Hiking in Acadia

Acadia visitors can easily face a dilemma on their very first day in the park. Should they hike, go to the beach, or pedal through the forests of Mount Desert Island?

Enough hiking opportunities exist within the park boundaries that an entire vacation could be spent on the trail. There are long trails that wend their way up ridgelines to outstanding views (and even lemonade stands), trails that require you to pull yourself up rock faces iron rung after iron rung, and trails that lead to gorgeous overlooks.

Hikes Featured in the Traveler

South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain

* Any visit to Acadia National Park should involve a walk in the woods. Whether you're just looking for a short lake-side stroll or a more demanding trek up the Precipice Trail, there are options for most visitors. Perhaps my favorite hike in the park is the 7.4-mile-long roundtrip up the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain.

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Other Hikes At Acadia

Beehive Trail

Although just an 0.8-mile roundtrip from the trailhead across from Sand Beach, the Beehive Trail is not to be underestimated. There are some sections where you need to climb hand-over-hand up iron rungs pounded into the granite cliffs, but when you reach the top you'll enjoy great views of Frenchman Bay and the Atlantic.

Here are five more hikes, favorites of Lynn Fantom, who writes frequently about Acadia on her blog, Our Acadia.

Jordan Cliffs & Bluffs to Penobscot Mountain

This 4.3-mile loop, sections of which were constructed before 1900, makes me feel like a kid. Stone steps, iron rungs and railings, ladders, and bridges over ravines combine with great views of Jordan Pond on the ascent. That alone would make this a spectacular hike, but the 360-degree views atop Penobscot deliver sheer bliss.

Giant Slide Trail & Grandgent to Sargent Mountain

Also in the Jordan Pond area, I like the Giant Slide Trail along Sargent Brook and the steep Grandgent climb. You get two peaks for the price of one: first, spectacular views from Gilmore Peak and then from Sargent Mountain. I make the 5.4 mile loop by descending on the North Ridge Trail, which Tom St. Germain recommends for its excellent views of Somes Sound.

The Precipice to Champlain Mountain

This short, but exhilarating hike deserves its notoriety. It’s a 1,160 vertical gain or loss, depending on how you look at it, but I don’t recommend you look down. After all, this trail takes you up the sheer east face of Champlain Mountain. Rungs and ladders help, but some ledges have no protection. At the top the views of the Atlantic and Frenchman Bay are equally breaktaking.

Acadia Mountain

I’ve done this hike again and again, not only because it is my favorite way to introduce new people to Acadia hiking, but I just love it. Both on the trail and at the peaks (two of them), there are superior vistas. In fact, the steep descent down the eastern side of Acadia Mountain offers some of our most-photographed views of Somes Sound.

Beech Mountain

Atop this 849’ mountain is a fire tower that boosts your viewing pleasure. And at its base is wonderful Long Pond that affords the opportunity to combine this hike with a little kayaking. My preferred route for this hike is to go up the West Ridge and descend on Valley Trail, which is thickly wooded and covered in moss and lichen. Another option is to descend to Echo Lake Beach, where you can leave your bikes for the trip back to Long Pond, making this a hiking/biking/kayaking triathalon.

Next to water and great hiking boots, the necessity I also recommend for hiking in Acadia is the trail map of Mount Desert Island published by Map Adventures. It clearly shows the 110 miles of hiking trails, as well as 57 miles of carriage roads, signpost numbers included. Believe me, though Acadia’s trails are well-marked, you can take wrong routes and end up well out of your way, exhausted. In the past I've been stopped by other hikers with less-detailed maps who were quite confused.

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