BAR HARBOR — “I’m one,” said Tom McPhedran at Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park.

“I’m one,” echoed Florence Dunbar a few miles away at the summit of South Bubble Mountain, as she looked out over the Atlantic Ocean and Jordan Pond below.

Last weekend many Maine residents – when asked if they only come to Acadia National Park during the offseason – gave the same answer.

“I am one,” said Stephen Matteo as he and his wife, Heidi, hiked up South Bubble Mountain before heading to the coastal path along the Park Loop Road.

Of the 59 national parks across the country, Acadia consistently has been one of the most visited, ranking in the top 10 the past decade.

On average, 2.5 million people visit Acadia annually, according to the park service. But for the Mainers among them, many choose to go during the shoulder seasons when it’s free of summer crowds.

Ryan Reynolds of Hacock, left, and Florence Dunbar of Southwest Harbor hike over the summit of South Bubble in Acadia National Park on April 30. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Ryan Reynolds of Hancock, left, and Florence Dunbar of Southwest Harbor hike over the summit of South Bubble in Acadia National Park on April 30. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In 2015, more than 2.2 million people visited the park from July through October. Just 600,000 came in the spring, between April and June, according to the National Park Service.

“Now that the kids are grown we can be more flexible. We decided to come here at the last minute yesterday. We saw the weather was good and said, ‘Let’s go,’ ” said Heidi Matteo, who drove three hours round-trip from Camden with her husband.

This is a good year to beat the crowds because Acadia is celebrating its centennial. More than 100 events will be staged by more than 300 businesses, nonprofits and organizations, said Jack Russell, co-chair of the steering committee coordinating the celebration.

Acadia got its start in 1901 when George Dorr of Mount Desert Island led an effort to protect 6,000 acres. On July 8, 1916, Dorr gave the land to the federal government. It was named Sieur de Monts National Monument and became the first national park in the east.

In 1919, the name was changed to Lafayette National Park. It became Acadia National Park in 1929.

A century later, Mainers relish their national park, which today consists of 36,180 acres owned by the park service and another 12,460 acres of conservation easements.

In the summer the park’s most scenic spots are dramatically different. Walking around the top of Cadillac Mountain, along the Park Loop Road trail or the carriage roads around Eagle Lake is rarely a solitary experience.

But in the spring it can be.

At this time of year, hikers can be treated to a two-hour trek where they hear only the ocean crashing or lobster boats motoring. In the spring they’ll notice the wind on the top of Cadillac Mountain, with no one but their companion to step into far-reaching panoramic views.

Likewise the strange and dramatic cave-like coastal crevasse called Thunder Hole, which fills with the crashing ocean waves at high tide, is an entirely different visit in the spring, without a parade of tourists.

At less-visited spots in the park in the spring, a hiker can walk away from the trailhead without the hum of traffic, and maybe notice a woodpecker working or a loon calling.

While many Mainers happily drive hours to enjoy Acadia before the tourists arrive, the locals know how lucky they are to have this solitary experience.

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, ME - APRIL 30: A lone car travels along the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on Saturday, April 30, 2016. The National Park Service estimates that 2.5 million people visit the park annually and many locals take advantage of the lack of crowds during the quiet shoulder seasons. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A lone car travels along the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on April 30. The National Park Service estimates that 2.5 million people visit the park annually and many locals take advantage of the lack of crowds during the quiet shoulder seasons. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“It’s deep within me,” said Russell, 73, of Mount Desert Island. “For people like me who were born here, who went to school here, it’s an unavoidable physical presence. I literally came out of my elementary school and walked down the steps and looked up at Dorr Mountain and Cadillac Mountain. That doesn’t escape you.”

Dunbar, 51, came hiking with her son’s roommate, Ryan Reynolds, 23, on the east side of the island last weekend because the east side near Bar Harbor will be teeming with tourists in a month.

Mount Desert Island is made up of two very distinct sides, and split by Somes Sound. The east side tends to be busier, in part because it’s home to the better-known tourists sites like Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, Sand Beach and the Park Loop Road.

But there is park land on both sides of Mount Desert Island, as well as across 19 coastal islands.

Stephen and Heidi Matteo of Camden visit Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park on April 30. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Stephen and Heidi Matteo of Camden visit Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park on April 30. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Dunbar, who lives on the west side in Southwest Harbor, said in the summer she and her family will avoid the east side.

“In the summer we’re working so much, we don’t hike so much on the (east side), it’s just so crowded. We stay on the quiet side,” Dunbar said. “We might motorcycle through the park in the summer but mostly we hike here in the shoulder seasons. This is crowded to me,” Dunbar added as she looked across the summit of South Bubble, one of the park’s most popular hiking trails.

Likewise, Tom and Karen McPhedran, who have been coming to Acadia in April for 15 years, prefer when it’s quiet. They celebrate Karen’s birthday and stay at an inn in Bar Harbor. And they savor the chance to find deserted trails and scenic outlooks.

Tom McPhedran said in the years they’ve been coming to Acadia, they’ve seen more Mainers taking advantage of the offseason.

“We see the place getting more use,” McPhedran said. “There wouldn’t be this many cars here 15 years ago. We’re very lucky to have this in our backyard.”