As full-time RVers, we took our remote jobs on the road in search of the best nature destinations and hiking trails in North America and beyond. Since starting our nomadic travel adventures, we have hiked thousands of miles in places that have truly left us speechless. With its rock terrain and sparkling vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, Acadia National Park remains one of our favorite destinations. We have hiked all over Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and Schoodic Peninsula in search of the best trails and views. In this article, we break down the best hiking in Acadia National Park to help you make the most of your trip to this special place on the east coast of Maine.
About Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, located along the rugged coastline of Maine, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and camping enthusiasts alike. With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and endless recreational opportunities, Acadia offers a memorable camping experience amidst stunning natural beauty. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best campgrounds in Acadia National Park, each offering its own unique charm and access to the park’s wonders.
The park spreads across about 49,000 acres of land on Mount Desert Island, Isle Au Haut, and part of the Schoodic Peninsula, with the main portion of the park located on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor Maine. The park attracts 4 million visitors a year and is in the top 10 of the most visited park in the U.S. Within its boundaries, it holds 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of historic carriage roads
While you might be wondering how great the hiking can possibly be on the coast, Acadia also contains the tallest mountain on the Atlantic Coast. What makes it even more special is that it is the only National Park in the Northeastern U.S. and was the first National Park designated east of Mississippi.
Distance from Portland Maine (Portland International Jetport): 3 hours
Distance from Boston Massachusetts (Boston Logan International Airport): 4.5 hours
Best Times to Visit & Hike
We visited and hiked in Acadia National Park once during late spring (early June) and once in the fall (late September/ early October). Both were amazing and offered different types of experiences.
Peak season generally kicks off once school is out for the summer in late June and early July and the area stays busy until Labor Day in September. This will be the busiest time in the park and we recommend visiting earlier in spring or ideally later in the fall when things will be slower and more quiet.
Spring brought lush green scenery, mild temperatures, foggy mornings, and rushing waterfalls. The longer days are also great for hiking later in the afternoon and evening!
Fall was stunning due to the vibrant fall foliage painting the rocky coast in hues of orange and yellow. Days were shorter, temperatures were cooler, and the air was crisp. We also found the trails to be a bit less crowded, although there is typically an influx during the leaf-peeping season.
Here are the average high and low temperatures for Bar Harbor Maine by season:
Spring (March to May):
- Average High Temperature: 44-56°F
- Average Low Temperature: 29-39°F
Summer (June to August):
- Average High Temperature: 68-78°F
- Average Low Temperature: 50-59°F
Fall (September to November):
- Average High Temperature: 57-68°F
- Average Low Temperature: 41-50°F
Best Acadia National Park Trails
Whether you are looking for a relaxing walk with ocean views or an adrenaline-filled hike along steep cliffs, there is a wide range of hiking opportunities in Acadia National Park.
Acadia Hiking Map
Use this map to help you plan out your Acadia hiking adventures!
Hikes Near Bar Harbor On East Mount Desert Island
On East Mount Desert Island, you will find Bar Harbor and some of the most iconic hikes and trails that Acadia National Park has to offer. These are some of the most popular hikes in the park and range from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, all offering excellent views of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see. Check out these great hikes near Bar Harbor, Maine:
Ocean Path is a perfect way to see a few of the picturesque stops and overlooks along Park Loop Road along one fairly mild hike! Starting at the shores of Sand Beach, wind your way along Park Loop Road, hitting infamous stops like Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, and Otter Point.
We loved hiking Ocean Path at sunrise as the trail was quiet and free from cars and crowds, and we had the opportunity to soak in the rocky cliffs in the orange glow of the early morning sun. You could also try to time this with high tide (it is best when ocean swells are larger, such as during storms), to give yourself the best chance to hear the thunderous clap that gives Thunder Hole its name!
- Distance: 4.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 374 feet
Beehive Loop Trail
Perhaps one of the most famous trails and popular hikes in Acadia National Park is the Beehive Loop Trail. A shorter and slightly tamer cousin to the Precipice Trail, Beehive Loop is still not a hike for those with a fear of heights.
