The Perfect Winter Vacation in Maine's Acadia National Park — From Climbing Frozen Waterfalls to Cross-country Skiing
Visiting Acadia National Park in the winter comes with the benefit of fewer crowds, ample parking, and the ability to enjoy Maine's natural beauty under a blanket of snow.
On top of several open trails, it's easy to find restaurants and accommodations around Mount Desert Island that serve up classic seafood cuisine and striking views for which this area is known.
Sometimes, when traveling during peak season, narrowing down activities can be tough. While Acadia National Park and its surrounding towns always welcome visitors, this time of year helps inspire an itinerary that may have otherwise been overlooked.
"As a top 10 visited national park in the U.S., Acadia can be quite busy in the summer months, but if you come in the winter, you'll get to see a whole new side of the park and Mount Desert Island," said Alf Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. "It's quiet and peaceful, but no less beautiful. We ask visitors to stay aware of the park conditions and stick to doable trails to ensure their safety at this time of year."
Simply driving the open parts of the famed Park Loop Road is enough for those who want see the Maine coast in her ice-glazed glory. If you're a traveler wanting to brave the unpredictable conditions, here are our tips for seeing a different side of Acadia this winter.
What to Do
Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Visitors have 45 miles of carriage roads to use for their favorite winter recreational activity. Before hitting the trails, check Friends of Acadia for updated conditions. Rentals are easily accessible around the island, too.
Hit the Beach
While Sand Beach in Acadia National Park can be towel to towel in the summer (despite bone-chilling water), winter visitors can almost count on having the place to themselves, save for a few locals who never tire of its beauty. For those with the proper footwear (ice cleats or similar), there's a one-mile loop from the far end of the beach called Great Head Trail. The rocky terrain brings hikers to the remains of an old teahouse dating back to 1920.
Take a Scenic Flight
If you're one for a bird's-eye view, Scenic Flights of Acadia operates year-round to show guests the beauty of Acadia National Park and its surrounding areas. The Cessna 172 has mapped out a variety of routes, which you can also customize depending on the sights you want to take in from above. Because of limited availability, it's best to call directly for booking options.
Brave an Ice Climb
Scaling frozen waterfalls may not be on your wish list, but Acadia Mountain Guides offers epic classes for those with all experience levels (including newbies). The company's gear store, Alpenglow Adventure Sports, provides all the necessities for the ice climb.
Where to Eat
Open Wednesday through Sunday, Havana has been serving up American cuisine with Latin flair for 20 years. The in Bar Harbor restaurant is known for its local and organic meat, sustainably harvested seafood, and produce. Plus, it has an extensive wine list, even in the off-season months.
Specializing in house-made bagels, freshly baked goods, sandwiches, and locally roasted coffee, Choco-Latte Cafe has become a routine stop for those who live on the island. The cafe is decked out in colorful, eye-catching art from Maine and other New England artists, giving the space a cozy gallery feel. It's open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., even in the winter.
Where to Stay
Located in the heart of Bar Harbor and a five-minute drive to Acadia National Park, this property is open year-round with plenty of room options to fit guest needs. Back in 1880, long before Acadia Hotel opened its doors, the property was home to a local ship captain.
The Saltair Inn
For those who prefer classic bed-and-breakfast accommodations, The Satlair Inn is located in Bar Harbor with views of Frenchman Bay. Eight rooms and suites are situated among the three-story home. The winter is an ideal time to take advantage of the off-season rate for the Master Suite, which features a jetted tub, heated bathroom floors, and a sitting area with floor-to-ceiling windows, where you can see the ocean from all angles while warming by the fireplace.
While planning your Acadia National Park itinerary, check the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce website to stay updated on which businesses are currently operating, as hours and days can change amid COVID-19.