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  • Writer's pictureIsaac Oxford

Boondocking in Acadia National Park

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Let's face it, trying to camp in or on the outskirts of National Parks is sometimes challenging, especially on the east coast. The cost of a private campground is often way more than you want to pay, the campgrounds in the National Park are all booked for the season, or you just want an experience a little different than most might. Whatever is driving you to look for an alternative spot for the night than the norm, this guide should aid you in boondocking the right way in Acadia. 

Acadia National Park stretches close to 50,000 acres along the Atlantic coastline in Maine. Mount Desert Island is the "main" island of the park, where most visitors flock to during their visit. On Mt Desert Island, you can hike iconic trails such as the Beehive, the Jordan Pond Trail, or to the Bubble Rock. A quaint little New England town, Bar Harbor, rests on the Eastern side of the island. There is many local shops, restaurants to get buttery lobster rolls, and cafes with delicious blueberry lattes.

Within Acadia's 50,000 acres, there is no boondocking allowed. The National Park Service states on their website that "there is no backcountry camping, 'out-of-bounds' camping, overnight parking, or winter camping allowed anywhere in Acadia." And don't try and risk it either. Although you may find a nice, secluded pullover spot to park your rig for the night, it's not worth the hefty citations a Park Ranger might give to you.

So where can I boondock if it's not allowed in the park?

The answer is simple. Bar Harbor has you covered. Located right on the border of its city limits and NPS boundary is street parking designated for RVs only.

(GPS Coordinates 44°22'56.0"N 68°12'10.7"W)

This uneven, 500ft dirt strip along the side of Main St in town may be your solution to a cost effective, boondocking trip to Acadia. From 5pm to 7am, there is no metered parking, so you're safe to say you won't be paying anything to stay here for the night. From 7am to 5pm, there are kiosks to pay a metered fare (check online because fares are subject to change). There are 24/7 public restrooms a block away. Walk past the small skatepark down Park Street and you will find them at the entrance of the baseball fields on School Street. You are also in walking distance from all the shops and restaurants in Bar Harbor, and about a mile away from the Land Bridge Trailhead (check the tide schedule before trying to hike).

Be advised that these spots are for RVs only, so no passenger vehicles! Definitely no tents either. Keep in mind that this an RV boondocking spot, not an official campground. A Bar Harbor police officer could possibly ask you to move in the best case scenario, or worst case scenario issue you a ticket. Vans, motorhomes, travel trailers, or anything of the sort resembling a recreational vehicle should be fine to stay.

You may stay parked in this spot for a total of 72 hours, according to Bar Harbor's vehicle parking policy. If you're looking to stay the entire 72 hours, I would recommend parking at the Hull's Cove Visitor Center during the day, pay your admission fee to the park or put your America The Beautiful Pass on your dash, hop on the free Island Explorer shuttle, and get to exploring the park! There is no guarantee you will find your same parking spot in Bar Harbor when you get back, but at least you won't have to pay the metered fare for the entire day.

Parking at the visitor center and taking the shuttle is the best way in my opinion to explore the park. If you're an early bird, you will be able to snag one of the limited RV/bus spots at a trailhead, but don't expect to leave and find another spot somewhere else. It is ill-advised to try and drive around the park yourself, especially since the parking lots are small and fill up very early in the morning and stay like that until at least 5pm during peak season. The free shuttle around the park is a reliable, fast, and easy way to tour around Acadia, stopping at all the popular trailheads and features along Park Loop Road. It can also bring you off of Mt Desert Island, if you're down to explore the lesser visited parts of the park. Avoid the frustration of trying to find a parking spot, and find some joy of laughing at the people driving in circles around the lots because you took the shuttle. 

Always remember to follow local and National Park rules during your visit, and Leave No Trace during your boondocking excursion. I've included the links with more information related to the post down below. Have fun, stay safe, and get out there!

-Isaac Oxford, New England Shanty

Camping regulations in Acadia National Park: 

Bar Harbor, ME parking information:

Free Island Explorer shuttle service schedule and routes:

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