Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of the east coast national parks. It is both spectacular and packed during the summer. But what if I told you there are a few secret spots to avoid crowds in Acadia National Park? Acadia hidden gems to explore?
The most beautiful places in the world can still be difficult to enjoy if you can’t find a place to be to enjoy it. Our national park obsessed family spent 2 summers of a lifetime exploring Acadia and found a few amazing hidden spots.
We can’t wait to share these secret spots with you!
(This post contains affiliate links. Purchases keep the lights on for this blog at no additional cost to you. See the Disclaimer.)
Acadia National Park Crowds Can Be Unbearable
Acadia National Park is simply stunning and spectacular any time of year. It is worth a visit even if the park is crowded.
The crowds, however can put a bit of a damper on exploring the park. Parking and traffic have been an issue in recent years.
What if I told you that there are many Acadia National Park hidden gems and secret locations to enjoy without the crowds?
During our 2 summers spent in Acadia, we were determined to discover all of the park’s secrets. Read on to find out how to avoid crowds at Acadia National Park.
Hidden Gems In Acadia National Park
1) Seal Harbor Beach
Many people still would like to visit a sandy beach during their Acadia vacation and there are a few options. The most crowded option is Sand Beach.
Sand Beach is crowded for a couple of reasons. It is located on the main Park Loop Road and the main shuttle route. It also has spectacular scenery.
Although Sand Beach Maine has a parking lot that is large for most of Acadia, it is usually full all the time. The bathrooms have huge lines as well and are usually disgusting. The facilities just can’t keep up with the crowds at this spot.
Sand Beach is a great place to stop and take photos of the scenery. However, if you are looking to spend some time enjoying a less crowded beach day, check out Seal Harbor Beach.
Seal Harbor Beach is nowhere near as crowded although also not as scenic. This beach is located south of the Park Loop Road past the town of Seal Harbor. It actually has a really fancy historic bathroom.
It is best to take the Island Explorer Shuttle as there is very limited parking here, but this also helps to keep the crowds lower. Make sure to choose the correct shuttle route for this location.
Each trip we like to visit Sand Beach to take photos and then pick another less crowded location to hang out. Rocky beaches are our jam here though.
Read on to find our favorite rocky beach locations to spend the day.
Adventure Tips: Always note the shuttle hours on the route you want to take. Some routes stop running really early.
Echo Lake Beach is another nice beach option. It is more crowded than Seal Harbor Beach but it is really scenic. This freshwater beach has warmer water than the ocean, a decent-sized parking lot, and is also on the shuttle route.
2) Little Hunters Beach
If you ask the locals for a great place to beat the crowds in Acadia, most of them will tell you to go to Little Hunters Beach. By the way, always ask the locals for ideas when you travel!
Little Hunters Beach is a gorgeous rocky cove with cliffs on the sides and perfectly round, tumbled, multicolored rocks on the beach.
This place is pure magic! Not only are all the smooth rocks amazing to explore, but they make the greatest rattling sound as they tumble together with the tide.
Little Hunters Beach is not crowded because it is hard to find. It is located on the Park Loop Road but you can’t see it from the street and there are only a few parking spaces alongside the road. The shuttle doesn’t stop here.
The Park Loop Road is also still one way at Little Hunters Beach, so if you miss it you can’t turn around.
Find it on Google Maps before you head out and screenshot/download the map because there is very little to no internet service.
You will see parking alongside the road on the right and you can barely see the top of the wooden stairs on the left that lead down to the beach.
We are a bit obsessed with the colors and smoothness of the pebbles here. I think they could explore this beach for days.
This is my favorite place to photograph in Acadia and the sound the rocks make is just mesmerizing.
Adventure Tips: Do not confuse this location with Hunters Beach that is farther down the road. You are looking for Little Hunters Beach.
If anyone in your group has mobility issues, this is not a good stop for them. It has a very long steep wooden staircase down and it is really hard to walk on the rounded pebbles.
3) Schooner Head Overlook
There is a little hidden gem located right underneath this popular park overlook. Schooner Head Overlook has a little trail on the right-hand side that winds down the cliff and leads you out onto the rocks below.
Most people get out to snap a photo at the overlook and then drive on. Some will walk down the trail and stop when they reach the rocks. But if you keep walking farther along the rocks, you will usually find the rocky cliffs all to yourself.
Our family loves to hang out in this area. We like to bring drinks and watch the waves crash. Sissy loves to climb around on the rocks and explore. It is a gorgeous space.
