Sand Beach#6 in Best Things To Do in Acadia National Park
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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 approximately 900-foot-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.
You'll find this beach off Park Loop Road, just south of the east entrance pay station. If you choose to drive, you'll find a parking lot off Park Loop Road (this is also where the beach's changing rooms are located). The free Island Explorer shuttle also makes frequent stops at the beach. Because of its location off of Park Loop Road, Sand Beach is only open from mid-April to December.
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#1 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. Whether you hike up the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or drive up the 3 1/2-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.
For the ultimate vistas, set your alarm clock and try to catch a sunrise here. Cadillac Mountain is the first point of the United States to greet the rising sun's rays from early October to early March, and visitors assure it is a spectacular sight to see. While recent travelers said a trip to Acadia isn't complete without a stop at Cadillac Mountain, they also cautioned the area gets crowded, even in the early morning hours (some reported arriving two hours before sunrise). If you're visiting during the winter months, you'll have to hike the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail; the park closes down the access road for the winter season. Pack blankets and hold on to your hats, too, as it gets chillier as you ascend.
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