Julie United States 14 Comments

Acadia National Park is filled with an amazing variety of hiking trails. From easy strolls along coastal paths to summit climbs to thrilling cliff walks, there is something here for everyone.

One of the things that makes Acadia so unique, and so exciting, is the large number of trails with ladders and metal rungs. Similar to a via ferrata, you can hike along narrow ledges and climb up sheer rock faces with the aid of these metal rungs. There are a number of trails on this list that feature ladders and iron rungs, some more hair-raising than others.

If defying gravity on a cliff trail is not for you, keep your feet on solid ground and hike to the summit of a mountain or stroll along the coast.

Most of the trails on this list are 3 miles long or shorter, so it is possible to hike several of these trails, even if you only have a day or two in Acadia National Park.

Here are 10 blockbuster hikes in Acadia National Park. This is not an all-inclusive list, but there is enough here to keep you busy for days.

Important!! Vehicle reservations are required for some areas of the park between October 1 and October 18, 2020. This is a test run before putting it into full effect in 2021. Get the full details on the national park website. 

Best Hikes in Acadia

Precipice Trail

This is, without a doubt, the most thrilling, and the most dangerous hike in Acadia National Park.

With rock scrambling, several sections of cliff walks (with some of these at a very high elevation), and lots of exposure, you need to have a good head for heights in order to do this hike.

Precipice Trail

From the parking lot on the Park Loop Road, it’s a strenuous climb to the summit of Champlain Mountain. In less than one mile, you will ascend over 1,000 feet. You’ll rock scramble, crawl under boulders larger than your car, and climb up series after series of metal rungs. At times, you will be walking along cliffs that are only a few feet wide.

Best Hikes in Acadia Precipice

Precipice Trail Hike

This was our favorite hike in Acadia National Park. Not only is this hike tons of fun, but the views from the trail and the summit of Champlain Mountain are spectacular.

This hike is dangerous. People have fallen and died from the Precipice Trail, so this hike is not to be underestimated. In order to do this hike, you should have prior hiking experience and a good head for heights. This hike is not recommended for small kids or if it is wet or raining. The granite surfaces are extremely slippery and dangerous when wet.

How to Do This: You can hike the Precipice Trail out-and-back, but for safety reasons it is best to turn this into a loop hike. From the Precipice Trail trailhead on Park Loop Road, take the Precipice Trail to the Champlain Summit. At the summit, take the Champlain North Ridge Trail to the Orange & Black Path to the parking lot.

Distance: 2.5 miles
Length of Time: 1.5 to 3 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous, challenging

Beehive Trail

This trail is a tamer, easier version of the Precipice Trail. The Beehive Trail also features sections of cliff walks and metal rungs, but with less elevation gain and less exposure, this is a good option if you are not quite sure if you can handle the Precipice Trail.

However, as you can see in our photos, there are sections of narrow cliff ledges and non-technical climbs up metal rungs. If you have a fear of heights or are hiking with young kids, skip this hike.

The Beehive Trail is located just a short distance south of the Precipice Trail but the views are a lot different. Now, you look out over Sand Beach and Great Head.

Beehive Trail Acadia

Iron Rungs Acadia

Beehive Trail Acadia Hike

Beehive Trail

How to Do This: From the parking lot at Sand Beach, hike the Bowl Trail to the Beehive Trail. After you summit Beehive, you will hike past The Bowl on the way back to the parking lot.

Distance: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 1 to 2 hours

Ocean Path

This easy walk from Sand Beach to Otter Point is one of Acadia’s most popular walks. It’s flat, it’s easy, and along the entire walk you have wonderful coastline views. Thunder Hole, a spot where the waves hit the rocks just right to create a thundering sound, is one of the highlights.

Most of this trail sits alongside Park Loop Road, so at times, you will have better views of the cars on the road than of coastal cliffs. For this reason, we thought that this hike was just OK.

