A group of masked hikers descends the backside of The Beehive after hiking up the steep south face of the mountain. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Visits to Acadia National Park were 10 percent higher this October than the year before after the park went six straight months of significantly fewer visits due to the pandemic.

The estimated number of visits to the park increased from 436,194 in October 2019 to 480,859 in October 2020, according to National Park Service statistics.

The increase may be a silver lining for some area tourism businesses, many of which have struggled as the pandemic has reduced foot traffic through their doors and resulted in the cancellation of Bar Harbor’s 2020 cruise ship season, which typically brings hundreds of thousands of tourists to Mount Desert Island every fall.

Overall, visitation to the park in 2020 remains 24 percent lower than it was at the end of October 2019. For the first 10 months of 2020, the park had 2.5 million visits compared to 3.3 million for January through October in 2019.

Visitation numbers for November were not available on Friday.

Some tourism businesses fared worse than others. Hotels had substantially fewer customers as tourists who did visit opted for other, more socially distant types of accommodations, notably weekly rentals and privately run campgrounds. Acadia’s three campgrounds did not open this year.

At times this summer, Acadia was crowded — anecdotally, more so on weekends than during the week — but park officials have attributed that to car congestion caused by the suspension of the Island Explorer bus system for the year.

Monthly traffic to Acadia was up early in the year, in January, February and March, but dropped steeply as the pandemic spread to Maine and tourists stayed away because of travel restrictions and concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Visits to Acadia were down by more than 50 percent from last year in both May and June. The number of people visiting the park in July and August — typically the park’s busiest months — were down by 35 percent and 10 percent respectively from the same months in 2019. In September, visitation was off by 17 percent from September last year.

Overall, Acadia had 30 percent fewer visits from April through September this year than the same 6-month period in 2019.

Acadia had more than 3 million visits in each of the past four years, setting a record of nearly 3.54 million in 2018. Because visitation to the park is typically less than 70,000 for November and December combined, visits to Acadia for all of 2020 are expected to be less than 3 million for the first time since 2015, when the park registered 2.8 million.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....