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The Ultimate Guide to Acadia National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Acadia National Park is located along the Atlantic coast of Maine. This spectacular national park is America’s most easterly national park and the first national park east of the Mississippi River.

The park is the ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts who want to breathe in the clean salt air, explore historic lighthouses, hike through the incredible forests and mountains, and stand in awe of the breathtakingly clear lakes.

How To Get to Acadia National Park

Where Is Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre national park found on the Atlantic Coast in a Maine town called Bar Harbor. This park is approximately 160 miles from Portland, Maine, and around 50 miles from Bangor, Maine. The majority of this park is located on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

Nearest Airports to Acadia National Park

Flying is the best way to maximize your vacation time, depending on where you are traveling from. Several airports can get you close to Acadia National Park.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Boston Logan International Airport is an option for flying to Acadia National Park. This airport is about 5 hours from the park entrance, so most travelers choose to book a connecting flight to an airport closer to Acadia.

Boston Logan International Airport is serviced by airlines such as Delta, JetBlue, Cape Air, and American.

Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB)

The closest airport to Acadia National Park is Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport. This airport is less than 10 miles from the park.

Hancock County-Bar Harbor is serviced by Cape Air, Silver Airways, United, and JetBlue. Once you arrive at this airport, you are just a 10-minute drive from the entrance of the park.

Bangor International Airport (BGR)

Bangor International Airport is a little over 46 miles from Acadia National Park. This airport is about an hour away from the park entrance and is serviced by a small number of airlines, including Allegiant, American, Delta, and United.

Portland International Jetport (PWM)

Portland International Jetport is further away from other airports but is still a great option for those visiting Acadia. Often travelers want to explore Portland while vacationing, so this airport is a great option for those who want to see what Portland has to offer.

Portland International Jetport is about 3 hours from Acadia National Park and is serviced by Frontier, JetBlue, American, Delta, and Southwest.

Driving to Acadia National Park

If you are planning to drive to Acadia National Park, the most popular route is to travel from Boston to Augusta, Maine by taking I-95. Once arriving in Augusta, State Route 3, east to Ellsworth, is the way to go, and then you will continue until you arrive at the park’s main entrance, which is on Mount Desert Island.

Taking the Train to Acadia National Park

Amtrak is an exciting way to travel without stress, and Amtrak can get visitors very close to Acadia National Park. You can arrive at Brunswick, Maine, by taking the train up the East Coast. From that point, there is a 2.5-hour drive until you arrive at the park entrance.

Taking a Bus to Acadia National Park

Concord Coach or Greyhound are 2 options for traveling to Acadia National Park by bus. These bus options can get you to Bangor, Maine, and from that point, you would connect to the park by utilizing a shuttle bus, ferry, or taxi service.

Getting Around Acadia National Park

Road through Acadia
Image Credit: Harry Collins via Adobe Stock

There are several options for getting around Acadia National Park. From driving your own vehicle or utilizing the free shuttle service to walking or cycling, there is a suitable option for every park enthusiast.

The National Park Service offers printable maps of all the different areas in the park, which makes planning your visit a breeze.

Driving Through Acadia National Park

Having your own car available when exploring Acadia comes in very handy. Popular attractions that can be accessed by car include Park Loop Road and Cadillac Mountain. If you plan to drive through Acadia, it is important to stay up to date with the park’s Current Conditions page so you can keep informed if there should be any road closures during your visit.


The Island Explorer is a free bus service that runs throughout the summer. This shuttle service features 10 different bus routes that connect the park to hotels, trails, village centers, and campgrounds on Mount Desert Island.

These routes run from late June to early October. Guests enjoy utilizing the shuttle service because it helps travelers enjoy a stress-free journey to and from the park.


Cycling through the park is another option for those who want to explore the park without utilizing a vehicle. There are gravel roads and carriage roads that can be traversed by bike, as well as Park Loop Road. Bicyclists must obtain a park entrance pass if they want to ride in the park.

On Foot

The best way to get around Acadia National Park is on foot. With over 150 miles of hiking trails, carriage roads, and craggy shorelines, walking and hiking prove to be excellent choices.

