Great Hikes: Precipice Trail, Acadia NP

An old school trail, with wide views of Maine islands and coast
Staff Writer

Stone steps, iron-rung ladders and steep slopes will take you up a sheer cliff face to the summit of Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park. These walls were shaped 18,000 years ago when glaciers carved out the granite mountainside.

The history of this via ferrata-type route goes back to the early 1900s, when locals created the first trail plans. A man named Waldron Bates, chair of the Roads and Paths Committee of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association from 1900 to 1909, suggested the creation of stone stairways and iron rung ladders to navigate more difficult sections. With these features, the locals created the same routes you can hike today.

As you ascend, you’ll have wide views of Frenchman’s Bay and the Porcupine Islands. The islands are named for their domed shape and the spruce trees that cover them like quills. The island closest to the shore, Bar Island, is the namesake for the nearby city of Bar Harbor. At low tide, a long sandbar allows visitors to cross the channel on foot.

From the top of the hike, you can see five miles across Frenchman’s Bay to Schoodic Peninsula, another part of Acadia National Park. You can also see Egg Rock Lighthouse. Built in 1875, the lighthouse helped guide ships through the busy waters of Frenchman’s Bay. It was automated in 1977.

Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip

Elevation Change: 1,000 feet

Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Duration: 2 hours

Best Time to Go: Year-round, but note that the trail is generally closed from March 15 to August 15 to protect nesting peregrine falcons.

How to get there: There are direct flights from Boston’s Logan Airport to Hancock County Airport, located 10 miles from Acadia National Park. You can also fly into the Bangor International Airport, a one-hour drive to the park. Once in the area, you’ll need to rent a car. For specific directions, check out the national park website

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