Hiking trails cover Acadia National Park. One, Gorham Mountain, is only 525 feet high, but it offers beautiful ocean views and wild blueberries (in July and August) along the trail. The carriage roads also offer 45 miles of groomed, auto-free roads for you to explore as a family.

Acadia National Park contains over 120 miles of the most varied and beautiful hiking trails in the eastern United States. In addition, the Park maintains approximately 45 miles of gravel carriage roads for walking as well as bicycling, horseback or horse carriage riding, and cross-country skiing.

While the trails in Acadia are extremely scenic, they are relatively short. The average one-way length is about one mile, and a trail two or more miles long is rare. However, many trails intersect several others forming a complex network, so it is possible to combine two or more trails to create loops which cover large areas of the island. The trails in Acadia are well marked, but combining trails will require a good trail map. Such maps are published by several individuals and organizations, and are available for sale at many locations around Mount Desert Island.

  • Because Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park encompass mountainous terrain, trails in the interior are usually moderately steep and rocky, while the only flat trails are along the shore of either the ocean or fresh water lakes. Most mountain summits are open. For these and other reasons, it is important to follow certain basic rules when hiking the trails of Acadia:
  • Wear proper footgear. Boots which provide ankle support and have lug soles are best for most trails, especially the ones going up and down mountains. Sneakers or walking shoes should only be used on the easier shore trails or the carriage roads.
  • Bring water and a windbreaker. Open water sources are not appropriate for drinking, and the treeless mountain summits can be windy and cool, even on hot summer days. A flashlight, food, trail map, and raingear should also be part of a proper daypack's contents.
  • Do not leave the established trail, and never hike at night. Some trails have steep sections with loose rocks. People have been seriously hurt and even killed when hiking off the trail in certain areas or hiking at night when they cannot see potential hazards.
  • Always let someone (a friend, innkeeper, etc.) know where you will be going and when you expect to be back. Another option is to leave a note on the dashboard of your car at the trailhead.

In the late fall, winter and early spring, take special care to avoid ice on the trails, especially trails on the mountains. Even if it is a beautiful, sunny day and there is no snow, water running from rock crevices, etc. can form hazardous ice sheets in many areas. Crampons are often essential to safe passage during these times of the year.

It would be impossible to describe here all of the trails in the Mount Desert section of Acadia National Park. However, the following is a listing and brief description of some of the more popular trails grouped by degree of difficulty:

Trails By Difficulty: 

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Ocean Trail - the Ocean Trail begins above the Sand Beach parking lot and runs parallel to the Park Loop Road past Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs to Otter Point. It is a relatively flat gravel path with spectacular views of perhaps the most dramatic section of the Maine coast. The total distance is approximately three miles round trip, but can be shorter depending upon where you decide to start or turn around. The only drawback of the Ocean Trail is that it is close to the Loop Road which carries a lot of automobile traffic during the summer months.

Cadillac Summit - this trail is paved and circles the Cadillac Mountain summit parking area. There are dramatic, panoramic views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman's Bay, open ocean, and other portions of Mount Desert Island.

Wonderland - located on Route 102A on the western side of Mount Desert Island near the Bass Harbor Light, Wonderland is a flat path (actually an old woods road) leading about seven tenths of a mile down to the ocean. This section of oceanfront is rocky, but does not have the huge boulders and high ledges found along the Loop Road, so it is a great place to explore tide pools. There are also many wild flowers at various times during the summer - especially large banks of beach roses during July and August.

Bar Harbor Shore Path - the shore path begins at the town pier in Bar Harbor near the Bar Harbor Inn and runs directly along the shore above the high tide line for about one half mile to Wayman Lane. It is flat and has nice views of Frenchman's Bay. The return trip can be through town along Main Street. As you will see from the signs posted along the shore path, it traverses private property and access is granted by the owners only so long as visitors stay on the path and respect adjacent residences.
Bar Island - this is a short but interesting route across the gravel bar from the north end of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor to Bar Island. It is passable from about two hours before until two hours after low tide. The bar is usually wet, so wear appropriate footgear. Also, pay close attention to the tide, because it can come in surprisingly fast and trap you on the other side (where there are no facilities). Bar Island is partially owned by Acadia Park and partially owned by private individuals. Signs are posted, so please respect the rights of the private landowners.

