Boy jumping on rocks near ocean in Acadia National Park
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My Favorite 3 Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a natural wonderland. A jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, adrenaline-pumping, soul-feeding wonderland.

It’s one thing to visit the park and stay at a hotel nearby and drive through the park for some gorgeous views and Instagram-worthy pics. That works for some folks.

That doesn’t work for me. With our RV lifestyle, we are more “in tune” with, and in touch with, our natural surroundings. Outdoor living is an important part of our adventurous existence.

From the top of the Precipice Trail, you can get the view of a lifetime out over the park and even the town of Bar Harbor.

But it’s about more than sitting around a fire and cooking s’mores in the evenings. We love to get out there and trudge through our environment, get muddy and sweaty and nasty and leave a part of ourselves out there among the trees and the moss.

When we visited this incredible park and Bar Harbor, Maine in July, we knew we had to find some solid trails to explore while visiting the park. And boy did we!


What to Know Before Visiting Acadia National Park

As with most national parks in the United States, there are a few key things you should know before departing for your trip. The right preparation can help ensure your outdoor adventures fulfill your bucket list dreams.

So, before we get to the short list of my favorite hiking trails in Acadia, let’s do a quick review of what to know before visiting the park.

  • ENTRANCE TO THE PARK. An entrance pass is required for any individual entering the park. In addition to a pass, if you intend to drive Cadillac Summit Road, you will need to make a vehicle reservation from May through October.
  • Purchase a pass online or in-person at park visitor centers, Blackwoods Campground, Schoodic Woods Campgrounds, and Seawall Campground
  • Weekly passes can be purchased from automated machines located in the parking lot at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and at the entrance to Schoodic Institute.
  • SAFETY TIPS. Please take caution to learn about the park before setting off for a new hiking trail.
  • Check the trail elevation profile before your hikes
  • Pack appropriately, including a topographic map, water, snacks, and extra clothing layers to prepare for shifts in the weather
  • Wear good traction shoes or hiking boots
  • Avoid grassy areas and always complete a tick check on yourself, kids, and pets after spending time outdoors
  • OPEN SEASON AND ROAD CLOSURES. Certain areas, including Park Loop Road, select picnic areas, and beaches, are seasonal and closed during winter. Carriage Roads are open year-round but may experience seasonal closures. Always check with the National Park Service before finalizing your road trip.
  • Park Loop Road Fee Station is the only visitor center open year-round.
  • VISITOR CENTERS. There are four visitors centers. The main one, Hulls Cove Visitor Center, is located off ME 3 north of the town of Bar Harbor and is open daily from May through October. During winter, stop by Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
  • Always check for trail closures before heading to the trailhead
  • Where permitted, pets must be on a leash. Note that pets are not allowed on ladder trails.
  • Backcountry camping is prohibited and campfires are only allowed in designated areas.
  • Avoid scrambling for space in parking areas by hopping aboard the Island Explorer, a free shuttle to various trailheads and most areas around the park (except Cadillac Mountain)
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles

There are more than 120 miles of trails in Acadia National Park!

My 3 Favorite Acadia National Park Hiking Trails

Here’s the deal: If you are really into national parks and great hikes, Acadia deserves a spot at or near the top of your list. No doubt about it.

But believe it or not, there are at least 145 trails that you could explore in that national park alone. 145 trails! The number of natural wonders we have at our fingertips in this country is incredible.

AllTrails has been a go-to online stop for us as we have researched different trail options around the continent over the course of more than a year of travel. My three favorite hikes in Acadia are ranked in AllTrail’s list of top 10 best hikes in the park. Yeah, that’ll do.

Watch our short video that covers all three of these Acadia National Park hiking trails:

Acadia Hike #1: Great Head Trail Loop

Our first day in the park, we headed straight to Sand Beach and enjoyed a little dinner snack on the sand while enjoying a stellar sunset. A great start.

But the next day, we were ready to dig in and get a bit dirty and really see what this park had to offer. So we set out for our first trail: Great Head Trail Loop

Great Head Loop Trail boasts some absolutely spectacular views of the ocean, but the tide pools are just as fascinating and will pull you right in.