To find Schooner Head Overlook, turn left before entering the main park entrance gate. This road ends at the overlook. This location is not on any shuttle routes.
Adventure Tips: The crowds anywhere in Acadia are much lower after 5:00. This spot is best enjoyed later to avoid crowds.
Anemone Sea Cave is also accessible at low tide in this area. Be sure to check the tide schedule if you decide to explore the cave.
Hiking shoes are helpful in Acadia to protect your feet from the rocks and to have more sturdy footing.
4) The Schoodic Peninsula
An hours drive past the town of Winter Harbor, lies another section of Acadia National Park called the Schoodic Penninsula. The entire peninsula is a great place to avoid crowds.
The Schoodic is every bit as scenic as the main part of Acadia but minus the crowds. Most people have no idea that this beautiful section of the park even exists.
We wrote a complete Guide To The Schoodic Peninsula HERE.
It is a single park loop road that takes you around the peninsula past many beautiful overlooks.
Many people like to bike the Schoodic Loop Rd and there is a park shuttle that runs the loop.
Since it isn’t crowded, the shuttle will drop you off and pick you up anywhere you like along the park road. All you have to do is wave it down.
There are also a few nice uncrowded bike and hiking trails. If you have time during your trip to make the drive over to the peninsula, you will be so glad you did.
There are many amazing spots to mention here as well as unique Junior Ranger programs. This is also where we like to camp.
The Schoodic Peninsula area is by far one of the best hidden gems Acadia National Park.
Adventure Tips: Schoodic Woods Campground is the national park campground located on the Schoodic Peninsula. It is the only national park campground that can accommodate larger RVs.
It can be very difficult to get a spot in this always sold-out campground. Grab our FREE GUIDE below for tips and tricks to get this national park camping spot.
Get your National Park Camping Reservations Secrets FREE GUIDE HERE!
Never drive a larger RV through the main part of Acadia as there are many low clearance bridges!
Check out this complete guide to Exploring The Quiet Side Of Acadia: Schoodic Peninsula.
Tips To Avoid Acadia Crowds
Here are some additional tips to help you avoid crowds in Acadia National Park.
Enter The Park In The Late Afternoon
Something we noticed during our 2 summers spent in Acadia is that this park is the busiest from sunrise until 5:00 pm.
There is a large drop in park traffic around dinner time through sunset. This park is known for its sunrises which makes people tend to head into the park early.
By dinner, many people head out of the park and flock to Bar Harbor. (The best time to visit Bar Harbor Maine is late morning and early afternoon.)
We often headed into the park around the dinner hour and enjoyed the stunning sunsets. This was a great time to ditch the crowds even along the popular Ocean Path.
Plus the lighting during the golden hour just can’t be beaten for Acadia National Park photos.
Avoid Cruise Ship Days
If you aren’t visiting Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park from a cruise ship, then you will want to look up the Bar Harbor Maine cruise ship schedule.
The schedule lists the dates and times that ships are in port at Bar Harbor. Cruise ship days are extremely crowded in Bar Harbor but also in Acadia National Park.
Use The Acadia Island Explorer Shuttle
During the Acadia National Park Maine peak season, the park can seem a bit like a traffic jam.
There is also very limited parking, and finding a spot can be a stressful challenge.
We have found that riding the free Island Explorer Shuttle is by far the way to ditch the crowded parking situation.
We always park our large truck at the Acadia Hulls Cove visitor center and hop aboard the shuttle bus.
Riding the shuttle allows you to hop on and hop off any stop you wish to visit without having to deal with traffic or finding parking.
Pro Tip: It’s important to note that the main area of Acadia’s Park Loop Road is one-way.
This means if you don’t find a place to park and drive on, you can’t circle back to look for parking without driving all the way around again.
The Shoulder Season Is The Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park
When is the best time to go to Acadia National Park if you want to avoid crowds? The worst time to visit Acadia National Park is during the peak season of July and August.
The best times to visit Acadia National Park is during the shoulder seasons of May, early June, and September. This is the perfect time to visit with cooler weather and fewer Acadia crowds.
The Precipice Trail is also usually open in September which is a huge advantage for adventurous hikers.
If you must visit in the Acadia National Park busy season of July and August, consider spending more of your time on the Schoodic Peninsula where the crowds are always lower.
Pro Tip: Acadia National Park 2023 vehicle reservations are required to visit the summit of Cadillac Mountain anytime of day from May 24th through October 22nd, the peak season Acadia National Park.
