While I always welcome the opportunity to camp, I much prefer the peace and quiet of the backwoods as opposed to the sometimes noisy and overcrowded campgrounds. As we planned our trip to this east coast treasure, we scoured the internet for any information on the possibilities and logistics of backpacking Acadia National Park.
Located along the east coast 3 hours north of Portland, Maine, Acadia National Park is packed full of natural beauty. Dense woodlands, rocky beaches and towering granite peaks make this park a backpackers dream. However, unable to find reliable information on backcountry camping, we decided to play it safe and booked a campsite.
Like many new adventures, it’s hard to predict what’s possible until you experience it for yourself; but after a couple days in the park, here’s my take on Backpacking Acadia National Park:
How to: Backpacking Acadia National Park
Avid backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts will be disappointed to learn that backpacking Acadia National Park is prohibited.
However, all is not lost. if you respect the land and strictly follow the “Leave No Trace Principles” – like all Eco-Minded adventures should – there is a loop hole that can make your dreams of backpacking Acadia National Park a reality.
During our first day at the park, I had a wonderful chat with a ranger who mentioned that the park is open 24-hours a day. With that being the case, I don’t see anything wrong with heading out into the woods and setting up a hammock or small sleeping pad to do a little star gazing; and if you fall asleep for an hour (or 8) nobody would be the wiser.
Tips for a Stealthy Stay in Acadia National Park:
- Keep your pack down to 30L or Less – Anything bigger and you’ll stand out
- Forgo the tent – Cowboy camp or bring a hammock
- Ditch the gas stove and campfires
- Scout out potential campsites during the day, but wait until dark to start bedding down
While I don’t necessarily agree with the regulations that restrict camping on areas of wild and public land, those restrictions do help to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the park and the plants and animals that inhabit it. Therefore, if you do decide to camp out in the park’s wild areas, do everything you can to minimize your impact and respect the land.
Best Hiking Trails in Acadia
Precipice to Sand Beach
Exciting, beautiful and challenging, this route links together a couple of trails to take you across some of the most beautiful landscape that Acadia National Park has to offer.
Starting out on the Precipice Trail, you will quickly become familiar with Acadia’s granite peaks as you climb to the top of Champlain Mountain. Known as the hardest hike in the park, the Precipice Trail does not disappoint. Only taking about a mile to reach the summit, there’s not a whole lot of room for switchbacks or winding path. Instead, you’ll spend about an hour climbing a near vertical path of iron rungs and ladders.
From the summit, you’ll head south along the South Ridge Trail, following Acadia National Park’s distinct Bates carins. This trail offers expansive views of Mt. Desert Island and panoramic views of Sand Beach and the Cranberry Isles to the south.
After about a mile, you will connect with the Bowl Trail, a .8 mile trail that will connect you back to the Park Loop road and Sand Beach. From the Bowl Trail, you also have the option to take a slight detour up the Beehive.
An easy detour off the Bowl Trail, or a quick .7 mile hike up from the Park Loop Road, the Beehive Trail is an exciting and thrilling hike similar to the Precipice Trail. The Beehive is a beautiful peak near the south-east of Acadia National park. This route heads straight up the Beehive utilizing iron rungs, scrambling, granite steps and hand rails to help hikers to the peak.
The tallest peak along the east coast of the United States, this is one of the most magnificent places to watch the sunrise over the eastern seaboard. From October 7 through March 6, this is the first place to view the sunrise. You could easily drive to the top, but in my opinion, it’s much more magical and rewarding to make the 2 mile hike through the dark to the top.
Starting from the North Ridge Trail head, you’ll hike with a few light scrambles over a fairly well maintained trail. Be sure to keep an eye out for the blue marks and cairns that show the correct path. About 3/4 of the way through the hike up, first light hits and the deep oranges and reds start to appear over the horizon. Once reaching the summit, find a quiet place to sit down and soak in one of the most amazing views you’ll ever see.
Pit Stops while Backpacking Acadia National Park
If you decide to hike the Precipice Trail, you will see ‘The Bowl’ – a large pond carved into the mountains – as you descend Champlain Mountain via the South Ridge Trail. The South Ridge Trail runs right past The Bowl, so you will have no trouble finding it. You can also reach this wonderful pit stop by heading .8 miles up the Bowl Trail -easy access from the Sand Beach parking lot.
Lush green forest, granite walls and a beautiful sand beach come together to meet the Atlantic Ocean at beautiful Sand Beach. This is a great place to kick back, throw down a blanket and catch some rays.
On your way out of the park, don’t forget to make a pit stop at Bar Harbor. This is a small port town on the north eastern shores of Mt. Desert Island. Filled with plenty of shops, eateries and even a local brewery.