Cadillac Mountain sees the first sunrise in the U.S. in the fall and winter, but there’s much more beauty to behold all year round at Acadia National Park.
The word on Acadia National Park is always “sunrise.” The opportunity to see the sun crawl above the horizon from atop Cadillac Mountain — at 1,530 feet, the highest point on the U.S. Atlantic coast — draws huge crowds. But Acadia offers treats for night owls as well.
In addition to campfire talks and other programs, rangers lead stargazing hikes throughout the summer. Then in September, Acadia will host its ninth annual Night Sky Festival (acadianightskyfestival.org).
John Kelly, management assistant at the park, says the Sept. 21-24 event will offer activities inside and outside the park ranging from the “fun and silly” to the “highly scientific.” In other words, something for everyone. Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. will offer stargazing cruises with ranger narration, he says.
“September’s the clearest month with low humidity,” Kelly says. “It’s a great month to do stargazing.”
Kelly has a couple of tips for people planning a trip to the Maine coast. First, Acadia is one of a half-dozen or so parks that allow you to buy passes online in advance. Avoid lines by buying a seven-day pass at yourpassnow.com. The National Park Service plans to add other parks to the website in a slow rollout, Kelly says, so keep an eye on it for your travel planning.
Also, Kelly recommends using the Island Explorer Bus system, which links hotels, inns and campgrounds with key park destinations, including hiking trails, carriage roads and island beaches. Cyclists, joggers and walkers will enjoy the 45 miles of carriage roads, traffic-free gravel surfaces that were financed and designed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. to highlight the beautiful lakes and mountain views in the park.
Finally, Kelly advises planning your travel to avoid large crowds. For instance, Cadillac Mountain may be the big draw for sunrise and sunset, but Kelly says, “Ocean Drive is empty and quiet and offers just as great…