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New England Road Trip

New England has so much to offer, from large cities to breathtaking landscapes. This New England Road Trip travels along the rugged coast of Maine, to Acadia National Park, and through the beautiful mountains and foliage of the Northeastern United States.

Portland (Maine)

Start your journey in Portland and soak up its incredible history as a major American port city. Wander the cobblestone streets and old warehouses of the Old Port before sailing to the Casco Bay Islands. The quaint towns just offshore enjoy a slower pace of life and treat visitors to cycling, kayaking, and museums. Back on the mainland, the Eastern Promenade stretches along the waterfront to nature trails and a sandy beach. The nearby Cape Elizabeth is home to beautiful lighthouses, and the West End neighborhood boasts stunning Victorian architecture.

Acadia National Park

Next up on your road trip is Acadia National Park. Mostly encompassed by Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park shelters the wildest sections of the North Atlantic coast. The rocky headlands overlook the fierce waves of the ocean and dense woodlands hug the shoreline. For hardy travelers, take a dip in the frigid waters along the shores of Sand Beach. After an exhilarating swim in the North Atlantic, tackle the Great Head Trail for a panoramic view of the beach. Park Loop Road navigates much of the park and gives you access to sparkling ponds and verdant forests. Cadillac Mountain gives you sweeping views above the ocean and makes for an enchanting place to watch the sunrise. Push yourself for more ocean vistas by taking the Precipice Trail or Gorham Mountain Trail.

Mount Katahdin

Continue your road trip at Mount Katahdin. Standing at 5,269 ft, Mount Katahdin is the tallest peak in Maine and a notable landmark for long-distance trekkers. Those embarking on the famous 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail start or end their expedition at this summit. Perhaps the panoramic views from the rocky peak will inspire you to accept the challenge of hiking down to Georgia. Some of Maine’s most rugged terrain engulfs the mountain, and you’ll find scenic waterways, lush forests, and inspirational stargazing there as well.

White Mountain National Forest

Your road trip continues at White Mountain National Forest. The untamed wilderness of eastern New Hampshire and western Maine boasts the tallest mountains in New England. Looming above the landscape is the snowy Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. At 6,288 ft, Mount Washington sees more climbers than any other mountain in the region. Special precautions are required since the peak is notorious for its brutal wind shear. If you don’t feel like climbing, ride the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway to reach the summit. Other hikes within the forest lead you to crystal-clear lakes, steep gorges, tumbling waterfalls, and eerie caves. Several ski resorts operate within the White Mountains and have some of the highest drops in the region.

Green Mountain National Forest

From White Mountain National Forest, continue on to Green Mountain National Forest. The temperate forests of the Green Mountains are a year-round destination for outdoor recreation. Summer draws hikers, campers, anglers, and kayakers, while snowy winters bring in skiers and snowboarders. Head to the Stratton Mountain Resort for an exciting ski vacation or visit Sugarbush Resort, which caters to skiers of all skill levels. The arrival of spring mesmerizes visitors with beautiful wildflowers, gentle waterfalls, and vibrant wildlife. For an eye-popping display, road tripping through the Green Mountains during the fall reveals some of America’s most colorful foliage. Climb Equinox Mountain for thrilling panoramic views or tackle the Lye Brook Falls Trail to chill beside one of Vermont’s highest waterfalls.

Jacob’s Ladder Trail Scenic Byway

The final stretch of your journey meanders through the stunning foliage of the southern Berkshires. Situated in Western Massachusetts, the Berkshires is renowned for its enchanting forests, outdoor activities, thriving arts scene, and farmers markets. Driving along Jacob’s Ladder Trail lets you trace the footsteps of Native Americans and pioneers. Traverse verdant woodlands and charming towns on hiking trails for all levels. Stop by scenic rivers and streams for a relaxing day of swimming, fishing, or boating. Make pit stops to chase one of the near two dozen waterfalls scattered throughout the Berkshires. Before returning to the city, visit local farmers who produce organic produce, cheeses, meat, jams, baked goods, and much more.

When to Go

Warm, dry summers provide ideal weather conditions to visit Acadia National Park, but expect the park to be extremely crowded. Although the temperature drops, fall is incredible due to the leaves changing colors. If the New England foliage is the primary reason for your road trip, September and October are the perfect months for you. Just make sure to browse accommodation rates months in advance. Early October is typically the busiest time of year for foliage, and hotel rates tend to be higher.