What To See and Do in Acadia National Park

Abbe Museum

Abbe Museum is found in downtown Bar Harbor, but it was originally located along a trail in Acadia National Park. This museum became the first and only Smithsonian affiliate in Maine. Abbe Museum features incredible exhibits that teach the history and culture of the Wabanaki, the native people of Maine.

The museum offers exhibits that regularly change, special events, workshops for teachers, and workshops for children and adults. Visitors feel as though they are stepping back in time when they visit the Abbe Museum and learn about the early 20th-century history of Acadia.

Bass Harbor Head Light (Lighthouse)

One of the most iconic attractions in Acadia National Park is the Bass Harbor Head Light. This lighthouse is found on the southernmost tip of Mount Desert Island, south of the town of Bass Harbor.

This lighthouse has been keeping watch over the entrance to Bass Harbor since 1858 and is the only lighthouse on the island.

While you cannot enter the lighthouse because it is actively used daily, you can walk right up to the structure, read about its history on signs surrounding the lighthouse, and even take a short path that will lead to the rocky shore below the lighthouse.

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain
Image Credit: asap rocky via Unsplash

Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain in Acadia National Park, as well as the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard in America. This majestic mountain stands tall at 1,530 feet. Cadillac Mountain is a popular attraction in Acadia National Park because it is the first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise from early October to the beginning of March.

This is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia due to the fact that it is the only attraction that can be reached by car. If planning to drive to Cadillac Mountain, be sure to set out to arrive early and expect a crowd.

Cadillac Summit Loop Trail is another option for visiting Cadillac Mountain. This half-mile loop is considered an easy route that takes about 12 minutes to complete. Along the hike, visitors get a chance to see lots of wildlife and stunning views.

Carriage Roads

Acadia National Park is home to a 57-mile-long system of paved paths that were created and funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. These roads have preserved history in the fact that vehicles are prohibited. Guests can travel the Carriage Roads on foot, by biking, or by taking a horse-drawn carriage.

The Carriage Roads provide visitors with a relaxing, unique view of the beauty of Acadia. Most guests recommend visiting Acadia specifically in the fall so they can experience the Carriage Roads when the vibrant foliage is spectacularly showcased.

Echo Lake

Another stunning, clear lake found on Mount Desert Island is Echo Lake. The lake stretches over 237 acres and is found at the base of the cliffs of Beech Mountain. Echo Lake is the perfect location for those who want a calm, quiet encounter with Mount Desert Island. The lake brings about 10,000 to 15,000 people to its shores each season.

Hot Tip: Echo Lake has access to many of the hiking trails that lead to Beech Cliffs, Beech Mountain, and Canada Cliffs.

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond is actually not a pond at all. It’s one of the park’s most pristine lakes that is surrounded by gorgeous mountains. Glaciers carved out this area with many geological features, like the North and South Bubbles. Visitors enjoy hiking, boating, or traversing the carriage roads at Jordan Pond.

This location is also home to the only restaurant in the entire park, called Jordan Pond House. This restaurant is a great place to stop and refuel from your adventures and features in-house dining or carryout. Jordan Pond House is also famous for its tea and popovers.

Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road is a 27-mile road that is the best way to do a quick tour of Acadia National Park. This road features access to popular attractions such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliff. The road begins at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center and winds around the east side of Mount Desert Island.

For those planning to utilize Park Loop Road, it is advised to start your drive early in the morning to avoid crowds. It’s also a good idea to pack plenty of food for snacking and meals, as there are no places to stop and grab a quick bite.

Park Loop Road is open all year long, but some parts of this attraction are closed from December to mid-April. Visitors can stay up to date on road closures by checking the National Park Service website.

Precipice Trail

Precipice Trail is an adventurer’s dream. This trail is incredibly difficult and exhilarating at the same time and leads to the top of Champlain Mountain.

