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.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD
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. 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 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.
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.
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
- Best of Acadia National Park from the Switchback Kids
- 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!