The Ultimate Guide To Acadia National Park

The Ultimate Guide To Acadia National Park

Maine
The Ultimate Travel Guide To Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, the most pristine National Park in the US!

Acadia National Park, located on Maine’s coastline, is home to a diverse array of natural landscapes that can be explored via scenic drives, horse-drawn carriages, and boat tours!

Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island along the coast of Maine, features a rugged coastline, gorgeous sandy and cobblestone-lined beaches, mountain and forest vistas, glacial lakes and ponds, picturesque lighthouses, several hiking trails, and much more! The Park also offers quite a few exciting ways to explore the wilderness and the sumptuous landscape, including a scenic drive, narrated horse-drawn carriage tours, guided boat tours, and seasonal Island Explorer bus services!

Maine, located on the northeast corner of the US, is home to a beautiful coastline overlooking the Gulf of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean! Situated on the middle section of Maine’s coastline is the Acadia National Park comprising a significant part of Mount Desert Island, some part of the island town of Isle au Haut, a portion of the Schoodic Peninsula located east of Bar Harbor, and a few other smaller islands on the coast of Maine.

In order to experience all of Acadia National Park, you must tour the Park by land and by its waterways!

The sublime scenery that we see at Acadia National Park has been sculpted and shaped over several million years by several natural forces, including volcanic activities, movements in the earth’s crust, glacial activities, and erosion that still continues to shape the landscape at Acadia National Park. Today, it’s one of the most sorted after destinations in the US, drawing visitors from all over the globe to experience a spectacular slice of nature on the northeast corner of the US, which for the most part of the year sees the first sunrise in the US!

Here is my ultimate guide to Acadia National Park, featuring essential trip-planning information, attractions map, hiking trails, suggested itinerary, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants in Acadia National Park!

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Planning Your Trip To Acadia National Park

Planning Your Trip To Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is open year-round, but winters are mostly for snow sports, with the majority of the Park amenities closed during the winter months! 

Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park: The warmth of the coast does not hold up to the harsh winters in New England! Like other parts of Maine, Acadia National Park also has long and snowy winters, making it a popular skiing destination but not the best time for sightseeing! Early spring can be wet and soggy in Acadia National Park, making late spring through early fall the idle time for sightseeing in the Park. Summer is the peak season, and if you’re traveling during the summer months, make sure you make your lodging reservations in way advance. If you don’t mind a little cooler weather, fall is a great choice to beat the crowd and enjoy the foliage in Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park Operating Hours & Seasons: The Park is open year-round, but most of the park facilities, including the visitor centers, campgrounds, tours, and park stores, are seasonal and are open only outside the winter months. Winter travel to Acadia can be tricky and requires careful planning, as there are winter road closures in the Park and only a few areas and attractions remain accessible during winter, including Carriage Roads, Schoodic Loop & Point Road, and Sand Beach.

Getting To Acadia National Park: Acadia National Park, located in southern Maine, is pretty far from the major international airports, making the regional and domestic airports the best choice to get to the Park. There’s no direct Amtrak train service to Acadia National Park, but Greyhound offers bus services to Bangor, which is just 45 miles from the Park.

  • Flight: Portland International Jetport (PWM), Portland, Maine, is the closest major international airport to Acadia National Park, but it’s about 175 miles from the Park, which is approximately 3 hours drive. A better option is to fly into Bangor International Airport (BGR), Bangor, Maine, around 45 miles from Acadia National Park.
  • Train: There’re no direct Amtrak train services to Acadia National Park, and the closest Amtrak station to Park is the Brunswick Station, located in Brunswick, Maine, approximately 145 miles from Acadia National Park.
  • Bus: Greyhound offers bus services connecting a few cities in southern Maine to other cities and states in the US. The closest Greyhound bus stop near Acadia National Park is located about 45 miles on Odlin Road, Bangor, Maine.

Transportation & Parking Inside Acadia National Park: The Park has parking space at every vista point and trailheads. However, during the peak seasons, there’s a ton of traffic in the Park, and it might become challenging to find parking during the summer months. So a better option is to use the Island Explorer bus service to traverse the Park, which is offered seasonally only during the peak summer months. The Park offers horse-drawn carriage tours and boat tours, which are the only way to explore some of the sections of Acadia National Park. I have reviewed the various tour options in Acadia National Park in a later section of this post. 

Time Required At Acadia National Park: Acadia National Park is not that huge, but with a ton of things to do and see and with several isolated sections, I recommend spending at least three days in the Park. Three days should give you sufficient time to leisurely explore all the vista points and enjoy the boat and carriage tours to some of the pristine sections of the Park. However, if you don’t have that kind of time and can spend just a day or two, you could still see a lot of the Park by driving through the scenic loop drive and stopping at the popular vista points.

