A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Acadia National Park

I planned a lot for our trip to Acadia National Park and I mean a lot. For heaven’s sake, we were only going to be there two days- but I wanted to make sure I had everything handled. No surprises (cause that always works!)

When planning our weekend getaway to Bar Harbor, we knew we wanted to hike Acadia. We chose to do a Saturday to Monday trip to try to avoid some of the crowds. That meant we would be driving up Saturday and driving out Monday, giving us two solid days to hike.

Starting off with Sunday, I knew we’d be up early and ready to go, so I thought we’d check Cadillac Mountain off our list, a very popular Acadia destination. After searching AllTrails for a bit, I selected the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge and Gorge Path Loop. From there, we would drive to the lesser populated part of the park and hike either Acadia Mountain or Beech Mountain. I gave us options. Luckily, Ryan chose Acadia Mountain and we happened to snag a parking spot at the trailhead which is also the entrance to the short trail down to the Echo Lake Ledges.

On Monday, we’d be driving home, so I wanted something fun with great views to send us off. Cue the Beehive, Gorham Mountain, and Ocean Path Loop. A must-hike in Acadia.

I’ve compiled the trails we hiked along with some information on parking, packing, and the national park itself below. I hope this helps you in any research you might be doing, in anticipation for a visit!

Trails/Peaks

Beehive Trail – Beehive, Gorham Mountain, and Ocean Path Loop

Everyone we talked to said the Beehive trail was a can’t miss and they were right! It’s a challenging trail that gets your adrenaline going.

We got to the trailhead really early, as recommended, and already there were a few people on the trail. I would not want to do this one crowded (you want to take your time!) so I do suggest getting there before 8 am. There was plenty of parking in the San Beach Lot early.

The Beehive Trail goes up pretty vertically and requires you to use handholds as you walk along the cliff ledges. However, it feels very safe if you’re taking your time and paying attention. Plus, you cannot beat the views. Overall, the trail is short, but quite difficult, to the top. And if it’s hot and humid, you will get a bit sweaty!

Cadillac Mountain – Cadillac Mountain and Gorge Trail Loop

You can drive your car up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, which is wonderful for those who need the accessibility. However, we prefer to hike. Again, we arrived very early and parked at the Gorge Trail Trailhead. There were only about four spots before you had to park on the road, which I thought was crazy, but Ryan assured me was normal for National Parks.

The Gorge Path was really neat as you climbed up rocks and through the Gorge itself. We could definitely tell that at another time of the year, the trail would be very wet. However, it was dry for us and brought us right to Cadillac Mountain’s peak. It felt fairly quick going up, but steep enough to provide a challenge.

From Cadillac Mountain you get a great view, so even if you are just driving up, it’s worth stopping.

We followed the Cadillac North Ridge Trail down in a loop to our cars and really enjoyed the hike. The way down was certainly longer but not too steep that your knees were killing by the bottom. Plus, I love a good loop.

Echo Lake Ledges – Park at the Acadia Mountain Trail Head

Echo Lake was one of the unexpected highlights of our trip, for sure! We swam at the Echo Lake Ledges because we were lucky enough to snag a spot at the trailhead for Acadia Mountain (parking on the road was a little sketchy due to the total lack of shoulder.)

Ryan and I were so glad to find water to swim in Saturday afternoon, after a long, hot morning of hiking. Echo lake was clear, clean, and beautiful. There were a bunch of families with kids where we were, so if you want something more secluded, I’m sure there are plenty of other little areas along the lake to head down. However, we were very content where we were. No moose though- just a loon!

Acadia Mountain – Acadia Mountain and Man O War Trail

Acadia Mountain was a lot of fun. Again, you really can’t beat the views. It was a very quick hike up, which reminded me a bit of Mount Monadnock except shorter! This would be a great one to go up and down with young kids. However, we got to the top and kept going.

