Maine’s Acadia National Park

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Magnificent. Awe-inspiring. Breathtaking.

Words alone can’t express or do justice to the natural wonder and spectacular beauty that is Acadia National Park – especially in the fall when the region is ablaze with color. From the pounding surf washing against the rocky shores to the park’s stunning peaks and vistas, Acadia is a virtual wonderland for nature lovers.

More than 2 million people a year make the trek to Acadia National Park, making it Maine’s most visited attraction. The park is home to a diverse population of plants, birds and animals as well as the highest peak on the U.S. Atlantic coast – Cadillac Mountain.

The 47,000-acre park, mostly located on Desert Island, features stunning views year round, but the park’s rugged beauty is best appreciated in the autumn. The best time to view the park’s fall foliage is from late September through October. Due to its location, the leaves generally change color later here than in other parts of Maine.

There are few sights in nature as spectacular as Acadia National Park’s autumn leaves: a fiery combination of burnt orange, fire engine red and blazing gold. Fall is a favorite time of year for fall foliage aficionados – known as “leaf peepers” – to flock to Acadia to photograph and bask in the blaze of color that carpets the park.

The average visitor spends about three to four days in the area, although you can easily spend a week or more exploring the park. Be sure to stop at the Hulls Cove Visitors’ Center and pick up a map, the park newspaper, and watch a free 15-minute orientation video before heading out to explore this national treasure. However much time you have to spend, don’t leave Acadia National Park without visiting the following places:

Park Loop Road – This 20-mile drive offers breathtaking views of the ocean, forests, lakes, rocky shores and mountains. It’s the main route (by vehicle) through the national park. As you hug each curve of the road, you will pass over 17 cobblestone bridges spanning streams, waterfalls, cliffs and many lookout points along the way. For a less-crowded park experience, consider hiking or biking along the park’s 125 miles of historic trails to surround yourself in nature’s splendor.

Sand Beach – The only sand beach in Acadia – and only 290 yards long – the beach is largely comprised of sand made from shell fragments that have been crushed by the pounding surf. Only hardy swimmers (or those wearing wet suits) will want to brave the 55-degree, summer water temperatures. Access is provided by the Park Loop Road. If you like to hike, be sure to walk the nearby Great Head Trail (1.4 miles). Also, at the far end of the upper parking lot, take a walk along Ocean Path. The trail offers spectacular coastal views as it meanders for two miles to Otter Cliff and Otter Point. This trail also leads to Thunder Hole. The Island Explorer shuttle bus stops at Sand Beach about every half hour during normal seasonal daytime hours.

Thunder Hole – Timing is everything when it comes to experiencing the power and majesty of the sea at Thunder Hole. On calm days, Thunder Hole appears benign as the waves rhythmically lap against the rocky shore. But when the ocean is roaring, the breaking waves race into a narrow cleft in the shoreline rocks, resulting in a loud booming sound and sending cascades of spray shooting into the air. If you’re lucky, you’ll see water spout as high as 40 feet! The Island Explorer shuttle bus stops here about every half hour during normal seasonal daytime hours.

Bar Harbor – Originally called Eden, this quaint resort town is a charming, low-key Acadia tourist destination. It’s the ideal spot to do some shopping, visit art galleries and of course, dine on world-famous Maine lobster. Don’t forget to take a stroll along the picturesque Shore Path. Built about 130 years ago, it begins near the town pier and the Bar Harbor Inn, and continues for about half mile along the eastern shore of the harbor.

Learn more about Acadia National Park by visiting the park’s official website.

*Interesting Facts

• Acadia National Park’s carriage road system, built by John D. Rockefeller Jr., has been called “the finest example of broken stone roads designed for horse-drawn vehicles still extant in America.” Today, you can hike or bike 45 miles of these scenic carriage roads in the park.

• Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the tallest mountain (1,530 feet high) along the eastern coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to see sunrise.

• Over 273 species of birds have been identified on Mount Desert Island and in the adjacent waters.

*Courtesy of the National Park Service

This article was written by Linda O.V. Williams and originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of CyberSam.

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