Julie United States 19 Comments

The Precipice Trail is Acadia National Park’s most thrilling hike. This short, tough hike features a steep climb, numerous climbs up metal rungs and ladders, and short walks along narrow ledges. To do this hike, you need a good head for heights, since there is a lot of exposure on this trail.

As you dangle from the cliffs, you are rewarded with some of the best views in Acadia National Park.

The Precipice Trail is notorious for being Acadia’s most dangerous hike. Several people have fallen from the cliffs and died, so this trail is not to be underestimated. If you have a fear of heights or are traveling with children, skip this hike. And under no circumstances, do not hike the Precipice Trail in the rain. The granite cliffs and iron rungs get dangerously slippery when it is wet.

Precipice Trail Hiking Stats

Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 1,060 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous, challenging
Length of Time: 1.5 to 3 hours
When to Go: There is a narrow window of time that you can do this hike. From late March into the summer months, the Precipice Trail can close during peregrine falcon nesting. During the winter months, snow and ice make this trail even more dangerous. The best time to hike the Precipice Trail is from late summer through early fall, before snow starts to fall. We did this hike in early October.

Important Note: The Precipice Trail can be hiked in either direction, but for safety reasons, it is best to turn this hike into a loop. The hiking distance and time in this post is for hiking up the Precipice Trail and down the Champlain North Ridge Trail and Orange and Black Trails.

Precipice Trail Map

Precipice Trail Elevation Profile

Precipice Trail Elevation Profile

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

How to Hike the Precipice Trail

Step-By-Step Trail Guide

Getting to the Trailhead

The trailhead is located on Park Loop Road. There is a parking lot that holds roughly 20 cars, so get here early in order to get a parking spot. From Bar Harbor, it is a 10-minute drive to get here.

We started this hike at 7:30 am. We were the second car in the parking lot and for the entire hike we did not see one other person.

Hiking the Precipice Trail

The Precipice Trail swiftly climbs up to the summit of Champlain Mountain. In less than one mile, you will climb over 1000 feet, making this one of Acadia’s most strenuous short hikes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The National Park Service discourages people from hiking down the Precipice Trail for safety reasons. Two-way traffic on the cliffs and iron rungs makes this hike even more dangerous. You will hike up the Precipice Trail and then hike back to your car on a different trail. This makes the hike longer, but it will also be much safer.

This trail wastes no time in gaining elevation. As soon as your feet hit the trail, you start the climb up to the summit of Champlain Mountain. You will hike up a series of staircases made from boulders and rock scramble up and over fields of giant boulders. Periodically, there will be iron bars to assist you.

Climbing up the Boulders


You will even scoot yourself under massive boulders larger than a car. When in doubt, just follow the blue blazes painted on the rocks.

Julie Precipice


Once you get to this wooden bridge, you get to experience the narrow ledges and iron rungs that make this trail so famous. You will hike across several ledges with some exposure. It’s not too bad yet and this is a nice chance to test your nerves.

Wooden Bridge Precipice

Precipice Trail 1

Precipice Trail 2


0.4 miles into the hike, the trail splits. Follow the sign to Champlain Summit to continue on the Precipice Trail. If this hike feels too challenging, or if those brief cliff walks bothered you, take the Orange and Black Trail back to the parking lot.

Acadia Hiking Sign

Now, the real fun begins. You will scramble up rocky ledges, hike on forested trails, and finally emerge at a series of iron rungs and cliff walks. If you like this type of thing, this is the highlight of the Precipice Trail. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and the views are spectacular.

Here is the top section of the Precipice Trail in photos.

Precipice Trail 3

Precipice Trail 4

Tim Rivenbark

Precipice Trail Cliff

Precipice Climb

Tim on Precipice Trail

Precipice Trail Hike

Julie on the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Precipice Trail Rungs

Note: You do not need any special gear to do this hike. It has metal rungs like a via ferrata, but since there are no places to clip in, there is no need for a harness or a via ferrata set-up. However, you should wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. You need shoes with a good grip for the smooth granite surfaces and to climb the iron rungs.

Champlain Mountain

The Precipice Trail ends at the summit of Champlain Mountain. Now it’s a downhill walk back to the parking lot. No more iron rungs, no more cliff walks. Just enjoy the view and celebrate your accomplishment.

