Due to its location in our neighboring state of Maine (a 5+ hour drive from where we live in New Hampshire), Acadia National Park has received numerous visits from our family over the past 15 years. Each time we visit, we explore a different part of the park. Acadia has so much to offer--from meandering ocean paths and tide pools to carriage roads perfect for biking. On our most recent visit this summer, the three kids opted to stay back at the lake house with their grandparents while Pete and I set out to explore the rocky cliffs of Acadia!
With incredible views and a thrilling climb, it is no surprise that the Beehive Loop Trail is so popular! The Beehive Loop Trail is a heavily trafficked 1.4-mile loop with about 500 feet in elevation gain. Although the distance isn’t long, it is rated as strenuous.
The steep nature of the Beehive Trail portion--including narrow ledges and iron rungs drilled into the ledges of exposed cliffs—makes this trail unsuitable for those afraid of heights, young children, and dogs. Fortunately, those not up for this sort of adventure, can follow the Bowl Trail to the lake and then loop up to the summit.
While this trail is a bit challenging, it is nowhere near as challenging as the Precipice Trail, which we also hiked and will most certainly test your fear of heights for sure. We highly advise you to try the Beehive Trail first and are sure you’ll enjoy the experience.
BEEHIVE TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 1.4 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Loop
- Elevation gain: 488 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 534 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Late spring through fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 8:00 am or after 4:00 pm
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: sun exposure
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed:4 hours
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE BEEHIVE TRAIL
Map of the Sand Beach Parking Area, courtesy of the National Park Service
To access the Beehive Trail, start at the Bowl trailhead which is on the right side of Park Loop Road about 100 feet north of the turn-off for the Sand Beach parking area. We arrived early and parked in the Sand Beach parking lot so we could take some pictures at Sand Beach before the crowds of people arrived and use the bathrooms before our hike.
- Directions from the Hulls Cover Visitor Center to the Beehive Trailhead (this will take about 35 minutes and avoids traffic in Bar Harbor)
- Directions from Bar Harbor to the Beehive Trailhead (this will take about 15 minutes or less and is the way to go if you are staying in the town center)
You can also park in the right lane of the Park Loop Road where permitted. Should you plan to arrive later in the day during the busy season, you can leave your car at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and take the free Island Explorer shuttle. We recommend you arrive early to avoid waiting in line behind timid hikers climbing the more difficult parts of the trail.
The Sand Beach parking area has approximately 100 parking spots, but be advised that the parking area is shared with the beach and the Ocean Path Trail, so if you wait around it may take quite a bit of time to find a spot.
There are restrooms at the parking lot, as well as water refill stations. There are no bathrooms on the trail.
THE HIKE: THE BEEHIVE TRAIL AT ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Map of the Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park, Courtesy of the National Park Service
The Beehive Loop Trail begins on the Bowl Trail but soon reaches an intersection with the Beehive Trail, which turns off to the right. (Note: Only uphill travel is allowed on the Beehive Trail. Once you start up, you are committed to finish the scramble to the peak and return via the Bowl Trail.)
The trail quickly begins climbing the southern face of the Beehive. This is also the start of the iron rung section of the hike.
A series of switchbacks, iron rungs, grates and narrow ledges will lead you up the cliff. Be sure to stay on the trail and follow the blue blazes, especially on the rock scramble portions closer to the summit.
A word of caution-there have been several Beehive Trail deaths since the park opened the trail, with one as recent as August of 2000. This shouldn’t scare you away, but rather it just means that you need to be careful when hiking this trail.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with views of Sand Beach, Frenchman Bay, and surrounding mountains.
This is the perfect spot to take a quick rest and have a snack before continuing west over the back side of the Beehive towards the Bowl. Make sure to stay straight at the split and follow signs to “The Bowl”. The rest of the hike is much easier as you descend to this beautiful pond nestled at the base of the surrounding mountains. (Note: Although this appears to be an inviting place to swim and dip your toes on a hot summer day, leeches like this lake, too!)
The trail then skirts the lake’s shore before reaching a junction, where the Bowl Trail meets the Bear Brook Trail. Stay left to descend the Bowl Trail (less than 1 mile) back to the Park Loop Road. You will reach other forks along the way (one where the trail splits off to Gorham Mountain—a possible add-on if you are looking for a longer hike which can be combined with the Ocean Path Trail to lead back to Sand Beach). However, if you are planning to head straight back to the Sand Beach area, stay on the Bowl Trail which travels downhill. The loop took us less than two hours to complete.
