Fall foliage in Acadia National Park a leaf peeper’s delight


UPDATE 10/8/14: It’s official, peak foliage is arriving in the Acadia region, according to the latest weekly report on the state’s foliage Web site. See the link to the report, below, as well as links to some new live Web cams with views toward foliage on the Bubbles and elsewhere.

The brilliant fall foliage of Acadia National Park puts it at the top of many a list, for everyone from renowned national parks photographer QT Luong to domestic diva Martha Stewart, from Backpacker Magazine to National Parks Traveler to the Wilderness Society.

Otter Cove in Acadia National Park

The fall colors of Acadia National Park contrast with the dark tidal flats exposed at Otter Cove. Cadillac and Dorr are in the background. (All photos by QT Luong/terragalleria.com all rights reserved)

Luong called Acadia’s autumn colors “some of the most beautiful fall foliage on the East Coast,” in an online magazine, The Active Times. Stewart featured an October hike up Parkman Mountain on her Martha blog a few years ago and described the views as “amazingly beautiful!”

Backpacker Magazine last month listed Acadia as No. 1 out of “12 amazing fall foliage destinations,” while National Parks Traveler has included Acadia in a list of top 10 contenders for best foliage in all of the national parks and featured the park in this fall’s “Essential Park Guide.”

And just a couple of weeks ago, the Wilderness Society included Acadia in its “15 national parks for fall color.”

QT Luong and Acadia National Park fall foliage

Fall colors shine through even on a rainy day in autumn in Acadia National Park.

If you feast your eyes on some of the Acadia fall foliage photos taken over the years by Luong and republished in this blog post, you’ll see why this national park is on everyone’s favorites list.

Luong, who was featured in Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” as the first photographer to capture all the parks in large format, includes 46 photos of Acadia fall colors on his Web site, www.terragalleria.com. And he recently updated his blog post, “Guide to Fall Foliage Color in the National Parks,” which includes a section on Acadia.

Is it peak yet?

When’s the best time to get peak fall foliage in Acadia National Park? Usually mid-October, although it can range from the first to the third week of October, according to the park’s answers to frequently asked questions. The official Maine foliage Web site shows a 5-year history of when the peak occurred in various parts of the state, and features weekly foliage updates this time of year. This week, according to the Maine foliage site, Acadia is close to peak.

You can check an official Acadia Web cam on McFarland Hill for how far along the foliage is. While the cam is to help monitor air quality, it does include the top of some trees in its view. There are also links to Bar Harboar area live Web cams for a peek at foliage toward the Bubbles, around Bar Harbor and other locales.

Acadia’s autumn foliage was not always so colorful. Before a huge fire in 1947, the forest was predominantly evergreen.

According to “A Guide’s Guide to Acadia National Park,” the fire burned 17,000 acres on Mount Desert Island, leading to a mostly deciduous forest on the east side of Mount Desert, with birch and aspen forest and other hardwoods like red oak, sugar maple, and beech.

QT Luong and Acadia National Park fall foliage

Colorful mosaic of fall foliage in Acadia National Park as seen through the lens of noted photographer QT Luong.

Acadia’s palette of colors comes from these trees that rose from the Fire of 1947’s ashes. According to the official Maine foliage Web site, yellows stem from such species as beech, birch and elm, and reds from maples and certain oaks.

Before the fire, Mount Desert’s trees were primarily red spruce and balsam fir, according to “A Guide’s Guide.” That type of evergreen forest can still be seen south of Gorham Mountain and around the Otter Cliff area. The fire blew out to sea after burning Great Head, and didn’t affect the area around Otter Cliff.

QT Luong and Acadia National Park fall foliage

View of Porcupine Islands from Cadillac Mountain, during fall foliage season.

But as with all forests, natural succession will mean a return to the evergreens on Mount Desert Island one day. Enjoy the brilliant foliage of Acadia while you can, since there may come a time when nothing turns gold.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.