Acadia’s Best Hiking Trails

acadia-100The park is a day hiker’s paradise with some 125 miles of trails, from shoreline strolls to rocky, exposed ridge routes. Here are a few of our favorites.

From our 2016 100 Years of Acadia issue!

The Precipice

Hey, Tarzan, this one’s for you: a 1,058-foot jungle gym on the east side of Champlain Mountain. You climb along narrow ledges that zigzag up the cliff face, using iron rungs and ladders where no other footing exists. Terrific views over Frenchman Bay. (Swinging vines not included; loincloth optional.)


Trailhead: Park Loop Rd., 2 miles beyond the Sieur de Monts Spring entrance
Length: 1.3 miles to summit; 2.8-mile round trip returning via Orange & Black Path
Difficulty: Challenging (perhaps more psychologically than physically)

The Bubbles

From your table at Jordan Pond House, the Bubbles on the opposite shore look like rounded, bald, identical twins. But once you hike up, you find it’s an optical illusion: at 872 feet, North Bubble is 106 feet higher than South Bubble. Both overlook glittery Jordan Pond, and South Bubble compensates for its short stature with Bubble Rock, a 10-foot-high boulder that seems to teeter on a cliff edge. It’s been the inspiration for countless photographs of hikers pretending to push the darned thing off.

Find the glacial erratic known as Bubble Rock along the South Bubble trail. You’ll find some killer views out over Jordan Pond too.

Trailhead: Park Loop Rd., 1.1 miles south of Bubble Pond
Length: 2.4-mile round trip taking in both summits via Bubbles Divide and Bubbles trails
Difficulty: Moderate

Stairways on the Mountains

Acadia’s trails are among the world’s most beautiful, not only for the scenery, but also for the paths themselves, many of which incorporate elaborate stairways, painstakingly built with hundreds of heavy granite blocks by Acadia’s early pathmakers. Some are steep and narrow, like those ascending the Ladder Trail up Dorr Mountain. Others are winding and exposed, like along Champlain Mountain’s Beachcroft Trail, where weathered stairs cut across forbidding boulder fields. Some trails consist of little more than stairways, like Honan’s Path, where some 400 spiraling stairs lead to sweeping views of Great Meadow and Strawberry Hill.

The challenging ladder trail up 1,270-foot Dorr Mountain makes use of Acadia’s characteristic stone stairways.

Great Head

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You’re Jane Eyre, cloak billowing in the wind as you run down a rocky path and across a brooding moor. Oh, okay, you’re not Jane Eyre — you’ve never even owned a cloak — but who can blame you for indulging in a little romantic escapism atop this windswept headland? You walk its edge, high above crashing waves, and pass the ruins of a 1900s stone castle — er, teahouse — before descending to Sand Beach. The protected beach is one of the park’s more popular sites and great for a dip if you don’t mind the chilly ocean water.

Trailhead: East end of Sand Beach
Length: 2-mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate

Beech and Canada Cliffs

The stone staircase is easy to miss, but once you’ve spied it, you can’t resist climbing into the lush forest of Beech Mountain from the southwestern shore of Echo Lake. Dramatic views of the lake and ocean reward a short, knee-quakingly steep climb to Beech Cliff (we’re talking switchbacks and iron ladders embedded in the rock). Near the end of the loop, Canada Cliff awaits with views of Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains.

Trailhead: Echo Lake parking area, Rte. 102, Southwest Harbor
Length: 1.8-mile loop on the Beech Cliff, Beech Cliff Loop, and Canada Cliff trails
Difficulty: Moderate, except for the steep and strenuous first half-mile

Photographs: Cait Bourgault (Precipice and Stairways); Charlie Widdis (Bubble Rock)

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