The 14 Best Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park (Plus Helpful Tips!)
June 5, 2023
If you’re looking for the best hiking trails in Acadia National Park, you’re in the right place!
Acadia National Park is located on the coast of Maine, primarily on Mount Desert Island. The park hosts a large variety of plant and animal species across regions of coastline and mountains. It was the 6th most visited US national park in 2021, so don’t expect solitude in the popular areas. However, there are plenty of ways to spread out and enjoy the scenery.
Whether you are visiting Acadia for the first time or you’ve been before and are looking for some new trails, I hope this list helps you plan your trip! I spent 3 weeks in Acadia in October 2022 and had an incredible time seeing everything that the island has to offer. I fell in love with the rocky trails, the outstanding views and the fall foliage. Plus, you can summit just about every peak that you can see! I hope you fall in love too.
Keep reading for the best Acadia trails listed by difficulty.
- It costs $30 per vehicle to enter Acadia National Park and the fee is valid for seven days. If you will be visiting more national parks over the course of a year, I highly recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass, which will grant you entry into all parks for a year for $80.
- Acadia National Park is crowded, that’s no secret. But there are several less popular areas worth visiting. I recommend making dinner reservations in Bar Harbor for the best dinning and arriving early in the morning for the best hikes (especially for the Beehive, the Precipice, the Bubbles and Jordan Pond).
- From the end of June to mid-October, you can ride the free shuttle service, Acadia Island Explorer, to get around the park. This is a great way to avoid fighting for a parking spot!
- Reservations are required to drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain. I definitely recommend doing this, especially at sunrise. The sunrise reservations sell out very quickly so make sure to be logged on and ready as soon as they go on sale.
- Be prepared for rain, fog and cold weather when you visit. The weather can change quickly in Acadia. During October, I had just as many foggy days as I had clear days. Be sure to pack layers and a raincoat.
- Many of the trails in Acadia have ladder elements! This is definitely something that makes the park unique and special.
- Acadia is one of the few national parks friendly to dogs! Just be sure to keep them on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
- Guide Along offers an audio tour of Acadia and it's a great way to learn about the park and discover stops along the way as you drive around!
Acadia National Park may be relatively small, but it still has over 150 miles of hiking trails. Below are detailed descriptions of the 14 hikes that I’ve completed, plus a few others that are next on my list. I have listed them from easy to hard.
Trails with a * are the ones I recommend the most.
- 2.2 miles
- 78 feet of elevation gain
- Rated easy
The Jesup Path is a stunning and easy boardwalk trail that is popular for photography, especially during the fall! I hiked in from the parking lot by The Tam, but you can also park at the Wild Gardens of Acadia for a shorter hike. (The gardens are right next to the boardwalk and also worth visiting)
The boardwalk is surrounded by white birch trees and marshland. Along the way, there are interpretive signs to help you learn about the plants and animals in the area. In the fall, this trail was stunningly beautiful with the colorful fall foliage.
The forest environment makes this a great trail to hike on a foggy day.
This trail gets very crowded, so I recommend going early to beat the crowds.
- 2.1 miles
- 216 feet of elevation gain
- Rated easy
A hike to Bar Island is a really unique and fun experience! As the name suggests, Bar Island is located across the harbor from the town of Bar Harbor. During low tide, you can walk across a land bridge to reach this area of the park. It is really important to time your visit to the window of 1.5 hours before and after low tide, because you can get stuck out on the island if the tide rolls in. (Check the Tide Chart here!)
To reach the island, find street parking nearby. I was able to find free parking on West Street.
During the walk over, you’ll see a ton of tide pools, shells and barnacles. You may even see starfish. When you reach the island, there are some trails to explore. I hiked to the highest point on the island and to the ruins of the Jack Perkins estate.
The highest point on the island has a nice view looking back at Bar Harbor and the ruins are really fascinating (there is a giant chimney, the framework of a former home and more). Both sights can be reached from this map on All Trails.
This is a really fun and easy trail for people of all ages and abilities, I highly recommend making some time for it in your Acadia itinerary!
