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Maine Trails

The Best Hikes in Acadia National Park

Find the best of Maine's unbeatable seashore on these hikes through Acadia National Park.

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Want to start your day early? You can’t start it much earlier than in Acadia National Park, America’s easternmost national park and among the first to see the sunrise every day.  And you’ll need those extra hours to explore. Gravel beaches, picturesque cliffs, fall colors that look like they were painted on by some woods-roaming artist: it’s a landscape that calls to hikers, photographers and anyone else who has ever wanted to wander outside. There are a lot of routes and even islands to choose from at Acadia. We’ve rounded up ten of the best to help you use your days wisely.

Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Family Dayhike in Acadia National Park: Ocean Path Trail

Hiking along the coast of Acadia
Hiking along the coast of Acadia (Photo: Douglas Rissing/iStock via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 299 feet
  • Trail type: out-and-back
  • Difficulty: easy

Wind along Acadia’s famous granite cliffs right next to the water on this easy out-and-back. Quick detours take you down to a series of beaches, where you can spot shore crabs and barnacles beside the waves. The best spot for checking out life in the tidal zone comes at the end of the trail: Otter Point, where anemones and shore crabs hide among the rocky tidepools.

Best Hike in Acadia National Park for Island Views: Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail – Acadia National Park – Maine (Photo: Douglas Rissing/E+ via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 78 feet
  • Trail type: out-and-back
  • Difficulty: easy

Located in the quieter southwest corner of the park, the Wonderland Trail starts in evergreen forest before heading out to the coast. The woods (with undergrowth that turns bright red and yellow in the fall) open after about half a mile to the shoreline, with views of Swans Island, Great Cranberry Island, and Great Gott Island. The path continues on to a set of tidepools down by the water, where dark green seaweed and green and red algae cover the rocks.

Best Nature Trail in Acadia National Park: Ship Harbor Trail

Hiking along headlands in Acadia
Hiking along headlands in Acadia (Photo: Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/Moment via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 65 feet
  • Trail type: figure-8
  • Difficulty: easy

Head across a rocky headland to the sea on this easy but impressive trail. The path winds through spruce woods and up the headland before dropping back to a shore of rocks and mud flats, where birders can spot loons, guillemots, and great blue herons. Time your hike for low tide to look for crabs and other tidal zone animals along the edge of the water.

Moderate Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Dayhike on Isle au Haut in Acadia National Park: Headlands Trail

coastline of Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park
coastline of Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park (Photo: Jerry Monkman / Aurora Photos via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 673 feet
  • Trail type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate

Red spruce and balsam fir forest lines the clifftops along the Atlantic where this path wanders. On this southern end of the island, which forms part of the national park (the northern half is privately owned), there is little sign of human habitation; the loudest sound besides the waves is the gulls and guillemots. Time your hike for low tide to look for anemones along the waterline.

Best Inland Hike in Acadia National Park: Mountain Carriage Loop

Carriage Road, Acadia National Park, Maine
Carriage Road, Acadia National Park, Maine (Photo: Philippe Gerber/Moment via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,331 feet
  • Trail type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate

Wind along old carriage roads on this loop past lakes, streams, and mountains, with the added bonus of ocean views from high above the shoreline. Highlights include the summit of Penobscot Mountain, where you can look out at the granite domes of Parkman Mountain, Bald Peak, Gilmore Peak, and an ornate stonework bridge.

Best Peakbagging Hike in Acadia National Park: Cadillac Mountain via Dorr Mountain

red and yellow bushes between rocks on a summit with the sun rising over the ocean in the background
Sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain (Photo: Anand Goteti/Cavan via GettyImages)
  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,298 feet
  • Trail type: loop
  • Difficulty: moderate

Yes, Cadillac gets crowded. But here, the crowds are on to something. The photo ops start early on this hike, with a quick set of switchbacks up the slopes of Dorr Mountain with views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay. From there, climb to the summit of Dorr, then head up to the top of Cadillac Peak (the highest point in Acadia) for panoramic views of the Atlantic and scattered islands. Bonus: on the way down you summit 1,248-foot Pemetic Mountain, too. 

