A Complete Guide to Visiting Acadia National Park in the Fall: October Weather, The Best Fall Hikes & More
October 14, 2022
If you are thinking about visiting Acadia National Park in the fall, you’re in the right place! Acadia is one of the best places for hiking and leaf peeping in New England. With colorful fall foliage and mild weather, autumn is the perfect season to vacation in Acadia in Bar Harbor, Maine.
I spent three weeks in Acadia in October 2022 and I’m sharing all of my insights and tips. I saw peak fall foliage, had several days of rain and fog and watched businesses shut down for the season. Keep reading for the pros and cons of visiting Acadia in the fall, the best fall trails in Acadia and more.
It is so important to respect this beautiful park by leaving no trace during your visit to Acadia. Please follow all 7 principles of Leaving No Trace. This includes respecting those around you, preparing for your hikes, packing out your trash and staying on durable surfaces. For more information, visit lnt.org.
- Acadia charges $30 per vehicle (valid for a week) to enter. If you will be visiting multiple national parks in one year, I highly recommend the America the Beautiful Pass which will grant you access to all of the national parks for a year for $80.
- As of this writing, there is no reservation needed to enter Acadia. However, reservations ARE required for driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain (one of the most popular things to do in the park!).
- Acadia is one of the few national parks that allows dogs! If you’re hiking with your pup, be sure to keep them on a leash and avoid the ladder trails.
- Guide Along offers an audio tour of Acadia and it's a great way to learn about the park and discover stops along the way as you drive around!
- If you’re looking for the perfect Acadia itinerary, check out my 3 day itinerary and my 1 day itinerary for visiting Acadia.
What is it like to visit Acadia National Park in October? I’m sharing what to expect for fall temperatures, fall weather, the best time for leaf peeping and more!
The temperatures in Acadia National Park in October tend to average highs in the 50’s°F and lows in the 40’s°F. Of course, it varies higher or lower, especially on the top of Cadillac Mountain.
In my experience, it was perfect hiking weather on sunny and clear days. I was happy wearing a light jacket, leggings and wool hiking socks. Make sure to bring plenty of layers in case the weather changes!
While you could experience rain year round, October tends to be one of the rainiest months of the year in Acadia National Park. I had several days (almost half of the days over 3 weeks) of rain and fog. This shouldn’t keep you indoors, but it’s not ideal to visit Acadia when it’s rainy and foggy for a couple reasons. First, there are many trails where you will be hiking up steep rock faces, and the rocks can be slippery when wet. Second, the majority of my favorite trails take you to see a viewpoint. On a foggy day, you may not be able to see the view at the top.
Some of the easier trails with less elevation gain are just fine to do on a rainy and foggy day, but if you’re there to summit the peaks, rain and fog is not ideal.
Tip: If you’re visiting to hike, I suggest making the trip a day or two longer than you think you need in case you have one or more days of bad weather.
2022 Peak foliage in Acadia was around October 15th. Any time in the week leading before or after peak was a great time to see the fall colors in Acadia National Park. The leaves fell quickly due to rain and wind, but it was still enough time to see the stunning fall colors across the island.
Is Acadia National Park crowded in the fall? To be honest, Acadia was much more crowded than I thought it would be.
Acadia receives a lot of visitors in general, but many arrive on cruise ships. I originally assumed most cruises would come in the summer, but I learned that autumn cruises are also very common. Many residents of Bar Harbor are not happy with the influx of cruise ship visitors. Local discussions of limits to cruise ship visitors may change this in the future.
Due to the amount of visitors, it was hard to snag reservations for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Many of the trailheads fill up at peak times of the day. Plus, the restaurants in Bar Harbor had long evening wait times. Be sure to make your plans in advance and have backups.
Acadia’s peak season is June-September, so things slow down just a little bit in October.
Acadia gets very few visitors in the winter, so many businesses on Bar Harbor Island close down during the winter months. This includes restaurants, bike rental shops and more. I stayed for most of October and noticed that most places closed for the season in mid-October.
The end of October still had relatively nice weather and the crowds started to decrease. If you visit at the end of October, be prepared to call ahead and check hours of the restaurants you want to visit, they may shorten hours or close completely.
In 2023, reservations are required to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain from May 24th to October 22nd. I visited with a reservation for sunrise earlier in the month and then drove up for sunset without a reservation after October 22nd. I was worried it would be hard to find parking without the reservation, but it wasn’t bad for sunset. The date of reservations is definitely something to keep in mind while planning your trip.