- 4.5 miles
- 374 feet of elevation gain
- Rated easy
The Ocean Path trail leads to several unique places along the coast of Bar Harbor Island. You’ll pass some of the best places to see in Acadia, such as Sand Beach, the Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. Note that you can also drive between these various viewpoints, but parking can be difficult to find during peak times.
You can begin this trail at several different points, but I recommend starting at Sand Beach if you can get a parking spot. Sand Beach is exactly what it sounds like, a beach with sand that is nestled between rocky cliffs. It’s a beautiful place to visit.
As you begin to hike from Sand Beach to the Thunder Hole, you’ll discover several rocky areas where you can walk out onto the rocks and take pictures. The views will continue throughout as you take in the ocean, cliffs, boulders and tide pools from various angles.
The Thunder Hole is one of the most iconic spots in the park. It is an inlet where the ocean has carved the rocks into a narrow channel and a thunderous roar can be heard from crashing waves during certain times of day. You should come 1-2 hours before high tide for the best chance to hear the thunder. But during low tide, it’s still cool to see and you’ll be able to get closer.
As you continue on the Ocean Path, you’ll pass some coves and soon reach the Otter Cliffs. This is a popular place for rock climbing and is one of the tallest coastal headlands on the Atlantic Coast.
Finally, head to Otter Point to complete the path. Rounding the point will give you a new perspective and provide some amazing views of the ocean and cliffs across from Otter Cove. P.S. Despite the name, there are no otters to be seen here. Otter Point also makes for a great sunrise spot.
Whether you hike or drive between the highlights, make sure to explore Ocean Drive during your trip to Acadia.
- 3.1 miles
- 42 feet of elevation gain
- Rated easy
The Jordan Pond Loop is an easy trail that will take you all the way around the iconic Jordan Pond. It’s a great loop to do before or after enjoying some popovers at Jordan Pond House! Note that this is one of the busiest spots in the park, so arrive early or prepare to be patient to find a parking spot.
The trail goes all the way around the pond and you’ll have a mix of lake views and some areas of forest. The West side of the lake has a long boardwalk area with some areas of stepping over large boulders, while the east side of the trail is more flat.
I went on a foggy morning and could barely see the views, but still thought the trail was very peaceful and fun. This path also connects to some longer trails, like the Bubble Trail. One of the cool things about Acadia is that so many trails connect for various combinations!
- 1.5 miles
- 321 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
The Flying Mountain trail is a quick loop that is great if you’re interested in visiting a beach. Going counterclockwise, you’ll quickly reach the top of Flying Mountain. As you continue, there are multiple overlooks and areas where you can get a great view of the bay.
Then you’ll have a chance to walk out onto a beach in Valley Cove. It’s a rocky beach but still beautiful, especially with the surrounding hills as a backdrop. Coming back from the beach area, it’s a flat walk.
This is a beautiful trail if you’re looking for something quick and peaceful in a quieter area of the park.
- 1.8 miles
- 265 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
The Great Head Trail is a short loop that offers some amazing views of the coast. The trail also connects over to Sand Beach, so it’s a great chance to see this area if you haven’t already. In addition to Sand Beach, you’ll enjoy views of Egg Island, the Beehive and the ocean.
The loop has some ups and downs and a little bit of rock scrambling, but is on the easier side of moderate. It is a little bit easier to go counter-clockwise because you’ll be climbing up the steepest part instead of going down.
After the hike, it’s worth stopping at the nearby Schooner Head Overlook for more ocean views. There is a short walk down the ocean and at low tide, you can find a cave and tide pools.
This is a beautiful trail for some ocean views and I found it to be very peaceful early in the morning.
- 3.6 miles
- 931 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
The Bubbles, referring to North Bubble, South Bubble and Bubble Rock, offer some of the most iconic views in Acadia! Not only will you enjoy fantastic views of Jordan Pond, but you’ll get to see a giant boulder that looks like it’s about to roll off the cliff. I did a 3.6 mile loop that included Conners Nubble, which I highly recommend adding.
