The Best Free Campsites at Acadia National Park

What You Need to Know

Who Is this Guide For?

This post is for travelers looking to enjoy Acadia and be as close to the park, and Bar Harbor, as possible. It isn’t for travelers who are passing through and want to stay for 10 days at a remote campsite in Wesley or Bangor. There are free campsites available, an hour or more away, that you can stay at for extended lengths. These sites aren’t near Acadia though and won’t give you access to the park without a good amount of driving.  

Is Car Camping Legal in Acadia National Park?

Like every National Park you will visit in the United States, you will see “No Overnight Parking” signs throughout. In our experience at Acadia, this rule is strictly enforced. You will have a hard time finding free sites or parking in any of the lots or areas of Acadia. We aren’t saying it can’t be done but you will have a hard time finding a consistent spot each night to settle down. This is even more unlikely if you are in a van or vehicle that makes it obvious that you are staying overnight. 

Is Car Camping Legal in Bar Harbor?

No, it is not legal to sleep in a vehicle overnight in Bar Harbor.

The town of Bar Harbor’s public places ordinance reads: “No person shall use or permit to be used any public thoroughfare, public street, beach … or any other public place in the town of Bar Harbor for the purpose of overnight accommodation or a temporary or permanent abode or habitation, except with the written permission of the Town Council.”

Where Can You Camp for Free in Acadia and Bar Harbor?

As you’ll see below, there are limited options for free campsites or boondocking in Acadia and Bar Harbor. We’ll give you a brief overview of your best bet along with the places we’ve tried, with varying amounts of success. Unfortunately, this post won’t have nearly as many options as some of the other free campsite posts we’ve written about. 

 

Our Favorite Hiking Shoes

 

The Best Free Campsites Near Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor

Acadia is the lone National Park in the Northeast and snuggled next to a quintessential New England harbor town called Bar Harbor. With that said, it’s a very popular destination for those on the Northeast as well as travelers from across the country. This has made it harder and harder to find campsites, not just free sites, in the vicinity of Acadia and Bar Harbor. 

1. Walmart in Ellsworth

Your number one option, and the only reliable site we’ve experienced, for a free “campsite” near Acadia is Walmart. Fortunately, this Walmart in Ellsworth, is only 25 minutes from Acadia and just 30 minutes from Bar Harbor. This makes for a very reasonable commute in and out of the park. 

Cell Service: Yes. 3 bars of LTE from Verizon

Bathrooms: Inside the Walmart

Picnic Tables, Fire Pits: No, it’s a Walmart.

Water: Inside the Walmart

Vehicle Access: All. Typical Walmart. This is perfect for RVs, buses and other large vehicles.

Where Else We’ve Tried

Walmart in Ellsworth? That’s all we’re giving you? Yes, seriously, that is your option to camp for free within an hour of Acadia National Park. Now obviously you can try your luck in other places in and around Bar Harbor, but you will run the risk of a warning or possible ticket. 

1. RV Parking in Bar Harbor at the Fields

You will most likely park here at some point when you are visiting Bar Harbor and think this is the perfect spot to set up overnight. There are still no “No Overnight Parking” signs in sight and it is super close to both Bar Harbor and Acadia. Trust me when I tell you though that you will get a knock right around midnight. I’ve had this happen on two different occasions on trips over 3 years apart. The police in town are very friendly and agreed when we told them that there should be a “No Overnight Parking” sign posted.

If you don’t receive a knock, you will probably wake up to a courtesy notice or warning on your windshield. Keep in mind that this isn’t a ticket but likely will be if your violate the ordinance again. This may have changed since we were last in Bar Harbor in the summer of 2022. You are taking your own chances on a ticket here. 

There is also a baseball field that the RV parking is adjacent to. You may be tempted to park alongside the field on the street but the same rules apply to these areas as well.

Coordinates: 44°22’55.7″N 68°12’17.5″W

Cell Service: Yes. 4 bars of LTE from Verizon. 3 bars of 5G or more from T-Mobile.

 

Vehicle Access: RV’s, Cars, Vans

2. Street Parking

There are side streets all over town in Bar Harbor. We have tried parking overnight on the streets of Bar Harbor on 3 different occasions. On one of these nights we woke up without incident and on the other two we received either a knock or a notice.

Don't Miss a Workout While Camping or on the Road

Our Recommendations

Home Base: Walmart in Ellsworth

 Like most Walmarts up to a 2 night stay is usually allowed in Ellsworth. We also come back on non consecutive nights later in the trip without issue. Individual usage may vary on this.

2-3 Night Stay: Pay for Blackwoods or Mt. Desert Island Campground

 If you have the money, and book far enough in advance, we can’t recommend enough to stay at Blackwoods campground in Acadia. It’s walking distance to a number of prominent hikes, including Cadillac and Gorham, and also offers a shuttle stop to access the rest of the park. They have tent and RV specific sites to allow room for most vehicles. 

Supplements for Hikers and Campers

 

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