Ocean Path Acadia

Best Hikes in Acadia Ocean Path

It is possible to see the highlights along the Ocean Path (Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs), without hiking this trail, by driving Park Loop Road and stopping at these viewpoints. Just expect BIG crowds midday. This is an extremely popular area in Acadia National Park.

Distance: 4 miles out-and-back; about 2 miles out-and-back from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours

Cadillac Summit Loop Trail

Short, easy, and offering some of the best views of Acadia National Park, this is a great hike for everyone. From this trail, you get panoramic views over the park, Bar Harbor, and the numerous small islands that are scattered across the ocean.

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain Summit

Pro Travel Tip: Due to its location and height, Cadillac Mountain is one of the first spots in the United States to view the sunrise, making this Acadia National Park’s most popular sunrise spot.

Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 30 minutes
Getting Here: This short loop starts at the parking lot on the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

South Bubble Trail

For one of the best views over Jordan Pond, hike to the top of South Bubble.

The “Bubbles” are two small mountains that sit side by side at the north end of Jordan Pond. South Bubble, with its exposed granite face, offers amazing views from the summit. You also can see Bubble Rock, an enormous granite boulder that precariously sits on the edge of a cliff.

Best Hikes in Acadia South Bubble

Bubble Rock Acadia

How to Do This: This can be done as a short, strenuous, round-trip hike from the Bubble Pond parking lot (1-mile round trip on the Bubbles Divide Trail). Or, turn this into a point-to-point hike. Start at the Bubble Pond parking lot, hike to the summit of Bubble Rock, take the South Bubble Trail down to Jordan Pond, and walk the Jordan Pond Path to Jordan Pond House (about 2.5 miles one-way). If you like option #2, park at Jordan Pond House and ride the free park shuttle to the Bubble Pond parking lot, so that you can do this hike point-to-point.

Distance: 1 to 2.5 miles, depending on the route you choose
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 1.5 to 3 hours

Jordan Pond Path

This easy hiking path does a full loop around Jordan Pond. It’s flat and it’s easy so it’s great for all ages and ability levels.

Once finished the hike, visit the Jordan House Restaurant and dine on their legendary popovers.

Jordan Pond Path

Acadia in October

Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Jordan Cliffs Trail

For another spot to enjoy amazing views over Jordan Pond, plus the chance to hike along narrow ledges with the aid of iron rungs, put the Jordan Cliffs Trail on your list.

From the Jordan Pond House, it is a steep, strenuous climb up to the highest point of the trail, but once up here, the views are beautiful. Due to the difficult nature of this trail and the exposed ledges, the Jordan Cliffs Trail tends to be less crowded than the easier Jordan Pond Path. So, if you like the idea of taking a break from the crowds but still visit Jordan Pond, this hike is nice option.

Jordan Cliffs Trail

Jordan Cliffs Steps

Jordan Pond

The Jordan Cliffs Trail can be combined with several other trails in the area.

Jordan Cliffs + Jordan Pond Path

A relatively short, scenic option is to take the Spring Trail from the Jordan Pond House, hike the Jordan Cliffs Trail, and return to the Jordan Pond House via the Jordan Pond Path.

Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 2 to 3 hours

Jordan Cliffs + South Bubble + Jordan Pond Path

How about combining three trails into one?

Take the Spring Trail from the Jordan Pond House, hike the Jordan Cliffs Trail to the Bubbles Divide Trail, and enjoy the view from South Bubble. To get back to the Jordan Pond House, hike down the South Bubble Trail to the Jordan Pond Path.

Tim and I did this and loved it. It is a tough hike, with two strenuous climbs and one very steep descent down the South Bubble Trail, so this hike can trash your quads. But you get to enjoy the view over Jordan Pond from two different vantage points, hike along narrow ledges, and finish the hike off with an easy, leisurely stroll along Jordan Pond. Plus, once you are finished, you can eat all the popovers you like!

