A line of hikers files up the popular Beehive Trail near Sand Beach at Acadia National Park in July 2022. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Acadia National Park visitor numbers dipped slightly for a second year in 2023, but it remains one of the most popular national parks and the primary reason why the Bar Harbor area is still benefiting from a post-pandemic tourism boom.

The park, which comprises about half of Mount Desert Island and the tip of nearby Schoodic Peninsula, attracted nearly 3.87 million visitors in 2023, according to preliminary National Park Service data.

That’s down 2.5% from 3.97 million visitors in 2022, and down 3.3% from a record 4 million visitors in 2021, when the park saw increased demand from people eager to get out of the house during the pandemic and go to places within driving distance.

But Acadia’s 3.87 million visitors in 2023 is still 30% higher than the average annual 2.87 million visitors the park drew in the decade from 2010-2019, peaking at 3.54 million in 2018. The COVID-19 shutdown triggered a sudden drop from 3.4 million visitors in 2019 to 2.7 million visitors in 2020, followed by the record rebound in 2021.

“That’s leveling out in many ways, but it’s still much higher than it was before the pandemic,” said Everal Eaton, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the dip in 2020 and the spike in 2021, Acadia visitor numbers increased 41% overall in the last decade. Visitor numbers for 2023 may change when they’re finalized by the end of March, the park service website states.


Wetter-than-usual weather last summer may have put a damper on park visits, as it did on many outdoor activities in Maine, Eaton said, while retailers and other businesses in the Bar Harbor area reported an uptick in customers seeking alternative indoor activities.

“June especially was a little bit troublesome if your business depended on outdoor activities,” Eaton said.

Acadia also increased its visitor fees in 2023 for the first time in five years.

The Island Explorer, a free shuttle bus service that includes the Schoodic Peninsula, also drew more riders last year – a 9% increase from 414,808 riders in 2022 to 451,032 riders in 2023, said Paul Murphy, executive director of Downeast Transportation Inc.


Amanda Pollock, a park spokesperson, declined to comment on preliminary visitor numbers but acknowledged that Acadia is consistently among the top five national parks. In 2022, it was exceeded only by, in ascending order, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains national parks.


Pollock also noted Acadia’s vast economic benefits to Down East communities. The park service estimates that Acadia’s 3.97 million visitors in 2022 injected $479 million into the local economy, which supported nearly 6,700 jobs and had a cumulative benefit of $691 million.

“We’re still seeing some elevated park visitation compared to pre-pandemic levels,” Pollock said.

To manage visitor congestion associated with rising numbers, Acadia will move forward with a transportation plan and environmental impact statement issued by the park service in 2019, Pollock said. The plan’s goal is to improve visitor experiences, reduce park congestion and protect its natural resources by providing safe and efficient transportation options during peak tourist season.

Park visitors climb a short path from a parking lot to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, one of the most popular spots in Acadia National Park, in 2021. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The plan called for an expanded network of commercial tours, Island Explorer buses and on-demand taxis, as well as increased parking, private vehicle reservations for certain park roads, and construction of the Acadia Gateway Center and transit hub on Route 3 in Trenton, just north of Mount Desert Island.

The Maine Department of Transportation awarded a $27 million contract last March to Nickerson & O’Day of Brewer to complete the center by May 2025.

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