The Must-Do Hikes in Acadia NP (2024)

Home to rugged coastlines and pristine woodlands, Acadia National Park is a hiker’s paradise.

Whether you’re looking for a short jaunt along the coast or a long day full of adventure, here are 8 of the must-do hikes in Acadia National Park for your next trip.

Cadillac South Ridge Trail

  • Length : 7 miles
  • Difficulty : Hard
  • Estimated Time : 4 to 8 hours
  • Best Time : October

Although you could drive to the summit, nothing beats the experience of climbing up to the top of Acadia’s tallest peak, Cadillac Mountain, under your own power. The South Ridge Trail starts just west of the town of Otter Creek off of Route 3, however, it’s also accessible from the nearby Blackwoods Campground.

Since the trail starts out just slightly higher than sea level, there’s a whole lot of elevation gain that goes into getting to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Along the way, you get to see some beautiful crags, idyllic forests, stunning alpine vegetation, and glistening ponds, all of which offer some fantastic places to stop and take in the scenery.

Once you reach the summit, you can gaze out over Mount Desert Island and the vast Atlantic Ocean. If you plan your hike just right, and wake up in the wee hours of the morning, you can even reach the top of the mountain in time to watch the sunrise before heading back down to your car.

Beehive Trail

  • Length : 2 miles
  • Difficulty : Hard
  • Estimated Time : 2 to 4 hours
  • Best Time : August

If you’re steady on your feet and enjoy a bit of scrambling over exposed terrain, the Beehive Trail is an exhilarating must-do hike in Acadia National Park. Short but sweet, this trail starts at the Bowl Trailhead near Sand Beach, which is easily accessible via the Island Explorer bus line.

After leaving the trailhead, you’ll start on a relatively flat path through a lush forest until reaching a trail junction. From here, the trail starts to climb steadily until you make your way to the base of The Beehive, where the fun really begins.

A true testament to human ingenuity, this trail skirts along the edge of a steep cliff, along a narrow path with handrails, iron rung ladders, metal planks, and manufactured steps to help you make it to the summit.

Once you overcome these obstacles, you eventually make it to the summit of The Beehive, where you can take in the view of Sand Beach and the surrounding area. When it’s time to head back to camp, you can either return the way you came or make a loop with the reset of the Bowl Trail for an added adventure.

Important Note : This trail has large, unprotected drops and is not suitable for young children, anyone that feels unsteady on their feet, or has a substantial fear of heights. A sturdy pair of hiking shoes is essential for this trail.

Precipice Trail

  • Length : 2.5 miles
  • Difficulty : Very hard
  • Estimated Time : 2 to 3 hours
  • Best Time : October

Often regarded as Acadia National Park’s most thrilling hike, the Precipice Trail is a steep, strenuous path to the summit of Champlain Mountain. It starts off right from Park Loop Road (parking is very limited, so take the free Island Explorer bus!) and begins climbing right away.

Although it’s just about 1.25 miles long one way, the Precipice Trail gains over 1000’ feet of elevation during that time, tackling large boulder fields and steep terrain. Some of the most exciting parts of this trail come toward the end, where the path transitions into a series of narrow ledges and wooden bridges that hover high above the valley floor below.

After scrambling up a final section of rocky ledges and an iron rung ladder, the aptly named Precipice Trail finally tops out on the cliffy summit of Champlain Mountain, providing excellent views of Bar Harbor. When you’re done enjoying the vistas, you can head back down the North Ridge Trail, which allows you to skip the steep terrain and enjoy a more mellow hike on the descent.

Important Note : Like the Beehive Trail, this trail has large, unprotected drops and is not suitable for young children, anyone that feels unsteady on their feet, or has a substantial fear of heights. Consider the North Ridge Trail instead if you want to reach the summit on a more casual hike.

Beech Cliff Trail

  • Length : 1.8 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 2 to 4 hours
  • Best Time : August

For a more secluded walk in the mountains that still has plenty of excitement along the way, the Beech Cliff Trail is a sure bet. This short hike offers a good chance to check out the more remote western side of Mount Desert Island and provides an abundance of stunning views.