From the trailhead, you are led straight up the rocks, winding around the sides of cliffs and over small bridges and metal-runged ladders as you climb up to the top. The views from the lookout at the end of the trail are absolutely worth it, but there are some nerve-wracking moments shimmying along narrow paths with nothing between you and the 400-foot drop just a step away from your position on the trail.
The trailhead is located directly across the street from the parking lot for Sand Beach and it is not uncommon to see lines of people inching their way up the trail, clinging to the walls lining the edges of precarious cliffs. To avoid the crowds, we recommend hiking early in the day or later in the day and on weekdays whenever possible. As avid hikers, we found the “fear factor” of this trail to be hyped up a bit. Nevertheless, it is a fun and unique trail with amazing views!
- Distance: 1.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 508 feet
- Duration: 1-3 hours
We highly recommend hiking this trail counter-clockwise (starting on the trail off to the right), hiking up the ladder section and down the back side which has a much less steep descent.
The Bubbles Trail
As you are driving past Jordan Pond on Park Loop Road and heading back toward Bar Harbor, look up to the left and you will see Bubble Rock, a large boulder that seems to be teeter-tottering and clingy on for dear life at the edge of a cliff.
To get a better look, you can hike up one of the Bubbles Trails and see this glacier-placed boulder that has been perched with epic views of Acadia. There are 3 great viewpoints with different vistas to enjoy from up around Bubble Rock and this is another great option to catch a colorful sunrise with plenty of peace and solitude in Acadia National Park!
- Distance: 1.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 515 feet
- Duration: 1 – 1.5 miles
Interested in this trail? Read our in-depth guide to the Acadia’s Whimsical Bubbles Trail
Cadillac Mountain Trails
The highest point in Acadia National Park and the highest mountain on the East Coast of the United States, Cadillac Mountain’s summit has some of the best views of the coastal region of Maine that sits around Acadia National Park.
While you can reserve a permit to drive up to Cadillac Mountain, either for sunrise or during the day (you can read more on that here), hiking up is a beautiful journey that is worth every step – and does not require a permit of any kind.
There are multiple trails that lead you to the Cadillac Mountain Summit, including the North Ridge, South Ridge, and Gorge Path. Hiking up Cadillac Mountain will be some of the longest and most challenging hikes in the park and will take more time than most of the other trails on this list.
Cadillac Mountain North Ridge & Gorge Path Trail Loop
Cadillac Mountain North Ridge is a steep climb with rewarding views along the way up and some of the best around once you reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
We loved switching up our trail experience and hiking back down the Gorge Path Trail, which is basically a cascade of large boulders with water running through below. It is tranquil and unique and a great contrast to the more typical Acadia trail after ascending up North Ridge with the opportunity for lots of rock scrambling.
We preferred hiking down the steep boulders of the Gorge Trail rather than up them, but starting your hike going up the Gorge Path may be easier on the knees.
- Distance: 4.8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,315 feet
- Duration: 3-4 hours
Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
The longer of the trails up to the Cadillac Mountain summit for a more gradual and less steep approach.
- Distance: 6.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,548 feet
- Duration: 4-5 hours
Interested in seeing the first U.S. sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain? Check out our comprehensive guide to Reserving A Permit For Sunrise At Cadillac Mountain
Jordan Pond West Side Trail
If you are looking for a beautiful walk along a tranquil lake after eating a few warm popovers, you won’t want to miss this one. Jordan Pond West Side Trail starts at Jordan Pond House which has a fair amount of parking (although it is also one of the busiest spots in the park as it is a starting point for several trails).
The trail is flat and traverses many “boardwalks” (made of trees) as you work your way to the northern point of Jordan Pond. Hiking around Jordan Pond in the fall provides many opportunities for beautiful foliage reflecting on the still water.
- Distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 49 feet
- Duration: 1 hour
While Cadillac Mountain is the highest mountain in Acadia, it is certainly not the only one! The Six Summits trail is a loop hike that brings you up to the summits of 6 other mountains in the park, all with sprawling views of the park and surrounding ocean, filled with floating green islands.
This hike was a fun way to see more of the park and create a longer hike. You can expect a lot of climbing up and down as you navigate up to and off of each summit so it is a workout, but a fun one!
