Acadia: The Pet Friendly National Park
Acadia National Park … 49,000 acres of granite-domed mountains, rugged shoreline, woodlands, lakes and ponds. It has a unique history, being the first National Park east of the Mississippi – and the first whose land was donated entirely by private citizens.
As I stood looking out over the vistas, gratitude welled up inside – all my thanks directed to the generous and thoughtful people who, generations ago, decided that this precious place, shared by Atlantic puffins, bald eagles, black bear, moose, and humpback whales, should be enjoyed by all.
Pet Friendly National Park
Last year we sang the pet friendly praises of Grand Canyon National Park and many people responded, “Wait until you visit Acadia!” While the Grand Canyon was fantastic, I must agree that Acadia takes the prize for pet friendliness. Dogs are welcome on all 120 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads in the park – with the exception of a few trails that require iron rungs or ladders. And they’re welcome in all the pubic areas, except Duck Harbor Campground, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and on Echo Lake Beach and Sand Beach during high season (May 14 – Sept 16). Everywhere else you can go in the park, your dog can go with you!
The days were warm during our visit, and it was tough to resist some of the more tempting hikes with the boys. But, elevation and warm temperatures can lead to dehydration and quickly put your dog in danger. Just a few days after we left Acadia, a Newfie hiking with his owners in the park suffered heat stroke and had to be rescued. If you are hiking, be sure to carry plenty of water, let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and take time to rest in the shade to keep your dog from overheating.
The 27-mile Park Loop Road gives you a good overview of the park and there are many places to pull off and explore a bit on foot as you go. We found that parking for RVs is a bit tricky, though, and next time we’ll rent a car in Bar Harbor for getting around on the narrow, curvy roads.
One thing we missed for lack of parking was the Jordan Pond House, perched on the shore overlooking Jordan Pond. Dogs are welcome to join you on the porch or at the picnic tables on the lawn for lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner at this restaurant famous for its baked popovers, homemade ice cream, and fresh Maine seafood. Stopping there for a walk along the lake and a bite to eat is at the top of our “Things To Do Next Time” list!
South of Jordan Pond, and outside the park borders, is a magical place for dogs and their owners. Between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor, where Long Pond meets the ocean you’ll find a stone and wood gate and a small parking area. This land is privately owned, but made available to the public and it’s completely off-leash! There is a pond for swimming, more than five miles of carriage roads and trails for hiking, and a multitude of pups willing to play.
Buster made fast friends with a little dog named Cooper who showed him the ropes and introduced him around to all his puppy pals.
We could have easily packed a picnic and spent the day just at this off-leash area … I feel confident Buster wouldn’t have complained.
Bar Harbor Doesn’t Disappoint
The small town of Bar Harbor is both vibrant and pet friendly! Where millionaires once had their summer cottages, you’ll now find inns, guest houses, hotels, sidewalk cafes, boutiques, specialty shops and galleries. Many shopkeepers welcomed the dogs inside, but if your dogs are too big (or unruly, like ours) for tight places, there is a lovely Shore Path along the water, a park where you can sit for hours and admire the view, and a schooner with dog friendly sightseeing cruises.
You’ll also find a nice variety of pet friendly restaurants in Bar Harbor, including the well-known Stewman’s, which is right on the water.
Where to Stay
Whether you’re looking for a pet friendly hotel or staying at a local campground, there are plenty to choose from in the area. We camped at the KOA Kampground and enjoyed the waterfront location and proximity to all the attractions.
Free Pet Friendly Shuttle Service
No matter where you decide to stay, you’ll likely be on one of the free shuttle routes. You and your dog will be able to explore the area in air conditioned comfort, without fighting traffic. Various shuttle routes cover most of the island and they run from late June until the end of August, with a reduced schedule until mid-October.