Acadia National Park's Top 6 Hikes
Updated: Nov 28, 2023
My goal is to see all 59 National Parks. To do this, we try to see visit a few every year. And while travel during the pandemic has been sticky, traveling to be outside and with nature seemed like the ideal thing. During 2020 we were able to see
Acadia National Park - this post
Shenandoah National Park - post coming soon!
Grand Teton National Park - post coming soon!
Planning Acadia We went to Acadia at the tail-end of summer. As the northernmost National Park in the United States, this turned out to be a good idea weather-wise. During the days it was warm, but as soon as the sun dipped it became chilly.
The best part of Acadia is the stunningly rich blues and greens in every direction. The park primarily spans across an island-like piece of land called Mount Desert Island. It has around 20 trails and 3 main mountains to explore (Penobscot, Cadillac, and Acadia). When planning our visit, we used NPS’s map of Acadia and All Trails hiking reviews. We also checked out a full list of trails to be sure we knew how difficult they were.
We ended up choosing these 6 hikes to do:
Beehive Loop Trail (1.4 miles, difficult)
Penobscot Mountain Trail (2.9 miles, difficult)
Precipice, Orange and Black, and Champlain North Trail (2.1 miles, difficult) - 3 trails in one!
Jordan Pond Loop Trail (3.4 miles, moderate)
There were a few other things we knew we wanted to see
Thunder Hole - named this way because the water crashing against the rocks actually sounds like thunder each time.
Drive the entire park loop, stopping at the stereotypical scenic spots (Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Otter Point, and other overlooks we spotted along the way)
See the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain - the first place the sunrise is visible in the continental US
Explore Bar Harbor and eat a lot of seafood!
See the classic Maine Bass Harbor Lighthouse (south end of the park)
With this full list of things to see, we knew we had to be guarded with our time. So that meant, renting a car, staying close to the park, packing light, and knowing what we wanted to do each day before we got there.
Sand Beach - a stop on Park Loop Road that also has easy and short trails.
Where To Stay While there are a handful of campground options at Acadia, all of the reservation-based ones were booked weeks in advance and we didn’t want to risk not getting a spot at the first come first serve campgrounds. So we chose to stay 2 nights at the Wyndham Bar Harbor for $180/night. It is 5 minutes from the downtown area of Bar Harbor and 5-10 minutes from the park entrance. This spot was nothing special, but one of the cheaper options available. Plus, we knew we would spend next to no time in the room, so we just needed it to be convenient. And it was! Day 1: Get There & Explore
We flew into Portland, Maine on a Friday, landing at noon. Then we rented a car and drove the 3 hours to Acadia. The rental car was about $70/day and we were there for 2 full days. Once we checked into our hotel in the late afternoon, we had about 3 hours before the sunset at 7:30 pm so we hopped back in the car to make the most of the rest of the day by driving the entire loop of the park on Park Loop Road to stop at all the scenic overlooks. The road is 27 miles with 4 main overlooks we wanted to see. We ended up having plenty of time to enjoy each one and made it back to the room to change for dinner as the sun was setting.
We chose a spot with amazing reviews for dinner: Barnacle. It is right in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor and the food was incredible! After dinner, we headed straight back and to bed so that we could get up for the sunrise!
Day 2: Hiking Through Acadia The sunrise is right around 530am so we knew we had to be up and in our spot by 5 am to not miss a second of it! As it turned out, we were not the only ones with this idea and Cadillac Mountain was full of other like-minded sunrise viewers. It was stunning and well worth the 4:30 am wake-up call. The view looks out over a patchwork of water and islands and the sky is brilliant in all directions. The top of Cadillac Mountain is 1530 ft above sea level.
Even if you are not a morning person, get up! It is beautiful. Its chilly so bring a sweatshirt and a hot coffee and you will be set.
After breakfast, we jumped right into the first hike!
Beehive Trail is one of the extremely unique trails in Acadia. Part of the trail is hiking across dirt and rocks, while the other part is actually climbing up the rocks of a mountain. There are metal bars drilled into the mountain in some places to help guide you on how and where to climb. If you are scared of heights, skip this one. Because the heights are real and in some cases, you are climbing out over the edge of the rocks and you feel like you are hanging!
The views were stunning, again! And it was a great workout to start the day.
After Beehive, we checked out Precipice and Orange and Black. We ended up combining these two and taking them quickly because they are extremely similar to Beehive.
We saved Penobscot for the mid part of the day, right after lunch so we would have just stocked up on energy. It was the hardest one at 2.4 miles with the most difficulty. But with Acadia, the hardest hikes give you the absolute best views! We ended up adding part of the Jordan Loop trail to this hike but not in the traditional way. Meaning, we didn’t take the actual trail, but rather we hiked along one edge of the lake on the side of the mountain that overlooks the lake. It was the coolest thing and is called Jordan Cliff’s. Adding this trail to the Penobscot trail added an extra mile and a half to our climb.
When you take Jordan Cliff’s you’re essentially traversing the side of Penobscot Mountain. They’ve added in metal supports and bridges to make the hike safe, but in most areas, you can’t even really tell there is a trail there!
Once you get to the top of Jordan Cliff’s, you come out at the top of Penobscot Mountain and meet up with the rest of Penobscot Mountain Trail.
1194 ft above sea level.
And it was only 2 pm!
After we hiked back down Penobscot Mountain using the trail, we came out right by Jordan Pond Cafe. We decided not to hike the full Jordan Pond Trail, but just a small part of it to see some of the classic lake views we had read about. And Jordan Pond did not disappoint!
There is also a cafe at Jordan Pond lake, but we didn’t have time to stop and eat there. It’s a building at one end of the lake, tucked into the trees and overlooking a sprawling green lawn before hitting the lake. It’s a very lowkey spot and tends to attract people are not as focused on hiking. But it is a staple of the park and so worth stopping in to see.
After Jordan Pond we were exhausted but so happy. So we headed back to the room, showered, changed, and popped out for dinner at Galyn’s in downtown in Bar Harbor again. We chose this spot based on reviews too and it blew us away. This one was a bit pricier and came out to just at $100 for dinner for 2 with appetizers.
Day 3: Hiking & Fly Out We woke up at a much more reasonable hour and planned to drive to the south side of the park to see the Lighthouse. There were a few spots we chose to stop at along the way to do a quick hike or to take in the views:
Echo Lake & beach
Southwest Harbor town
Bass Head Lighthouse
It was the perfect relaxing morning of exploring we needed before having to drive back to Portland to catch an evening flight out at 6 pm. All in all, you can easily do Acadia in a weekend if you have energy and plan ahead! Thank you for reading this post about our quick trip to Acadia! Reach out with any questions!