Lodging & Dining In Acadia National Park: The lodging and dining options inside Acadia National Park are limited to its four campgrounds and one restaurant. However, you will find quite a few lodging and dining options in the nearby town of Bar Harbor, which I have reviewed in detail in the later section of the post.

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Things To Do In Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Attractions Map

Acadia National Park Attractions Map

Acadia National Park Entrances

There’re four main sections in Acadia National Park (1) The Main section that lies on the eastern part of Mount Desert Island (2) The West section on the west part of Mount Desert Island (3) The secluded Schoodic Peninsula to the north of Mount Desert Island and (4) The island town of Isle au Haut, an isolated section which lies further southwest from Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine.

Main Section Entrances: Most people just stick to the Main section of Acadia National Park, the eastern part of Mount Desert Island, which is home to Bar Harbor, the Park’s Scenic Loop Drive, and several iconic vista points of Acadia National Park. The vista points on the main section of the Park are accessible via the Scenic Park Loop Road, which for most of the part is a one-way road and can be accessed via four entrances on Mount Desert Island.

  • Hulls Cove Entrance: Located on the north of the Park, close to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the Hulls Cove Entrance is the most popular entrance to the Park and the best place to start the Scenic Loop Drive in Acadia National Park. Hulls Cove Entrance Address: Hulls Cove Entrance, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.
  • Cadillac Mountain Entrance: The Cadillac Mountain Entrance, located east of Bar Harbor, offers quick access to Cadillac Mountain, which otherwise is the last point on the Scenic Loop Drive. Cadillac Mountain Entrance Address: Cadillac Mountain Entrance, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.
  • Sieur de Monts Entrance: Located a couple of miles south of Bar Harbor is another entry point to the Park’s loop road on Route 3, used mainly by people staying in Bar Harbor. Sieur de Monts Entrance Address: Sieur de Monts Entrance, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.
  • Stanley Brook Entrance: Located on the southern part of the Park in the town of Seal Harbor, the Stanley Brook Entrance offers access to the Park’s Loop Road to people coming to the Park using the westbound Route 3. Stanley Brook Entrance Address: Stanley Brook Entrance, Seal Harbor, ME 04675.

Schoodic Peninsula Entrance: The entrance to the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park is through the Schoodic Entrance located on Schoodic Loop Rd in Winter Harbor. Schoodic Peninsula Entrance Address: Schoodic Loop Rd, Winter Harbor, ME 04693.

Isle au Haut Entrance: The access to Isle au Haut section of Acadia National Park is only via a ferry service departing from Stonington operated by Isle au Haut Boat Services. Isle au Haut Boat Services Address: 37 Seabreeze Ave, Stonington, ME 04681.

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Acadia National Park Visitor / Information Centers

There’re several visitor and information centers located in different sections of Acadia National Park, including one visitor center and three information centers in the Main section of the Park on Mount Desert Island and two in the Schoodic Peninsula. However, all the visitor centers are seasonal and are open only outside the winter months. 

Mount Desert Island Visitor / Information Centers

  • Hulls Cove Visitor Center: The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is the primary visitor center of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. The visitor center features an information desk, a few exhibits, and a park store.
  • Sieur de Monts Nature Center: Located near the Sieur de Monts Entrance, a couple of miles south of Bar Harbor, the Sieur de Monts Nature Center also offers maps and general information about the Park, besides several other nature exhibits related to the Park’s geology. 
  • Village Green Information Center: Located right in downtown Bar Harbor, the Village Green Information Center offers trip-planning information, entrance passes, and access to Island Explorer shuttle busses during the peak summer season. 
  • Thompson Island Information Center: This is, in fact, the first information center you would see when you enter Mount Desert Island that offers an information desk and sells Park passes. However, not many people use this facility; instead, most people drive to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. 

Schoodic Peninsula Visitor / Information Centers

  • Rockefeller Welcome Center: The Rockefeller Welcome Center, located in Schoodic Peninsula, features several exhibits related to the former US Navy base in the Schoodic Peninsula and information about the Park.
  • Schoodic Woods Campground Ranger Station: This is a small ranger station in Schoodic Peninsula offering camping and general information and access to the Island Explorer shuttle busses during the peak summer season. 
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Acadia National Park Sections & Attractions

Most people think Acadia National Park lies just within the boundaries of Mount Desert Island, which isn’t true. The Park is pretty widespread and has four major sections!