You’ll want to get an early start for this trail because the parking lot fills up early. There are also only a few parking spots at the closest lot, but you could hike in from Jordan Pond. It took me three attempts to get a parking spot here, finding success, at 7:15 AM on a Saturday and I was the first car in the lot (barely).
I recommend climbing the South Bubble first and completing the loop clockwise. You’ll first reach Bubble Rock, a strange looking boulder that appears like it could fall off the cliff with the breeze. The rock is a glacial erratic, meaning it was placed there by a powerful glacier 1000’s of years ago. It is estimated to have been carried from Lucerne, ME (40 miles away), as this type of rock is not found elsewhere on Mount Desert Island.
After seeing the iconic rock, be sure to continue up the trail to take in the views looking down at Jordan Pond from the South Bubble. This offers the best views of the hike and I saw some visitors skipping it to only see the precarious boulder.
After that, backtrack a little bit and then continue up to the North Bubble. Here you will have another good view looking down at Jordan Pond. From there, you’ll hike along the ridge and start to enjoy some views of Eagle Lake.
As you ascend down from North Bubble, you’ll cross a Carriage Road to make your way up Conners Nubble. This is essentially a mini bubble and leads to a fantastic view of Eagle Lake. Despite it being small, there is some rock scrambling to reach the top and I found it to be the most difficult part of the hike.
Finally, continue back on the Eagle Lake Carriage Road and then the Jordan Pond Carry Path. The entire loop is full of variety, not too challenging and offers some amazing views. It’s a beautiful trail and is one of my favorites in Acadia.
- 2.4 miles
- 492 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
The Beech Mountain and South Ridge Loop is a wonderful underrated trail! This moderate hike leads to views of lakes, the coast, a fire tower and a gorgeous forest with moss-covered rocks.
I hiked counterclockwise to get most of the elevation out of the way. After ascending up the first hill, you’ll have quickly come to a great viewpoint overlooking Long Pond.
Just a bit further, you’ll reach the Fire Tower. Unfortunately you cannot climb to the top of the fire tower, but can climb a few steps to the middle level.
As you hike back on the Valley Trail, you’ll pass through an area with giant boulders that are covered in bright green moss. This little bit of forest reminded me of a scene out of Jurassic Park and it was my favorite part of the hike.
The parking lot for this trail isn’t huge, so it does fill up during peak times. But I still felt like this area was much less visited than the main areas of the park. If you have enough time, this is a wonderful underrated trail in Acadia.
- 1.8 miles
- 492 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
If you enjoy ladders while hiking, the Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs loop is a fun trail to add to your list! And the ladders are quite a bit easier than the Beehive and Precipice Trail in my opinion.
Just like the other ladder trails, I recommend going up the ladders instead of down. You’ll begin on a flat forest trail and will soon reach some switchbacks and ladders. There are 4 ladders total of varying lengths, one being really long. I found them to be fun and not scary!
At the top, I recommend doing the short loop trail to take in the best views of Echo Lake. You’ll also be able to see the coast in the distance.
Hike down the Canada Cliffs trail which is nice and gradual with a few rocks to climb over. At the parking lot, you may also want to visit and have a picnic at Echo Lake Beach.
Similar to Beech Mountain, I found this side of the park to be much quieter and more peaceful than the main areas. This trail had few others on it and was rewarding due to the fun challenge of the ladders.
- 2.4 miles
- 741 feet of elevation gain
- Rated moderate
The Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain loop is another rewarding loop trail in a slightly less trafficked area of the park. In this 2.4 mile loop, you’ll summit two peaks and enjoy some incredible views.
The trail includes a lot of climbing up rocks, so it will be more difficult after rainfall when the rocks are slippery. I hiked counterclockwise but I don’t think the direction makes a huge difference.
Each peak offers a different view. Bald Peak is slightly higher and has views of the ocean, while Parkman is nice for views of the island and the bay. Coming down from Parkman, there is one area with a ladder rung to help you down a large rock.
Overall, this hike has great bang for your buck and offers fantastic views.
- 2.1 miles
- 951 feet of elevation gain
- Rated hard
If the steep drop offs and dozens of ladder rungs of the Precipice Trail are a bit too much for you, the Beachcroft Path is a wonderful alternative! It leads to the same viewpoint but you’ll hike up the opposite side of the mountain from the Precipice Loop.