The trail climbs up steep cliffs and features iron rung, ladders, and handrails that help climbers reach the top of the cliff. The hike takes about 3-5 hours to complete the entire loop and is roughly 2.6 miles long. When you reach the peak of Champlain Mountain, you are rewarded with incredible views of the landscape and water.

Sand Beach

Sand Beach is found off Park Loop Road on the east side of Mount Desert Island. This beach is the most popular in the park because of its amazing views.

The beach is nestled between 2 walls of pink granite and surrounded by giant evergreen trees. This beach provides incredible views from the beach, but for more spectacular views, visitors can climb the massive granite staircase and hike the Great Head Trail.

From the top of the Great Head Trail, adventurers can admire the beautiful beach or The Beehive, which is a nearby mountain that is a sight to behold.

Schoodic Peninsula

Schoodic Peninsula
Image Credit: Keith Luke via Unsplash

Schoodic Peninsula is the only part of Acadia National Park that is located on the mainland. It is best known for its incredible views of the waves that crash into the shore’s rocks.

Not only does Schoodic Peninsula offer magnificent views of the waves, but it also boasts amazing views of Cadillac Mountain. Visitors enjoy setting up beach chairs to enjoy the scenery and views on the beach.

Schoodic Peninsula also has 7 hiking trails that take adventurers through lush forests of fir, pine, and spruce trees. Some of the hiking trails lead to the Schoodic Education and Research Center and Frazer Point, which is a perfect place to set up for some rest and picnicking.

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is a top attraction at Acadia National Park. This small inlet was carved out of the rocks naturally over time and is now a semi-submerged cave that provides visitors with a breathtakingly unique experience. As the waves come into this narrow inlet, the air escapes and a boisterous, thunderous burst of reverberation can be heard at a deafening volume.

This popular feature of Acadia National Park can be visited and enjoyed year-round. Thunder Hole is located on Park Loop Road. For those who want to visit, it’s important to be prepared for wet, slippery conditions. The best time to see this phenomenon, according to visitors, is when the tides change.

Best Times To Visit Acadia

Acadia National Park is open year-round, but particular times are best for visiting this magnificent park. Let’s delve into the ideal times to visit Acadia so you can experience the park in the way you desire.

Best Time To Visit Acadia to Avoid the Crowds


Early to mid-September is a great time to visit the park. The number of guests visiting the park has drastically minimized during these weeks.

Late autumn is another time to visit if you want to avoid crowds. Visiting until mid-November means there are fewer crowds, and guests can explore the park almost completely alone. While these times do not allow guests to see the changing colors in the foliage, this is an ideal time to visit and experience lighter crowds.


Winter is the least popular time for visiting Acadia National Park, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad idea.

Acadia is a beautiful sight to behold during the winter, with an incredible display of cascading snow drifts, stunning ice formations, and a sparkling blanket of snow covering the park. All of this, in contrast with the bright blue sky, makes a view to remember for a lifetime.

Those who visit during the winter enjoy cross-country skiing, climbing waterfalls, ice fishing, and taking in the spectacular snowy views of the mountains and water.

Best Time To Visit Acadia for Wildlife

Beaver sits in water Acadia
Image Credit: National Park Service

There are opportunities all year long to see the diverse wildlife that is found in Acadia National Park. Some of the incredible animals found in the park include otters, moose, beavers, porcupines, bobcats, red foxes, and black bears.

The best time to view the wildlife of Acadia National Park is at dawn, dusk, and nighttime, as these are the times when they are most active in the park.

Cheapest Time To Visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park charges the same fee year-round, but if you want to visit the park and save money, the best time to visit is during the off-season, when you may find lower rates on lodging and flights. The off-season is the months of November through April, and the month with the cheapest flights is February.

Annual Events in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park hosts several concerts, festivals, marathons, and sporting events each year.

Some of the most well-known events hosted in and near the park include Acadia Night Sky Festival, Acadia Oktoberfest, and the Mount Desert Island Marathon.

Where To Stay in Acadia National Park

The number of lodging options available in and near Acadia National Park is incredible. There are cabins and campgrounds, charming inns and bed and breakfasts, and opulent hotels and resorts near every entrance to the park. It is imperative to choose the accommodation that best meets your traveling desires.