The most significant part of Acadia National Park, including several iconic Acadia vista points and the popular Park Loop Drive, lies in Mount Desert Island, but the Park has more to it! Acadia National Park has four major sections:

The Main Section: This is not an officially designated title; I am calling it the main section to logically divide the area and make it easy to follow and navigate. The main section of Acadia National Park lies on the eastern part of Mount Desert Island, and it’s home to most of the iconic landmarks and popular vista points of Acadia National Park, including the Scenic Loop Drive, Sand Beach, Jordan Point, Cadillac Mountain, and others. This is also where you will find Bar Harbor, the primary town close to the Park, offering several lodging and dining options to visitors of the Park.

The West Section: The west part of Mount Desert Island, comprising of the towns of Tremont and Southwest Harbor, is home to the legendary Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and Seawall, which are some of the most photographed features of the Park. 

Schoodic Peninsula: To the north of Mount Desert Island lies the secluded Schoodic Peninsula, a former US Navy base, featuring a few vista points along the most dramatic coastline of Acadia National Park. 

Isle au Haut: Isle au Haut is an isolated section of Acadia National Park that lies further southwest from Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine. Isle au Haut section of Acadia National Park can only be reached via a ferry service departing from Stonington operated by Isle au Haut Boat Services.

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The Main Section of Acadia National Park

The main section of Acadia National Park, the eastern part of Mount Desert Island, is home to several iconic landmarks and popular attractions in the Park. Here’re the major vista points in the Main Section of the Park that are best visited via driving along the Scenic Loop Drive!

Sand Beach

Sand Beach | Acadia National Park

Sand Beach

Sand Beach, the first major attraction on the Park Loop Road and the only sandy beach in Acadia National Park, is a small but gorgeous cove-style beach nestled between mountains famous for swimming, sunbathing, strolling, and starting point of two popular hikes in the Park – Great Head Trail and Beehive Trail, right across the Loop Road.

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole, a natural narrow inlet carved into the granite cliffs, makes roaring sounds when waves crash against the rocks. There are granite stairs that lead to a well-guarded viewing platform, from where you could see the phenomenon up close. Thunder Hole is located just 1.7 miles south of Sand Beach and has onsite parking.

Thunder Hole Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond | Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond is a gorgeous alpine pond carved by glaciers located about seven miles from Thunder Hole along the Park Loop Road. Jordan Pond is a popular spot for kayaking and non-motorized boating, but swimming is not allowed in the pond. Overlooking the spectacular pond is Jordan Pond House, a full-service restaurant and the only one in Acadia National Park.

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain, at an elevation of 1,530 feet, is the highest point in Acadia National Park and offers breathtaking views of the coast! For most of the year, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the US to see the sunrise and a popular spot to watch sunrise and sunset in the Park.

Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park
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The West Section of Acadia National Park

Encompassing the towns of Tremont and Southwest Harbor is the West Section of the Park that’s home to two popular vista points in Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and Seawall.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, located on the southwestern corner of Mount Desert Island, is one of the iconic landmarks of the Park. It’s located about 18 miles from Bar Harbor and can be viewed via a short trail. However, there’s limited parking, and it is often packed in the evening as it’s a popular spot to see the sunset in the Park.

Seawall

Seawall

The seawall is a spectacular coastal section on the southwest section of Mount Desert Island, lined with a natural wall and boulders formed by the crashing waves. The seawall is located about 2.5 miles east of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and is a must-see on the west side of Acadia National Park.

Seawall Acadia National Park
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Schoodic Peninsula

The secluded north section of Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor, is located about 50 miles north of Bar Harbor. You could either drive to Schoodic Peninsula or take a ferry or the Island Explorer bus offered during the peak summer months. The Schoodic Peninsula is home to the most dramatic coastline in Acadia National Park and features a picnic area and a popular vista point, the Schoodic Point.

Schoodic Point

Schoodic Point | Acadia National Park

Schoodic Point

There’re a few pullovers along the Schoodic Loop Road in Schoodic Peninsula, but the Schoodic Point is the most famous vista point in winter harbor, offering spectacular coastal views! You could also hike a couple of hiking trails in the area, including Sundew Trail and Schoodic Head Trail.

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Isle au Haut

The most remote section of Acadia National Park, Isle au Haut, is located further southwest from Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine. Isle au Haut section of Acadia National Park can only be accessed via a ferry service departing from Stonington operated by Isle au Haut Boat Services

Isle au Haut

Isle au Haut | Acadia National Park

Isle au Haut

Isle au Haut, the most pristine and remote section of Acadia National Park, can be reached via a 45 minutes boat ride departing from the town of Stonington. Isle au Haut offers several hiking and biking trails with dramatic coastal views, a picturesque lighthouse, Boom Beach and Long Pond.