When deciding whether to visit Acadia in the summer vs. the fall, there are many pros and cons to consider. Personally, I think October is the best time to visit Acadia, but it depends on your priorities.
- The Precipice Trail is usually closed for most or all of the summer due to nesting of peregrine falcons. If this trail is high on your list, then you’ll have a better chance of hiking it in the fall.
- The fall colors of Acadia are beautiful and seeing the mountains blanketed in oranges, reds and yellows is worth the trip.
- While it still may be very crowded, there are less crowds in the fall vs the summer.
- The biggest downside to visiting Acadia in the fall is the unpredictable weather. You just don’t know what you’re going to get at the end of the season and I had several days of rain and fog during my time there. Of course, you could also have fog and rain in the summer, so I don’t think you should let it stop you. The fall can also bring colder weather, especially if you are watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.
- If you are interested in a whale watching tour, a lobster boat or any type of cruise around the Gulf of Maine, you are better off visiting in the summer. Tours usually end for the season in early October.
- Many of the businesses in Bar Harbor close for the season sometime in October. If you are visiting towards the end of the season, you will have fewer options to eat and stay.
After hiking 14 trails in Acadia during the month of October, these are the top 5 that I recommend specifically for seeing fall foliage!
The Jesup Trail is a boardwalk path that will take you on a journey through white birch trees and marshland. This trail is a stunning place to see autumn colors and they are extra beautiful in contrast to the white birch. Plus, the trail is in a forest so it’s a great option for a rainy or foggy day.
This Jesup Path is a short and flat walk. It is right next to the Wild Gardens of Acadia which are also worth visiting.
The Beehive Trail is a popular trail for good reason - you will climb up a short section of ladders to reach an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and ocean. The shape of the Beehive allows you to get an amazing view without being super high in altitude, so it’s a great one for seeing fall foliage.
This trail includes steep drop offs and climbing ladders, do not attempt it if you are afraid of heights. You should hike it counterclockwise; climb up the ladders first and hike down the back side of the mountain. It is more dangerous for everyone when people try to climb up and down the ladder sections. I recommend going early to get a parking spot, beat the heavy crowds and properly enjoy this unique trail.
Another fun and popular trail that provides amazing views is the Bubbles Nubble Loop. If you hike the entire loop, you’ll visit Bubble Rock, take in the views from both the South and North Bubble, and get a great view of Eagle Lake from Conners Nubble. You can also do shorter versions of the hike.
I enjoyed the fall foliage views from the South Bubble, where you’ll see the mountains framing Jordan Pond.
The main parking lot for this trail is tiny, so I recommend arriving early to get a spot. If you don’t get a spot, you can also connect to these trails from Jordan Pond.
Dorr Mountain is a trail with a few ladders that is much more underrated than the famous Beehive and Precipice trails. The top has an amazing view of Champlain Mountain (the top of the Precipice Trail) and the ocean in the distance.
The trail involves 3 ladders, plus many large stone steps and smooth rocks to climb and down. It is 2.7 miles and rated hard.
Arguably the most challenging trail in the park, the Precipice Trail is famous for its long series of ladders and steep drop offs along the way. I recommend hiking the Beehive Trail first to get a feel for the ladders before attempting this longer and harder route.
There are magnificent views the entire way and they keep getting better as you climb. The trail is 2.1 miles total and leads to a stunning view of the ocean and the surrounding area. The entire ladder portion of the trail has great views. This is an adventurous trail. It’s great for seeing Acadia foliage.
Tip: I found that the east side of the park had better views for seeing fall foliage because there the views are less obstructed when you reach the peak of the mountains. But if you want to avoid the crowds, the west side of the park is much quieter and still beautiful.
While I think the above trails are the best for fall, you can’t go wrong with any trails in Acadia. Here are some other fun hikes in Acadia.
This trail is one of my favorites - it includes a fire tower, stunning views and a forest full of green moss hugging giant boulders. It’s a great one to include if you have enough time to visit the quieter, west side of the park.
This quick loop trail includes a viewpoint and a beach. I really enjoyed seeing bits of red foliage during the fall.
These two peaks are right next to each other and combine into a fantastic loop trail. You can get some expansive views at the top of both and will see a lot of red foliage on the peaks.
This trail doesn’t have much fall foliage, but it’s a great one to visit if you’re interested in the coastal part of Acadia. If you are short on time, stop at the Thunder Hole to see giant waves crashing into a rocky inlet.
This is another great, short trail to see the coastal part of the park. You’ll have a nice view overlooking Sand Beach and the opportunity to see the ocean.
