Acadia National Park celebrates its centennial this year with a wide variety of events and something for everyone to enjoy. The park’s official 100th birthday is July 8, but you don’t have to wait until then to get in on the fun, as the park, Friends of Acadia and hundreds of supportive partners have planned a year-long celebration to highlight a century of conservation and stewardship.
The centennial celebrations kick off on Jan. 25 but really get going with the park’s annual winter festival, starting Feb. 26. The 10-day festival is jam-packed with winter hikes, art exhibits, lectures, ice skating and more.
Or plan your own adventure. Wintertime – like any time – is a perfect time to enjoy one of the nation’s most popular parks, right here in our own backyard.
“Acadia belongs to the people, and the centennial is really a community celebration of the park, its founding and its future,” said Stephanie Clement, conservation director for the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, which helps support the park through conservation grants, volunteerism, education and outreach programs, and advocacy.
In the early part of the 20th century, permanent protection for the lands that now make up Acadia National Park was sought by citizens concerned about overdevelopment, most notably George B. Dorr, Charles W. Eliot and John D. Rockefeller.
In 1916, Sieur de Monts National Monument was established on Mount Desert Island. Three years later, the monument became Lafayette National Park, and in 1929, the name was changed to Acadia National Park. The federal park was the first in the eastern United States and the first created entirely through private land donations.
Today, more than 2.5 million people visit Acadia National Park annually to recreate, reflect, relax and refresh amid the stunning natural landscape of mountains and ocean, islands and headlands, lakes and ponds, green trees, blue skies and pink granite.
From Blue Hill Bay to Somes Sound, the summit of Cadillac Mountain to Frenchman Bay, Isle au Haut to Schoodic Peninsula, this incredible national treasure on the Maine coast protects 49,000 acres of incomparable beauty, rich history and diverse culture.
Acadia National Park is free in winter – no park pass required. Access during cold and snowy months is a lot easier than you might think, with many of the same roads and major parking areas maintained and open for use.
Although most of the Park Loop Road is closed, the one-way section of Ocean Drive from Sand Beach Entrance Station to Fabbri Picnic Area is open, accessed via Schooner Head Road from Bar Harbor. Jordan Pond Road from Seal Harbor provides access to the Jordan Pond area. A scenic drive through the winter wonderland that is Acadia is always a fine plan and a great opportunity to view nature with an extra measure of comfort.
More adventurous visitors can enjoy Nordic skiing and snowshoeing on 45 miles of historic carriage roads on the eastern side of the park. Whenever snowfall exceeds more than six inches, the amazing volunteers of the Acadia Winter Trails Association are out grooming and setting ski tracks along the seven popular carriage road loops. Snowshoers are welcome on the groomed (but not the tracked) portions of these routes.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 miles of foot trails are available to well-prepared winter hikers and climbers, who can tackle anything from pleasant meanderings over the forested peaks and through the valleys to the more exposed, alpine-like ridges and high summits, where ice and snow and variable weather conditions can often present healthy challenges.
Blackwoods Campground is open for winter tent camping, with a limited number of primitive campsites, a hand pump for water and portable toilet available. The half-mile road into the campground isn’t plowed, so campers must pack or sled in their overnight gear and supplies. Obtain a free permit from park headquarters before camping.
Snowmobiling on the park’s unplowed roads, ice fishing and ice skating are also popular Acadia winter activities.
All-important toilet facilities this time of year are found at Brown Mountain and Parkman Mountain trailheads, Sand Beach parking area, Eagle Lake boat ramp and carriage road, Jordan Pond boat ramp, and the picnic area at Fabbri.
The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is closed during the winter months, but information and assistance is available at park headquarters on Route 233 a few miles west of Bar Harbor.
Springtime, of course, will bring another season to celebrate in Acadia.
“The entire 2016 event is for anyone with an affinity for the park, a real or hoped-for connection with it,” Clement said.
Join in this winter to celebrate Acadia’s centennial. Check out these events, and find a full list of centennial events online at acadiacentennial2016.org:
6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25, MDI High School, Mount Desert. $10, $5 for kids
The annual MDI Historical Society baked bean supper will feature a film on Acadia centennial events by local filmmaker Peter Logue.
Feb. 26 through March 6, acadiawinterfestival.org
This 10-day festival celebrates all there is to love about winter in Maine’s beautiful places.
It all starts Feb. 26 with a snowshoe excursion with park leaders in Schoodic Woods and a dinner at the Schoodic Institute, at 9 Atterbury Circle, Winter Harbor. The institute will host a full slate of events through March 1: birding excursions, a workshop on plein air painting in inclement weather, and lectures on wood lot management, snowshoe-making and winter art in Maine. Many events are free. Meals will be offered ($12-$22.50, with discounts for children), and lodging is available for $100-$200 per night. See the full daily schedule, at the festival website.
On March 2, the festival moves to Camp Beech Cliff on Mount Dessert Island, and the weekend will be jam-packed with winter fun. Check the festival website next week for the full lineup.
Here are some highlights (all events but the snowshoe race take place at the camp):
5:30-8:30 p.m. March 4, free
Put on your snowsuits for an evening of outdoor fun. Help build the island’s largest community snow sculpture, or take a spin around the ice rink. Then warm up by the bonfire with chowder, cocoa and s’mores.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 5, free
A day of family fun includes ice fishing lessons, a winter survival course, snow carving demonstrations and cross-country skiing. Plus, the Barn Arts Collective presents an outdoor production of “Alice in Wonderland.” (Some activities are weather dependent.)
7:30-11 p.m. March 5, $25 person, $45 couple
Tie on a bowtie and your Bean boots for the Winter Boot Bash! The camp will host the island’s first ice bar, plus professional ice sculpture and plenty of dancing.
10 a.m. March 6, Mount Desert High School, $5 adults, free for children under 10
Rent snowshoes or bring your own for a fun run (3K for adults, 1K for kids).
10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 6, free
The camp will host another full day of family fun, including broom ball, sledding, outdoor cooking and a community snowball fight.