Champlain Mountain

Champlain Mountain Summit

Acadia National Park Guide

Hiking to the Parking Lot

There are two ways to hike back to your car, without going back down the Precipice Trail.

The shorter, faster way is to take the Champlain North Ridge Trail to the Orange and Black Trail. It’s a steep downhill walk, so if your thighs aren’t tired yet, they will be by the time you get back to your car. But the views along the North Ridge Trail are beautiful. This is what we did and recommend it if you are short on time or energy.

Hike Acadia National Park

For a longer hike, and a chance to add in the Beehive Trail, take the Champlain South Ridge Trail to the Bowl Trail. You will hike down the Beehive Trail and get back to your car by walking along the Park Loop Road. This route is approximately 4 miles long and features two strenuous climbs with numerous cliff walks.

If you want to hike the Beehive Trail, I recommend doing this as two separate hikes. It is good to give your legs a little break in between hikes. We hiked the Precipice Trail, then visited Sand Beach and did the easy stroll along the Ocean Path, just to give our legs some time to recharge. The Beehive Trail is also a strenuous trail, so you need to be ready for another hefty climb.

Tips to Have the Best Experience

Get here early in order to get a parking space. Parking is very limited and fills up fast. I recommend getting here no later than 8 am, but even earlier is better.

Check trail conditions before you go. The Precipice Trail can close during the spring and summer months due to peregrine falcon nesting.

If it is wet or raining, or if rain is imminent, do not hike the Precipice Trail. The granite surfaces and the iron rungs will be very slippery in wet conditions.

Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. Bring sunblock, water, and snacks.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.

Do you have plans to hike the Precipice Trail? If you have any questions, or if you want to share your experience, comment below.

More Information about Acadia National Park

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Acadia National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. For a list of must-have experiences, read our article Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park. Go off the beaten path and explore Isle au Haut.

ACADIA ITINERARY: Plan your perfect visit to Acadia National Park with our Acadia Itinerary Planner.

HIKES IN ACADIA: Check out our article Best Hikes in Acadia for great hikes to add to your to do list. We also have a detailed hiking guide for the Beehive Trail.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

MAINE: Don’t miss our article about the best things to do in Cape Elizabeth and our guide to Portland.


If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide and our Maine Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

More Thrilling Hikes in the USA:


Acadia Precipice Trail Hike


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Comments 19

  1. Avatar for Paige Moortgat
    Paige Moortgat

    Julie, My hubby and I are leaving for Acadia NP on Monday (flying) and planning on starting our hiking Tuesday. I planned our trip back in June and I used all your information. In fact the last several years since discovering your website I have used your information to plan our NP trips x 4. we’ve been to Yellowstone, Tetons, and Rocky Mountain Np and now Acadia. My question is with a gov’t looming shut down I’m getting ing a little nervous about the park being shut down and us not being able to fulfill our goal of hiking all the NP specifically this time Acadia. If they close the gates we may need to hike in or bike in. Are the Beehive and Precipice trails very far in and easily bikable too? We want to do all the hikes you mentioned in your itinerary but most importantly the hardest/funnest ones. :). We have steered many to your website!!!!!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Paige. Thanks for writing in and steering others to our website. We really appreciate it! From Bar Harbor, it looks to be a nine mile drive/bike ride/walk to the Precipice Trailhead, a little farther to the Beehive Trail. On Google Maps, you can get cycling distances and approximate times to the trailheads so you know what to expect. I hope you can still have a nice time on your trip! Maybe the park will be less crowded now with the shutdown, but this time of year, with the fall colors, it could still stay busy. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Shehla
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The Champlain South Ridge Trail connects the Precipice Trail to the Beehive Trail, so you can link them together. However, it becomes a very long hike if you have to return to the Precipice Trail if you will have a car. However, if you won’t have a car, you could do the Precipice Trail, Champlain South Ridge Trail, and Beehive Trail. However, we have not done this, so I’m not sure how it will be getting onto the Beehive Trail from this alternate route. You can see all of the trails on Google Maps. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Amanda Ennis
    Amanda Ennis

    Hi, I am a long time fan of yours. Last year I had an incredible trip in Utah thanks to all your detailed information and helpful advice. My boyfriend is not the best with heights. We are going to Acadia and I think it would be horrible to miss this hike. We skipped Angel’s Landing, but since then have done lots of indoor rock climbing. I would hate for him to be miserable on the hike, but hey I want to do it because your pictures are stunning! What is your advice. Go for it and challenge ourselves or skip it and do the Beehive hike you also wrote about? Thanks!!!! Big Fan <3