Start by parking across the street from the trailhead at The Tam. Note that there is no restroom here and it’s a small parking lot. You’ll cross the street and walk a few feet along the road to begin the trail.
The trail begins with some long switchbacks. As you climb higher, the view of the surrounding area will continue to get better and better. You’ll have views of the lake down below, Cadillac Mountain, Dorr Mountain, the town of Bar Harbor and more.
The last quarter mile of the trail is very steep and involves a little bit of rock scrambling. I recommend bringing hiking poles for coming back down. On a clear day, the views at the top are incredible and you’ll be able to see the ocean on one side and great views of the mountains on the other side.
Overall, this trail will get your heart pumping and lead to some amazing views without having to climb any ladders and be on the edge of a cliff.
- 2.7 miles
- 1,131 feet of elevation gain
- Rated hard
If you love the ladders, Dorr Mountain is another place to get your fix. Begin on the ladder trail where you’ll climb up 3 ladders. One was a bit shaky, but they aren’t too bad overall. From there, take the Schiff Path up to Dorr Mountain.
The Schiff Path has areas where you’ll be climbing up some smooth rocks and it can be very slippery. Be careful to watch your step.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views looking out at the ocean and Champlain Mountain (where the Precipice trail leads to). I recommend going down the Schiff Path, then connecting to the Kurt Diederich Climb, and then walking next to The Tam on the Kane Path.
Dorr Mountain is a rewarding trail that is not too long, but offers incredible views. Plus, it’s higher in elevation and less crowded than the Precipice Trail and Beehive. It’s a great trail if you’re looking for a challenge without the crowds.
- 1.5 miles
- 508 feet of elevation gain
- Rated hard
The Beehive Trail is one of the most iconic trails in the park for good reason! You’ll ascend up a series of ladders to reach an incredible view of the ocean, beach and some lakes down below. I do not recommend this trail if you’re afraid of heights, as there are several ladders and steep drop off areas.
If you’re not afraid of heights and have some hiking experience, this trail will likely be doable. It’s essentially a mini version of the Precipice Trail, so if you have some hesitation about doing either of these, make sure to try the Beehive first.
The Beehive gets extremely crowded, so I highly recommend going early. No matter when you visit, please only climb up the ladders and hike down on trails on the opposite side of the mountain (there are no ladders on the other trails). It is much more dangerous to have people trying to climb and down the ladders at the same time.
When you reach the top and begin to head down, there are a couple different options. Unless you’re in a rush, take the route by The Bowl for views of a large lake.
The Beehive is such a unique trail and should be on the top of your list if you’re comfortable with the ladders. It leads to incredible views and is so much fun!
- 2.1 miles
- 1,053 feet of elevation gain
- Rated hard
If you were comfortable on The Beehive trail, the Precipice Trail is a much longer version (and therefore more rewarding, in my opinion). In fact, it’s one of the most memorable US national park hikes I’ve ever done!
During this trail, you’ll be climbing up several series of ladders for about ¾’s of a mile to reach the top. Like other areas of Acadia, this trail gets crowded and parking is limited. There is a small parking lot and then you can park along the road, but even the road parking fills up during peak times. Go early to get a spot and beat the crowds.
The trail begins right away with a small but difficult ladder area that is the perfect “test” before continuing. It’s an area with 2 rungs where you need to be able to make an awkward turn and pull yourself up. It’s equal or slightly more difficult than the most difficult parts of the trail.
After that first ladder, you’ll climb through a boulder field and get to go through a little cave area. I thought this was fun, but you won’t enjoy it if you’re claustrophobic.
From there, you’ll begin the long and tedious series of ladders, bridges and narrow areas as you climb up the cliff face. There is one point 0.3 miles into the trail where you can take the Orange and Black Path instead of continuing up the ladders. This is your exit point if you’re really not having a good time, because there are many more ladders to come.
The trail is difficult but you’ll get to enjoy some incredible views that get better the further you climb. For me, reaching the top was incredibly rewarding and the climb was difficult but fun.