After departing from the Echo Lake Trailhead, the Beech Cliff Trail follows a gentle path through the woods before it reaches a steep uphill section with a beautiful look at the lake below. The trail continues onward, getting steeper and steeper until you reach a series of iron ladders that take you to the top of the cliffs.

At the summit, you can take in the views of the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy a small picnic before heading back down the Canada Cliffs Trail.

While the Beech Cliff Trail isn’t as exposed as the Beehive or Precipice Trail, it is steep and climbing the ladders can be difficult. The Canada Cliffs Trail is a great alternative hike for folks that don’t quite feel steady on their feet.

Ocean Path

  • Length : 4 miles
  • Difficulty : Easy to Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 2 to 3 hours
  • Best Time : August

A kid-friendly classic, the Ocean Path is a fantastic option for groups that want a casual stroll by the seaside.

The Ocean Path begins at the Sand Beach parking area, so it’s a nice hike to do before you go relax on the beach. After you leave the parking area, the path follows a relatively level and friendly gravel-covered trail that ducks in and out of the forest for great views of the ocean.

It gives you the chance to visit some of the best-known sites and sounds of Acadia, including Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, and the popular Boulder Beach, the latter of which is home to an impressively large collection of bowling-ball sized rocks.

You can also check out the famous Otter Cliff before continuing onward to the trail’s terminus at Otter Point, where you can turn around and walk back to Sand Beach after taking in the views.

Great Head Trail

  • Length : 2 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Time : August

Another great family hike, the Great Head Trail starts off at the Sand Beach parking lot and heads north to explore the jagged coast of the eastern part of Mount Desert Island. This trail does involve a small amount of scrambling, but its relatively short length makes it a nice option for people that only have a few hours to spare.

From the get-go, the Great Head Trail is fairly casual with a short uphill section to the top of a set of cliffs. It eventually makes its way back down to the waterline, providing families with small children plenty of opportunities to explore the coastline.

If you want a shorter hike, you can always choose to take the shortcut trail back to Sand Beach to cut the mileage in half. Alternatively, you can continue onward for the entire loop hike back to the parking lot, enjoying great views the entire time.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse Trail

  • Length : 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Estimated Time : 30 minutes
  • Best Time : August

One of the most recognizable landmarks in the park, the Bass Harbor Lighthouse is accessible via a short, scenic hike along the southern edge of Mount Desert Island. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse Trail is particularly easy to access from the Quietside Campground or the Bass Harbor Campground, though the Island Explorer Shuttle also operates in the area.

This well-maintained trail departs the parking area and follows a path through the woods until you reach the edge of the lighthouse area. Upon arrival, you can stroll across a wooden boardwalk and up a short stairway to the main viewing area, which is one of the best spots to snap a photo of the lighthouse.

If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, you can scramble along the rocky shoreline to get a different view of the area. Alternatively, after you return to the parking lot, you can continue enjoying the beauty of the southern part of the island by hiking either the Wonderland or Ship Harbor Trails.

Western Head & Cliff Trails

  • Length : 4.7 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate to hard
  • Estimated Time : 2 to 4 hours
  • Best Time : August

Remote and stunning, the Western Head and Cliff Trails are the perfect way to spend your time if you’re camping at Duck Harbor on Isle au Haut or if you’re just visiting the island for the day. Although they’re technically separate trails, these two paths form a single loop that leaves from the Duck Harbor boat launch and campground area.

Immediately after departing the boat launch, the Cliff Trail begins its meander along the rugged coastline, providing an excellent series of viewpoints along the way. The trail takes you down toward the southern edge of the island before it transitions into the Western Head Trail about halfway through.

Throughout the second half of the hike, you can view some intriguing rocky outcroppings, pebble beaches, and great views before heading back to the docks, just in time for the boat back to the mainland.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.