Consider Taking A Private Tour
Ever wish a local would just take you around and put you on all of the best spots? This could be a great way to find unknown areas of the park and skip the crowds.
You can have just that kind of experience in this Private Tour Of Acadia National Park.
One huge benefit of taking a private guided tour is that it also includes going to the top of Cadillac Mountain, with no reservations required.
What Reservations Are Required In Acadia National Park in 2023?
For the 2023 season, entrance reservations are no longer required for Acadia National Park. You can enter and drive through the park at anytime, no reservation needed.
However, to visit the popular highest peak in the park, Cadillac Mountain, you will need a reservation.
A 2023 vehicle reservation for Cadillac Summit Road is needed to visit any time of day from May 24th through October 22nd.
This mountain top is a famous spot to watch both the sunrise and the sunset but it has led to parking issues.
Note that the Acadia National Park Island Explorer shuttle doesn’t go to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
We loved the view from Cadillac Mountain and would go again. It’s worth the effort to get a reservation.
How To Get Acadia National Park Reservations
You can get an Acadia vehicle registration for Cadillac Mountain in advance at Recreation.gov.
Be sure to print or save a copy of the reservation with the QR code as the internet is poor in this park location.
Sunrise Vehicle Reservation For Cadillac Mountain Versus Daytime Vehicle Reservation
To visit Cadillac Mountain in 2023, there are two types of vehicle registrations to choose from.
The vehicle daytime registration is a timed-entry reservation with a 30-minute entry window.
Once at the top, you can stay as long as you like but can’t re-enter again on the same day.
You can try to get another daytime reservation the next day or for multiple days of your trip if you want to visit again.
Daytime reservation windows are from 6:00 am EST to 7:30 am, depending on which month you visit. See this chart for times.
Sunrise vehicle reservations have a 90-minute entry window. You can stay as long as you like but can’t re-enter.
Only one sunrise reservation in a 7-day period is allowed so can’t come again during your trip for the sunrise.
The sunrise reservation windows for Cadillac Mountain begin from 4 am to 5:30 am EST depending on your visit month. Check the times in this chart.
2023 Schedule To Book Vehicle Reservations For Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park
- Visits from May 24 through June 30: reservations are available 2 days before at 10:00 am EST.
- Visits from July 1 through October 22: There is both an advance reservation and last-minute option.
30% of vehicle reservations are available 90 days in advance at 10 am EST.
Last Minute Reservations
70% of vehicle reservations are available 2 days before at 10 am EST.
Quiet Best Places To Stay In Acadia National Park
Looking for a quiet place to stay in a great location to access the park? Check out the Acadia Inn Bar Harbor.
This quaint property is only 1 mile from the park and has hiking trail access into Acadia. Its location can’t be beaten!
Or prefer to stay closer to the shops and restaurants of Bar Harbor? Check out the charming Sand Bar Cottage Inn with the convenience of walking distance to town.
Rather camp or even rent a small cabin for your Acadia trip. Hadley’s Point Campground offers both.
This award-winning campground is conveniently located on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor. It offers tent camping, full hookup RV camping, and cabin rentals.
FAQs Acadia Hidden Gems & Avoid Crowds In Acadia National Park
How Do You Avoid Crowds In Acadia National Park?
The best way to avoid crowds in Acadia National Park is to visit during the shoulder season of spring and fall, avoid Bar Harbor cruise ship days, and enter the park in the late afternoon.
When Is Acadia National Park Busiest?
Acadia National Park is busiest during the peak season months of July and August. The beginning of September is also a very crowded time in the park.
How Busy Is Acadia National Park In July?
Acadia National Park is extremely busy in July. July and August are the peak visitation for Acadia. Expect traffic, limited parking, and long shuttle lines. The weather Acadia National Park is perfect during those months.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Acadia National Park?
To avoid crowds, the best time of year to visit Acadia National Park is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. May and October are cooler months but less crowded. The best weather in Acadia National Park is in July and August.
Are You Ready To Check Out These Acadia Hidden Gems & Secret Spots To Avoid Crowds In Acadia National Park?
These hidden gems of Acadia are just waiting for you to explore! Even if you can’t avoid Acadia National Park busiest times, you can still duck away from the crowds to enjoy a little tranquil beauty in these secret spots. So what are you waiting for?
Looking for activities to do in Acadia? Check out: 3 Unique Things To Do In Acadia National Park.
Have you found any secret spots in Acadia? Please leave me a comment! I would love to hear about your experiences.
Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to Pin & Tweet it.
Enjoy your adventure detour!
Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!