Acadia National Park Must-Sees: Hikes, Views, and Landmarks, from Cadillac Summit to Precipice Loop

by Amy Myers
(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Hiking at Acadia National Park is a bucket-list item for millions of people every year. The park gets 3.5 million visitors annually and for good reason. The beautiful park extends along the Maine coast, but ocean views aren’t the only thing the park has to offer. There are rocky mountain views and lush forests to explore, not to mention the 24 ponds and lakes that can be found within the park.

With over 150 miles of hiking trails to explore along the Maine coast, the trails are seemingly endless. Unfortunately, though, your stamina and vacation days are not. So, it’s important to know which trails will suit you best so you can make the most out of your trip to this Top-10 national park.

Acadia National Park’s Must-See Hiking Trails, from Easiest to Hardest

  • Cadillac Summit Loop (easy)
  • Ocean Path Trail (easy)
  • Around Mountain Carriage Road (moderate)
  • Western Head and Cliff Trail (moderate)
  • Beehive Loop (moderate to strenuous)
  • Precipice Loop (strenuous)

Choosing the Right Hiking Trail At Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has a wide variety of landscapes and vistas within its 35,000 acres. You can traverse rocky edges, step through lush forest and rest your feed in soft sand all in one hike! If you want to walk along the coastline, there are trails for that. Want to be vertical on the side of a mountain? There are trails for that, too. Your experience in the popular East Coast national park will depend purely on your interests and limitations. Some hikes are friendly for outdoor adventurists of all experience levels, and others are best suited for more advanced hikers. You can be sure of one thing though – no matter which trail you choose, you’re guaranteed to find gorgeous views.

That said, let’s get into some of the best hiking trails available at Acadia National Park.

Hiking Trails on the Easier Side at Acadia National Park

Cadillac Summit Loop

  • Length: 0.5-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 52 feet
  • Duration: Less than a half-hour

We’re going to start super easy with the half-mile trail called the Cadillac Summit Loop. Of course, with only 52 feet of elevation to climb, we don’t expect this will take you much longer than 20 minutes to complete – if even that long. But the lure of this path isn’t the heart-pumping journey that other Acadia National Park hiking trails provide. Rather, this short trail is all about the views.

At the viewpoint, you can peer over the tops of pine trees and watch the sunlight reflect off of the Gulf of Maine. Not to mention, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard at 1,530 feet. From October October 7 through March 6, this is the first place where you can see the sunrise in the U.S.

Now that’s pretty cool.

Ocean Path Trail

  • Length: 4.5-mile out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 347 feet
  • Duration: Less than 2 hours

Ocean Path is one of the most popular hikes in the entire park as it combines some of the best views in the area with a long, easy trail. This is the trail you want to take in order to become acquainted with all Acadia has to offer. From pink granite to jagged cliffs and the iconic Sand Beach, the Ocean Path trail is suitable for both novice and expert hikers. Just be aware of any travelers behind you… because you will be stopping to snap photos.

Moderate Hikes with Extraordinary Views

Around the Mountain Carriage Road

  • Length: 11.2-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Elevation: 1,017 feet
  • Duration: 4 and a half hours walking, less than 2 hours biking

Moving on to more complicated trails, a good one to have on your itinerary is the Around the Mountain Carriage Road. With 11.2 miles and an over 1,000-foot elevation change, this trail sounds scarier than it actually is. You won’t need to worry about traversing slippery rocks or scrambling up iron ladders, as this truly is a carriage road. You’ll find gravel beneath your feet the entire stretch, making for a steady, sturdy hiking trail.

Alternatively, if you decided to bring a pair of wheels with you, the Around the Mountain Carriage Trail is also a popular destination for bikers. If you don’t have over four hours to spare for one trail, consider riding along it instead of hiking it. You’ll burn lots of calories either way, and you’ll see some great views of Jordan and Lower Paddock Ponds. There are also several bridges and waterfalls along the way, offering even opportunities for waterfront landscapes.

Western Head and Cliff Trail

  • Length: 3.7-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 295 feet
  • Duration: An hour and a half

Although the Western Head and Cliff trail loop is significantly shorter than the Carriage Road trail, it’s just as vigorous. Located on Isle au Haut, the southern-most part of Acadia National Park, you’ll need to pick up the ferry to get to these trails. Once on the path, you’ll make your way past several of the area’s most popular sites, such as Deep Cove, Western Ear Island and Duck Harbor. Because this trail is a bit farther away than the rest of the park, you’ll get to avoid the crowds, too. And with fewer people comes more opportunities to see wildlife and unique plants. Some hikers have even found blueberries and mushrooms along the way, but we wouldn’t recommend doing any more than just admiring these wild foods from afar.

For those that are backcountry camping at Duck Harbor, this trail is an absolute must. If you plan on visiting from one of the park’s three front country campgrounds, though, be sure you keep an eye on the ferry schedule so you don’t spend a night without any gear.

Hiking Trails on the Harder Side at Acadia National Park

Beehive Loop

  • Length: 1.5-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
  • Elevation: 508 feet
  • Duration: Less than an hour

Just east of Otter Creek and south of Bar Harbor is the Beehive Loop, a short yet moderately difficult hiking trail that takes Acadia National Park visitors across a series of iron rungs and ladders to some spectacular views at the top. The loop starts at the Sand Beach parking lot and continues to the Bowl Pond before looping back towards the beginning.

While you can technically complete the trail in either direction, experts at AllTrails recommend following the loop in a counter-clockwise direction so you can climb up the ladders and rungs, rather than trying to scale down them and risk losing your footing or rolling an ankle. Along the way, you’ll also encounter some steep granite steps that will put your glutes and quads to work. The Beehive Loop is definitely a workout, but the views at Bowl Pond are well worth the effort. During the fall, this is the perfect spot to see the change in the leaves and witness a beautiful array of greens, golds and reds.

Precipice Loop

  • Length: 2.1-mile loop
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation: 1,053 feet
  • Duration: An hour and a half

A bit longer than the Beehive Loop, the Precipice Loop is one of the most challenging and most popular hikes in Acadia National Park. Like the previous hike, Precipice has plenty of iron rungs and ladders as well as narrow ledges. So, this trail isn’t the friendliest for small children, pets or those with a fear of heights. However, the experience on this trail is unlike any other. Along the rocky ledges and overlooks, you can witness endless miles of Maine wilderness, from the ponds to the mountaintops to the shoreline.

The steep cliffs and narrow, rocky regions also provide a premier area to spot feathered wildlife, especially peregrine falcons. From mid-April to mid-July, these wonderous birds like to use this region of the park to create their nests, so the trail may be temporarily closed until August after the chicks have left the nest.

In order to complete this trail, you’ll need a trusty, sturdy pair of hiking boots, and you’ll want to leave your hiking poles behind, as they’ll only get in the way. As the weather gets colder, keep a sharp eye out for any patches of ice that may develop along the trail.

Acadia National Park also requests that visitors keep a topographical map with them as they explore the park. A regular park map is fine to have, too, but topographical maps will help more as you get out into the Maine wilderness and understand the terrain and challenges on each trail.