Best Hikes in Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

TL;DR – scroll to the bottom of the post for our itinerary suggestions in a list format

Acadia National Park: The Crown Jewel of Maine

Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia National Park is stunning – the scenery varies between rugged coastlines, granite summits, serene wildflower fields, and wooded paths.

There are over 100 miles of trails ranging from leisurely strolls to strenuous scrambles up mountain peaks – in fact, Cadillac Mountain is the highest summit along the Eastern Seaboard.

Regardless of skill level, there is a trail for everyone!

In this guide to Best Hikes in Acadia National Park, we’ll be sharing a variety of options, including some lesser known hikes that will be spared from the crowds during peak season.

Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain

When to Hike in Acadia National Park

Being in its northern location, the best months to visit Acadia are from late May to late October.

The park is open all year round, but some roads and trails may be closed due to snow and ice in the winter.

From mid-June to early September, expect the park to be crowded. 

In comparison to others, Acadia National Park is on the smaller size, but it still sees nearly four million visitors each year. That means that the trails can become crowded.

If you’ve read our other travel guides, you know that we are proponents of getting up early to beat the crowds, and that is especially recommended here.

Considerations for Visiting Acadia National Park

To enter the park, you will need to purchase a park pass, which costs $35 and is good for seven days. It will need to be displayed on your vehicle each time you enter the park.

Due to its coastal location and high elevation at some parts of the park, the weather can change quickly – you’ll definitely want to bring layers.

Depending on the type of hike you choose, you may find yourself climbing boulders, traversing along iron rungs, and scrambling up exposed granite.

You’ll want sturdy shoes – we recommend hiking boots. During our hike on Beehive Loop Trail, we came across a group in running shoes, and they were not handling well on the damp granite. 

The Island Explorer shuttle bus provides free transportation around the park and nearby communities in the summer months, which can help with limited parking at popular trailheads. That being said, if it’s too crowded to find a parking spot, imagine what the trailhead will be like.

As we shared, we recommend you get to the more popular hikes early in the day.

The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, beavers, moose, and over 270 species of birds – always keep a safe distance from wild animals.

After deciding which hikes to do, be sure to read our comprehensive 3-day Guide to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

Best Hikes in Acadia National Park

Precipice Loop Trail: rated as challenging, 2.1-mile loop

Precipice Loop Trail is considered challenging – a 2.1 mile loop, hikers can expect boulders, granite stairs, iron rungs, sheer cliffs, and rocky trails. The steep and strenuous trail gains nearly 1,000 feet in elevation in less than a mile.

Those with a fear of heights may want to forgo this one – once you start, it is very difficult, and more treacherous, to turn around. You will definitely want sturdy hiking boots for this trail.

If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding coastline and Frenchman’s Bay.

Peregrine Falcons in Acadia National Park

Hikers on this trail may be treated to sightings of Peregrine Falcons, one of the fastest birds in the world. They have a distinctive appearance with a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head that contrast sharply with their white throat.

In the mid-20th century, the Peregrine Falcon population in the United States faced a severe decline, primarily due to the effects of the pesticide DDT. By the 1960s, they were considered locally extinct in the northeast region.

However, through dedicated conservation efforts and reintroduction programs, Peregrine Falcons made a remarkable recovery. Acadia National Park played a crucial role in this comeback, with falcons being reintroduced to the park in the 1980s.

The conservation efforts mean that Precipice Loop Trail and other areas of the park may be closed during parts of the falcon’s summer nesting season.

Jordan Pond Path: rated as easy, 3.1-mile loop

The Jordan Pond Path is mostly flat and follows the edge of scenic Jordan Pond. The trail offers views of the surrounding mountains and woods. 

The trail is well-maintained with some areas that feature a raised wooden plank boardwalk through a forested area. At some points, you’ll come across a sandy beach, ideal for pausing and enjoying the surrounding beauty. 

You’ll definitely want to stop in at Jordan Pond House. Guests to the park have been enjoying the hilltop view since 1893 when Nellie McIntire, the first proprietor, began baking popovers to serve alongside tea.

To this day, the tradition remains, and you cannot visit the park without partaking in the history. You’ll need to make a reservation, at least a couple of weeks in advance.

