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Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park: Acadia’s Best in One Scenic Drive

Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park
Discover the wonders of Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. Drive through granite peaks, lush forests, and scenic coastal landscapes.

Mountains, Coast & Everything Between: Exploring Acadia’s Park Loop Road

Acadia National Park provides visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Maine’s rugged coastline. Its crowning jewel, Park Loop Road, offers a 27-mile journey around the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, home to some of the most picturesque views in the state. Set against a varied backdrop of coastal landscapes, towering forests, and granite peaks, this scenic drive invites nature enthusiasts to explore the park’s diverse ecosystems with ease.

Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park

Constructed between 1921 and 1958, Park Loop Road was designed to allow motor vehicles to navigate the park separately from local roads and pedestrian-heavy carriage roads. With the road’s thoughtful integration into the landscape, travelers can enjoy scenic overlooks, access trailheads for hiking, discover the Nature Center, or simply soak in the serene ambiance without ever leaving their car. The road’s construction showcases not only the intent to preserve and protect the environment but also to make the park’s beauty accessible to all.

Park Loop Road. Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine

With sites like the Jordan Pond and numerous pull-off points, the drive can be as brief or as leisurely as one desires. The speed limit throughout Park Loop Road is tailored to encourage a contemplative pace, generally not exceeding 35 miles per hour. This ensures a safe, enjoyable experience for both drivers and the varied wildlife inhabiting the area. With both the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and Wildwood Stables along the route, the Park Loop Road truly enhances the visitor experience, making Acadia National Park a must-visit destination for those seeking to commune with nature.


Exploring Park Loop Road

The 27-mile Park Loop Road offers visitors to Acadia National Park a comprehensive journey through the park’s diverse landscapes and historical sites. The well-planned route provides access to many of Acadia’s famous landmarks and allows for an immersive experience of the park’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

Car driving up Cadillac Mountain auto road in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine


Key Attractions Along the Route

Cadillac Mountain: The highest point along the Atlantic seaboard and a key highlight on Park Loop Road. Visitors often drive to the summit for panoramic views, especially at sunrise.

Parking at the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park


Sand Beach: A stunning 290-yard stretch of shoreline framed by mountains and accessed via Park Loop Road. Its distinctive sandy shore is a popular spot for relaxation and taking in the ocean vistas.

Sand Beach in Acadia National Park


Jordan Pond: A pristine lake well-known for the clear reflections of surrounding mountains and for Jordan Pond House, offering traditional popovers and tea.

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine


Thunder Hole: A natural inlet where waves often create thunderous sounds and spectacular splashing displays during the right conditions.

Thunder Hole Observation Deck in Acadia National Park


Otter Cliff: One of the most dramatic cliff faces on the eastern seaboard, rising 110 feet above the ocean, offering visitors thrilling views

Wild Gardens of Acadia: Located at Sieur de Monts, this area provides a living field guide to the diverse plant species found within the park.


Navigating Park Loop Road

One-Way Sections: The route includes a one-way loop that enhances the scenic experience and reduces traffic congestion.

Park Loop Road and carriage roads in Acadia National Park

Parking Areas: Accessible parking areas are located at major attractions like Sand Beach and Jordan Pond.

Parking at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

Island Explorer Shuttle: A free bus service called the Island Explorer assists visitors in getting around and reduces the need for cars on the road.

Route 3 Entrance: Visitors can access Park Loop Road via Route 3, near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the main entrance of the park with parking and a Nature Center.

Navigation Tools: It is advisable to carry a park map or use GPS to explore the various sites along Park Loop Road.


Historical and Cultural Significance

John D. Rockefeller and Carriage Roads: Park Loop Road’s development was influenced by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who built the carriage roads that provide a separate network for non-motorized travel within the park.

Historic carriage road bridge surrounded by forest in Acadia National Park


Abbe Museum and Wild Gardens of Acadia: The Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts celebrates the history of the Wabanaki people, while the nearby Wild Gardens showcase the park’s indigenous flora.

With every turn, Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park reveals both the awe-inspiring power of nature and the thoughtfulness of its early planners in preserving this natural wonder.