The six summits you will hit along this hike include: Penobscot Mountain, Bald Peak, Sargent Mountain (our favorite), Gilmore Peak, Cedar Swamp Mountain, and Parkman Mountain
- Distance: 5.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,738 feet
- Duration: 3.5 – 5 hours
Pemetic Mountain Loop
Pemetic Loop is another trail that starts at Jordan Pond House. Hiking along the east side of Jordan Pond should give you great views of The Bubble depending on how lush the trees are. You’ll encounter a fair amount of scrambling, so this is a great trail for you if you like climbing on the rocks! We’d recommend hiking the trail counter-clockwise so you encounter the main rock scrambling sections on your way up. Stunning views at the top are worth the effort!
- Distance: 4.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,040 feet
- Duration: 2.5-4 hours
Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail
Hiking the Ladder Trail to Dorr Mountain is a lot like to sounds…lots of steps! The trail starts quickly with large granite stone steps that are only ever interrupted by metal ladders to help you scale steeper sections of rock. A bit like a stair climber workout, but with a really cool reward once you reach the top!
- Distance: 2.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,131 feet
- Duration: 3-5 hours
Once you hike up to the Dorr Mountain summit, you have a few options for the descent back down. We came down via Kurt Diederich’s climb (surprise, surprise – more steps!) and followed the path along The Tarn (a beautiful body of water flanked with wildflowers in the summer and spring) to make our way back to the trailhead “parking” area which lines Otter Creek Road.
Gorham Mountain Loop Trail
We all enjoyed this trail, especially our dog, Azalea! This is a moderate trail that involves minimal rock scrambling. The views at the top of Gorham Mountain are stunning and you can also get great views of Sand Beach from this trail as well. If you are visiting Acadia National Park during peak season, be aware that the portion of the hike along Ocean Path can be extremely busy.
For a shorter version of this hike, you can do the Gorham Mountain trail, which is 1.6 miles and takes about 1 hour and takes you back along the coastal side of the trail, rather than the longer return loop.
- Distance: 3.0 miles
- Elevation Gain: 538 feet
- Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours
Little Long Pond
Acadia National Park is one of the most dog-friendly National Parks in the United States! There are plenty of miles of trails you can bring along your adventure pup on, as long as they are on a leash.
This said, if your dog is like ours, they love the freedom of being let off leash to explore and play with other dogs. The Little Long Pond off-leash area is a great place to bring your pup for a romp in the grass, a walk/hike where they can be off-leash, and perhaps even a dip in the water. There is a set or suggested loop, but you can really make this whatever suits you and your pup.
This was one of our favorite finds near Acadia National Park and one of Azalea’s favorite stops as well! As you head toward the back of the Little Long Pond area, you can hook up with the Carriage Roads to extend your adventure into the park.
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 177 feet
- Duration: 50 minutes
Jesup Path is one of our top recommendations for an easy trail that is especially gorgeous and colorful in the fall season. If you start this trail from the Sieur de Monts entrance and parking area, you will pass Sieur de Monts Nature Center, Sieur de Monts Spring, and the Wild Gardens of Acadia before starting on the boardwalk trail through Acadia’s wild and beautiful nature.
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 78 feet
- Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Bar Island Trail
Have you ever wondered what walking along the ocean floor would be like? For 1.5 hours before and after low tide you can do just that right from downtown Bar Harbor.
During this timeframe around low tide, a sand bar is exposed connecting the town of Bar Harbor to Bar Island. Explore what is uncovered by what the water leaves behind, explore the wooded island, and soak in spectacular views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.
On our trip out to Bar Island, we also enjoyed a deer sighting and exploring the remnants of an old home sight that once inhabited the island.
- Distance: 2.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 216 feet
- Duration: 1 hour
Directions: Head down Bridge Street (you will see the Bar Harbor Club on the corner) and follow the path over the Bar Island!
You can read more about parking in Bar Harbor and hiking the Bar Island Trail in our Guide To The Best Things To Do in Acadia National Park
Beech Mountain Trail
Beech Mountain Trail provides incredible views from the top of a fire tower! The hike is shorter and can be steep at times. As we’ve said many times, the views are worth the effort many times over.