Inside the Park

There are several campgrounds available for camping inside the park, but there aren’t any lodges or hotels inside Acadia. Guests can choose from traditional camping in a tent or camper, or they can try something a little more rustic and utilize one of the lean-to shelters found on the property.


There are 2 campgrounds found on Mount Desert Island and another campground on the Schoodic Peninsula. In addition, 5 lean-to shelters can be found on Isle au Haute. The park provides a printable map that shows the location of these sites so that visitors can plan their trip.

Camping is an incredible way to experience the beauty of Acadia, but it is important to plan ahead. All campsites must be reserved in advance.

The lean-to shelters are found in the Duck Harbor Campground, which is located on Isle au Haute. This craggy island is located right off the coast of Stonington, Maine. Camping at Duck Harbor gives a backcountry experience to travelers who enjoy camping with just the necessities.

Accommodations Near Acadia National Park

There are hundreds of accommodations available in the gateway towns near Acadia National Park. From luxury hotels and resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts, travelers can find exactly what their heart desires when visiting Acadia.

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor is the perfect destination to set up your home base while visiting Acadia National Park. This town is found on Mount Desert Island along Frenchman’s Bay. Bar Harbor has an abundance of places to stay while visiting Acadia. From luxury hotels to charming bed and breakfasts to camping in the great outdoors, Bar Harbor has it all.

This town is in the perfect location for exploring Acadia National Park, but it also has a wealth of other activities to take part in during your stay, including miniature golf, scenic flights, narrated trolley tours, kayak adventures, and whale watching.

Bar Harbor also has a host of options for dining. The restaurants in the town feature fresh, local seafood, home-grown produce, locally roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, and cocktails.

Bass Harbor

Bass Harbor Lighthouse Trail Bass Harbor ME USA
Image Credit: Mick Haupt via Unsplash

Bass Harbor is a village found in the town of Tremont on Mount Desert Island. This small fishing village makes a wonderful option for setting up a home base while visiting Acadia National Park.

There are several options for lodging at Bass Harbor, including a lodge, cottages, and cabins. Each accommodation option provides guests with beautiful views of the water, sunsets, and wildlife.

Bass Harbor offers several hiking trails, views of lighthouses, museums, and island cruises. Several restaurants also serve fresh, local seafood, with lobster being a featured menu item.


Gouldsboro is a small town found on the Schoodic Peninsula in Hancock County. Gouldsboro offers guests a calm, serene stay compared to some of the livelier gateway towns.

Gouldsboro has a few options for lodging, including an inn, motel, and cottages. Some of these properties have private beach access, entry to beautiful meadows, forests, and blueberry fields, and are near Acadia National Park.

Bottom Line: This charming town is the ideal location for taking in the beauty of Maine while recharging and relaxing from the busy hustle of life.

Northeast Harbor

One of the closest towns to Acadia National Park is Northeast Harbor. This town juts into the bay on a mini peninsula and has beautiful views of the Cranberry Islands. Northeast Harbor is only 6 miles from Acadia and has access to carriage roads, hiking trails, and biking paths that stretch out along the mountains.

This small town offers a few places to stay and several small shops and restaurants. This is the ideal location for guests who want to experience a small-town atmosphere and enjoy the quiet beauty of the area.

The harbor offers scenic boat rides and sunset cruises, which is an incredible opportunity to see stunning views of the area and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Seal Cove

Seal Cove is found on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. This quiet location offers beautiful views of the sunrise and sunset and gorgeous scenes of the boats and yachts anchored near the harbor.

The area has a plethora of accommodation options, including cabins, cottages, inns, and even a wilderness lodge. Guests enjoy staying at Seal Cove because the scenery is incredible, the close proximity to Acadia National Park, and the quiet, romantic atmosphere.

Where To Eat in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has several options for picnicking in the park and a wonderful restaurant called Jordan Pond House. Whether you desire to pack a picnic or take a break for a meal at the restaurant, you will surely not be disappointed.