If you’re looking for a unique and easy walk, walk across the land bridge to Bar Island. You can also do this in the couple hours surrounding low tide - the land bridge entirely disappears when the tide is high. When you reach the island, you can hike up to a view looking back at Mount Desert Island and the town of Bar Harbor.
If you enjoy climbing ladders while hiking but don’t enjoy rungs on the side of a cliff, this trail is for you! There are a series of 3 long ladders to reach the top, but I did not find them nearly as scary as the natural ladders on the Beehive and Precipice trails. There is a great view of Echo Lake at the top.
Check out my full list of the best hiking in Acadia for the full details on all of these trails, plus a few others.
Check out my full list of the best hiking in Acadia for the full details on all of these trails, plus a few others.
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in the park and is the first place to watch the sunrise in the US during the fall. Reservations are required to drive to the top (until October 22nd) and they sell out pretty much instantly, so be sure to log in right when they go on sale.
Acadia has 45 miles of Carriage Roads where motor vehicles aren’t allowed. They are a wonderful way to see a different side of the park and do something special to this park! You can bring your own bike, or rent an e-bike or regular bike in Bar Harbor. Check out my full guide to biking the Carriage Roads for all of the details.
Jordan Pond House is a historic restaurant inside the park that is known for their popovers and tea. There can be a long wait so reservations are recommended. The restaurant is right next to Jordan Pond and also has a gift shop full of park souvenirs.
Tip: Book your lodging several months in advance for Acadia! Many of the best places fill up early.
Ideally, you should stay on Mount Desert Island so that you’re super close to all of the hiking trails and activities in the national park. However, it’s hard to find hotels and accommodations for less than $200 a night on the island. If you’re visiting Acadia on a budget, you may want to stay in Ellsworth, which is located about 30 minutes away.
Here are 3 hotels of different price points on Mount Desert Island or nearby.
Budget: Acadia Sunrise Motel
The Acadia Sunrise Motel is located in Trenton, which is just a couple minutes from Mount Desert Island. It has a pool, gets great reviews and is conveniently located while still being affordable.
Mid-Range in Bar Harbor: Elmhurst Inn
The Elmhurst Inn is located right in the town of Bar Harbor, so you’ll be able to walk to various shops and restaurants. It’s a historic inn that provides a daily breakfast so you’ll be starting your days on a great foot.
Unique Luxury Experience: Terramor Outdoor Resort
If staying in a luxurious canvas tent with all of the amenities you could need sounds fun, check out Terramor Outdoor Resort. This unique lodging experience includes a dog park, a daily continental breakfast, common areas with grills, lawn games and more. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for something special but still want to be close to the park.
This cozy restaurant serves wood fired pizza, handmade pasta, craft cocktails and more. If you can get a seat in the right spot, you can even watch the chefs prepare the food and fire the pizzas. I really enjoyed the gnocchi, the seasonal apple cider cocktail and the zeppole for dessert. Everything was delicious and I highly recommend this spot for your Acadia trip.
Geddy’s is a famous Bar Harbor restaurant known for their seafood, it’s a great spot to try a Maine lobster roll. They also serve pizza, salads and a variety of other items. Advance reservations are recommended if you want to eat here, the wait time can stretch into hours for walk-ins..
Side Street Cafe has a large menu of fun and creative dishes and many of the items feature seafood. They are most known for their signature “macs” or mac-and-cheese, plus blueberry margaritas and blueberry pie. Side Street Cafe also gets very busy but you can add yourself to the waitlist online ahead of time.
Cafe This Way has the vibe of a local diner and serves a fantastic breakfast or brunch. They have a large breakfast menu with all kinds of options, but I especially recommend trying the blueberry pancakes.
If you enjoy breweries, Atlantic Brewing is worth visiting in Bar Harbor. They have a great beer selection and serve German food.
This breakfast restaurant is located inside a gas station. While the location is nothing special, they have some great breakfast options. Plus, they open earlier than most other places in town if you’re looking to get breakfast before heading out on a hike.
Acadia Perk is a cute but tiny spot for coffee or a treat! I really enjoyed a whoopie pie from here (the official treat of Maine!).
Choco-latte is another coffee shop that has breakfast sandwiches, flavored lattes, pastries and more. I really enjoyed their signature choco-latte with chocolate syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.
I hope this guide was helpful in planning your fall trip to Acadia and deciding whether to visit Acadia in the summer or the fall. Whether you’re interested in hiking or just taking in the views, Acadia National Park is a stunning park that should be on your list!
- How to Spend Three Days in Acadia
- The Best Hiking Trails in Acadia
- How to Spend One Day in Acadia
- A Guide to Biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia
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