Jumping off from Sand Beach, a very popular spot for park lovers, the Great Head Trail Loop is a moderate excursion that totals 1.6 miles if you complete the entire thing. Great vantage points of the cliffs and ocean and plenty of opportunities to scamper around on the coastal rocks and get great photos of tide pools, crashing waves, and even sea life.

Out on Great Head Loop Trail, it makes you feel like jumping for joy. This teenager certainly feels that way, at least. Such incredible natural beauty.

This trail is ranked #8 out of 145 trails in Acadia National Park by AllTrails. Since we didn’t do all 145 trails in the park, we are just going to defer to their judgment on this one.

All we know is that it was a beautiful experience and we highly recommend it!

Acadia Hike #2: Precipice Trail

Great Head Trail was absolutely a great hike. But if you want some heart-pounding thrills as you scale the side of a mountain and hold on for dear life, Precipice Trail may be one of the best places for you.

After a few days exploring other areas of Acadia, my two boys and I decided to tackle Precipice. We set out nice and early in the morning and hit the trail around 8:00 am. (Our RV park was about an hour from the trailhead.)

This is one of the more challenging hikes in the park. Don’t let the short 1.4-mile roundtrip distance fool you. It is not for the faint of heart and it is not recommended for children. Posted signs warn anyone who passes risk serious injury and death.

Precipice Trail provides some fantastic views of the area and some heart-pounding moments along some cliff edges as well. Hang on tight!

Precipice is a steep climb with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet in less than a mile. You must be prepared to go all in on this one. There are sections of the hike where you have to climb over giant boulders and carefully navigate your way through narrow passages between and under these boulders.

And be prepared for other steep sections where you must grip the iron rungs to climb up the side of a cliff. You will be tiptoeing along narrow ledges at the cliff edge. Hold on tight to the metal handles in the rock to avoid tumbling down the mountain.

It. Is. Epic.

Short Distance, Strenuous Activity

It took us about three hours to complete this hike, including time at the top when we stopped to soak in the beautiful panoramic views. Despite the shorter distance, we felt more exhausted on this trail than we have on previous 8-10 mile hikes!

From the top of Precipice Trail, you can get a jaw-dropping view of the entire area, including the town of Bar Harbor, Maine in the distance.

Yeah, it’s that intense. It is fantastic, but you have to know what you need to prepare yourself for before hitting the trail. And make sure you bring plenty of water!

Precipice Trail Closures

It’s important to note that this trail is normally closed from March 15 until August 15 for peregrine falcon nesting in the area. Check park alerts before heading to the trailhead.

Peregrine Falcon Nesting Season

We lucked out when we hiked Precipice because the trail is generally closed from March through August for falcon nesting season. When we were in Acadia in late July, they had just opened the trail for the summer season. Be sure and check the trail status before you head out.

Top Ranked Trail

AllTrails ranks this trail as #3 out of 145 trails in Acadia. That’s the highest ranking for any of our top three favorite trails. I’m not exactly sure how it could get much better than this hike, but at #3, this one is not to be missed, folks!

What to Know Before Hiking Precipice Loop

Here is a list of things you should know before heading to the trailhead.

  • DISTANCE. Precipice trail is 3.4 mile roundtrip. It took us approximately 3 hours to hike.
  • TRAILHEAD. Begin at the Precipice Trailhead, which is located at the Precipice parking lot.
  • Public transportation is not available.
  • From ME Route 3 take the Hulls Cove Entrance. Follow Park Loop Road for just under 3 miles. Turn left toward Sand Beach. Use the small parking lot is about 1.5 miles past Sieur de Monts Spring.
  • SKILL LEVEL. This is a challenging hike that requires strenuous activity. Do not attempt if you’re not prepared for steep climbs, narrow ledges, uneven footing. You will need to use rungs and ladders in certain sections.
  • No pets allowed
  • Best time to go is spring and fall

Consider Beehive Trail as an Alternative to Precipice

As a reminder, Precipice is not an easy trail. If you would like a similar challenge with the same great views but a bit less risk and danger, check out Beehive Trail.

It’s known as being an easier version of the Precipice Trail. At the top, you will enjoy spectacular ocean views.

Here is a quick summary of Beehive Trail.

