Acadia National Park is best known for its rocky shorelines, coastal mountains, jagged cliffs and glacier-carved lakes. Although Acadia offers some stunning viewpoints along Park Loop Road, you’d be missing out if you didn’t take advantage of the park’s amazing trail system to experience some of the best views in the park!
With over 120 miles of hiking trails, many which are interconnected, Acadia National Park has a hike for everyone. The best hikes in Acadia are a matter of opinion. However, after several visits and lots of hikes, we’ve put together this list of what we think are some of the best Acadia National Park trails.
Things to do in Acadia National Park, what to pack and useful links are covered in our 15+ page itinerary for Acadia National Park.
THE BEST EASY HIKES
BAR ISLAND/BAR ISLAND TRAIL
If you can time it right, this short, family-friendly hike is a must-do when visiting Acadia National Park. During low tide, a dry sand bar connects the town of Bar Harbor to the forested Bar Island in Frenchman Bay and offers a unique hiking opportunity. Hike across the bar and let the kids explore the tide pools or hike to the high point on the island for views of Bar Harbor and some of the nearby mountains.
(~2 miles roundtrip; 160-foot elevation gain; allow 1-2 hours)
Bar Island is only accessible 1.5 hours before and after low tide, so check the Bar Harbor tide chart before your visit. Be aware of the time so you can make it off the island safely, as there are no public facilities on the island. If you get stuck, you can get a personal ferry back, but this is costly in both time and money!
Bar Island can be accessed by walking north on Bridge Street in downtown Bar Harbor.
OCEAN PATH TRAIL
If it’s your first time in Acadia National Park, don’t miss hiking the Ocean Path Trail. The mostly level, hike runs south along the coastline from Sand Beach to Otter Point. This trail is popular due to its accessibility but offers a great introduction to the park. Many of Acadia’s most famous coastal spots are located along this trail, including Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, Boulder Beach and Otter Cliff.
(4.4-mile; minimal elevation gain; allow 2+ hours with time for exploring Sand Beach and tide pools along the shoreline)
The Ocean Path trailhead starts at Sand Beach parking lot, located along Park Loop Road, and ends at Otter Point. However, if parking isn’t available at Sand Beach or you prefer a shorter walk, it easy to pick up the trail from numerous locations along Park Loop Road.
JORDAN POND LOOP TRAIL
The Jordan Pond Loop was our family’s favorite easy hike and, in our opinion, a great way to end the day. The hike starts on the south shore of Jordan Pond and travels along its shoreline. The loop walk is a combination of dirt path, raised log planks and some boulder scrambling at the far end of the lake.
Enjoy views of the Bubbles situated at the far end of the pond. Couple your hike with a stop at Jordan Pond House for their legendary popovers!
(3.4-mile loop; minimal elevation gain; allow 1.5-2 hours)
The Jordan Pond trailhead starts at the Jordan Pond parking lot on the south end of the lake.
THE BEST MODERATE HIKES
The Bubbles, as seen from the south side of Jordan Pond, is one of the most famous views in the park. However, if you are up for a moderate hike, the summits of North and South Bubble have trails that should not be missed, and both provide stunning views overlooking Jordan Pond and the surrounding mountains. There are a variety of options for out-and-back and loop hikes in the area so be sure to consult a map to decide upon your route.
The hike to South Bubble, for an iconic shot of Bubble Rock, is certainly the easiest and most popular hike. Perched on the eastern edge of South Bubble’s summit, this geological wonder is an example of a glacial erratic, a giant boulder moved and deposited by ancient glaciers. It is possibly the most famous rock in all of Maine, so be sure to visit this popular spot early in the morning!
Both Bubbles Rock and the South Bubble Summit can be reached by hiking up the Bubbles Divide Trail to the South Bubbles Trail. (South Bubble/ Bubble Rock only: 1.1-miles roundtrip; 250-foot elevation gain; allow ~1 hour)
If you have more time, we highly recommend incorporating a visit to North Bubble into your South Bubble hike. This less visited peak also offers amazing views and is a great place to escape the crowds at Bubble Rock.
(South Bubble and North Bubble: 1.8-miles roundtrip; 400-foot elevation gain; allow 1.5-2 hours)
The Bubbles Trail starts at the Bubbles Parking area on Park Loop Road (north of the Jordan Pond parking area).
GORHAM MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Gorham Mountain isn’t the tallest peak in Acadia National Park, but it is one of our favorites! The steady climb up the Gorham Mountain trail passes through spruce forest and passes the Waldron Bates memorial plaque before climbing above the Cadillac Cliffs to the 525-foot summit. Enjoy views of Otter Point to the south, Sand Beach to the east, the Beehive to the north and Cadillac Mountain to the west.
On the return hike, we recommend taking the Cadillac Cliffs Trail, if you don’t mind a little adventure and some rock scrambling! Hike past chiseled cliffs, explore the edge of an old sea cave and pass through a granite tunnel. The short spur trail reconnects with the Gorham Mountain Trail at the Waldron Bates memorial plaque.
(1.8-miles roundtrip; 500 feet elevation gain; allow 1-2 hours)
A great option for those seeking a longer hike is to pair the Gorham Mountain Trail with the Ocean Path Trail for a loop hike. (3.2-miles roundtrip; ~600 feet elevation gain; allow 2+ hours)
The Gorham Mountain trail starts at the Gorham Mountain parking area on Park Loop Road just past Thunder Hole. However, if hiking the full loop, you can also park at Sand Beach and start off walking on the Ocean Path Trail or head up the Bowl Trail.
