Published January 5th, 2012

Acadia National Park is certainly stunning in the summer, but in the winter it’s a wonderland and locals know it shouldn’t be missed. During the off-season, travelers to the park and Mount Desert Island get a taste of sleepy local culture; access to serene, stunning forests; and a ticket to off-the-beaten-path adventures they can truly call their own.

Located just 46 miles from French’s Point, Acadia National Park supports classic winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. For more extreme fare, experienced sportsmen enjoy dog sledding, ice fishing, and winter camping. Whatever your bent, Bar Harbor’s Cadillac Mountain Sports can rent or sell you the gear you need. The store rents skis and also stocks snowshoes, ice skates, and a host of other winter sports gear. (Snowmobilers take note: There is no snowmobile rental spot on the island.)

Though much of the Park Loop Road is closed in winter, two sections (near Schooner Head Road and Jordan Pond Road) are free and accessible during the off-season. These are great stretches for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, with stunning views of the bay. Find out the grooming status of trails on the park’s website and take a look at a PDF map of Acadia’s winter activities. You can also snowshoe or ski on unplowed park roads, but look out for snowmobiles tearing through. While hiking the trails can be dangerous because of snow and ice, for a nice walk in the woods made more beautiful by snowfall, locals frequent the loop around Eagle Lake.

And finally, after chilling your nose in the crisp winter air, warm up with a cup of coffee at artisanal, eco-friendly roaster Benbow’s or do like the natives and eat ice cream despite the cold at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, both in Bar Harbor. For a hot toddy at a hot spot, check out the beautiful wooden bar warmed by the fireplace at McKay’s Public House, one of the few restaurants in Bar Harbor open year-round.