Acadia National Park – 5 Best Acadia Hikes

Updated: March 28, 2023
Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is located midway along Maine’s coast, on Mount Desert Island and is roughly 264 miles from Boston.

Acadia has over 120 miles of hiking paths that wind through the park. The hikes cater to any experience-level, although they vary from very easy beach side strolls to strenuous mountaineering adventures.

Here are our top 5 hikes in Arcadia National Park.

See Best hikes in America for a complete list of hiking trails in the USA or read our writer's overview of her summit experience on the Mount Katahdin and her treks along the Cutler Coast.

Acadia Quick Facts

  • The park is one of the best places on the east coast to view the Milky Way galaxy at night.
  • Between 7 October to 6 March, the Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the US where the sunrise can be seen.
  • The region around Acadia National Park receives about 46 inches of rain each year.
  • Snowfall averages at about 60 inches a year.
  • Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the US Atlantic coast.
  • Over 20% of the park is classified as wetland.
  • Mount Desert Island is home to 26 lakes and ponds, the deepest of which is 150 feet.
  • In 2016, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Acadia Park.
  • The area of Acadia was originally inhabited by the Wabanaki people.
  • Bass Harbour Head Light is the only lighthouse in Acadia.
  • There are over 338 species of birds.

5 Best Hikes In Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of America’s oldest national parks and attracts over 3.3 million visitors each year. The park is reserves most of Mount Desert Island, some of the smaller islands along the coast of Marine and a section of the Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland.

With over 45 miles of roads and 130 miles of hiking trails to explore, hiking and cycling are two of the park's most popular activities.

Here are my favourite Acadia National Park trails:

  • Precipice Trail
  • Wonderland Trail
  • Beehive Trail
  • Ocean Path
  • Ship Harbor Trail

1. Precipice Trail


Photo by FeedPuppy

  • Area: Acadia National Park: Along Park Loop road, near Schooner Head entrance.
  • Permit: Entrance fee to gain access to the park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous / Advanced (The most challenging of Acadia Hikes)
  • Distance: 2,6 miles for complete loop.
  • Elevation: 850-ft elevation gain
  • Hiking Time: 3 - 5 hours for complete hike loop.
  • Best Time to Hike: mid -August to November

The Precipice Trail heads up the Champlain Mountain. The trail is known as the most challenging in the park due to its 1,000 foot climb. Although the trail starts in a friendly manner, it quickly gets rugged as it heads west to the slopes under the Champlain Mountain.

While on the Precipice Trail, wooden bridges and iron handrails allow hikers to traverse narrow, exposed ledges, making it easier to scramble over boulders and other natural obstacles.

As you hike straight up the cliff face, the iron handrails and ladders will become more frequent. Upon reaching the summit of Mount Champlain you will be rewarded with impressive views of the ocean and Dorr Mountain.

The trail can be dangerous, so it's better t avoid descending the Precipice Trail and rather return on the Champlain North Ridge Trail. The return trip to trail parking lot is a breeze in comparison to the hike up.


Cromwell Harbour Motel, Otter Creek Inn.

Precipice Trail Pro Tips

  • This route is the most strenuous in the park and needs to be taken seriously. Keep in mind the weather, time of day and your own abilities and level of physical fitness.
  •  As you often use your hands when traversing up ladders, it is better not to use hiking poles.
  • The surface is all rocks and ledge, so make sure you are kitted out in the right shoes.
  • The trail is closed between March and August due to nesting and returning endangered peregrine falcons.
  • No pets are allowed on this hike.

2. Wonderland Trail

  • Area: Acadia National Park, South West Harbour
  • Permit: Entrance fee to gain access to the park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1,5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation: Predominately level
  • Hiking Time: About 1 hour
  • Best Time to Hike: March to November

Wonderland Trail runs at the Southern Tip of Mount Desert Island. Leading to the ocean via an old road, the trail is very flat and easy to follow. When the road reaches the ocean you might want to venture off the trek and explore the rocky shore line instead.

With its magnificent woodlands and rocky beaches, Wonderland Trail is great for birdwatching enthusiasts and families in particular. 


Bass Harbour Inn, Seawall Motel, Spruce Cottage and The Lodge-ings at Southwest Harbour.

Wonderland Trail Pro Tips

  • There can be lots of people on this trail, so going earlier in the day is advised if you would like to avoid lots of people in the background of your hiking pictures.
  • Running on an old gravel road, the trail is predominately wheelchair-friendly.
  • If you'd like to explore the tidal pools, it is a good idea to plan your trek with the outgoing tide. Check this on this website
  • This route is pet friendly.

3. Beehive Trail

  • Area: Acadia National Park, Sand Beach area
  • Permit: Entrance fee to gain access to the park
  • Difficulty: Advanced 
  • Distance: 1,9 miles
  • Elevation: 450 ft elevation gain
  • Hiking Time: 2 - 4 hours
  • Best Time to Hike: March to November

Route Description

The Beehive Trail begins on the Bowl Trail, however, the path splits and the Beehive continues to the base of the Beehive Mountain. Here the trail works its way up breaks and faults in the granite. The exhilarating first section of the trail has iron rungs to help you ascend the steep cliff face. There is a fair amount of scrambling involved, but the incredible view at the top makes it worth it.

The descent climb is much easier, and you have the choice of returning through a deciduous forest to the Bowl Trail, or via the longer Gorham Mountain Trails and Ocean Path back to Sand Beach. Descending the Beehive is dangerous and not recommended.


Otter Creek Inn is the closest accommodation, followed by Blackwoods Campground.