HOW LONG DOES THE BEEHIVE TRAIL TAKE?
The time it takes to hike every trail is highly dependent on the hiker, of course. However, there are a couple of additional factors that affect the time it takes to hike the Beehive Trail:
- The trail is one-way on the way up, and there aren’t many spaces to pass others. That means that the crowds dictate the speed. For the most part we only had to wait a few times, but it does slow things down. This is usually only a factor in the first 0.5 miles of the hike, where the ladder rungs are prevalent.
- Ladders / agility. Since much of the trail contains ladders (at least on the way up), your aptitude for climbing ladders will impact the time. Kids generally make their way up the ladders without any issue at all, so it’s usually the adults that are a bit slower!
- Distance you choose to hike. As we stated, you can cut the trip down by not hiking to The Bowl. You can also extend the hike by going to Gorham Mountain to the south, which can extend the hike by over an hour.
- Time to park. If you come here during the busy parts of the day, you can expect spend 15 minutes parking and getting situated prior to heading out on the trail.
- Time at the peak. We tend to like to take in the views on top and have a snack. This typically adds 15 min onto the hike. If you are more of a “take a picture and go” person, this can shave off a bit of time for you.
We recommend allowing at least an hour to hike the trail, but it can easily be more if you are here when it’s crowded and like to take your time!
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE BEEHIVE TRAIL
The Beehive Trail is right near Sand Beach. With access to many trails and attractions, there is plenty to do in the surrounding area. We recommend checking out the following:
- Likely the easiest and most popular place to go after visiting the Beehive Trail is Sand Beach. Sand Beach is located just east of the Sand Beach parking area. You can spend the better part of the day here, or you can just walk down the stairs to the beach and take in the scenery. It is a beautiful spot that is worth checking out, at least for a few minutes.
- The Ocean Path Trail is another path accessible from the Sand Beach parking area. The trail heads along the coastline, weaving in and out of trees along the way. The entire trail is 4.4-miles long, but you can get a lot out of it by hiking just a mile. The trail passes by many of Acadia’s well-known spots, including thunder Hole, Otter Cliff and Monument Cove.
- The well-known Precipice Trail is another hike that is absolutely worth taking if you have the guts to climb up where peregrine falcons nest on the cliffs overlooking the water. The trail is only open between August 15th and March 15th (to allow for nesting) and involves countless ladder rungs as you ascend up the cliffside. The hike down is much easier, as it follows the Orange and Black Trail via a longer (and safer!) path. The entire trail is 2.5 miles long (round-trip) with just over 1,000 ft. elevation gain. The Precipice Trail is accessed on Park Loop Road, just north of the Sand Beach parking area.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY
We offer downloadable itineraries with great hints and tips for many National Parks. Our Acadia National Park Itinerary is only $5. Check out our downloadable itineraries here.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION FOR ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
- We cover the park in detail in our blog on What to see and do in Acadia National Park. We also have an extensive blog covering The Best Hikes in Acadia National Park.
- Another one of our favorite hikes in Acadia was our experience hiking the Bubbles Trail. This relatively short hike provides great views of Jordan Pond and the Penobscot Bay. Another great short trail is the Ship Harbor Trail. Don’t forget to also check out the Jordan Pond Trail!
- It’s likely that before you head into the park that you’ll want to take a look at the Hiking and Trail Guide for Acadia National Park. This can help supplement the information provided in our blogs.
- We highly recommend before you go looking for the latest information on the Acadia National Park NPS website. They have information on the latest park closings, weather information and a ton of details on the park not covered in our blog.
- The Chamber of Commerce has great info on their page: Acadia National Park Information and other nearby Maine Points of Interest
- Top Ten Things to do at Acadia National Park from Tripadvisor is also great to check out.
- The Switchback Kids cover their thoughts on the park in their blog: Best of Acadia National Park from the Switchback Kids.
- We have an extensive selection of Acadia National Park Posters that are worth checking out.
- Finally, when you get back from your trip be sure to send us a photo so we can turn it into a custom, vintage-style travel poster!
- Make sure to wear good hiking shoes or boots for this trail. You’ll need them for the rock scrambling.
- Although the trail is fairly short, it is steep and exposed and can get very hot in the summer. Be sure to carry your water in a pack. You are going to need your hands for the climbing!
- We will surely return with our kids the next time we visit Acadia. This is one hike our kids would have loved!