Distance: 4.8 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 2.5 to 4 hours

Dorr Mountain via the Ladder Trail

From the peak of Dorr Mountain, you get spectacular views over Acadia National Park, or so we have heard. Unfortunately, low-lying clouds covered the peak of Dorr Mountain during our hike, so we never got to see the views that so many others have raved about. However, on the hike back down to sea level, while on the Dorr South Ridge Trail, we had beautiful views of the park.

Ladder Trail will make your thighs scream. It is essentially one massive stair climb to the top with a few ladders thrown in, just to keep things interesting. It is important to pace yourself at the beginning of this hike because it is challenging. Tim and I thought that this was one of the toughest climbs we did in Acadia National Park.

Acadia Hiking Trail

Ladder Trail

Dorr Ladder

Dorr Mountain Summit

Dorr Mountain View

We both liked this hike, but we thought that views from Cadillac Mountain, Champlain Mountain, and Beech Cliffs (mentioned next) were better. However, this seems to be a low traffic trail, so if you don’t mind a brutal stair climb and want a break from the crowds, this is one to consider.

How to Do This: Hike the Ladder Trail to the summit of Dorr Mountain. Take the Dorr South Ridge Trail and enjoy the views of the coastline. Once on the Canon Brook Trail, the hike is flat and easy and gorgeous in October. Our favorite part of the hike was seeing the two small ponds in the Gorge, not far from the Dorr Mountain Trailhead.

Acadia Fall Colors

Distance: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 3 to 4 hours

Beech Cliff Ladder Trail

This is a trail that beat our expectations. This hike has a little bit of everything: iron rungs and ladders, scenic views over lakes and the coastline, and brief cliff walks. It’s not quite as hair-raising as Precipice or Beehive, so this is a nice option if you are looking for a thrill without the danger of these other cliff trails. Plus, we saw very few people on this trail, a nice bonus.

Beech Cliffs Ladders

Best Hikes in Acadia

Echo Lake Acadia

How to Do This: Park at the Echo Lake Beach Entrance. Take the Beech Cliffs Trail to the summit, a short but strenuous climb to the summit of Beech Mountain. Once here, the views are amazing. The highlight is the short but sweet Beech Cliff Loop, where you get the best views of the day. There are some exposed sections here, but the cliffs are wide and if you have a fear of heights, you can stand far enough away from the edge and still enjoy the view. Hike the Canada Cliffs Trail back to the Echo Lake Beach Parking Lot.

Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Sundew Trail (Schoodic Peninsula)

This hike is located on Schoodic Peninsula, a spot that is famous for its dramatic coastline. If you plan to drive or take the ferry out here to see the peninsula, why not throw in a short but scenic hike?

This easy to walk loop trail features coastal views and trails through a dense, fragrant forest. On a clear day, you can see across the bay to Mount Desert Island and Cadillac Mountain.

Schoodic Peninsula

The Sundew Trail is a pleasant walk, but in my opinion, it is not worth traveling here just for this hike. However, if you already have plans to visit Schoodic Peninsula, this hike is nice addition to your day.

Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

Pick Your Perfect Hike

For the Best Views

  • Cadillac Summit Trail
  • Dorr Mountain
  • Precipice Trail
  • Beehive Trail

Most Adventurous

  • Precipice Trail
  • Beehive Trail
  • Jordan Cliffs Trail
  • Beech Cliffs to Canada Cliffs

Leave the Crowds Behind

  • Beech Cliffs to Canada Cliffs
  • Dorr Mountain via the Ladder Trail
  • Sundew Trail (Schoodic Peninsula)

For Families

  • Jordan Pond Loop
  • Schoodic Peninsula
  • Ocean Path

Our Favorites

  • Precipice Trail
  • Beehive Trail
  • South Bubble Trail
  • Beech Cliffs to Canada Cliffs
  • Jordan Pond Path

About Our Visit and These Gorgeous Fall Colors

We visited Acadia National Park in October 2019. Tim and I spent three full days in the park, from October 11 to 13. During our visit, the fall colors were considered to be “high,” with 50 to 70% of the trees displaying fall colors. This is based on the fall foliage report on the Maine Foliage website.