  • Pass through Sand Beach Entrance Station and park in the Sand Beach Parking lot. A better option during the summer peak season is to take the free Island Explorer shuttle.
  • Rung and ladder trail with a 450-foot ascent
  • 1.4-mile trail with rocky and uneven terrain, steep cliffs
  • Average duration to hike Beehive is 1 to 3 hours

Trail Safety

Many trails throughout Acadia have steep cliffs and exposed edges. Be aware that any trail can become dangerous in inclement weather, including light rain. Granite is very slippery when wet.

Acadia Hike #3: Ocean Path Trail

After the thrill and exhaustion of Precipice Trail, we decided to spend our last evening in the area with a much tamer trail suitable for the whole family.

Ocean Path Trail turned out to be exactly what we needed. When we arrived on a very foggy evening, we were mesmerized by the mystique that the fog cast over the landscape.

At Monument Cove, you can get a great view of some unique rock formations. Or you can just stand on the edge of the coast and stare in blissful silence.

In all honesty, we just hiked a small portion of this trail, from Thunder Hole to Monument Cove. The entire trail is a total of 3.9 miles out and back, but you can do any size section of it that suits you and I guarantee you will get everything you bargained for and more.

There was just so much to take in and enjoy along the coastline on that foggy evening that our two hours went far too fast and the light started fading. But what we did see was truly magical, as you can pick up from the video (which still doesn’t do it justice).

Monument Cove has some truly unique rock formations that you will truly enjoy, regardless of the weather.
Rock formations like this one at Monument Cove are truly exceptional and offer hours of enjoyment in Acadia National Park.

AllTrails ranks Ocean Path Trail as #7 out of 145 trails in Acadia National Park, so you know it’s not too shabby. 🙂

You Can’t Go Wrong with Any Acadia National Park Hiking Trail

So yes, these are our top three picks for hikes in Acadia. But this is based on our personal experience only. Well that, and the top 10 rankings from AllTrails.

If we had hiked more, you can bet we would be recommending more hikes. And some might have even rivaled these hikes.

The bottom line is you must get out there and soak up some Acadia. The video and the pictures give you a taste of the experience, but being there is truly surreal, and any hike would make that just as true.

Get out there, get dirty, get your hike on, and keep on TREKKN!

Three Acadia National Park hiking trails that are not to be missed.

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  1. I’m not sure the picture of the boy jumping off the cliff at Great Head is at all accurate or appropriate. I’m 100% sure that image must have been photo shopped since I have hiked that trail numerous times and know for a fact he’d be jumping to his death. Neither photo of Great Head looks true to life. Nice try ,, but if you would simply portray the real beauty in all its grandeur and simplicity,, without camera tricks or photo doctoring,,, it should truly be enough. Acadia needs no editing of any kind.

    1. Hi Kim,

      I truly loved Acadia National Park. It was one of my favorite stops during our 17 months of RV travel and I plan to go back and spend more time. Acadia is a treasure, and I have no intention of dishonoring it with my images.

      The picture of my son is simply him jumping up into the air while standing on the rock. It’s a fun picture he wanted to take, and I love it. There are no tricks involved.

      The picture with the green vegetation in the pool at Great Head is also one of my favorites. Yes, it’s possible I might have enhanced the green in that pool to make it stand out a bit, to try and convey the vibrant image I experienced firsthand. But looking at it now, I’m honestly not sure that is the case. It actually looks very “true to life” when I look at it now. But either way, I was moved by this place and I am hopeful that my images will move others to visit and experience the same stunning beauty.

      I am sorry if you are not in agreement on all of my images. We each have our personal preferences, but we can definitely agree that Acadia is a must-visit location. I wish you nothing but the best in your explorations!


  2. Love the idea of this trip and the hiking recommendations. What campground did you use? We’d like to same do a similar trip.

    1. Hi Dani, it really was a great trip and we could have stayed put for several weeks if we had the chance. No doubt about it.

      We stayed at Patten Pond RV Resort (a Thousand Trails facility) and really enjoyed it. Sits right on a beautiful lake, but it was about a 45 min drive or so into the park from there. There may be other really good campground choices much closer to the park, but since we were Thousand Trails members, that was the one that worked for us.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope your trip comes together beautifully in 2021!

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