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Hiking in Acadia National Park

Hiking in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park features several miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy coastal walks to strenuous summit hikes! 

Acadia National Park has several miles of hiking trails, including hiking trails around the rugged coastline, wilderness walks, deep canyon treks, and summit hikes. Hiking trails can be found in all four sections of the Park, with the majority and the most popular ones in Mount Desert Island. Below, I have listed the popular hiking trails in Acadia National Park in different park sections, including Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, and Isle au Haut.

Ocean Path Trail: This is the most iconic hikes of Acadia National Park! The Ocean Path trail is a leisurely stroll along the gorgeous and rugged coastline of Maine. There’re two variations of this trail, a short 2 miles hike from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole and a more extended version from Sand Beach to Otter Point.

  • Trailhead: Sand Beach
  • Distance: 2.2 Miles to Thunder Hole / 4 Miles to Otter Point
  • Time: 2 – 4 Hours

Cadillac Summit Trail: Easiest of all summit hikes in Acadia National Park, the Cadillac Summit hike is a short and comfortable hike to the summit of the Cadillac mountain, offering some of the best views in Acadia National Park. 

  • Trailhead: Cadillac Mountain Parking
  • Distance: 0.4 Miles
  • Time: 30 Minutes – 1 Hour

Jordan Pond Loop: This is a family and kid-friendly easy hike around the Jordan Pond, featuring gorgeous lake and mountain vistas. 

  • Trailhead: Cadillac Mountain Parking
  • Distance: 3.3 Miles 
  • Time: 1 – 3 Hours

Beehive Trail: One of the popular hikes in Acadia National Park, the Beehive Loop is a summit hike featuring gorgeous coastal views. However, the walk is pretty challenging and requires climbing using metal rods and rungs. I won’t recommend the Beehive Trail or the Precipice Trail to people with a fear of heights and families with kids. 

  • Trailhead: Beehive Trailhead, located across Sand Beach
  • Distance: 1.4 Miles Loop
  • Time: 2 – 3 Hours

Precipice Trail: The most challenging of all hikes in Acadia National Park, the Precipice Trail leads to the summit of Champlain Mountain and offers spectacular coastal views. However, the hike involves steep climbs using iron rods, and I would recommend this hike only to seasoned hikers.

  • Trailhead: Precipice Trailhead, 1.5 miles north of Sand Beach
  • Distance: 2.5 Miles Roundtrip
  • Time: 3 – 4 Hours

Sundew Trail: The most popular hike in Schoodic Peninsula, the Sundew Trail is an easy hike along a rugged coastline featuring the most dramatic coastline in Acadia National Park.

  • Trailhead: Sundew Trailhead
  • Distance: 1.8 Miles 
  • Time: 1 – 2 Hours

Schoodic Head Trail: Another popular hike in Schoodic Peninsula, the Schoodic Head Trail is a summit hike and often combined with Alder Trail and/or Anvil Trail. 

  • Trailhead: Blueberry Hill Parking Lot
  • Distance: 2.5 Miles 
  • Time: 2 – 3 Hours

Isle au Haut is not a place for casual hikers and requires proper planning and involves a lot of walking as most of the hiking trails are pretty long and strenuous. 

Duck Harbor Trail: One of the popular hikes in Isle au Haut, the Duck Harbor Trail on the west side of Isle au Haut from Town Landing to Duck Harbor Landing, features forested land and coastal views.

  • Trailhead: Town Landing
  • Distance: 4.5 Miles
  • Time: 3 – 4 Hours

Goat Trail: Offering the best coastal views in Isle au Haut, the Goat Trail is a pretty strenuous hike featuring several gorgeous coves, including Merchant Cove, Barred Harbor, Squeaker Cove, and Deep Cove.

  • Trailhead: End of Western Head Road
  • Distance: 6.8 Miles
  • Time: 3 – 4 Hours
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Boat & Carriage Tours In Acadia National Park

While the Park’s Scenic Loop Drive provides access to most of the vista points in the main section of Acadia National Park, there’re a few other areas in the Park that can only be accessed via boat and carriage tours. A few local companies in Acadia National Park offer guided horse-drawn carriage tours and narrated boat tours of the Park.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Tours In Acadia National Park: The Carriages Of Acadia offers narrated horse-drawn carriage tours along the Park’s carriage roads built in the 1990s. There are primarily three different carriage tours offered in the Park, including Day Mountain Loop Tour, Mr. Rockefeller’s Bridge Tour, and Day Mountain Summit Tour, featuring coastal views, mountain vistas, and historic bridges. The tours depart from Wildwood Stables located at 21 Dane Farm Rd., Seal Harbor, Maine 04675.

