Acadia National Park encompasses nearly 50,000 acres along the coastline of Maine, protecting the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. This park is home to over 20 mountains, 1,100 plant species, and a wide diversity of wildlife and ecosystems.
The park is split into several sections, and it can take over an hour to drive between some of them.
The main section of Acadia National Park is Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine. The east side of Mount Desert Island is the most visited area of Acadia and includes the 27-mile Park Loop Road system. The west side of Mount Desert Island is a bit more quiet but still contains nice coastal views and hiking trails.
The Schoodic Peninsula is about an hour’s drive away but is even more secluded than the west side of Mount Desert Island with more great hiking trails. Another location, the Isle au Haut is located off the coast of Stonington, Maine. It is the most remote area of Acadia and is accessible by a passenger ferry only. And finally, there are outer islands that require a ferry, boat tour, or personal watercraft.
All of this makes Acadia a popular national park. In fact, it was the 5th most visited national park in 2022, with 3.97 million visits. This puts it behind Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, but ahead of Yosemite. (See this Reader’s Digest article for more information on national park visitation numbers.)
And the best part about this national park is that Acadia is one of the most dog-friendly national parks in the United States.
Dogs At Acadia National Park
In addition to joining you at most campgrounds and along roadsides, there are 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads where leashed pets are permitted. Just make sure to follow a few regulations:
- Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times (per federal law)
- Collect and dispose of animal waste in designated trash receptacles.
- Do not leave your pet unattended, including at campsites or in cars.
Although dogs (and other pets) are permitted in so much of Acadia National Park, it is important to know where they can’t go. Acadia’s official nps.gov website does a great job of outlining areas that are pet-friendly, pet-restricted, closed, or not recommended for pets. But here’s a quick summary for those of you reading this blog article.
Pets are allowed almost everywhere, except:
- Most lakes (most lakes are public water supplies and neither people nor pets can swim in them)
- Sand Beach and Echo Lake (from May to September – specific dates may vary)
- Public Buildings
- Ranger-led Programs
- Wild Gardens of Acadia
- Duck Harbor Campground
- Trails with Rungs/Ladders
- Ladder Trail to Dorr Mountain
- Beech Cliffs Trail
- Perpendicular Trail (Mansell Mountain)
- Jordan Cliffs Trail (between Penobscot East Trail and the carriage road)
There is also a list of trails not recommended for pets, mostly due to tricky/difficult sections of trail to navigate. During our stay at Acadia National Park, we found that there were so many dog-friendly trails we didn’t need to venture onto the trails that weren’t recommended for dogs. We spent 3 days in Acadia National Park and could have easily spent a full week.
Since we were only there for a short period of time, we focused on the east side of Mount Desert Island with one side trip to the Schoodic Peninsula. We did not take the passenger ferry out to Isle au Haut, even though dogs can day hike on that island. They can even ride the passenger ferry with you at no extra cost.
When we arrived at our campground, we spoke with one of the park rangers regarding recommended hiking trails with dogs. The park office provided us with a nice printed list of dog-friendly hiking trails plus a few recommendations that weren’t on the list. Here are the hiking trails that we chose to hike during our 3-day, 4-night visit.
Cadillac Mountain – South Ride Trail
Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular areas of Acadia National Park. You can drive to the summit (as long as you secured a reservation), but why drive when you can hike?
There are multiple routes that can be used to hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The longer and more scenic option is to ascend via the South Ridge. The trail is supposed to offer spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and outlying islands before reaching the summit, but I can’t comment on that. Our views were obscured by clouds/fog during our hike. Despite that, we still enjoyed hiking along the exposed granite ridgeline. Happily, we were able to get a few views from the summit.
This route is 7.1 miles round-trip, but add another mile if you start from Blackwoods campground. The trail is well marked with blue blazes, but if you step off trail in the rocky area near the trail intersections make sure you get back on the trail you want. Many of the blazes are painted on the rock and when we looked around to find the blazes, we almost took the West Ridge Trail on our way back down. Luckily the steeper descent clued us into our mistake before we got too far.
Please also be aware that there is one iron rung to navigate. We were able to make it pretty easily with both dogs, but the Flagline harness handlines did come in handy.
I really enjoyed this hike and it would have been even better if we had been able to see past the clouds.
Bar Island Trail
Bar Island Trail offers a unique experience to walk on a gravel bar that connects the town of Bar Harbor to Bar Island. The gravel bar is exposed for 1.5 hours before and after low tide, so be sure to check the tide charts and get back before the tide comes in.
The gravel bar extends for about half a mile towards Bar Island, and then you can walk for another 1/2 mile on Bar Island for a total of a 1.9-mile round-trip hike.
We really enjoyed the experience, as it was so different from our other hikes in the park.
Gorham Mountain Trail
Gorham Mountain Trail is an approximately 3.5-mile round-trip trail. This loop is accessed off of the park loop road and offers fantastic views. Similar to the South Ridge approach to Caddilac Mountain summit, this trail climbs through forest and then up onto rocky terrain.
