Planning a trip to Acadia National Park in winter? Ask Acadia on My Mind!

ask acadia on my mind

Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As

If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our page linking in one place all the Q&As.

1) Planning a hike up Cadillac Mountain on New Year’s Day 2017. Can you recommend a trail to the top and accommodations near there this time of year? Thanks for any information you can provide. – Regards,Tom Campbell, Denver, North Carolina

Dear Tom,

Sounds like a great way to welcome the New Year, visiting Acadia National Park in winter to hike up Cadillac, whether to see the first sunrise in the US or not!

Planning such a trip is not as difficult as you might think, especially since there are quite a number of year-round lodging and dining options in Bar Harbor and surrounding towns, as we’ve compiled in a series of handy pages on this blog.

acadia in winter

Acadia National Park in winter, as seen from Cadillac (NPS photo)

If you’re lucky, there may not be much snow and ice on Cadillac, making it an easier hike. But be sure to bring proper gear just in case, since conditions can change quickly, and can be very different at the top of the mountain compared with down at the start.

See a list of some favorite winter hiking gear, below, as well as a round-up of other activities in Acadia in winter. You might also want to post a question about current trail conditions on the Acadia National Park Hiking group page we created on Facebook, which a number of local hikers belong to.

You can check snow conditions by linking to live Webcams at the Web site of local radio station 93.7 FM, “The Wave,” and the park’s official winter activities page for additional information.

Acadia in winter offers hiking, cross-country skiing, other activities

There are 2 main options for hiking up Cadillac this time of year, Tom. As of Dec. 1, the Cadillac Summit Road closed to cars, as did much of the Park Loop Road. So one option is to walk the road. The other main option is to hike the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, which is a bit shorter and less exposed than walking the road.

cadillac in winter

To get this view from Cadillac in winter, you can hike the summit road or trails, but be sure to be properly equipped for snow, ice and cold. (NPS photo)

To access either of these options, you would park by the gate blocking the park’s Cadillac entrance off Eagle Lake Road (ME 233). You would then walk south along the Park Loop Road toward Cadillac about a mile before accessing either the summit road or Cadillac North Ridge Trail.

If you’re planning on hiking the 3.5-mile Cadillac Summit Road, just follow the Park Loop Road to the summit road, and turn left up the summit road and follow it to the top. (Be aware that snowmobiles are allowed on the Cadillac Summit Road and the entire Park Loop Road, if the conditions are right.)

If you’re hiking the 2.2-mile Cadillac North Ridge Trail, you have 2 choices off the Park Loop Road: Turn left at the Island Explorer’s North Ridge bus stop to follow the Kebo Brook Trail 0.3 mile to the Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead, or continue a bit further on the Park Loop Road and turn left onto the 1-way section of the Park Loop Road to reach the Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead (it’s about 0.4 mile longer to reach the trailhead via the 1-way section of the Park Loop Road, compared with taking the Kebo Brook Trail).

A 3rd option would be the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. One advantage of this route: The trailhead is on ME 3, across from the Blackwoods Campground entrance. If you happen to be staying at the only campground in Acadia that allows primitive winter camping, or want to minimize how much total hiking before you get to the trailhead, this might be the preferred route.

But it is still a trek at 3.5 miles, and more exposed than the Cadillac North Ridge Trail.

Cadillac isn’t the only hike to do in Acadia National Park in winter

If conditions aren’t favorable for a Cadillac sunrise hike, there are plenty of other options, either to see the sunrise or for an easier trek.

Acadia National Park in winter

Acadia National Park in winter has its own special beauty. (NPS photo)

There’s a 1-mile stretch of the 1-way section of the Park Loop Road, accessed off Schooner Head Road, that is plowed and open year-round, allowing access to Ocean Path for an easier sunrise view. Some Acadia Centennial Partners actually welcomed the dawn of the Centennial year from this vantage point.

For easier hikes with views, try these: Low-tide walk to Bar Island Trail; Compass Harbor Trail; Sand Beach and Great Head Trail; Gorham Mountain Trail; Jordan Pond Path (accessible via another part of the Park Loop Road that’s open year-round, reached off ME 3 and Jordan Pond Road in Seal Harbor); Wonderland; and Ship Harbor Trail.

You can find out more about these easier hikes in either one of our Falcon guides, “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park,” or “Hiking Acadia National Park” (which won the National Outdoor Book Award last month). (NOTE: Please see sidebar about Amazon.com links in this blog.)

Smorgasbord of things to see and do in Acadia National Park in winter

Here’s a round-up of activities going on in Acadia in the winter, Tom, if you’re staying beyond the New Year’s Day hike up Cadillac, or planning other trips off-season:

acadia in winter

This oil painting by Seal Harbor resident Judy Taylor, entitled “The Skaters,” won the 2017 Acadia Winter Festival poster contest. (Image courtesy of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park)

  • 2nd annual Bar Harbor Winter Beer Fest – Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Atlantic Brewing
  • Acadia Winter Festival – Feb. 10 – Feb. 12, 2017
  • Cross-country skiing – Friends of Acadia volunteers with the Acadia Winter Trails Association groom and track the carriage roads for cross-country skiing when the conditions are right.
  • Snowmobiling – The park spells out the rules and regulations for snowmobiling on its winter activities page.There are no snowmobile rentals on Mount Desert Island. The park no longer allows dog sledding and skijoring, as a result of the 6-foot leash requirement.)

See the park’s official winter activities page for other tips for planning a trip, including information about winter camping in Acadia, and a recent prohibition against dog sledding and skijoring as a result of the 6-foot leash requirement.

Suggested outdoor gear for a trip to Acadia National Park in winter

Below is a list of some gear that might come in handy for a trip to Acadia in winter, depending upon the conditions and the outdoor activity, some of which may be available at such local retailers as Cadillac Mountain Sports in Bar Harbor and Ellsworth; L.L. Bean Outlet in Ellsworth; or online via our affiliated partners REI or Amazon (NOTE: See sidebar about affiliated partner links in this blog):

  • Kahtoola MICROspikes(R)
  • Hillsound Trail Crampon
  • MSR Revo(TM) Ascent Snowshoe

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.