Places to Visit After Acadia National Park

Situated on Maine’s Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park is composed of wild forests, rocky beaches, and jagged mountains. After you’ve had a chance to experience Acadia for yourself, there are a few other destinations you can add to your itinerary to visit next.

  • Quebec City, Canada – Just a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Acadia National Park lies Quebec City. This charming French-speaking city is truly one of a kind and is well worth a visit before or after your trip to Acadia. Don’t forget to pack your passport!
  • Bar Harbor – The lovely town of Bar Harbor is the closest town outside of Acadia National Park and is the natural next stop on your trip. There are plenty of quaint shops, restaurants, and lodging accommodations in Bar Harbor. 
  • Portland, Maine – Enjoy a welcome contrast to the rugged wilderness of Acadia National Park when you visit Portland, Maine. A bustling city with a picturesque Old Port waterfront, Portland is a fun place to make a pit stop along your journey. 
  • Boston, Massachusetts – Only four-and-a-half hours outside of Acadia, Boston is an awesome next choice for where to go once you’ve finished visiting the park. Explore the historic areas and museums, go shopping, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife and restaurants.
    Augusta, Maine – The capital of Maine lies just over two hours outside of Acadia National Park. Situated along the Kennebec River, this lovely city is rife with history and museums to explore. Stroll through the serene parks and enjoy Augusta before or after your visit to Acadia.

Watching Wildlife in Acadia National Park

Uniquely located in the very Northeast of the United States in the state of Maine, Acadia National Park is famous for its sunrises, sweeping coastal vistas, pink granite mountains, and forests that are home to a variety of animals. From tide pools filled with microorganisms to moose and humpback whales, there’s something for everyone at Acadia National Park.

The park is home to 40 species of mammals, including bats, black bears, and squirrels, as well as 330 species of birds, 30 species of fish, 7 reptiles, and 11 amphibians. You can see everything from bustling marine life to bald eagles soaring in the sky. Although it’s not always easy to find these mammals in Acadia National Park, we’re going to provide you with some expert insight to help with your search!

Acadia National Park’s Top Animals

  • Birds
  • Otters
  • Bald Eagles
  • White-Tailed Deer
  • Bears
  • Moose
  • Bobcats
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
    • This cute, nocturnal species is one to tread carefully with if you face them head on. They can spray you and cause an unpleasant odor on your skin and clothes that will last for days. Be sure to use a flashlight if you are checking on something at night, causing you to accidentally scare them.
  • Seals
    • Seals are the most commonly seen marine mammal off of the shores of Maine. They are often in the harbor in the spring during New England’s seal pupping season. Here you’ll find harbor, gray, harp, and hooded seals.
  • Dolphins
    • The Atlantic white-sided dolphin can be spotted in Maine year round. These dolphins travel along the coast of the Atlantic, as far south as Long Island, jumping and chasing one another in the ocean tides.
  • Whales
    • You can see the Finback, Humpback, and Minke whales in the water from Acadia National Park.
  • Sharks
    • It’s possible to see different species of shark swimming around the waters in search of their next snack, especially when there are seal pups around.

Viewing Locations

Sieur de Monts Spring: Songbirds
Wonderland Trail: Songbirds
Ocean Drive: Shorebirds
Seawall: Shorebirds
The Precipice: Bald eagles, peregrine falcons,
The Tarn: Otters, mink
Great Meadow: White-tailed deer
Schoodic Peninsula: Bears, moose
Mount Desert Island: Bears, moose
Bar Harbor: Whales, seals, dolphins, sharks

When Should You Go?

The best time for Maine whale and dolphin watching begins in mid-April when hungry whales arrive to feast in local waters. They will feed on the sand eels, copepods, plankton, and fish in the water. Come October, they will migrate south towards warmer waters. Acadia National Park is regarded as one of the best whale-watching locations in the country.

The winter is actually the best time of year to see the larger land mammals, like moose and dear, which will descend as close to sea level as possible for some warmth. You can witness a crossover of habitats while these animals explore the sea for a possible food source.

However, Maine can be incredibly cold in the winter time, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. The most popular times to visit the park are between April and October. The fall presents a foliage backdrop that is second to none.

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