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in the park, as long as you have the guts to attempt it. The challenging, 2-mile round-trip path has visitors scrambling up the side of Champlain Mountain by iron rungs and ladders fixed to exposed cliffs, all for a scenic summit and unparalleled view of Sand Beach.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Precipice Trail
The Precipice Trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in the park, as long as you have the guts to attempt it. The challenging, 2-mile round-trip path has visitors scrambling up the side of Champlain Mountain by iron rungs and ladders fixed to exposed cliffs, all for a scenic summit and unparalleled view of Sand Beach.
... more
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