15 Jaw-Dropping Hikes in Acadia National Park for All Levels
By Kay Rodriguez
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Updated October 22, 2021
As one of the only national parks in the New England area, Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful and beloved green spaces in the country. With expansive evergreen forests that border rocky sea cliffs, there’s no lack of variety for hiking in Acadia National Park! While you won’t find fourteeners to hike like in Denver or Breckenridge, there are a number of trails that span leisurely paths to challenging rock scrambles. After spending several days hiking, walking, and wandering around the park, we’ve created this list of our favorite hikes in Acadia National Park so you can experience the best this beautiful national park has to offer!
Easy Hiking in Acadia National Park
Trail Length: 2 miles one-way (4 miles round trip)
Elevation Gain: Minimal
The Ocean Path is one of the quintessential hikes in Acadia that borders some of the most spectacular shorelines in the park. While it’s less of a traditional “hike” than an oceanside stroll, it’s a great introductory activity for visitors to the park because it passes by famous landmarks like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs.
Small rocky outcroppings leading off from the trail to the sea offer hikers a choose-your-own-adventure type of walk where you can climb over rocks and enjoy sweeping vistas of the water and the surrounding rocky cliffs. It’s an absolutely perfect place to start your trip no matter your hiking experience level, and it’s family and dog friendly, too!
Ship Harbor Trail
Trail Length: 1.3 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
If you’re looking for an easy path that’s a little less crowded than the popular Ocean Path, head to Ship Harbor trail for another beautiful spot to go hiking in Acadia National Park. In our opinion, this is the most beautiful easy hike in the entire park, with stunning views of the shoreline and easy, flat paths through the forest that are child and dog friendly.
This 1.3-mile path offers visitors a scenic stroll through the forest that opens up to rocky seaside areas, filled with pebbled shorelines and tide pools filled with marine wildlife during low tide. We’d recommend taking your time on this short trail to explore some of the rocky areas and admire the views, especially around sunset when the horizon glows bright orange on clear days.
One of the less-visited areas of Acadia National Park is the Schoodic Peninsula, which is across the bay from the main dredges of the park. You can get here by car or by ferry (seasonally), and in the area, you’ll get a much more quiet, secluded experience in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the park. Within the peninsula, we’d recommend exploring some of the seaside areas like Raven’s Nest and Blueberry Hill, or tackling the 2.2-mile Alder and Anvil trail loop to enjoy an otherworldly vibe in a much less crowded environment.
Trail Length: 1.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 170 feet
Acadia’s Bar Island is a popular place to visit in the summer, and there’s a 1.8-mile trail spanning from the mainland and around the island that’s perfect for visitors to enjoy. Unlike many of these trails on our list, Bar Island’s path starts in Bar Harbor (the closest town to the park) and extends across a bridge into the island. It’s also shared with cars. Because it’s such a popular trail, we’d recommend getting there early or enjoying it later in the day when the crowds are a bit calmer and smaller.
Gorham Mountain Trail
Trail Length: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 449 feet
For sweeping summit views on a trail accessible to hikers of all experience levels, Gorham Mountain is a perfect spot for hiking in Acadia. With a gradual incline that brings hikers from the Ocean Path up to the summit of this mountain, visitors can enjoy ocean views at the rocky summit of the mountain after wandering through a mostly shaded trail through the forest.
Dog- and family-friendly, the Gorham Mountain trail is one of the most popular in the park. We’d recommend arriving early to ensure you can find a place to park and avoid the massive crowds that arrive during the peak hours of the day.
Trail Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
If you’d like to take a break from the seaside and visit a tranquil forest lake instead, Jordan Pond is one of the most beautiful easy hikes in Acadia. This 3.4-mile trail borders the scenic Jordan Pond, which is situated in the middle of a quiet forest area. While this is an easy pathway for families and dogs, it’s fairly rocky and provides a varied terrain that will keep you on your toes. In the fall, it’s a fantastic spot for admiring the fall foliage colors, with trees that glow yellow, orange, and red as the air gets chillier in Acadia.
Moderate Hikes in Acadia National Park
The Bubbles Trail
Trail Length: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,551 feet
One of our favorite Acadia National Park hikes is the Bubbles Trail, a fun, rocky path that boasts stunning views of Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, and several waterways off in the distance. The highlight of the trail are the namesake rocky outcroppings called the North and South Bubbles, as well as a viewpoint of Eagle Lake called Conners Nubble.
This moderate trail has some rocky uphill/scramble areas, but is suitable for most hikers and dogs who are up for a challenge! Note that the area near Conners Nubble/Eagle Lake is especially rocky, so we’d recommend a sturdy pair of hiking boots and some trekking poles if you want some extra stability.
Sargeant Mountain Trail
Trail Length: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,318 feet
We asked a park ranger what her favorite hikes in Acadia National Park were, and she told us that the Sargeant Trail was her absolute favorite. Lightly trafficked and boasting sweeping vistas from the summit, the Sargeant Trail is one of the longer trails in the park and has some of the most beautiful views. It’s also dog friendly and perfect for a longer adventure through the less-trodden Southwest Harbor area of the park. Our park ranger recommended starting at the Penobscot Mountain parking lot and making our way up the south ridge of Sargeant Mountain to the peak.