Ship Harbor Nature Trail - A self-guided nature trail on Route 102A on the western side of Mount Desert Island near the Bass Harbor Light. A 1.3 mile loop, Ship Harbor has some rocky ledges and nice ocean views to the south. The Ship Harbor inlet is quite interesting and scenic.

Carriage Roads - the 55 mile carriage road system in Acadia winds through the interior of the Park on the eastern side of Somes Sound. They are covered with very fine gravel, are well graded, and cross about 14 stone arched bridges which are very beautiful and architecturally significant. Sneakers or other walking shoes are appropriate, and access can be obtained from a parking area on Route 233 about one mile from Bar Harbor, two parking areas along Route 198 to Northeast Harbor, and the parking area at the Jordan Pond House. A map of the entire system is helpful and can be obtained from the Park Visitor Center in Hulls Cove or from our Acadia Information Center location on Route 3 just before the bridge to Mount Desert Island. Fall is a particularly good time for a walk along the carriage roads because there are lots of deciduous trees among the evergreens. They are also great for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail - begins on the Park Loop Road a few hundred yards after you enter the one-way section near the entrance road to Cadillac Mountain. This trail is slightly over 2 miles and leads up open ledges to the summit of Cadillac. There are almost continuous views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman's Bay. Some parts of this trail approach the automobile road going up Cadillac, but this is only a minor intrusion on what is otherwise a good way to climb 1,530 ft. Cadillac Mountain on foot. Use sunscreen, because there is little or no shade.

Great Head Trail - this very interesting and relatively short ocean trail begins at the eastern edge of Sand Beach and circles around atop the sea cliffs which make up Great Head. Vews of the Ocean Drive area and lower part of Frenchman's Bay are dramatic, and one has the added advantage of being away from all the automobile traffic on the most scenic part of the Loop Road. Be very careful on this trail, however, because the sea cliffs directly along the footpath are quite high, and there are no guard rails or other protection. Stay away from the edge at all times - particularly when the rocks may be wet from rain or fog.

Gorham Mountain Trail - starting from the Gorham Mountain parking lot just past Thunder Hole on the Loop Road, this popular trail climbs through a spruce forest to the open 800 ft. summit of Gorham Mountain just under one mile away. One can return by this same trail or continue to the Beehive and even on to the summit of Champlain Mountain.

Bubble Rock Trail - just north of Jordan Pond is the parking area for Bubble Rock. The trail climbs either of the small, round mountains called North Bubble and South Bubble. Each path is about .5 mile in length one way, and is mostly forested. Views from the summits are of Jordan Pond with the ocean in the distance. Bubble Rock itself is a glacial erratic on the edge of the South Bubble which, from below, gives one the startling impression that it could fall at any time.

Beech Mountain Trail - On the western side of the island, Beech Mountain parking area is found at the end of Beech Hill Road which runs from the Pretty Marsh Road just a few hundred yards from the Fire Station in Somesville. After you leave the north side of the parking area, there is a choice of two trails leading to the summit of Beech Mountain. One is about .6 miles long and is a gradual climb around the western side of the mountain with nice views of Long Pond and Blue Hill across Blue Hill Bay to the west. The other is somewhat shorter and climbs more steeply directly up the ledges on the north side to the summit. Many people make a loop out of this hike by climbing the western route and decending the north ledges. There is a closed fire tower on top of Beech Mountain which is visible from several locations around Southwest Harbor.

Jordan Pond Shore Trail - a loop around the shore of Jordan Pond. Total distance is a little over three miles, and it is flat, but there are some exposed roots and loose rocks. Views are of the pond and surrounding mountains. A big advantage to this route is that you can enjoy tea and popovers on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House either before or after your walk.

