The view was breathtaking. Granite boulders gave way to green spruce trees, surrounded by bright blue water sparkling in the sunlight. Small islands dot the ocean, and a row of low hills lines the horizon. The view is endless and all around us. A few tiny boats, crawling for lobsters, dot the sea. Acadia National Park is the best of New England and a hiker’s paradise.
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Best Hikes in Acadia National Park
As you know, I love to hike and Acadia National Park is one of the best places for hiking in the United States.
There are hills covered in spruce forests and sprinkled with lakes. Many of the hills have granite outcrops with incredible views over the surrounding bright blue water and islands. Some of the hikes can be technical, with iron rungs and narrow ledges, but there are also plenty of easier options.
1. Acadia Mountain hike, Acadia National Park
Acadia Mountain Trail Information
- Distance (round-trip): 2.6 miles / 4.1 km
- Time: 2 hours
- Rating: Strenuous
- Elevation change: 581 feet/ 177 meters
- Trailhead: Across the street from Acadia Mountain parking area. Two miles/ 3.2km north of Southwest Harbor on Route 102.
Description of Acadia Mountain Hike
At the start of the hike, you will pass through spruce-fir forest before coming to a large granite ledge.
Continue up to the top of mountain where there are great views of the only east coast fjord.
When you have rested, continue on a little further where the trail drops about 600 feet/ 180 m in half a mile/ 800 meters.
At the bottom, there is a small side trail to the Man o’ War Brook Waterfall, where ships used to resupply.
Continue on until you get to Echo Lake, which is the perfect place for a swim to cool off.
2. Bowl Trail/Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park
Beehive Trail and Bowl Trail Information
- Distance (round-trip): 1.6 miles / 2.6 km
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Rating: Strenuous. Beehive requires ladder/ iron rungs in parts with drop offs (the Bowl Trail is much easier)
- Elevation change: 520 feet/ 158 meters
- Trailhead: Across the street from Sand Beach parking area. The first 0.2 miles/ 322 meters is the Bowl Trail then the trails split. For the Beehive Trail, take the right path. Take the left path to continue along the Bowl Trail.
Description of Beehive Hike (and Bowl Hike)
This hike is named after the beehive-shaped dome.
There are steep parts where there are metal rungs up cliffs.
At the top, there are great views of Sand Beach and Great Head Peninsula.
There are lots of wild blueberries along the way. This is one of the most famous things to do in Acadia National Park, but it is not for the faint-hearted or those with fear of heights. However, it is possible to take the much easier Bowl Trail, which goes around the back of the Beehive.
3. Beachcroft Path/ The Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park
Precipice Trail and Beachcroft Trail Information
- Distance (round-trip): 2.5 miles / 4,023 meters
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Rating: Strenuous. Lots of iron rungs and ladders (the Beachcroft Path is easier)
- Elevation change: 978 feet/ 298 meters
- Trailhead: From Precipice parking area off the Park Loop Road (2 miles/ 3.2 km south of Sieur de Monts entrance off Route 3.
Description of Precipice Hike (and Beachcroft Path Hike)
The hike goes to the top of Champlain Mountain. The Precipice Trail is the most difficult trail in Acadia because a big chunk of it is up a sheer cliff using iron rungs that are inserted into the cliffs that give the hike its name, so it is more like climbing a ladder, with some exposed 100-foot/ 30m drop-offs. This hike is not for people with a fear of heights.
However, you can also get to top of Champlain via the less intense 1.2-mile/ 2km Beachcroft Path. This alternate route is sometimes your only option because the Precipice is sometimes closed due to nearby nesting falcons. Check with the national park rangers before setting out.
To go back down from the summit, you can take the North Ridge Trail and Orange and Black Path.
4. Gorham Mountain Trail, Acadia National Park
Gorham Mountain Trail Information
- Distance (round-trip): 1.8 miles/ 2.9km
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation change: 525 feet/ 160 meters
- Trailhead: From Gorham Mountain parking area off the Park Loop Road about 0.5 miles/ 800m past Thunder Hole.
Description of Gorham Mountain Hike
The first part is fairly easy, through a spruce forest. Where the road splits, take the left trail. You will first get to the “false summit”, where there are views of Otter Cliffs, Baker Island and the Cranberry Islands. There is a short side path to an ancient sea cave. On the walk to the summit, turn around from time to time for dramatic views to the south (even better than the summit views). Keep climbing for the true summit.
There are great views of Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, the Beehive and Ocean Drive at the top.
To go down, follow the trail north to Sand Beach. Then it’s an easy walk back to the Gorham Mountain trailhead along the Ocean Path. Or you can actually continue on to the Beehive if you like.
5. Penobscot Mountain Trail, Acadia National Park
Penobscot Mountain Trail Information
- Distance (round-trip): 3.7 miles/ 6km
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Rating: Strenuous
- Elevation change: 973 feet/ 297 meters
- Trailhead: Behind the Jordan Pond House. Follow the trail into the woods and look for a carved signpost.
Description of Penobscot Mountain Hike
This is a steep uphill/ downhill trail. It ascends quickly through dense forest. Near the top, there are a few iron rungs, then the granite ridge summit with classic 360° Acadia views, including the Cranberry Isles, Great Duck Island and Little Duck Island.
The way back down is a fairly steep descent back into the woods along the Deer Brook Trail and goes under a cool carriage road bridge. When you get to the northern end of Jordan Pond, take the Jordan Pond Shore Trail back to the start.
If you take the trail clockwise, the hardest part is at the start of the hike. It connects with the Jordan Ridge Trail and the Spring Trail, so it’s possible to take it one way and either of those trails the other way.
This hike has the great advantage of starting and ending at Jordan Pond House. There is nothing better than having a popover at the end of this hike.
The verdict: Acadia National Park hiking
If you have a reasonable level of fitness, you should try at least one of these Acadia hikes.
The Beehive and the Precipice are famous mostly because of they require clambering up iron rungs set into the stonework and walking along narrow ledges. However, Acadia is a beautiful national park, and the hikes culminate in view points overlooking the water and surrounding islands, so the destination is definitely worth it. There are easier options for both of the two hairiest trails in case you want to see the views without the fear factor. Of course, if adrenaline is your thing, then the Beehive and Precipice are two of the most exciting hikes anywhere.
Map of Acadia National Park hikes
Click on each icon to see the trail maps.
Happy hiking! Do you have any other favorite hikes in Acadia National Park? I’d love to hear them. Comment below.
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James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.
He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.
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