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.
“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.
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.
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.