Outdoor Activities and Conservation

Acadia National Park offers a diverse range of activities for visitors, with Park Loop Road providing access to numerous trails and views along the coastline. Conservation efforts are key in maintaining the park’s integrity for both the wildlife and the enjoyment of future generations.

Acadia National sign and sign with directions to the Park Loop Road and the Visitor Center.


Hiking and Wildlife Watching

Frenchman Bay: A serene backdrop for hikers on the coastal Ocean Path.

  • Tide Pools: Rich with marine life and accessible at low tide.
  • Eagle Lake: Offers a quieter setting for spotting wildlife.

Hiking Trails:

  • Precipice Trail: For the experienced hiker, offering stunning views of the bay and home to nesting peregrine falcons.
  • Beehive Trail: A challenging route with iron rungs and rewarding coastal vistas.


  • Peregrine Falcons: Protected species; visitors might witness their remarkable flight.
  • Diverse Species: From bald eagles to deer, the park teems with wildlife.


Responsible Recreation

Conservation Initiatives:

  • Environmentally-sensitive areas: Visitors are urged to stay on designated paths to protect the fragile flora and fauna.

Carriage Roads:

  • Built by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., they offer a car-free experience of the park.

Fee-Based Entry:

  • Funds contribute to the maintenance and preservation of park facilities and natural habitats.

Visitor Guidelines:

  • Stay on marked paths.
  • Respect tide pool ecosystems.
  • Do not disturb the wildlife.

By adhering to these guidelines, visitors play an active role in Acadia National Park’s conservation, ensuring the park remains a sanctuary for both outdoor enthusiasts and the wildlife that calls it home.


Frequently Asked Questions about Park Loop Road

In this section, readers will find concise answers about experiencing Park Loop Road, from drive times to scenic highlights and more.

Acadia National Park Entrance

How long does it typically take to drive the entire Park Loop Road?

Driving the entire Park Loop Road non-stop usually takes approximately 2 to 3 hours. However, the duration can extend if one chooses to explore scenic stops or hike trails along the route.

What are the operating hours for Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park?

Park Loop Road is open 24 hours a day, but certain sections may be closed seasonally due to weather conditions. Visitors should check the Acadia National Park website for current operating hours and closures.

Can you provide tips for the best scenic stops along Park Loop Road?

Visitors should consider stops such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond for panoramic views and photo opportunities. The Precipice Trail is also a highly recommended for adventurous hikers seeking aerial views of the coastline.

What is the most scenic drive in Acadia National Park?

Park Loop Road is acknowledged as the most scenic drive within Acadia National Park, offering a variety of landscapes, from coastal to forested, with numerous points of interest along the 27-mile loop.

Are there any one-way sections on Park Loop Road that drivers should be aware of?

Yes, a significant portion of Park Loop Road is one-way, guiding visitors in a counter-clockwise direction and offering convenient pull-offs for observing the scenery. The transition from two-way to one-way roads is well-marked.

What is the best time of year to visit Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park?

The best time to visit Park Loop Road is from late spring to fall when the weather is mild, and the park’s full amenities are available. Autumn is particularly popular for its vibrant foliage.


Picture of Mark Beale - Author Bio

Mark Beale - Author Bio

Mark has an extensive background in the Maine Hospitality Industry, having owned the Ledges By The Bay, a boutique oceanfront hotel property, in Rockport Maine, for 40 years. He sold the property in 2016 but remains well-versed in the Maine Tourism industry and has written a number of Maine travel-related articles for various blogs and publications over the years.

Mark founded the TakeMe2 Travel Guides platform, an online travel guide initiative, designed to promote tourism in Maine, New England and in other key states – by providing in depth, unbiased information to potential tourists and travel consumers. TakeMe2 currently features the website.

Mark is also currently a stakeholder in VONT, a digital marketing agency in Westbrook, Maine, where he leads VONT's search engine optimization (SEO) practice.

Mark is versed in a number of digital information technologies including web design and development, digital video, electronic design and digital imaging technologies as well as internet marketing tactics such as blogs, web properties, and other smart media such as AI chatbots for content, image and video enhancement. One of his primary tasks at VONT is to find the successful application of these new information platforms in marketing and then teach VONT's marketers how to use them to create marketing campaigns more efficiently, creatively and cost effectively.



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