Maine’s Acadia National Park: An Enjoyable Mixture of Parkland and Private Property

Maine is well known as one of America’s most beautiful states. It’s filled with some spectacular countryside, forests, and lakes, and is the home to Acadia National Park. The park is about 49,600 acres in size and was established way back in 1919, making it close to a century old now.

The glorious mountains and sea meet and kiss each other in the park and the majority of the land is located on Mount Desert Island. The island itself consists of parkland, charming seaside villages, and private property. As you may have guessed, the villages are quite popular once the warm weather arrives. Other sections of the park are located on a peninsula and some smaller islands.

(photo credit: nightthree)

Mount Desert Island itself used to be attached to the mainland as a large granite mountainous ridge that sat on the ocean’s edge. About 20,000 years ago, large, thick sheets of glacial ice traveled over top of the local mountains and rounded their peaks. The ice formed lakebeds and passes, and widened many of the area’s valleys.

When these glaciers finally melted, the seawater rose and the coastline and valleys were flooded. What used to be a mountain ridge before the glaciers arrived is now a lake-filled mountainous island which proudly sits in the might Atlantic Ocean.

The island was originally christened L’Isle des Monts Deserts by Samuel de Champlain when he explored Maine’s coastal region back in 1604. A rough translation means island of barren mountains. However, the island didn’t become popular with local residents until the middle of the 1800s. They fell in love with the mountains and sea and erected mansions there which were basically used as summer homes.

Residents wanted to preserve the area and donated a lot of the land to form a park, which was the first American national park to be established east of the Mississippi River and was originally named Lafayette National Park in 1919 until it was changed to Acadia in 1929. The government appreciated the donated land and took whatever parcels of it that were offered. It was hard to set out the park’s official boundaries because of the private property that still remained inside of it.

Acadia is known as one of America’s smallest national parks, but it’s also one of the most popular as about 2.5 million people visit it each year. There’s a shuttle bus on the island that can get you around if you become tired of hiking. It’s an ideal location to visit at any time of the year and the visitor center opens from April until the end of October.

However, remember this is a park that has homes and commercial establishments on it and the roads can get quite busy, especially in the summer and fall when the colorful foliage attracts thousands of people. While ice and snow may close some of the park roads during the winter, you can still enjoy an adventurous cross-country skiing trip.

If you’re driving, the best way to see the park is to take the 20-mile loop road in the park and visit Cadillac Mountain. You can explore the rocky coast of the island and get some great views of the mainland from the Schoodic Peninsula. If time permits, you may want to hike the trails and visit one of the park’s smaller islands. If you’d like to sleep under the stars there are 2 excellent campgrounds in the park.