GREAT HEAD TRAIL
The Great Head Trail is not talked about often, but it is another great hike to take when you are near Sand Beach. The hike involves walking across Sand Beach and crossing a small stream. Note that this stream can be a bit wide and deep if you happen to be crossing when the tide is going out, so we recommend hiking when the tide is low or just after low tide (tidal charts are available at the top of the stairs at Sand Beach).
After crossing the stream, the trail heads up a rock scramble before leveling out as it skirts along the edge of a peninsula. There are many great views along the way, both of Sand Beach, the Ocean Path and the Penobscot Bay.
After looping around, the trail splits. Head to the left to go back to the parking lot via the shortest path, which involves another scramble up rocks before meeting up with the same trail you took on the way in.
(1.6-miles roundtrip; 300 feet elevation gain; allow 75-90 minutes)
If you want to go on a longer hike, take a right at the split and add 0.6 miles to the hike. This also loops back to the same trail as before, but connects back up at Sand Beach. Allow 30 more minutes if you take this path.
The Great Head Trail begins at the top of the stairs of Sand Beach. Head down the stairs, cross the beach. After getting to the other end of the beach, a small set of stairs is visible (with a small sign) that leads you along the Great Head Trail.
THE BEST CHALLENGING HIKES
ACADIA MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Many of the best hikes in Acadia National Park are found on the popular east side of the park. However, we think the Acadia Mountain hike is one of the best on the west! Acadia Mountain is the high point of Mount Desert Island’s western half (681-feet) and offers great views of Somes Sound and Southwest Harbor.
Although the hike isn’t especially long, it does involve some steep sections. Hiking in the clockwise direction, the forested dirt trail turns to rock and requires a fairly steep scramble up some granite formations. Then, the terrain levels out a bit before reaching the summit, where the views are spectacular!
A morning hike granted us solitude and the perfect place to have a snack before descending the other side of the mountain. We highly recommend hiking the full loop instead of returning the way you came but be prepared for more rock scrambling and amazing views the whole way down! After crossing the Man O’ War Brook, take the spur trail to the waterfall overlook and the edge of Somes Sound before following Man O’ War Brook Road (dirt access road) back to the trailhead.
(1.8-mile loop; 500 feet elevation gain; allow 1.5-2.5 hours)
The Acadia Mountain trailhead is located along Route 102 by Echo Lake. The parking area is across the street from the trailhead and is small, so plan to arrive early or you’ll need to park along the side of Route 102.
BEEHIVE TRAIL/BOWL TRAIL LOOP
If you’re looking for a thrilling climb that leads to some of the best views in the park, hike the Beehive Loop Trail, which is one of our absolute favorite Acadia National Park hiking trails! A short but steep trail goes right up the southern face of the Beehive and includes exciting features such as narrow, cliffside ledges and iron rungs. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll be rewarded with views of Sand Beach, Great Head, Frenchman Bay and surrounding mountains.
Take a break, enjoy the views and have a snack before continuing west over the back side of the Beehive towards the Bowl, a beautiful pond nestled at the base of the surrounding mountains. Follow signs for the Bowl Trail back to the parking area.
If you aren’t a fan of heights or are traveling with small children, consider hiking the family-friendly Bowl Trail up the backside of the Beehive to reach the summit and enjoy the same views.
(1.3-mile loop; 534 feet elevation gain; allow 1.5-2.0 hours)
The Beehive Trail begins at the Bowl trailhead located along Park Loop Road about 100 feet north of the Sand Beach parking area. The Sand Beach parking area is across the street from the trailhead, but additional parking is typically allowed along the right edge of Park Loop Road.
Already conquered the Beehive and looking for a hike that will really get your adrenaline pumping? The Precipice Trail is the most challenging and dangerous hiking trail in Acadia National Park. Scramble up the rugged east side of Champlain Mountain, an almost vertical 1,000-foot climb, with the aid of numerous iron rungs, bridges, metal ladders and switchbacks.
From the summit, take in ocean views and Frenchman Bay to the east and Dorr Mountain to the west. To return to the Precipice Trail parking area, take the Champlain North Ridge Trail to the Orange and Black Trail.
WARNING: The Precipice Trail is only recommended for experienced hikers without a fear of heights. Metal handholds and ladders become slippery when wet, so use extreme caution at all times and avoid this hike during bad weather.
NOTE: Due to nesting Peregrine Falcons, the Precipice Trail is usually closed from March 15 to August 15. Check the NPS site for trail closures.
(2.5-mile loop; 1,072 feet elevation gain; allow 2-3 hours)
The Precipice trailhead is located along Park Loop Road beyond the Sieur de Monts entrance fee station and before the Sand Beach parking area. The Precipice parking area is on the right side of the road.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON ACADIA NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- As you can see, there are many things to do in Acadia and figuring out the right activities to do can be a challenge. Our itinerary for Acadia National Park can help immensely.
- Make sure you take time to review our extensive blog on What to See and Do in Acadia National Park.
- We’ve created blogs on many of our favorite hikes, including Hiking the Beehive Trail, Hiking the Bubbles Trail and the incredible hike on the Precipice Trail (for those a bit more daring).
- To learn how to navigate the crowds on Cadillac Mountain, check out our blog, Guide to Cadillac Mountain Sunrises.
- Not all of these hikes are great in the winter, so if you are heading here when it's cold outside be sure to read our guide on Acadia National Park in the Winter.
- When you get back from your trip, send us one or more of your photos and we’ll make up one of custom, vintage-style travel posters for you. We’ve served up thousands of these to customers and would love to work with you!