Acadia National Park sets October record with 313,000 visitors

The highest number ever of October visitors to Acadia National Park may help make 2014 the busiest year in the park in more than a dozen years, despite November’s early snows, according to the latest park statistics and projections.

South Bubble Acadia National Park

Some of the visitors who contributed to a record-breaking October 2014 in Acadia National Park take in the sunshine and fall foliage from South Bubble. (Photo courtesy of Greg Saulmon)

“It does appear that this October was our highest by quite a lot,” said Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist for the park, who works with visitation statistics. A total of 313,323 visitors were tallied last month, while the previous October high was just over 301,000 in 2012, as reported on the National Park Service statistics Web site. Last year’s government shutdown led to artificially low October 2013 numbers.

“It’s the weather, the cruise ships, the gas prices perhaps, and just the general increase in shoulder season traffic. And maybe a summer publicity hangover,” Jacobi said in an e-mail. Earlier this year, Acadia was named America’s favorite place by viewers of “Good Morning America” and the No. 1 National Park by readers of USA Today.

Even with the snowstorms that hit Mount Desert Island beginning Nov. 2, closing park roads for days, it appears the annual visitation is “likely to be the highest in 12-15 years,” perhaps exceeding the 2.55 million figure from 2002, according to Jacobi.

October at times can seem as busy as August in Acadia

Last month’s record numbers – boosted by more than 40 cruise ship stops for fall foliage in Bar Harbor and nearly 1,000 runners in the Mount Desert Island Marathon – pale by comparison to August, when 636,391 visited.

cruise ship acadia national park

A view from Bar Island puts into perspective one of the many cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor.

Nevertheless, there can so many leaf peepers on Cadillac Mountain, especially when a couple of cruise ships let off passengers for bus tours at the same time, the summit is nearly as mobbed as on an August day.

In fact, such periodic crowding is leading the park service to consider ways of encouraging cruise ship passengers to take in the views from the quieter Schoodic Peninsula, the only section of the park on the mainland, according to a report in the Ellsworth American. There’s even consideration of a shuttle bus up Cadillac as an alternative to cars and large tour buses, and not just during peak foliage season, according to the report.

sunrise near Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park

One way to beat the crowds in Acadia during foliage season is to catch a colorful sunrise near Bass Harbor Head Light, as photographer Greg Saulmon did during his first-ever visit to the park in October 2014. (Photo courtesy of Greg Saulmon)

The fare-free Island Explorer bus, which also set record numbers this year with more than half a million riders as we first reported in this blog, does not go up Cadillac and only runs through Columbus Day weekend.

Year-to-date through the end of October, visitors to all sections of Acadia National Park totaled 2.516 million, a tally which may fluctuate a little if actual numbers from the Schoodic section of the park can be retrieved from an automated traffic counter, according to Jacobi, the park’s natural resource specialist.

The Schoodic counter was struck by lightning in January and hard numbers haven’t always been available, he said.

But even with record-setting visitation, there is still solitude to be found in Acadia National Park with its more than 120 miles of hiking trails, as we’ve found.

Whether in the heat of August or in the midst of October’s peak foliage, here are just some of the ways to get far from the madding crowd: Ride the Island Explorer, start early or late, or take the trail less traveled.

8 thoughts on “Acadia National Park sets October record with 313,000 visitors

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  3. Jeanette Matlock

    My husband & I were 2 of the 313,000 in October 2014. We were there Tues – Saturday. Had no trouble getting a table at Jordan Pond (only a 15 minute wait). Had many locales to ourselves for people-less photos (As a general I don’t like people in my photos unless there’s a good reason for it). On one late afternoon carriage road hike, we didn’t see another human for 45min – 1hr, and only intermittently during it. So quiet & Pure bliss. Bar Harbor was not crowded at all. Though there was supposed to be a rainstorm, it passed by overnight & left the area quiet & uncrowded. Saturday was cool & gray, so only the hearty souls were out to take in the beauty of the crashing sea. Due to lack of crowds, I got a great photo of a young buck grazing at Schooner Head that day. This is how I like my Acadia.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Yes, that’s the way we like Acadia too, far from the crowds. It’s true that even during busy times, it’s possible to find solitude, either by taking a trail less traveled, or getting an early start. Enjoyed that photo of the young buck at Schooner Head. Thanks for sharing, Jeanette!

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