Bear Brook Trail - Champlain Mountain - leaves from the parking area just past Bear Brook Pond about 1/4 mile from the intersection with Route 3 south of Bar Harbor. Like the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, this one climbs mostly open ledges to the summit of 1,058 ft. Champlain Mountain a little over one mile away. From there, one gets spectacular views almost directly above Frenchman's Bay. This is a great place to watch boat traffic in the bay - especially the many cruise ships which regularly visit Bar Harbor from August through October.
Precipice Trail - the Precipice Trail is probably the most well known and certainly the most challenging trail in Acadia National Park. It is a non-technical, but almost vertical, 1,000 foot climb up granite ledges to the summit of Champlain Mountain. There are many iron rungs and ladders along the trail and it is only recommended for experienced, physically fit hikers who do not have a fear of heights. Access is from the Precipice parking area along the Loop Road about one mile before you reach the entrance fee station near Schooner Head. In recent years, endangered peregrine falcons have been returning to Acadia to nest along the Precipice Trail, and Park Rangers close the trail from late spring when the falcons arrive until about mid-August when the young birds fledge. However, during this time, there is usually a Park naturalist at the Precipice parking area each weekday morning with a telescope, so that visitors can view and learn about these graceful little birds of prey.

Cadillac Mountain - distance depends on the trail takenCadillac Mountain, the center piece of Mount Desert Island, is the highest summit on the East Coast of the United States (within 50 miles of the coast). At 1530 feet and with no large trees the summit offers beautiful 360 degree views of the island and the Atlantic ocean.

Beehive Trail - this trail is usually considered the second best alternative for those originally interested in the Precipice. It begins just across the Loop Road from the Sand Beach parking lot and climbs directly up open ledges to the summit of the Beehive - a one way distance of less than one half mile and a vertical climb of perhaps 500 feet. As at the Precipice, there are iron rungs and ladders along the route, and only those who are physically fit should attempt it. Also, be sure to stay on the trail - people have been seriously injured on both the Precipice and the Beehive.

Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail - this is one of the longest single trails in Acadia, starting just south of the entrance to Blackwoods Campground on Route 3 and climbing gradually for almost four miles through a mix of spruce forest and granite ledges to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. One of it's major advantages is that it can be accessed easily by campers at Blackwoods who either do not have, or do not wish to use, a car. Return can be by the same route, or by any of several other trails encountered along the way. Keep in mind, however, that such loops will probably involve more than one additional trail, and that the total distance likely will provide a full day of hiking.

Acadia Mountain Trail - one of the most popular trails, Acadia Mountain is accessed from a parking area along Route 102 about two miles south of Somesville on the way to Southwest harbor on the western side of Mount Desert Island. Rangers frequently lead hikes up Acadia as part of their regular summer programs. The trail goes up and over the summit of Acadia Mountain for a one way distance of about 1 and 1/4 miles and a vertical climb of under 700 feet. Return can be via the fire road along the brook between Acadia and St. Sauveur Mountains, or you can keep going up St. Sauveur and continue down to the parking area at it's base along Route 102 about 1/2 mile south of the Acadia Mountain parking area. Views from Acadia are of Somes Sound and the entrance to Southwest Harbor.

Mansell Mountain - Mansell is part of a group of trails on the western side of Mount Desert in an unspoiled area which sees relatively little use. It is particularly interesting, however, because it climbs from the south shore of Long Pond to the summit of 949 ft. Mansell Mountain up hundreds, if not more than a thousand, steep granite stairsteps put in place by trail builders of long ago. Park at the water pumping station on the south end of Long Pond and follow the path around the western side of the pond until you come to a fork heading away from the shore and up the mountain. The summit of Mansell and of it's neighbor, Bernard, are mostly forested and there are not many views except from a few "blowdowns" over the years. Still, for those wanting to "get away from it all", the trail up Mansell and the longer connecting trails leading over Bernard and down to several locations in the area of Seal Cove are worth considering. Plan on positioning a car at the opposite end of your hike unless you want a really long round trip!