Originally, we were going to hike St. Sauveur, but by the afternoon we were pretty tired so we opted for the flat, wooded Man O War trail back. Whatever trail you choose, I suggest going up to Acadia Mountain first.

Gorham Mountain – Beehive, Gorham Mountain, and Ocean Path Loop

After the Beehive Trail (see above) we continued to Gorham Mountain which a short trip down the Cadillac Cliffs Trail and finally, a walk along the Ocean Path back to our car.

I really liked Gorham Mountain. We were summiting right as the fog was rolling in and everything looks really neat from above. It was a surprisingly long hike from Beehive to Gorham and down, which was enjoyable. The Cadillac Cliffs were also a really interesting feature to pass through. If you wanted to break it up, or not do the Beehive, I would recommend parking at the Gorham Mountain Trailhead and taking the Gorham Mountain Trail up, with the Cadillac Cliffs Trail as a descent.

If you want to complete the Beehive-Gorham-Ocean Path Loop and park at Sand Beach like we did, the Ocean Path connects the lots and it’s nice not having to walk along the road. Plus, you get to check out Thunder Hole along your way.

Parking

Parking in Acadia wasn’t as bad as we anticipated. We hit a few major spots (Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and the lot near Sand Beach) but we arrived around 7:30 am and there was ample parking. Things are definitely busier in August and on weekends, but getting to the park early makes things much easier. There is also plenty of parking on the shoulder of the road if you’re anywhere along the Park Loop. My best tip is that if you want to get two hikes in, start your day on the right side of the park, the more heavily trafficked side (Gorham, Cadillac) and then travel to the left side (Acadia Mountain, Beecher) for an afternoon hike.

Packing

  • As with all hiking, always always always bring lots of water. Especially in the summer! I love my water bladder that I got at Walmart for $12. It hasn’t failed me yet.
  • I would recommend hiking boots when exploring Acadia. We saw folks in sneakers, but some trails (Beehive, Gorham) definitely require more supportive shoes. Merrell is our go to brand and do yourself a favor and look for Gortex!
  • Sunscreen. I forgot it, I got burned. Enough said.
  • I wanted to share that along with sunscreen, I forgot bug spray, which I was really worried about. I get bit like no one’s business, but I only got one bite the entire trip! Our last hike in Maine, last year, was super buggy, so this was a nice surprise.
  • Layers are critical for some of these trails by the water. The breezes were wonderful but chilly at times. I’d recommend a light Anorak or a long sleeve sun shirt since it’s so easy to just throw them in your pack.
  • Snacks are a hiking necessity. There is a restaurant in Acadia, the Jordan Pond House (which is suppose to sell amazing popovers!) but it’s always important to have food on the trails. We love jerky, dried fruit, and Cheez-Its.

Additional Notes

  • I was really worried about getting a parking ticket. We had a National Park Pass, rather than an Acadia Parking pass ($30 for 7 days of parking in Acadia- buy online, print ahead of time, and stick it on your dash!) and I was nervous that it would get missed. However, we left it on the dashboard when we hiked and had no problems.
  • It is really important to check trail closings ahead of time. Originally, I wanted us to do the Jordan Pond Loop, however, the Jordan Cliff Trail was closed due to falcon mating season. This closure also occurred only days before we were leaving for our trip, so I’m glad I checked at the last minute.
  • The Park Loop is a great driving route, but be careful if you’re looking at Google Maps and trying to jump on. At one point, Ryan and I drove right by where we thought we were suppose to turn right, but there was nothing there! Turns out, the Park Loop Road went underneath us. We had a good laugh at that one. Keep in mind that the road is one way and that you’ll need to watch for bikers!
  • The next time we visit Acadia, we’re definitely bringing bicycles and kayaks. While my research said that biking in August is a bit sketchy due to the number of cars in the park, I think we would have been fine!

If you have any more questions about Acadia, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them or direct you to some resources I used in planning our trip! Happy hiking!

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