- Distance: 1.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 351 feet
- Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Acadia Mountain & Man O’war Trail
If you are looking for gorgeous views looking over Southwest Harbor to the Atlantic Ocean, this is a great hike. You’ll get to hike through forests above the rocky shoreline and traverse a few steep sections filled with rocks and boulders. If you prefer to hike up the steep boulder sections, hiking counter-clockwise is your best bet.
- Distance: 2.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 708 feet
- Duration: 1.5 – 3 hours
Honorable Mention: Carriage Roads
Acadia National Park’s Carriage Roads are a winding network of 45 miles of broken stone roads. Developed as a motor-free way to move through Mount Desert Island, these were gifted to Acadia National Park by John D. Rockefeller. Here, hikers, bikers, and riders on horseback converge among beautiful views of the park and amidst waterfalls, crystal clear streams, and historic stone-faced bridges.
Set up in connecting loops with an easy-to-follow numbered system, there is plenty to explore and many paths that take you along some of Acadia’s best attractions. View the entire map of the Carriage Roads here. While this is a great place to walk and hike, we loved biking in the shade of the tree-lined carriage roads. It felt like moving alongside history in a way that truly compliments the natural beauty of the landscape that exists on Mount Desert Island.
A Note on Trail Closures
There are 2 other trails that no doubt belong on this list: Precipice Trail and the Jordan Cliffs Trail. Both of these trails were high on our list, but nature had other plans! Acadia National Park shuts down trails in the area where Peregrine Falcons nest each year to help with the rehabilitation of the species. This is an important measure to protect these birds and you can expect trail closures starting in March and going through most of the summer.
It is always a good idea to check the park for alerts as you prepare for your trip, as conditions and closures can change suddenly. These can typically be found on the top of the home page for the park, through the NPS website. You can check current conditions and alerts for Acadia National Park here.
- Distance: 2.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,053 feet
- Distance: 5.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,610 feet
Best Trails on West Mount Desert Island
Bass Harbor Head Light Trail
A short trail that is more about the scenery and photography than the hiking experience.
Built in 1858, Bass Harbor Light is an iconic lighthouse and a classic staple of Maine’s coastal landscape. Located on the southwest corner of Mount Desert Island in Tremont, this historic light is one of three under the management of Acadia National Park.
With beautiful postcard-worthy views comes high traffic. As one of the most visited places on the western side of the island, expect long lines while waiting to enter a small parking lot that is full most of the day. As is true of most places you might visit in Acadia, really early or late may be for this short trail.
- Distance: 0.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 62 feet
- Duration: 10-15 minutes
Ship Harbor Trail
After leaving the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Ship Harbor Trail is a great next stop down in Southwest Harbor. A parking area right off Route 102A marks a quiet trail that leads you through the shade of towering trees before opening up to a pristine blue harbor.
This is a flat trail that offers great views of the clear water in the shallow harbor and lots of rocks to admire. We found the trail empty on an early morning, but you may find it busier if you hike it later in the day due to its proximity to the lighthouse.
- Distance: 1.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 65 feet
- Duration: 30 minutes
Best Hiking Trails on Schoodic Peninsula
Schoodic Peninsula is home to the only part of Acadia National Park that exists on Maine’s mainland and in our opinion is one of the best things you can do during your visit to Acadia National Park.
Visited by only about 10% of those exploring Acadia National Park, this area is less traveled and minimally developed. Exploring here can feel like you have stumbled upon a true hidden gem. It is the perfect place for a quiet retreat from larger crowds you might encounter in other areas of the park.
To get uninhibited views off the coastline and soak in the sights and sounds of nature, we recommend the Schoodic Head Trail and the Anvil Trail, which are two of our favorite on Schoodic Peninsula:
Schoodic Head Trail
This short climb brings you up to a great viewpoint through the trees that provides beautiful views over the Schoodic Peninsula. If you venture over to Schoodic, it is worth taking an hour to experience this hike.
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Elevation Gain: 374 feet
- Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour
The Anvil Trail starts from the same trailhead as Schoodic Head Trail. You’ll actually hit Schoodic Head on your way out to The Anvil, so if you are looking for one trail that visits both Schoodic Head and The Anvil, this is it.
- Distance: 2.0 miles
- Elevation Gain: 515 feet
- Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
Want to make it a complete day trip? Check out our guide to the Best Things To Do on Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula
Acadia National Park Trail Superlatives
A quick guide to which trails win the awards in our opinion…in case you need some help deciding which trails to do!