Scenic Boat Tours In Acadia National Park: There are several local companies that offer boat tours in Acadia National Park, out of which I highly recommend two companies – Acadian Boat Tours and Bass Harbor Island Cruises. These companies provide several options, including nature sightseeing cruises, fishing charters, and several special and private tours.

Ferry Service To Isle au Haut: If you plan to visit Isle au Haut section of Acadia National Park, you need to use a ferry from Stonington. The Isle au Haut Boat Services is the only company that offers daily passenger service between Stonington and the Isle au Haut Town Landing.

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Acadia National Park Suggested Itineraries, Hotels & Restaurants

Acadia National Park Suggested Itineraries, Hotels & Restaurants

Acadia National Park Trip Itineraries

I recommend spending at least three days in Acadia National Park, but if you are pressed for time and just have a day, your best option is driving the Park’s Scenic Loop Road and a sightseeing boat tour.

Acadia National Park is not huge compared to other National Parks in the US, but the Park is pretty widespread, with two isolated sections and several vista points and hiking trails. While it’s possible to see the major highlights in the main section of Acadia National Park in a day, I highly recommend spending at least three days in the Park and exploring all four areas in the Park. I have organized my Acadia National Park itineraries and recommendations based on the number of days you plan to spend in the Park.

1 Day Acadia National Park Trip Itinerary: If you’re visiting Acadia National Park just for a day, your best option is to stick to the significant vista points located along the Park’s Scenic Loop Drive and a scenic boat tour.

  • Scenic Park Loop Road
  • Sightseeing Boat / Horse-drawn Carriage Tour

2 Day Acadia National Park Trip Itinerary: If you have two days in Acadia National Park, you could spend a day leisurely exploring all vista points along the Park’s Loop Road. And the second day exploring Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor.

  • Day 1 – Leisurely explore all vista points in the main section of the Park, hike Ocean Path Trail and Cadillac Mountain Summit Trail, and take a scenic boat tour.
  • Day 2 – Drive or take a ferry / Island Explorer bus, offered during the summer months, to Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor to visit Schoodic Point and hike the Sundew Trail.

3 Day Acadia National Park Trip Itinerary: Same as the 2-day itinerary, plus a third day exploring Isle au Haut section of Acadia National Park.  

  • Day 1 – Leisurely explore all vista points in the main section of the Park, hike Ocean Path Trail and Cadillac Mountain Summit Trail, and take a scenic boat tour.
  • Day 2 – Drive or take a ferry / Island Explorer bus, offered during the summer months, to Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor to visit Schoodic Point and hike the Sundew Trail.
  • Day 3 – Drive to Stonington and then take a ferry to Isle au Haut to explore the most remote and pristine section of Acadia National Park.
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Lodging & Dining In Acadia National Park

The best lodging and dining options near Acadia National Park can be found in the town of Bar Harbor! 

Lodging Options in Acadia National Park: The lodging options inside the Park are limited to its seasonal campgrounds. However, there are some great hotels and resorts in the nearby town of Bar Harbor, located adjacent to Acadia National Park.

Campgrounds In Acadia National Park: There are four seasonal campgrounds in Acadia National Park, including Blackwoods and Seawall campgrounds in Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Woods Campground in Schoodic Peninsula, and the Duck Harbor Campground in Isle au Haut. You can find more details about these campgrounds and reserve them online on Recreation.gov.

Hotels Near Acadia National Park: Look nowhere else than Bar Harbor if you’re planning to stay in a hotel! Bar Harbor offers a few great hotels, restaurants, and, most importantly, easy access to the Park. Here’re my top picks for hotels near Acadia Nation Park

Restaurants In Acadia National Park: The dining option inside the Park is limited to its only restaurant, the Jordan Pond House. However, you will find a few great restaurants in the town of Bar Harbor. Here’re my top picks for restaurants near Acadia National Park – Stewman’s Lobster Pound for excellent seafood, Side Street Cafe for American cuisine, Havana for Latin American fare, and Mount Dessert Bakery for some delicious pastries.

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The Ultimate Travel Guide To Acadia National ParkI hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Acadia National Park, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to the Acadia National Park. You can find other attractions in Maine in my Maine Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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