Sleep And Get Fit: Acadia National Park Camping ME
Festoon your trusty auto with outdoor toys: bikes, kayaks, rocket box. Cram boots, trekking poles, base layers, and camp gear into its capacious trunk. National Park Senior Pass at the ready. You’re off to Maine for some Acadia National Park camping.
Plan to stay in Acadia for a few nights or a week. It may be the most active of all active National Parks, with abundant variety for limited-budgeters and folks with thicker wallets. Your feet (and your curiosity) could do something new here every day for a month.
Acadia is a great place to try something new in the way of outdoor exercise.
There are two major centers for all this activity: Acadia National Park itself and the town of Bar Harbor.
Acadia offers drives, pullouts with mini-trails for views, nooks to explore, level and historic carriage roads for biking and walking, all FREE.
Nearby Bar Harbor ME is a virtual central station of boat cruises, kayak tours, puffin observing, whale watching, lobster eating, horseback riding, you name it.
Locale-unique Ranger tours
Even the National Park offers guided boat tours from the harbor. And several of these ranger programs are unique to Acadia. Most are active, including looking at tidepools, watching endangered peregrine falcons, as well as riding aboard a schooner.
There’ll be a fee for boating trips, but check to see if the National Park Senior Pass will get you a discount (sometimes it does!).
Where to camp?
NPS offers several facilities for Acadia National Park camping.
Some locations are “walk-in”, others inaccessible to autos since they are situated on islands. Developed campgrounds (as opposed to “primitive”) tend towards tight spots, pretty much the same as every National Park (in order to maximize dollar returns).
Blackwoods NPS Campground
Blackwoods is the nearest campground to Bar Harbor. Busy, busy, busy Bar Harbor. It’s the largest and most popular campground in the park.
You’ll almost certainly have to get a reservation. For the popular months, even this may be difficult.
September recommended, by far
Muddy Boots strongly suggests going in September. Fall is full on and the weather will still be cooperative enough to make the experience fun. There is nothing quite like a brilliant foliage season in northern New England. Plus, National Parks are closed to hunting: wildlife and humans have no risk of becoming targets (a fact of life in the Maine woods).
Maine can feel a little nippy
Don’t assume Acadia National Park camping will be warm in any season. Temperatures can drop substantially at night. You’ll need rain gear and base layers. And bring a tarp to cover your picnic table: Maine weather is very changeable.
Your experience at Blackwoods could be different, but Muddy Boots found neighbors (especially seniors) to be an unusually friendly bunch. This may be the result of lower campground occupancy in September. In no time, we were looking out for each other and carrying on long conversations.
The restrooms are the major downside at Blackwoods. They are smallish and may be quite a ways from your campsite. They are likely to get very crowded when the campground is busy. As with most federal campgrounds, there are no showers.
Look at the map before you go…
Be sure to check the map or your GPS to figure out the exact route to Blackwoods Campground BEFORE you leave the Visitors’ Information Area.
The road through Acadia is one-way. This means, if you overshoot your campground or take a wrong turn by mistake, you’re at risk of doing a full circle before you can correct your mistake.
Muddy Boots did this 3 times in the dark: frenzy ensued.
Bar Harbor is not exactly a mecca for folks on a budget, with cruise ships arriving daily and well-heeled city-slickers from Canada and New England. But there are several busy blocks to putter around in. Muddy Boots recommends the home-made style ice cream.
Parking is AWFUL in Bar Harbor. Expect to walk several blocks or cram your car into three quarters of a regulation parking spot.
Hard to get around?
Acadia is appropriately adapted to folks who have a hard time getting around, but IMBO not especially appealing, owing to auto congestion and people traffic, even in the less popular seasons.
Consider using the free shuttle that circles through Blackwoods campground. If you’ve planned on Acadia National Park camping in early fall, though, study the shuttle schedule well to get timing right, since service is cut back after Labor Day.
Acadia National Park camping and your road trip itinerary
If you’re stringing together a trip of nights at federal campgrounds in order to save a buck or two, you might find Acadia National Park camping a long day’s drive. You could spend some time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (with USFS 50%-reduced campgrounds and free parking at federal trailheads for folks with a National Park Senior Pass).
If you are indeed coming from New Hampshire, or even northern Vermont, there’s plenty to see, especially in fall. See these:
Photo credits for Acadia National Park camping. Top and featured image…Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain in fall: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay. Acadia Carriage Road, Quiet Spaces: Public Domain by J.R. Libby via Flickr. Snack Aboard the Kayak: CC BY 2.0 by Lee Coursey via Flickr. Schooner, Margaret Todd under sail: CC BY 2.0 by Brian Snelson via Flickr. Acadia Campground, 087_IMG_4287: CC BY 2.0 by Jan Pêček via Flickr. Bar Harbor Downtown: CC BY 2.0 by Jeff Gunn via Flickr.