- Best easy trail: Ocean Path (if done outside peak hours)
- Best short hike: Bubbles Trail
- Best longer trail: Cadillac Mountain North Ridge & Gorge Path Loop
- Best views: Cadillac Mountain, Dorr Mountain, or Beehive Trail (just can’t decide!)
- Most unique: Six Summits (plenty of different vantage points along this route!)
- Best for dogs: There are so many dog-friendly trails in Acadia! Little Long Pond is our favorite as it is an off-leash area
Ready For a Rest Day? Check out one of the scenic drives in Acadia National Park
Getting out onto Acadia’s trails and exploring on foot allows you to really experience all that this majestic place on Main’e rocky coast has to offer. This said, you shouldn’t miss the park’s fabulous scenic drives, which will allow you to cover a lot of ground in less time!
There are two scenic drives in Acadia National Park to add to your itinerary, one on Mount Desert Island and one on Schoodic Peninsula. Both wind their way through the park, emerging through tree-lined streets out to vast views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding islands.
Best enjoyed with the windows down with the salt breeze gently brushing against your face!
Park Loop Road on Mount Desert Island
This 27-mile Park Loop Road is a scenic drive in Acadia National Park that covers the east side of Mount Desert Island. Major points of interest along the drive include:
- Hulls Cove Visitor Center
- Sand Beach
- Thunder Hole
- Otter Cliff
- Jordan Pond
- Sieur de Monts Spring
- Cadillac Mountain (permit required)
This a very popular road and can be very congested. Keep an eye out for cyclists, parked cars, pedestrians, hikers, and wildlife. Expect it to be hard to find parking in the lots along the route, especially during peak hours of the day. Venturing out for sunrise or later in the evening will give you the best opportunity to run into smaller crowds and have more parking options.
Schoodic Loop Road on Schoodic Peninsula
Schoodic Loop Road is a 6-mile one-way loop around the Schoodic peninsula that has ample vehicle turnouts to stop and enjoy the scenery. Major points of interest along the route:
- Frazer Point Park & Picnic Area
- Winter Harbor Light
- Schoodic Point
- Raven’s Nest
- Blueberry Hill
Fulfilling Travel Tips
While we mentioned this throughout the article, truly one of our biggest tips for hiking in Acadia National Park is to hike outside of peak hours. This is a relatively small park that receives an extremely high number of visitors, especially in the summer months.
There are also certain trails that tend to get overwhelmed (such as Beehive, Precipice, Ocean Path, and trails close to the Jordan Pond House) due to their popularity and proximity to parking areas on Park Loop Road.
To make the most of your trip, we highly recommend hiking early or later in the day if you are visiting during peak season. We also recommend exploring outside of what many might rank as the “must-hike” trails to check out some others that might be quieter (we found this to be the case for Acadia Mountain, Six Summits, and the Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail).
Typically trails that are harder to get to, more difficult, or longer, tend to take you away from larger crowds.
Making the effort to head over to Schoodic Peninsula will also help you to find a bit more solitude!
Finally, you may find that as you hike more, the views look very familiar. As this happens, try switching things up and focus on trails with unique qualities that make the journey an adventure in itself (such as the Ladder Trail or trails along the Carriage Roads with hidden waterfalls).
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Places to stay near Acadia National Park:
Acadia National Park Campgrounds:
Other Bar Harbor Area Accommodations:
- Bar Harbor Campground
- Timberland Acres RV Park
- Mount Desert Campground
For help finding the perfect place to stay, read our complete guide to the best camping near Acadia
If you are looking for the perfect one-stop shop for comparing RV parks and glamping options and prices with instant booking, we highly recommend Campspot.
If you are looking to get closer to nature but don’t have an RV, consider renting one through RV Share. You can easily search for different types of RVs available near you or your destination to help you plan your perfect getaway. We used this service when renting out our Casita and found it to be high quality and easy to use!
Another great option is glamping or nature-centric stays. Here are some great options near Acadia National Park:
You can explore all Bar Harbor area accommodations and compare prices on Booking.com, which is a great resource for unique stays at the best rates.
Looking for other Acadia National Park Resources as you plan your trip?