Julie United States 11 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 miles
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

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

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 TRAVEL GUIDE:  The Complete Guide to Acadia National Park
Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park
ACADIA ITINERARY:  The Perfect Acadia National Park Itinerary
BEEHIVE TRAIL:  How to Hike the Beehive Trail
ACADIA HIKING TRAILS:  10 Great Hikes in Acadia National Park

Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

More Thrilling Hikes in the USA:


Acadia Precipice Trail Hike


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Comments 11

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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
  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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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