For coastal Maine, including Acadia National Park, mid-October is generally when fall colors are at their peak. However, this does vary from year to year, based on weather conditions. For the past five years, fall colors were at their peak anywhere from October 8 to October 21.

Get the fall foliage report here.

Hike Acadia

Tim on the Beehive Trail

More Information

Visit the National Park Service website for more information on hikes in Acadia, as well as to check trail status and get important updates. Some trails, such as the Precipice Trail and Jordan Cliffs, can close during peregrine falcon nesting season (usually from the end of March through mid-July).

Our Guide to Acadia National Park

Don’t miss our complete guide to Acadia National Park. Learn about the best things to do, how to plan your time, where to eat, where to stay, and much more. 

Acadia National Park: Complete Guide for First-Time Visitors

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Bar Harbor Inn in Bar Harbor. This is a big property with a beautiful setting right on the coast. From the Bar Harbor Inn, it is less than a five-minute walk to the shops and restaurants in the center of town. If you book a room with a view, you can look out at the harbor or the islands that sit just off the coast. The Bar Harbor Inn also has a spa, heated outdoor pool with hot tub, and one of the highest rated restaurants in town, The Reading Room. To get into Acadia National Park, it is a ten-minute drive.

Comment below if you have any questions about these hikes or if you want to share your  favorite hike in Acadia National Park.

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Acadia Best Hikes in the Park


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Comments 14

  1. Thank you for sharing such thorough descriptions and honest reviews (and amazing pictures!). We were in Acadia this weekend and we included the Beech Cliffs Ladder Trail in our plan because of you. SO thankful! The views were truly amazing!

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  2. I just found this post and it came just in time! I’m going to acadia Oct 8-12 and I’m excited to explore the outdoors!! I know this article is a year old, but do you have any updates you’d like to add? I’m all for the views, no matter the difficulty. Also, do you have any non-MDI trails you suggest? Thanks in advance!

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      Hello Don. I just learned that vehicle reservations are necessary for some parts of the park. You can learn more on the NPS website. The only hike we did, not on MDI, was the Sundew Trail on Schoodic Peninsula. It was nice but the MDI trails are a lot better. We didn’t have time to go to Isle of Haut, unfortunately. Happy hiking! – Julie

  3. Since all parking lots seem to fill quickly, is it possible to park early at Sand Beach and combine Beehive Trail,Precipice trail, loop back to Sand Beach and do Ocean Trail as well?

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      Yes, you can do this, but it is a big hike. We visited during peak season, and if you don’t mind an early start (7 am) you can hike the Beehive Trail and the Precipice Trail separately. Start at the Precipice Trail, getting here no later than 7 am. It’s a small parking lot and it fills fast. Hike the Precipice Trail. Then, drive to the large parking lot at Sand Beach. It will be getting busy, but you should still be able to find parking. From here you can hike the Beehive Trail and Ocean Trail. We did this on a busy Saturday in October without any issues. If you really want to ensure you get a spot at both lots, plan on getting to the Precipice Trail by 6:30 am. I think an early start to the day is better than the extra distance you will hike back and forth from the Sand Beach parking lot to the Precipice Trail. Cheers, Julie

  4. I went to Acadia years ago and have been wanting to go back, now I know I definitely need to go in the fall because your photos are absolutely gorgeous!

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  5. We are in Acadia right now and plan on hiking the Precipice tomorrow. I can’t believe you were here last weekend! We love reading your thorough and thoughtful posts on so many hikes – we’ve referenced them for several trips (Angels Landing in Zion was especially helpful). Thank you for the incredible posts and inspiration!

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  6. I was surprised with the variety of hikes in Acadia, the great difficulty of some of them, and the beauty of the views, augmented by the fall colors in almost every one of your shots. You chose a great time of year for this adventure!

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  7. Thanks to your thorough description of this beautiful park coupled with stunning pictures, Acadia is now at the top of our travel list. Thank you for this post!

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