Acadia National Park Photography Guide
photography hotspots to see for yourself
Many people flock to Acadia National Park every year to see the stunning sunrise on Cadillac Mountain (the first on certain days of the year to see in the new day) and the foliage what turns such fantastic colors around Jordan Pond, as well as astro or celestial photography taking benefit of the dark sky. In this guide I’ll be updating after each visit with the best locations to get landscapes, the night-sky and much more from the best National park on the eastern seaboard, including a few off the beaten track.
A few things you will need to take with your camera..an ND filter (up to 9 stop), soft graduated ND filter, circular pol, sturdy tripod (wind at the top of Cadillac Mountain is fierce) decent cloth for cleaning your lenses.
Parking costs around $30 for the week which gives you access to all the parking at trail-heads and popular locations. I started at Jordan Pond which has a large hub for buying your pass and something to take home from your trip at the gift shop.
Travel with me to Maine.
Tucked away slap bang in the middle of the park is Hadlock Falls. Quietly encased down some mild to rugged terrain leading into Hadlock Pond are a series of small waterfalls covered by a fantastic stone bridge. You can work your way up through the falls which vary from a small trickle of water to some more urgent falls which work down to the pond over the course of a couple of miles. However the best places are on the way up where the falls divide, any of these produce some great photographic gems, take your wide angle lens and a macro if you have one.
The hike to the falls is very easy on a multi use trail so look out for bikes as well as hikers, on the way up you will see some amazing views of the pond below through tress and rock.
Great to head here during the midday sun.
GREAT SUNRISE, Sunset & astro-photography LOCATION
Maybe the most popular trails in the entire park, pretty much all the main hiking trails are accessible from the 4 mile odd trail that surrounds the pond itself, however the views offered from the walk around the pond are spectacular. Shadowed by Cadillac Mountain behind which creates a great background (weather permitting) and the water is super clear making the pond bed visible at any depth. At the far side of the pond there is a small stony access to the pond which you can use to frame a shot. Unfortunate for me, the weather was less than perfect when I went but there are plenty of places online that will show you just what I mean.
The loop is a easy to moderate hike with some large rocks to navigate, so keep your kit in the back pack in those sections, if you’re a little unsteady on your feet. Much of the west-side has plank decking to walk across, which makes for some interesting sections.
Early morning or very late afternoon visits are best, midday will flatten the light and remove some of the chances of getting shadows and light beams through the trees at either end of the loop.
Look out for the “elephant tree” it’s quite the sight.
GREAT SUNRISE & Sunset LOCATION
Bubble Rock sits high above Jordan Pond and the valley surrounding it, the rock looks like it is about to fall into the gully below but sits proud with some easy platforms to shoot from on the east and west side of the rock. The hike to the rock takes around 25 mins and its quite steep so make sure you have some decent boots when attempting this climb, especially in the wet season.
As you can see from my image the day was pretty dull and uninspiring, I’ll return soon and be sure to capture a better image.
The sun will rise to the right of where my image was shot so head here in the morning if you can.
BOULDER BEACH & THE COAST
GREAT SUNRISE LOCATION
Entrance to the beach is a little tricky to find but if you park where Ottter Cliff Rd and Park Loop Rd meet on the east side you should see the small drop down to the beach. What makes Boulder Beach so special is that when the water brings the tide in and then out the boulders in the surf slap together the make an amazing “popping” sound, much the same as a small firework.
However from a photography standpoint the whole coast on this side of the park is breath taking. Not unlike the Big Sur in California there are dramatic cliff edges and tides smashing into the orange rock. So take some time to really explore the coast and walk up or start at Thunder Hole (yes its a huge tourist trap) and walk down to Boulder Beach.
Here on Boulder Beach you can create some brilliant low down shots that can really exaggerate the huge rocks the lay on the beach, try and head here in the morning rather than the afternoon as you will be fighting the sun otherwise.
GREAT SUNRISE, Sunset & astro-photography LOCATION
Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the east coast of the US, and a great spot to see in the new day before anywhere else in the country. A couple of warnings, firstly is always SUPER busy so do some scouting before you get up at 3am and head up to find a spot for the sun rise. You will be fighting with other photographers as well as “tourists” who try to use flash on their phone to take a picture of the sunrise. So prepare for some post processing or to find a great spot, don’t be tempted to take the highest point. Some of the best vantage points are a little lower.
Parking is available at the top of the mountain, or you can climb it if you really must.
Cadillac Mountain is a great spot for sunset and the astro-photography as well.
Off the beaten track, the pond looks North East which means on some evenings of the year it can reflect the Milky Way in its waters. Whats also great about this spot is that you will be the only one here. Well other than the Beavers that call it home under the low bridge. So come early if you want to photography them.
From Tremont Rd turn left onto Hodgdon Rd and then turn right onto Long Pond Fire Rd, around 700yrds on your left will be the pond and the view you need to see.
There is a very low level of light pollution here, also and the moon will be hidden from your camera sensor by the trees near by which are pretty tall. Check out the “Golden Hour” app to check when the astronomical twilight ends and night time starts for the best time to visit. You will need some headlamps or a torch as well as a fishing chair as you maybe out here a while.
Once you have finished here it’s worth the 45min drive to Cadillac Mountain to see if you can get the entire sky shot if you are unable to see the Milky Way.
Photography Locations by Map
Important Notes for visiting acadia nationl park
- Before going load all the places you want to go into a map and ensure you have not only a printed copy but an offline version on your phone. Mobile signal is very bad in Acadia so cache your maps and download all your POIs
- Pay for parking, at $30 a week.
- Take plenty of clothing and trail food with you, might just keep you going on those marathon shoots.
- Tell people where you are going, some of the terrain might not be very forgiving.
- Make sure you have insurance for your gear, chances of it getting wet are high.
- Take hiking boots, trainers or sneakers will slip on some of the rocks which are wet.
- Check your tripod has decent traction, if not then grab a new one.
- The park is super super busy during the fall, expect lots of people at Thunder Hole and up Cadillac Mountain for sunrise.
Thanks for posting this guide to Acadia National Park. Some great locations for us to explore after the coronavirus has past here in Boston.
Dan M Lee
Glad you enjoyed this photo guide. Look out for more coming in the coming weeks.
Looking forward to the trip to Acadia. Can’t wait. Thanks for your tips.