Jordan Pond House

Jordan Pond House Restaurant is the only restaurant found in Acadia National Park. This full-service restaurant overlooks the stunning Jordan Pond and has views of the North and South Bubbles as well.

The restaurants serves lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea and popovers on the sprawling lawn. Visitors can choose to dine in the restaurant or order a meal to take with them and eat on the go. Popular menu items at Jordan Pond House include the Signature Popover Sundae and in-house crafted wraps and sandwiches, local craft sodas, and coffee.

Picnic Areas

Laying out a blanket or setting up a picnic table is one of the best ways to enjoy a meal at Acadia National Park. There are 6 areas designated for picnics inside the park.

There are 5 picnic areas found on Mount Desert Island and another found in Schoodic. These picnic areas have restrooms nearby, fireplaces, and tables set up for the perfect picnic. Visitors love enjoying a great meal while taking in the beautiful views of the landscape, water, and wildlife.

Acadia National Park Facts

Acadia National Park
Image Credit: Rachel C via Unsplash

1. Acadia Created Entirely by Donations

Acadia National Park is the only national park created solely from donations of private land. This is a remarkable fact since the park stretches over 47,000 acres along the coast of Maine.

The citizens in the towns near Acadia thought the area would be over-developed and crowded, so they decided to protect it. They wanted to be able to enjoy the gorgeous natural landscapes and stunning views for years to come.

Key contributors to Acadia National Park include John D. Rockefeller Jr., Charles W. Elliott, and George B. Dorr. Donations of land, money, time, and resources helped establish the park we can still visit today.

2. A Park of Many Names

Acadia National Park was first named Sieur de Monts National Monument. The park received this name in 1916 from President Woodrow Wilson. In 1919, the name changed to Lafayette National Park when it was declared the first national park east of the Mississippi River.

One final name change happened in 1929, which gave the park the name we use today. Acadia was named after a region in Greece because of its resemblance to the area.

3. Father of Acadia National Park

One man’s vision led to the eventual establishment of the impressive Acadia National Park, and this man was George Dorr.

Dorr was the son of a wealthy Boston couple who enjoyed travel. They visited Mount Desert Island in 1869, and George fell in love with the island and decided to make it his home.

Because of his love for this enchanting place, he wanted to share it with others. He became passionate about establishing this park and made it his life’s work. Dorr spent his own money to purchase the land around Mount Desert Island, and with donations from others, Hancock County Trustees relinquished over 6,000 acres.

Due to some legislature efforts to remove such a large quantity of land for taxation reasons, Dorr fought against the state legislation. His passion for this land was admirable and persistent. He sought federal protection for the land so that it could be preserved for future generations.

Dorr became one of the founders of the park and spent 2 decades as its superintendent. He loved this park and spent the rest of his days working on land acquisitions and caring for the land. He is lovingly known as the “Father of Acadia National Park.”

4. Home to the Wabanaki

The Maliseet, the Micmac, the Passamaquoddy, and the Penobscot were 4 tribes that made up the Wabanaki. The lands that made up Acadia National Park were inhabited by the Wabanaki for 12,000 years.

They spent their time hunting, fishing, gathering berries, and harvesting clams on the property. Each tribe of the Wabanaki has a reservation and government headquarters located on their territories.

5. John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Incredible Role in Acadia

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. quickly fell in love with the beauty of the area where Acadia was founded. In 1910, he bought a summer home in Seal Harbor and soon realized that traffic could potentially ruin Acadia.

Because Rockefeller wanted to preserve this incredible area, he designed an alternate route for the transport of visitors to the park. He purchased land in the park and designed a carriage road system which is now one of the main features of the park.

This system of roads is 57 miles long and has 17 gorgeous stone bridges. All of this was designed, funded, and overseen by Rockefeller. Visitors to Acadia enjoy cycling, walking, or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride and taking in the beauty of the area while traversing these carriage roads.

