Guide to Acadia National Park in October for New England’s Best Fall Foliage

Fall colors of Acadia National Park in October

New England is very well known for having some of – if not the – best fall foliage in the game (no one tell the Midwest as they will have a lot to say about this). And while the individual states can all battle it out for who takes the claim of the best leaf peeping state overall, October in Maine’s Acadia National Park really does house some of the best fall foliage you could ever set your eyes on. Is it because fall leaves changing colors just look better when you’ve got a mouthful of lobster roll? Maybe, and I’m willing to bet money on probably. But truly Acadia October foliage is just magnificent, and if you can you should absolutely check it out.

This guide will include the following information to help you plan your ultimate fall foliage Acadia trip:

  • When to go to Acadia for peak fall colors
  • Where to stay so you aren’t spending your entire trip driving instead of leaf peeping
  • 5 of the best places for spotting the changing leaf colors in Acadia National Park
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When to Go to Acadia for Peak Fall Colors

The best time to go to Acadia National Park for fall foliage is in October. Every year, the “when” in October changes; because unfortunately even our most seasoned weathermen and women cannot predict the weather with that level of accuracy. But, your best bet for seeing fall colors in Maine is in early October.

During our 2021 trip, we visited Acadia National Park (with fall colors being our main goal) in the first week in October. I based this on a bunch of Google searching, past fall foliage reports for Maine, early November being too late based on a previous trip I’d taken, and a friend who lives about 90 minutes south of Acadia National Park’s recommendation. I’d say that timing – the first week in October – was at the beginning of fall foliage season for 2021. We saw some incredible autumn colors, especially in certain parts of the park. But, you could probably choose any time in the first three weeks of October and see tremendous changing leaves. If I were to plan it again, I’d probably plan for the second or third week in October for just a little bit less green.

Woman standing atop a mountain looking out to the view with the coastline and many red and yellow trees for autumn

Where to Stay in Acadia During Your October Fall Foliage Trip

So where you stay in Acadia during your October trip is going to depend on a few things such as your budget, how far you’re willing to drive to get to the park, and how early you book. You’re not the only one with the brilliant idea of visiting Maine for fall foliage (though it’d be nice if you were I agree) so this isn’t automatically going to be the cheapest trip in the world for you. However, you don’t have to absolutely wild out in order to see those gorgeous fall colors though either. Here are a couple things to consider when you book your Acadia lodging for Acadia:

  • Bar Harbor is adorable and is also the absolute closest place you could stay for your time in Acadia, BUT is quick to get booked up (particularly during October) and costs more for those reasons.
  • Anything outside of Bar Harbor will be bit of a drive into the park. The farther out you go, the cheaper it will tend to be but obviously the more you’ll have to drive.
  • We stayed at a large motel in Hancock, ME that was pretty inexpensive .comparatively and was about 25 minutes from the park entrance which worked out super well. Was it fancy? Hell no. Did it do the job? Absolutely.
  • Ultimately I’d recommend using Google Hotels or AirBnb/VRBO to compare cost vs. distance and pick what works for you!

But if budget is no concern for you, Bar Harbor is really the way to go for ultimate Maine fall colors when spending a few days at Acadia National Park. It’s also perfect if you’re looking for an ~aesthetic~ (and willing to pay for it). If I were to pick where to stay in Bar Harbor based on exploring it for a day, I’d choose this ADORABLE inn. I’m obsessed with how cute it is; we hung out and enjoyed wine on the terrace while playing fetch with the cutest golden retriever. 10/10 recommend if only for vibes alone. And ya know what, sometimes that’s enough!

Woman standing amid a field in Acadia National Park looking out to mountains with a plaid shirt wrapped around her waist

5 of the Best Places to See Acadia’s Changing Leaves in October

So you’ve made it! You’re officially visiting Acadia National Park in October to leaf peep with the best of them. Get those eyeballs ready for some of these incredible spots in the park because there are SO MANY places to check out that amazing October fall foliage. I’m going to split these spots out into two groups; hiking spots or driving/walking spots. You don’t need to be super mobile to enjoy the views in Acadia National Park and I for one think that’s a major benefit of the park.

Beehive Loop Trail

This was honestly maybe one of the most fun hikes I’ve ever done! The Beehive Loop Trail is rated hard not necessarily because of elevation, but because you are cliffside and have to climb some ladders. A fear of heights might hinder you a little, so if hiking or heights really aren’t your thing, I might skip this. But if you love a challenging hike and want to be rewarded with some of the most beautiful foliage and coastal views, this is seriously a great way to see the fall colors in Maine.

Parking here is a little more difficult because it’s by the Sand Beach area which is pretty busy/popular. I’d do this hike earlier in the day (earlier than 10am), so you’re competing less with others for the limited parking spaces.

Jesup Path

This is an easy boardwalk trail that really shows off its Acadia fall foliage. Even in the first week in October it was as colorful as a Skittles bag. This path takes little to no physical exertion and has a wooden boardwalk, so it is perfect for any level of mobility. And did I mention gorgeous? Because there are truly some beautiful fall colors happening on Jesup Path.

Park your car at the trailhead and follow the signs, you’ll find Jesup Path in no time.

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is beautiful any time of day (or year, probably) but it is known for its sunrise since you can see the hit North America here first for a good chunk of the year. Additionally, it’s a prime spot to admire the fall foliage with a massive view of the park.

However, you do need a reservation to get up here, and getting a sunrise one is difficult. But whether you’re able to snag one of the limited sunrise spots or access it at a different time of day, this is absolutely somewhere to check out for some prime Maine fall colors.

Drive to the top and park your car, then wander around off the path but still on the rocks. I could have spent hours of here peeping Bar Harbor in the distance.

Woman standing atop a viewpoint with the coastline and Bar Harbor in the background

Schooner Head Overlook

Another spot accessible by car is Schooner Head Overlook. This is absolutely prime coastal Maine views, with the trees jutting out from the jagged coastline.

Follow your map here, park, then climb out onto the rocks (way less scary than it reads) and explore this magical coastline.

Woman standing at Schooner Head Overlook at Acadia National Park, with the coastline jagged behind her

In Bar Harbor

Okay okay so this is technically outside of the park, sure. I hear you, but I stand my ground here with this recommendation. While there are countless more spots in the park that will be showing off beautiful fall foliage for you to explore, you really must spend some of your October trip to Acadia hanging out in this adorable seaside town. It’s really unique and special, and SO pretty. Walk down to the waterfront and see all of the beautiful flowers as well as the fall colors exploding all around you. Bar Harbor really is Maine at its best and you’ll love it I promise.

So there you have it, my ultimate fall foliage guide to Acadia National Park in October. As always if you have any questions, holler my way. And if you want to experience what I did exactly, check out my Acadia Insta highlights.

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