A helpful tip for us was that there is a false summit a couple of hundred feet before the official summit. So make sure to hike all the way up to the summit marker.
Also, this trail does have the option to take the Cadillac Cliff Trail. That 0.3-mile optional section does have rungs and ladders to assist hikers over rock scrambles, so you may want to stay on the Gorham Mountain loop trail if you are hiking with a dog.
Jordan Pond Path
While there are several great hikes around Jordan Pond, we choose to take the relatively easy 3.3-mile Jordan Pond Path loop around the pond. Jordan Pond is one of Acadia’s most iconic landscapes, as it is located in a steep valley bordered by Penobscot, Pemetic, and two round peaks known as the Bubbles. The trail is a combination of plank boardwalk, flat dirt, and a small boulder field.
This trail is lovely, and we very much enjoyed our hike. However, be aware that Jordan Pond is a designated public water supply, so wading and swimming are prohibited at all times. This may not be an ideal trail if you have a water-loving dog who will be tempted by the pond throughout the hike.
The Anvil to Schoodic Head to Alder Trail
And finally, a hike from the Schoodic Peninsula. On the Schoodic Peninsula there are only 7.5 miles of hiking trails, but these trails still provide a nice variety of hiking. Many of the trails lead to the Schoodic Head, which is a distinctive knob that offers expansive views of the area.
We parked in the Blueberry Hill parking lot and connected Anvil Trail, Schoodic Head Trail, and Alder Trail to make a loop. Our route started with the Anvil Trail and we were happy to tackle some of the steeper sections on the way up, as descending steep areas attached to leashes is always a little harder for me than heading up steep sections attached to leashes.
The Anvil Trail is about 1.1 miles in length and has rocky and steep sections (which I honestly found really enjoyable and scenic). The trail provides some incredible views if you hike on a clear day.
Schoodic Head Trail is another rocky trail that connects Alder Trail to the summit of Schoodic Head (at an elevation of 440 ft). This trail is 0.6 miles in length and is just as fun to navigate as Anvil Trail.
Alder Trail is also 0.6 miles in length, but this is an easy walk along a grassy path. As a result, this trail takes only a portion of the time required to hike the Schoodic Head or Anvil trails.
Camping at Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park has 4 campgrounds: Blackwoods, Seawall, Schoodic Woods, and Duck Harbor. Duck Harbor does not allow dogs, so in this blog post, I am just going to discuss the other three.
All campsites require advanced reservations. Reservations are available two months in advance at Recreation.gov.
Blackwoods Campground is the most centrally located, as it is on the east side of Mount Desert Island. You can walk to the South Ridge Trail to hike to Cadillac Mountain Summit or you can head in the opposite direction and get to the Gorham Mountain Trail. Another perk is that all of the campsites are within a 10-minute walk of the ocean. And to top it off, the campground is only 5 miles south of Bar Harbor.
Another benefit of this campground is that it is open the longest, with season dates from May 5th to October 16th.
This campground has 281 sites with standard amenities, such as fire rings, picnic tables, buildings with flush toilets, and a dump station. There are no electric hook-ups.
Seawall Campground is located on the west side of Mount Desert Island. Season dates for this campground are approximately May 24th through October 9th. This campground is about 18 miles from Bar Harbor, but once again, all sites are within walking distance of the coastline.
This campground has 202 campsites and amenities are the same as those at Blackwoods.
Schoodic Woods Campground
Schoodic Woods Campground is located on the Schoodic Peninsula with season dates from approximately May 24th to October 9th.
If you are looking for an electric site, this is the only campground in Acadia National Park with RV electric hook-ups. There are 89 sites total, and 78 of the campsites have electric hook-ups. Some also have water hook-ups.
While you could spend a full week just visiting locations inside Acadia National Park, many visitors to Acadia National Park also spend some time in nearby towns like Bar Harbor. And if you want to hike the Bar Island Trail, you will actually need to park in Bar Harbor to access this trail.
I was happy to find that Bar Harbor was pretty dog-friendly. There were multiple water bowls set outside and several stores even had signs clearly stating that dogs were allowed to shop inside with their people.
We enjoyed strolling through Bar Harbor after our hike on Bar Island. We stopped and got a fantastic blueberry donut from The Stadium, enjoyed some delicious Blueberry soda from Atlantic Brewing Company, and returned later in the day to enjoy a fabulous dinner at Side Street Cafe. Seriously the Haddock Sandwich was amazing! And the blueberry pie we got for dessert was a perfect ending to a wonderful meal.
If you haven’t noticed a theme yet, yes blueberries are pretty popular in Maine.
But whether you explore Bar Harbor or stay focused on the national park itself, Acadia National Park is a fantastic national park. And you won’t need to leave your dog behind while you explore it!