They have a full lunch menu should you need it – in our experience, the local blueberry crisp is delectable.

Ocean Path Trail: rated as easy, 4.5-mile out and back

Ocean Path Trail stretches 2.2 miles along Acadia National Park’s coastline, providing stunning views of rocky inlets, granite cliffs, coastal wildlife, sand beaches and various interesting geological features.

You can start at either end – Sand Beach or Otter Point. There is a bus available for those only interested in the one way 2.2-mile path.

Being that there is bus availability and it is more accessible than others, this trail will be crowded, so per usual, we recommend you hike this one early in the morning before fellow travelers descend upon it. 

Beehive Loop Trail: rated as challenging, 1.5-mile loop

Beehive Loop Trail is not intimidating at all – as long as you don’t look down.

This 1.5-mile loop will have you traversing exposed walks and rung climbs. Honestly, it is not as bad as it seems – just keep your gaze ahead of you, well technically, above you.

Starting at a modest 105 feet, you’ll be climbing up to the Beehive’s summit at 520 feet. While not the tallest peak in the park, its distinctive features and views certainly make it a stand-out hike.

Hikers can expect exposed edges, iron rungs, and ladders – plan for 1 – 2 hours to complete it.

It was foggy the morning we hiked, which made for an otherworldly experience where we felt like we were climbing up into the clouds. It was also sprinkling, which made hanging onto the rungs as we made our way up a little nerve-wracking.

We highly recommend sturdy hiking boots. The group in front of us had on running shoes, and they very much regretted that.

You’ll be proud of yourself when you make it to the top – and in addition to the boost of confidence, you’ll have unrivaled, spectacular views.

After enjoying the panoramic vistas from the summit, head down to the Bowl, a picturesque pond tucked beneath Champlain Mountain. 

Lesser Traveled Hiking Trails

Acadia National Park is the most visited park in the northeast, so naturally the “best” are going to be crowded during peak season – spring to fall. 

The previously mentioned hikes are the most traveled in Acadia National Park – and for good reason!

As we’ve shared, our recommendation is to hike those early in the morning before the crowds descend on the park; however, sometimes that doesn’t match up with the rest of the itinerary (you know, like getting wild blueberry pancakes at Jordan’s Restaurant for breakfast). 

The below hikes are still located on Mount Desert Island, and are less sought after than others yet provide just as beautiful of scenery.

Hunters Brook Trail: rated as moderate, 3.6-mile out and back

This trail will bring you through a beautiful coastal forest, along a babbling brook, and up to a peak with views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The trail is relatively gentle as it follows Hunters Brook, eventually reaching the base of the mountain. That being said, there are a few creek crossings, and depending on the water level, your shoes may get wet.

The trail leads you to a climb up to the summit of the Triad, a less-visited peak that rewards you with views of the ocean and Cranberry Isles.

Ship Harbor Trail: rated as easy, 1.4-mile loop

Ship Harbor Trail is located in Bass Harbor on the southwest side of Mt. Desert Island, making it a great place to see the sunset.

Take a leisurely stroll along Ship Harbor Trail, a 1.4-mile loop that weaves between the woods and the coastline. It is quiet and peaceful; we recommend you make several stops along the way to be still and enjoy the beauty. 

Hikers can expect views of the coastline and will pass a narrow cove and spruce forest where loons, eagles, herons, and osprey are often sighted.

TL;DR: hike suggestions

  • Best Hikes – we recommend embarking on these trails earlier in the morning as they get crowded during the day.
    • Precipice Loop Trail: rated as challenging, 2.1-mile loop
    • Jordan Pond Path: rated as easy, 3.1-mile loop
    • Ocean Path Trail: rated as easy, 4.5-mile out and back
    • Beehive Loop Trail: rated as challenging, 1.5-mile loop
  • Lesser Traveled Hiking Trails – the below hikes are still located on Mount Desert Island, and are less sought after than others yet provide just as beautiful of scenery.
    • Hunters Brook Trail: rated as moderate, 3.6-mile out and back
    • Ship Harbor Trail: rated as easy, 1.4-mile loop

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