Winter Camping at Acadia National Park

Winter can be a great season to explore Acadia National Park. NPS photo by Todd Edgar.

While most view Acadia National Park as the perfect summer destination, folks have been known to head there in the winter months. With that in mind, the park keeps the Blackwoods Campground open on a limited basis for the hardy who want to experience a different season in Acadia.

Of course, using the campground is not quite as easy in winter as it is in summer. For instance, you can't drive up to a campsite. Rather, you have to park your rig outside the campground's gate and hike roughly a mile in to the campground. And before you head out to the campground you have to pick up a free permit from the park’s Dispatch Office, which you'll find at park headquarters on Route 233 west of Bar Harbor.

You also need to keep in mind that parking at the gate is limited to only five or six spots, so if you're in a group, definitely carpool so others will be able to park their rigs there. Here are some other pointers from the park staff:

* Camping is limited to the established campsites in Loop A.
* A hand pump for water and a drain for dumping gray water are available.
* A portable toilet is available; campers should bring their own toilet paper.

* Please collect, bag, and pack out all food scraps and trash.
* Cutting vegetation (e.g., tree branches) is prohibited. Large pieces of wood for campfires may be available in the campground; a hatchet is needed to split the wood into usable pieces.
* Snowmobiling is prohibited in Blackwoods Campground.
* All Acadia National Park rules and regulations must be observed.

Why camp at Acadia in winter? Aside from the anticipated solitude, with a decent snowstorm or two you can explore the park on snowshoes, cross-country skis, snowmobile, or even by dogsled if you happen to have one.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Forty-five miles of carriage roads in the park offer the perfect setting for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Ski tracks are sometimes laid down by volunteers on sections of the carriage roads when snowfall exceeds four inches. The park maintains a list of grooming status for these sections of the carriage roads. Please do not snowshoe or allow dogs to walk in cross-country ski tracks. Dogs must be on a leash six feet or shorter.

You may also cross-country ski or snowshoe on unplowed park roads. Be careful, as snowmobiles are also permitted to use most of these unplowed park roads. Skiing on hiking trails is not recommended because of the uneven and steep nature of trails, ice falls blocking the path, and trail routes obscured by snow.

Ski equipment and rentals are available in local communities; chambers of commerce can provide the names of outfitters.

Dog Sledding and Skijoring

With the exception of the park’s carriage roads, the use of dog sleds, dog carts, and skijoring with dogs is permitted on all closed motor roads and fire roads under the following conditions:

* Dog sleds may be pulled by no more than four dogs, with a combined tow and tug line of not more than 12 feet. Sleds must be equipped with a braking system, and in the winter, with one snow hook.
* Skijorers must utilize a commercially manufactured skijor belt with quick release and tugline. The tugline should be equipped with a built-in shock cord, and may not exceed a combined length of 10 feet. Skijorers may use up to two dogs, which must be harnessed with either an “X” or “H” harness. A simple dog collar is not considered a harness.

Snowmobiling

Snowmobile travel is allowed on the 27-mile Park Loop Road system (including the road up Cadillac Mountain) and most fire roads. Only two miles of carriage roads are open to snowmobilers as connector trails (the east side of Eagle Lake and short portion near the Wildwood Stables). Maps of the east side (jpg - 190kb) and west side (jpg - 165kb) of Mount Desert Island show snowmobile routes and parking.

Snowmobile regulations include:

* All Maine state snowmobile laws are enforced in the park. Maine registration is required.
* Snowmobiles are not allowed on the carriage roads, except for the east side of Eagle Lake to make the connection to the Park Loop Road at Bubble Pond.
* Snowmobiles are not permitted off-road or on any hiking trails.
* Maximum speed is 35 mph on the Park Loop Road and 25 mph on all unpaved roads (including the one section of the carriage roads where they are permitted).
* Yield to anyone not on a snowmobile (skiers, snowshoers, and hikers).
* Turn on your white headlight and red taillight 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and whenever visibility is less than 500 feet.
* Towing people on sleds or skis in prohibited.
* It is illegal to operate snowmobiles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
* Drivers must be at least 14 years old to operate snowmobiles in the park.
* Anyone under 18 years old must wear approved protective headgear.

Snowmobile rental is not available on Mount Desert Island.

You also can try your hand at ice-fishing or take a hike.

While most of the park's Loop Road is closed in winter, you'll find two short sections open:

* The scenic, one-way ocean section, accessible from Schooner Head Road one mile south of downtown Bar Harbor on Route 3, stretches for two miles along the coast. Stay in the right lane, as snowmobiles are permitted to use the unplowed left lane. Exit this section via Otter Cliff Road to Route 3.

* You can access the Jordan Pond Road, just north of the town of Seal Harbor. This road joins the Park Loop Road, which is plowed to the south end of Jordan Road. Exit by backtracking.

Sargaent Drive to Northeast Harbor and Route 102A to the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse also offer scenic views.