Champlain Mountain North Ridge
Trail Length: 1.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 833 feet
As one of the more popular Acadia National Park hikes, Champlain Mountain is often combined with a trek to the Beehive and the Bowl, but can certainly be done on its own as well. The North Ridge of the mountain has a few steep inclines and rocky areas, but is mostly a moderate incline to the summit, where you can see amazing views of the islands across the water. We’d recommend solid, sturdy hiking boots for this hike and trekking poles for extra support, as the rocks on the way down can be brutal on the knees and are often slippery after rains or in the morning fog.
Beech Cliff Trail
Trail Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 547 feet
If you’re looking for the adrenaline-inducing ladder climbs of the Beehive or Precipice trails without the crowds or the difficulty, the Beech Cliff Trail will give it to you in a more low-key environment. This 1.4-mile trail features rock scrambles and metal ladders, but in a much easier and safer setting more suitable for children and less experienced hikers. There are rock staircases throughout a good chunk of the trail, but it’s short enough to keep you on your toes until the very top. At the pinnacle, the summit boasts lovely views of Echo Lake and several of the forests and lakes in the distance.
Challenging Acadia National Park Hikes
The Beehive & Bowl
Trail Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 488 feet
Possibly the most popular of the hikes in Acadia National Park, the Beehive and Bowl trails are located across the road from Sand Beach and offer spectacular shoreline and mountain views. However, this hike is tricky (and famous) for its jagged, rocky climbs and ladder rungs that help hikers climb nearly 500 feet in less than half a mile. Yes, you’ll be using your hands and feet on this hike, so we’d only recommend doing the Beehive on dry, sunny days when the rocks aren’t slippery or wet. At the top, you’ll see epic views of Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, the surrounding mountains and lakes, and the ocean.
NOTE: This trail is only for experienced hikers and should be done with extreme caution. People have fallen and died on this trail, so do not take it lightly. No dogs allowed here and it’s definitely not advised to bring young children either.
Trail Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,053 feet
An even harder version of the Beehive trail is the Precipice Trail, which is another one of the most popular (and dangerous) trails in Acadia National Park. If you’re willing to practice safety and work hard, the trail itself can be really fun and thrilling, and the views from the top of the ocean and the coastline are out of this world. Throughout this rocky cliffside climb, you’ll find rock “staircases,” metal ladders and rungs, and good old fashioned scrambling. Not for the faint of heart!
Be sure to wear proper footwear (read: hiking boots) for this hike and start early to avoid the massive crowds that start to show up mid-morning on sunny days. We would not recommend doing this hike on foggy/damp days or in the rain, as the rocks and metal ladders/rungs can get very slippery and are increasingly dangerous in these conditions.
NOTE: Like the Beehive, the Precipice trail is only for experienced hikers and should be done with extreme caution. Several people have fallen and died on these trails, so do not take them lightly. No dogs allowed here and it’s definitely not advised to bring young children either.
Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail
Trail Length: 2.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,131 feet
If you’re seeking more of a heart-thumping workout than scenic views, the Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail is a great option for hiking in Acadia National Park. With a strenuous uphill and a few sets of ladders to get to the summit, this hike will get you working many different parts of your body across its short, 2.7-mile length. The summit does have nice views (though others, like the Beehive/Precipice views, are prettier), but the real fun on the Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail is the journey. Like most trails with scrambling and ladder climbing, we don’t recommend doing this one it wet, foggy, or rainy conditions.
Acadia & St. Sauveur Summits
Trail Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,167 feet
Want to tackle two summits in a day? The Acadia and St. Sauveur Summits trail is one of the most fun and underrated hikes in Acadia National Park. Acadia’s namesake mountaintop boasts beautiful views of the sound below, and offers experienced hikers some fun scrambling and rocky trails to traverse. St. Sauveur also offers spellbinding views (though we think the views from Acadia are a smidge prettier), and a thrilling climb through the forest up above the trees to the rocky pinnacle. When we did this trail, we went in the afternoon on a weekday and were alone most of the way! These trails are especially beautiful in the fall, when the vibrant leaves juxtapose against the cool colors of the water.
North & South Pemetic Ridge
Trail Length: 6.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,870 feet
Perhaps the most fun of the longer Acadia National Park hiking trails is the North & South Pemetic Ridge, which offers stunning views of Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, and beyond. At 6.6 miles of trails, this ridge offers a challenging, strenuous climb with some seriously magical panoramas from the top. Don’t take it lightly, though, this challenging trail is a sweat-inducing workout for experienced hikers. The path is full of rock scrambling and steep ascents. The rewards at the top are absolutely worth it, as you’ll get to see some of the best views in Acadia National Park!
Additional Resources for Acadia National Park Hiking
What to Pack
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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