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hi Amanda! Yes, this is a great hike! It really depends on how afraid of heights your boyfriend is. I know people who are mildly afraid of heights that did just fine on this trail. But if he is moderately afraid or more, then he should skip this hike. The Beehive also has a some drops offs and exposure but it’s not as bad. You could do this one first. If he does fine, then do the Precipice Trail. Just be aware that the road they are on is one way, so if you plan to do it the same day, you’ll have to drive the loop back to the Precipice Trail (or do it the following morning). Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Debra Floyd
    Debra Floyd

    Hello, thanks for the information about the Precipice Trail. You mentioned driving to a parking lot to start at the trailhead. I was wondering if the Island Explorer bus stops at this trailhead?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Here is the route finder. It doesn’t look like the bus stops at the Precipice Trail trailhead (it looks like the closest you get is Sand Beach) but you can double check the bus routes just to be sure. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Doug

    Fantastic write-up and cannot wait to do this hike. Going to take your advice and do the Precipice Trail and then go down to Sand Beach. Are you able to walk along Park Loop Road instead of trying to move the car?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      As far as I know you can walk along Park Loop Road. There is a way to connect the Precipice Trail and the Beehive Trail and that would save you at least a one-way walk on the the road. If you hike the Precipice Trail to Champlain Mountain, it might be the Champlain South Trail that connects to The Bowl and the Beehive Trail, but you might want to do a little more investigating first. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Sydney

    Thanks for sharing!! I am wondering if you found the exposure on this hike more or less disconcerting than Angels Landing in Zion? I did that hike last year and was fairly petrified, but proud to complete. If the precipice is slightly tamer I think I could handle it, but if it’s more challenging I think I’d have to pass…

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      In general, I think Angels Landing is more challenging, because the trail is a lot higher and some of those drop-offs are crazy. The Precipice Trail is different, in that you aren’t so high, but there are sections of climbing on ladders (which you don’t have on Angels Landing) and more cliff walks than Angels Landing. So, you aren’t as high on the Precipice Trail, but you will frequently being walking along narrow ledges and climbing up ladders, so I’d so it is only slightly less disconcerting than Angels Landing. With that being said, if you did Angels Landing, I think you’d be OK on the Precipice Trail. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Philip Ziegelbaum
    Philip Ziegelbaum

    Thank you for the AMAZING photos of your hiking the Precipice in Acadia National Park. This is my favorite National Park and I’ve been to Bar Harbor 4 times. Believe it or not, I did this trail in 1981 when I was a lot younger (26) and thinner. Back then there were not a lot of warnings about how streneous or possibly dangerous this hike could be. I believe not only did we go UP this trail, but came back DOWN it too. I remember on he way back down encouraging a couple going up that it was really worth the effort and there were rails in the rocks to help you do the climb. At the time I had a new 35mm camera, so I didn’t take as many photos as you did. Your photos brought back a good memory of doing that trail and as I look back, I realize it was a tad more of an accomplishment that I just thought it was back then.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  8. Avatar for Kit

    Hi, really interested to do this but I’m worried its not suitable for a short lady, barely 5ft (150cm). I saw video of a guy (tall guy) stretching out to pull himself up to climb up. I have no issue with heights but I’m usually more concerned about steep steps given that my body and limbs are not long enough. Haha.

    Appreciate any tips and advices! 🙂

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Kit. I understand your concern but I think you should be fine. I don’t remember any sections where the rungs were placed far apart in a way that should make this more challenging for you. There are older kids and teenagers who do this hike, who are your height, and they do just fine. I think the hardest part might be at the beginning, before the rungs, when you have to hike up and over some large rocks. It’s a great hike, the best in the park in my opinion, and I think you should be fine. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Heather

    This was one of our favorite hikes. The views are amazing. A couple of the assists were missing. I always wonder who was holding them when they fell off.

  10. Avatar for Susan DeGeorge
    Susan DeGeorge

    Thanks for the good information. I am so proud of my Great Grandfather for creating these great challenges trails. I hope to get up to Maine sometime this Spring.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

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