Visiting Acadia National Park in January

January 10, 2019by Thomas Tash
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Visiting Acadia National Park in January is a uniquely awesome experience. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of summer vacation and the buzz of activity, the park takes on a new level of solitude. While much of the park is closed during the winter, there are still plenty of great winter hikes in Acadia National Park.

Visiting Acadia National Park in January

Most visitors to Acadia National Park think only of warm days, lush greenery, and ending the day on a patio with a lobster roll, but there’s another side to Maine’s national park that only the locals see. Visiting Acadia National Park in January offers a dazzling display of mother nature taking over and resetting the stage for another year. Is the park still open? Yes! Is it filled with people hiking trails and climbing mountains? No. The National Park Service does a wonderful job keeping the park open to visitors during the long, harsh Maine winter, the experience itself simply changes a great deal.

Weather in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in January

January is one of the two coldest months in Maine, while much of the state may see multiple feet of snow, along the coast, the sea air tends to bring a mixed bag of winter weather.

Temperatures tend to hang around in the high 10’s for a low at night and get up to the high 30’s during the day. Ocean winds make for challenging conditions in some cases when snow is granular and can resemble a sand storm.

January “tends” to see a warm spell with temps in the 40’s and 50’s (impossible to predict), and is also known for massive snow storms (Nor’Easters) toward the end of the month heading into February.

ALWAYS pack and dress accordingly when visiting Acadia National Park in January.

Getting around Acadia National Park in January

Road Conditions

One of the main focuses of the National Park Service during the winter is keeping certain sections of the main roads clear of snow. While most of the Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island is closed for the winter, the park service does keep the Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road sections open. The remaining, unopened sections of Park Loop Road are open to pedestrians, bicycles, and snowmobiles (weather depending).

Some local roads that cut through the park are also open and maintained by local public works departments including: Route 233, Otter Cliff Rd., and Schooner Head Road.

On the Schoodic Peninsula, the Schoodic Loop Road is plowed and kept open as well.

Island Explorer Shuttle Bus Service

The Island Explorer Acadia National Park shuttle bus service DOES NOT operate during the winter. Service begins June 22 and extends through Columbus Day each year. This includes all shuttles on both MDI and Schoodic routes.

Park Facilities and Services

Visitor Centers

While all traditional visitor centers within Acadia National Park are closed during the winter, the National Park Service shares visitor information operations in Downtown Bar Harbor with the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 2 Cottages St. The National Park Service can also be reached at (207) 288-3338 or mailed at Acadia National Park, PO Box 177, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.

Visitor Centers begin reopening on April 15.

UPDATE: Jan 10, 219 – During the current government shutdown, park services and facilities are closed. Learn more on the specifics here.

Bookstores and Gift Shops

Park Bookstores and Gift Shops are managed by outside vendors or concessionaires: Eastern National and Ortega Parks. All in-park gift shops, bookstores, and the Jordan Pond House are closed during the winter.

Emergency Services

Emergency Services are still available in Acadia National Park during the winter. In case of emergency, call 911.

Park Activities

Carriage Trails

Visiting Acadia National Park in January is a great time to hit the carriage trails. The park has over 45 miles of carriage trails suitable for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The park’s non-profit partner Friends of Acadia manages a volunteer-led trail grooming group that posts current trail conditions here; while there is not currently a trail grooming group for the new Schoodic trails, FOA invites visitors to use the #SkiAcadiaSchoodic hashtag on Facebook to post or view conditions in this area.

Hiking Trails

Hiking trails are not maintained or cleared during the winter (as can be expected!). The park discourages any visitors from hiking even mildly challenging trails during the winter as show and ice make for additional danger. See more park recommendations here.

Winter Camping

“From December through March, a limited number of campsites at Blackwoods Campground are available for primitive camping only. Blackwoods is the only park facility that is designated for winter camping.” See more at source

Surrounding Communities

Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor & Greater Mount Desert Island

The communities of Mount Desert Island become a great deal quieter during the winter, this is when the locals get to regroup. Most of Downtown Bar Harbor’s shops close for the winter. There are a few year-round hotels, eateries, and grocers, etc.

Ellsworth

Ellsworth is far enough removed from MDI to maintain year-round status for most if not all of its businesses. If you can’t find what you need on the island or in Schoodic, head to Ellsworth!

Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor & Schoodic Peninsula

Similarly to MDI, much of the Schoodic region closes down for the winter. The Pickled Wrinkle restaurant in Birch Harbor is open year-round, along with some businesses in Winter Harbor.

Visiting Acadia National Park in January provides a new look and perspective on the park. Seeing Acadia’s mountains, hills, and valleys covered in snow, her lakes, streams, and ponds frozen in ice, and spotting tracks of wildlife that have opted out of hibernation, while you make your own tracks is a special thing.

Remember to be safe, prepared, and respectful of park resources. Winter on Maine’s rugged coast is harsh and beautiful.

Thomas Tash

Tom Tash is the Founder and Co-Owner of Acadia East Campground and Pocket Parks Campgrounds. Tom began his career in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Maine at Machias before joining the City of Portland Recreation Department and becoming the Recreation Director for the Town of Bridgton. Tom became deeply invested in the national parks as the Marketing Director for a national park travel guide company. He co-founded Acadia East Campground in 2017/18.

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