Beehive Trail Pro Tips

  • Due to sheer drop ledges on the Beehive Trail, you might wish to skip it, if you have a fear of heights or are unsteady on your feet.
  • The lake nestled between two peaks on the decent hike is a popular place for a swim, just be warned - there are leeches.
  • This trail is quite popular, so there may be many people en-route.
  • Pets are not allowed on this trail due to the iron rungs and steep nature.

4. Ocean Path


Photo by Jim Lukach

  • Area: Acadia National Park, Bar Harbour
  • Permit: Entrance fee to gain access to the park
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles one way
  • Elevation: Predominately level
  • Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours
  • Best Time to Hike: March to November

The Ocean Path begins near Sand Beach and is less than half a mile from the park’s entrance. The hike is a leisurely stroll along the path hugging the coast line.

Several trails lead off the main trail, so if you are feeling adventurous you could stray off the path and explore the surrounding granite formations.

The trail is home to many beautiful landmarks, and it's worth spending some time viewing these. Thunder Hole, Momentum Cave and Boulder Beach are all popular tourist stopping points.


Blackwood’s Campground, Otter Creek and Bar Harbour. Closest accommodation is Otter Creek Inn.

Ocean Path Pro Tips

  • During the summer months the trail is hugely popular, so parking at the Sand Beach parking lot may be scarce.
  • To avoid the crowds in the summer months, plan to walk either early or late.
  • Poison Ivy grows along the path in some sections, so be aware of this if you have pets or small children with you.
  • If you plan to explore the surrounding granite rocks remember to wear the right hiking gear.

5. Ship Harbor Trail


Photo by Misty Garrick

  • Area: Acadia National Park, South West Harbour.
  • Permit: Entrance fee to gain access to the park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1,3 miles
  • Elevation: Predominately level
  • Hiking Time: Roughly 1 hour
  • Best Time to Hike: March to November, spring to fall.

The Ship Harbour is a family friendly, figure 8 loop trail which allows exploration of both a beautiful forest section and the shoreline. The route is popular with bird watchers, as both the forest and the coast, are home to a variety of bird life.

If you would like to extend your hike it is possible to continue along the shore line towards the Wonderland Trail.


Seawall campground.

Ship Harbor Trail Pro Tips

  • The trail has a small parking lot with no bus parking.
  • The first half of the trail is wheelchair accessible.
  • If you want to explore the tidal pools, keep the tide in mind when planning your trip.

Acadia National Park Hiking Map

Acadia National Park Waterproof Trail Map, Maine

There are many free maps available on the area. The park can be divided into three areas: Schoodic Peninsula, The Isle of Au Haut and the Mount Desert Island.

But if you need to prep your route in advance and have a trusty physical copy with you while you are on the trails, we suggest getting Acadia National Park Waterproof Trail Map, Maine by Jill Keefe, which is waterproof and very handy en route.

Hiking Permits

You won't require hiking permits for any of the listed hikes below, these will be covered by your park entrance fees. But have a look at the National Park Service's website for more information on specific activity permits.

Recommended Guidebook

Acadia: The Complete Guide: Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island (Color Travel Guide)

For an awesome book of general things to do in Acadia National Park (and Mount Desert Island), hiking tails, backpacking trails and more, we recommend Acadia: The Complete Guide: Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island (Color Travel Guide) by Kristen James.

Acadia Hikes FAQ

When is the best time to go on Acadia hikes?

The best time to visit the park is from September to early October. This time is best to avoid the summer crowds but is just prior to the temperature dropping below freezing.

July to August is when the weather is best but it is when Acadia is most crowded.

Do I need a reservation to go on an Acadia hike?

All park visitors are required to pay entrance upon entry from May to October. Passes can be bought and printed online.

How much are Acadia entrance fees?

See the below pass prices, valid for 7 days:

  • Per person $15
  • Per motorcycle $25
  • Per vehicle $30

Are Acadia hikes difficult?

The hikes vary from very easy to fairly strenuous and technical. However, they are a variety of hikes that accommodate all abilities – some even being wheelchair friendly.

What wildlife can I see in Acadia National Park?

Acadia is home to a variety of wildlife. You can expect to see Puffins, Peregrine Falcons and a variety of sea birds and song birds.

The park is also home to otters, foxes, deer and the occasional moose and bear (but sightings are very rare). Whales and seals can sometimes be spotted from the parks coastline.

There are over 1,500 species of plants, birds and animals; and the park has nature centres where you can learn more about the resident wildlife. 

The park is especially well known for its birds, with a record of 338 species recorded. Each year, some of the parks trails are closed to accommodate nesting Peregrine Falcons.

What is the travel distance to the park from Boston or Bangor?

Acadia National Park is 50 miles from Bangor, Maine and 264 miles from Boston.

When is Acadia Naitonal Park open?

The park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. However, certain sections and roads in the park are closed depending on the season.

Where can I eat out in the park?

Jordan Pond House Restaurant is the only dining facility in the park, however, many dining options are available in nearby communities.

Do you need a car when visiting the park?

The island has a transportation service called the Island Explorer. The service is made up of nine bus routes which link campgrounds, hotels, in-town-shops and inns with destinations in the park and nearby villages.

Is altitude sickness a risk?

Not really – altitude sickness only becomes a concern when reaching altitudes of 8,000 feet or gaining over 3,000 feet in one day.

What gear do I need?

The hikes in Acadia vary in difficulty and terrain. This means that the gear you need will depend on the type of hiking you are planning on doing and what time of year you are going. 

However, it is always important to bring plenty of food and water, as well as sun protection, no matter which route you pick. You can never go wrong with a good pair of hiking boots and a headlamp, just in case you underestimate how long the hike may take you.

To help you plan and prepare for your hike, we recommend reading our gear section and Packing list.

About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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