The Classics: 5 Must-Hike Trails in Acadia National Park

From the mountains to the shore, bucket-list trails that show off quintessential Acadia terrain.

The Classics: 5 Must-Hike Trails in Acadia National Park
A view of the Beehive.
Part of “Acadia’s 30 Best Trails
Photographed by Chris Shane

1. The Bubbles

The view of the Bubbles from Jordan Pond is postcard Acadia, and the views from the twin rounded peaks are just as idyllic. Following the Bubbles Divide Trail, you’ll ascend stone and wooden steps to reach the Bubbles Trail junction. It doesn’t matter which Bubble you climb first: Head right for the North Bubble summit, with its views of Pemetic and Sargent mountains and the Cranberry Isles. Head left to clamber up South Bubble for a panoramic view of Jordan Pond. Follow blazes from the South Bubble summit to check out Bubble Rock, a glacial erratic that looks as if it’s one kick away from plunging off the mountain. It’s actually quite stable — the 100-ton mammoth has been there for over ten thousand years. 1.6 miles out and back from the Bubbles Divide trailhead, on the Park Loop Rd., 1.5 miles north of Jordan Pond.

2. Beehive

The climb up this glacially sheared nubbin is wicked steep and utterly exposed and a deeply irresponsible choice for children or folks afraid of heights. For the rest of us, there’s no half-mile hike in Maine as thrilling or memorable as the route from the Sand Beach parking lot to Beehive’s 535-foot summit. The ascent up stone steps, rungs, and ladders doesn’t require athleticism so much as fortitude — most able-bodied adults in okay shape can do it in a half hour. The payoff is a whopper of an ocean vista and a view inland of roadless Acadia splendor, rows of mountain ridges and the pretty high-country pond called the Bowl. Follow the Beehive Trail to the pond’s southern shore, then take the Bowl Trail back to the trailhead, a (much!) gentler descent. 1.4-mile loop from the Bowl trailhead, on the Park Loop Rd., across from the Sand Beach parking lot.

Scenes from the Beehive Trail, where, as National Park Service materials explain, “people challenge their bodies and minds . . . and are rewarded with stunning views over Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and the Gulf of Maine stretching to the horizon.” Click a photo to enlarge.

3. Ocean Path

Paris has the Champs-Élysées. Vegas has its Strip. Acadia has the Ocean Path. Starting above the western side of Sand Beach, the path hits one marquee sight after another: the percussive underwater cave at Thunder Hole, the pink-granite sea stack in Monument Cove, the smooth stones click-clacking against each other like pool balls on Boulder Beach, and the toe-tingling perspective from atop Otter Cliff. Consequently, crowds get heavy, especially between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole. On busy days, consider starting from the path’s opposite end, at Otter Point parking area. In the three quarters of a mile from there to Boulder Beach, the trail dips away from the road, into evergreen woods and past ragged slabs of granite that offer ample quiet spots to inhale deeply the comingling scents of needles and sea. 2.1 miles one way from Otter Point to Sand Beach, with multiple access points along the Park Loop Rd.

4. Acadia–St. Sauveur Loop

You’ll use your legs and arms clambering over rocky terrain on the way up the Acadia Mountain Trail, but if you have any breath left at the summit, the views of Southwest Harbor and Somes Sound will take it away. Then, it’s back down into the saddle between Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains — legs and arms again — followed by an ascent of St. Sauveur on the Valley Peak Trail, with more great views of the sound before you reach the wooded summit. From there, it’s a gradual descent to your car along the St. Sauveur Mountain Trail — mellow enough that you might forget you’ve gained and lost 1,200 feet of elevation on the day. 4-mile loop from the Acadia Mountain trailhead, on Rte. 102, 3 miles north of downtown Southwest Harbor.

5. Jordan Pond Path

The trail that traces the Jordan Pond shoreline is Acadia National Park in a nutshell: one part genteel, one part gently rugged. On the pond’s eastern side, the path is unfailingly level and neatly graveled — a sidewalk, essentially. The western side, on the other hand, involves some fancy footwork around uneven boulders, plus balancing along a zigzaggy succession of bog bridges. Looking south to north across the water, there’s the often-photographed vista of the twin Bubbles peaks, framed on either side by the bulky shoulders of Penobscot and Pemetic mountains. From any section of trail, though, the views of the crystal-clear pond and surrounding slopes are lovely. It’s the park interior’s equivalent of the Ocean Path — well-trodden, and for good reason. 3.5-mile loop from the Jordan Pond parking area, on the Park Loop Rd., just north of Seal Harbor.

Read up on all 30 of our favorite Acadia National Park trails.

Down East Magazine, August 2021