Just like the Beehive, you should avoid taking the ladders down. I hiked down the North Ridge Trail and then the Orange and Black Path. I took the Orange and Black Path down to the road early and walked along the road back to my car instead of connecting back and climbing the last few ladders down.
Keep in mind that this trail closes part of the year due to Peregrine Falcon nesting so check ahead of time if it will be open for your visit.
- Cadillac Mountain: If you can’t get a reservation to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, you can hike to the top! There are two ways to do this - the North Ridge and South Ridge. The North Ridge Trail is shorter but the views from the South Ridge are supposed to be better.
- Sargeant Mountain Ridge Loop: This is a great trail if you’re looking for something longer! The loop is 7.5 miles and you’ll summit at least 5 peaks as you hike up and down. It’s a diverse trail with many incredible views.
- Jordan Cliffs: A trail with a great views of Jordan Pond. This makes for a great alternative to the Bubbles if you're looking for something more challenging and less crowded.
Most of the Park Loop Road is closed between December and mid-April, so the vast majority of visitors come in the summer and fall. The summer tends to be the most busy. I recommend visiting in the fall so you’ll have slightly less crowds, cooler temperatures and the chance to see fall foliage (which peaks in mid-October).
I spent 3 weeks on Bar Harbor Island in October and was a bit surprised by how crowded it still was. Whether you’re visiting in the summer or fall, you’ll definitely want to book your accommodations early. Keep in mind that some businesses also close for the season in October, so check operating hours before you head out to dinner.
Read my fall guide of Acadia to find out about peak foliage, weather and more!
The Bangor Airport is the closest major airport to Acadia, located one hour away by car. However, the Portland, Maine airport is larger and you may find a lot more options and better deals there. It is located 3 hours from Acadia.
Of course, Bangor is more convenient, but you may also want to spend some time in Portland, Maine at the beginning or end of your trip, making for a great combined trip.
For an even bigger trip, fly into Boston and set off on a full New England road trip. Either way, I recommend renting a car to get around Maine and Acadia.
This is tough for me to answer since I stayed for 3 weeks (while working) and never ran out of things to do. But in my opinion, to “properly” see the park, you should spend at least 3 days. If you want to do a lot of hiking, you could easily spend longer.
It’s also not uncommon to have foggy days that make it impossible to see the views, such as the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. So it’s great to have an extra day or two as a backup in case you run into this!
Along with some of the hikes I’ve listed, you should drive the Park Loop Road, see the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, spend a day biking the Carriage Roads, eat popovers at Jordan Pond House and explore the town of Bar Harbor. You could also go on a lobster fishing boat or a whale watching tour with more time.
Despite all these opportunities, I think the park is still worth visiting if you only have one or two days. Travel is always worth it for me!
It’s a lot more convenient to stay on the island of Bar Harbor, but be warned that the hotels and accommodations are not cheap.
If you enjoy camping, check out the Seawall and Blackwoods campgrounds to be close to the action. They go on sale 2 months in advance.
If you’re willing to drive a bit more to save some money, you can find more affordable hotel options in Ellsworth. There are also a handful of Airbnbs in Trenton which is right off the biggest road to Mt Desert Island.
If you’re willing to pay for the convenience, there are tons of hotels and Airbnbs on the island. I found a lovely airbnb in the Salsbury Cove area and enjoyed the views in the neighborhood. It had laundry, fast wifi and was super close to the park.
I hope this Acadia hiking guide helps you plan the best Acadia trip! Whether you’re an avid hiker or wanting to stick to some easy trails, Acadia has something for everyone. It’s a beautiful national park full of unique elements like ladders and popovers. I can’t wait to return!
For More New England Travel Guides, check out these blogs:
- How to Spend One Day in Boston
- 7 Day New Hampshire and Vermont Fall Road Trip
- How to Spend Three Days in Acadia
- The Best Day Hikes in the New Hampshire White Mountains
- A Guide to Biking the Carriage Roads in Acadia
- A Guide to Visiting Acadia National Park in the Fall
- The Perfect 5 Day New England Road Trip
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