6. Ashes to Beauty

In 1947, a fire began in Arcadia National Park because it had experienced months of drought. 10,000 acres were destroyed in this fire, which included wildlife habitats, homes, and businesses.

The National Park Service worked tirelessly to rebuild the park. There were 2 crews hired to clean up and salvage what they could in the park. Today, the forests are filled with birch and aspen trees instead of the original spruce and fir trees. The National Park Service says that the original trees will eventually return to the park’s ecology.

7. Highest View on the East Coast

Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia National Park. This massive peak offers visitors the highest view on the East Coast. Cadillac Mountain stands 1,530 feet tall and is the tallest mountain on the East Coast. From its peak, guests can see incredible views of the park.

From October 7th to March 6th, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in America where people can see the sunrise. Visitors enjoy coming to see the sun before the rest of the nation. It truly is a magical time.

8. Drastic Weather Changes

In a matter of minutes, the weather can go from hot and sunny to cold and wet. A popular saying by residents near Acadia is, “Come to Acadia and experience the 4 seasons — in a weekend.” When traveling to Acadia National Park, be prepared with a variety of clothing choices for when the weather changes.

9. Plant Species Galore

There are over 1,000 plant species found in Acadia National Park. Some of these plant species include trees such as aspen, ash, and spruce, and wild berries like strawberries and blueberries. The bogs, marshes, and ponds are where you can find plants such as cranberry, huckleberry, water-lily, and winterberry.

10. Diverse Mammal Species

Acadia National Park is home to 37 different species of wildlife. Some of the mammals that can be spotted in the park include muskrats, black bears, white-tailed deer, seals, and whales. There are opportunities galore to see these remarkable creatures while visiting the park.

11. One of the Smallest National Parks

Acadia National Park is one of America’s smallest national parks. This park is the fifth smallest natural park when speaking of land area.

Don’t let Acadia’s small size trick you into thinking that Acadia is a less popular national park. While it is a smaller park, Acadia is one of the top 20 most-visited national parks, and in 2021, there were over 4 million visitors who came to the park to explore.

12. Birds of Prey

Acadia is an ideal location for spotting birds, especially birds of prey. From the peak of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast, visitors can see an average of 2,500 birds each year. Some of the remarkable species that can be seen include vultures, owls, falcons, eagles, and osprey.

During the fall months, there is a program called Hawkwatch, where rangers, volunteers, and official counters go to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch these birds head south for the winter. These people have a goal to count, identify, and record the various birds of prey.

Over the last 25 years, there have been more than 71,000 birds of prey spotted in this area. This data contributes to the research and conservation of these incredible birds.

Final Thoughts

Acadia National Park, often called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” is a true sight to behold. This park is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and those who love to take in the beauty of nature. A trip to Acadia National Park will leave visitors with wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should I plan to visit Acadia National Park?

Most people stay in Acadia for 3 to 4 days. Since this national park is smaller than most, you can explore it in full during that time.

Do I need an entrance pass to enter Acadia National Park?

An entrance pass is required to visit Acadia National Park. A standard pass is good for 7 days and costs $30 per vehicle.

What is there for kids to do in Acadia National Park?

Children love visiting Acadia National Park for the same reasons the adults do. On top of the natural beauty, hiking, picnicking, and camping, there are some activities specifically for kids. The Junior Ranger Program is a big hit with kids of all ages.

This program allows kids to be sworn in by a park ranger and earn a junior ranger badge once they complete a Junior Ranger booklet. There are several activities in the booklet that make this program a blast.

Other programs for kids include the Carroll Homestead Drop-In Program, kids’ festivals, and Junior Ranger Stations that can be visited during your trip.

What is the weather like in Acadia National Park?

The weather varies throughout the year in Acadia National Park. Summers are very comfortable, with daytime temperatures ranging from the low to high 70s. Winters are very cold and have snowy, windy conditions. Winter temperatures range from 10 degrees at night to mid-30s during the day. The fall is a gorgeous time to visit for fall foliage, and the daytime temperatures can range from the mid-40s to the upper 60s. Spring has daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 30s to the low 60s.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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