Spectacular fall foliage in Acadia National Park is a leaf peeper’s delight, at or near the top of the list for everyone from professional photographers to Martha Stewart, travel writers to cruise ship passengers.
But enjoying the autumn colors is just one of the many things to see and do in Acadia in October, an increasingly popular time to visit, when the reds, golds, yellows and browns of fall’s turning leaves complement the year-round pink of the park’s granite.
Fall foliage in the Acadia region is at high to peak generally in mid-October, according to the NPS. It could be a brilliant color show for those racing or watching the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon, an annual October event canceled by the pandemic in 2020 and back on for Oct. 17 in 2021.
Here’s a list of top things to see and do in and around Acadia in October:
Fall foliage in Acadia just one of many things to see and do in October
- Take a scenic ride – If you’re visiting by Indigenous Peoples’ Day, ride the fare-free Island Explorer bus around the Park Loop Road or to any of the other destinations throughout the park and on Mount Desert Island. Remember to get your visitor pass at the Village Green park information center or at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. The Island Explorer stops running after Indigeneous Peoples Day, and was not operating in 2020 in Acadia, so if you visit after then, you can either drive the 26.5-mile Park Loop Road yourself, including the 3.5-mile segment up to the top of Cadillac, or take one of the 2 authorized commercial tour buses in the park, which operate through late October. While the Island Explorer doesn’t go up Cadillac, Oli’s Trolley and Acadia National Park Tours both take passengers up the highest mountain in Acadia.
- Hike a trail – With 155 miles of trails on Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park offers hikes for any level, from beginner to experienced cliff climber. There’s an open house at the Beech Mountain Fire Tower going on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 3 p.m., through October 14. The park’s only fire tower is usually only open to the first landing, but during the open house, you can climb to the top platform and get even a more spectacular view than usual. The cabin of the historic fire tower is not open, however. The 1.1-mile loop trail to the fire tower is a moderate one. Or if you’re not afraid of heights and in good hiking shape, fall is a good time of year to scale the Precipice Trail or Jordan Cliffs, since the peregrine falcon chicks have long fledged, allowing those trails to reopen. Check out one of our hiking guides for detailed route descriptions, see sidebar, or see a park list of trails.
- Bike the carriage roads or take a horse-drawn carriage ride – With 45 miles of carriage roads, there’s plenty to explore by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. You can also walk the well-graded gravel paths, or combine a bike-hike, since many of Acadia’s hiking trails intersect carriage roads. Day Mountain is the only one of Acadia’s mountains with a carriage road to the top, allowing you to bike up, or to take the Wildwood Stables horse-drawn carriage ride up. You can also ride horseback on the carriage roads. The Jordan Pond House, at a carriage road crossroads for bikers and hikers and near the stables, is open through late October.
- Participate in a ranger-led program – The park’s calendar of events lists such activities as HawkWatch, Islesford Historic and Scenic Cruise, and a “Missing Mansion” walk to the site of the former mansion of George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia National Park” and its first superintendent. The last day of ranger-led activities on Mount Desert Island is Oct. 14.
- Explore Schoodic Peninsula – If you want to explore a quieter side of Acadia, try the Schoodic section of the park, the only part of the park on the mainland. With the opening of Schoodic Woods Campground on Sept. 1 of 2015, there are now newer bike paths and hiking trails to explore on the only section of Acadia on the mainland. Even after the campground closes after Columbus Day, the trails will remain open, as will the rest of the Schoodic section of the park. Ranger-led programs on the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus run through the end of October. You can also take a drive on the 29-mile Schoodic Scenic Byway and visit the communities that charmed Arthur Frommer – yes, that Frommer, of Frommer’s travel guides – with their small-town feel.
- Sample wine and brews at Acadia’s Oktoberfest – Or take a kayak, foodie or haunted history tour. The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce lists such activities as kayaking, foodie tours, haunted history tours and dozens of other things going on this month.
- Take a fall foliage photography workshop – Acadia Images in Seal Harbor is offering a “Discovering Acadia” 4-day fall foliage photography workshop from Oct. 12 – Oct. 16, including lodging (only 3 slots remaining last time we checked). The father-son professional photographic team of Tom and Vincent Lawrence, year-round Mount Desert Island residents, also offer guided outings, full-day classes and other workshops throughout the year. Photographer J.K. Putnam of Acadia Workshops offers “October in Acadia: Landscape Workshop,” a one- to three-day workshop of 4 hours a day, as well as 3- to 4-hour sunrise or sunset photographic tours throughout the month. Both Acadia Images and Acadia Workshops also offer night-sky photography workshops, as does Brent L. Ander Photography.
- Run a race, or just for the fun of it – Check for slots that might be left in the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Marathon Relay, scheduled for the Sunday after Indigeneous Peoples’ Day. Not only would taking in fall foliage in Acadia be your reward for
running this race, so would a lobster claw finisher medal. Or you can do any number of recreational runs of your own design, along Acadia’s carriage roads, hiking trails or, if you dare, and if the traffic is light, up the 3.5-mile Cadillac Summit Road. Acadia is a true runner’s paradise, and even more spectacular during leaf-peeping season.
Fall foliage in Acadia may be the main attraction, but there are plenty of other things to see and do in the park and surrounding communities in October.
Enjoy the brilliant fall foliage while you can, and the activities the area has to offer, since…
…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.