Best Hike in Acadia National Park for Solitude: Bernard Mountain

Hiking through forest in Acadia National Park
Hiking through forest in Acadia National Park (Photo: Douglas Rissing/iStock via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 941 feet
  • Trail type: out-and-back
  • Difficulty: moderate

Crowds not your thing? Head up the West Ledge Trail to 1,071-foot Bernard Mountain for views sans tourists. The eponymous ledges, exposed stone slabs traversing the mountain side, open on unimpeded vistas of the Gulf of Maine hundreds of feet below, Seal Cove Pond, and the towns of Bernard and Bass Harbor, with bonus glimpses into the islands and forests of the rest of the park.

Difficult Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Hike on Mount Desert Island: Pemetic Mountain

 the summit of Pemetic Mountain in Maines Acadia National Park.
the summit of Pemetic Mountain in Maines Acadia National Park. (Photo: Chris Bennett via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
  • Trail type: out-and-back
  • Difficulty: difficult

There are four trails leading to the top of Pemetic Mountain, but the Northwest Trail is the most unique. From the Bubble Rock Parking lot, head into alternating thick forest and open boulder fields. The first big highlight comes when the trail splits into two routes: ravine and ledge. Take the ravine route to climb through a narrow gorge in the side of the mountain, complete with two ladders to climb out over the edge and, in the spring, a stream flowing down-trail.

Best Alpine Hike in Acadia National Park: Penobscot Mountain

approaching the summit in Acadia National Park
approaching the summit in Acadia National Park (Photo: visionsofmaine/iStock via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 940 feet
  • Trail type: out-and-back
  • Difficulty: difficult

Penobscot, the 5th-highest mountain in the entire park, rises from the ocean right to the alpine, and you can hike through all the biomes in between on this trail. Start along the shore, then head into thick forest. Climb through a series of cliff bands to reach the ridgeline, then follow that to the rocky summit.

Best Vertical Hike in Acadia National Park: Precipice Trail

Precipice Loop in Acadia National Park
Precipice Loop in Acadia National Park (Photo: Douglas Rissing/iStock via Getty Images)
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 850 feet
  • Trail type: loop
  • Difficulty: difficult

Climb over the stone shelves and faults of the east side of Champlain Mountain on one of Acadia’s Iron Rung routes, which fall somewhere between hiking and via ferrata. After an easy set of stone stairs, the route heads diagonally up the face of the mountain with the aid of handrails, footholds and iron rungs. The final stretch to the summit returns to flat trail, opening onto views of Dorr Mountain in the west and the ocean in the east. 

When to Hike Acadia National Park

This far north, summer has the best weather, with highs in the 70s. Winter is chilly, with average lows in the teens. The trails can get icy, and the park roads aren’t plowed (although you can snowmobile on them). Fall has the best foliage, with bright gold and red taking over the forest and underbrush.

Hiking Permits

An entrance fee is required to get into Acadia. Vehicle reservations are required to drive the Cadillac Summit Road from May 25 through October 22.  Vehicle reservations are not required for visitors who enter the Cadillac Summit area by foot, bike, or taxi.

Duck Harbor, Acadia National Park
Duck Harbor, Acadia National Park (: Cheri Alguire/iStock via Getty Images)

Where to Stay in Acadia National Park

Acadia has four campgrounds: Two on Mount Desert Island, one on the Schoodic Peninsula, and one group of lean-tos on Isle au Haut. Blackwoods Campground, on Mount Desert Island, is near several popular hikes along the park road, and sits among thick woods a ten-minute walk from the ocean. Seawall Campground, on the west side of Mount Desert Island, also in forest a quick walk from the water. Schoodic Woods Campground has slightly more open sites, but not as easy access to the coast. All sites must be reserved in advance; reservations are available starting two months before your trip. Duck Harbor Campground, on Isle au Haut, is only reachable by taking the mailboat out from the mainland, and has five lean-tos where campers can sleep (or pitch their tent and then sleep). Backcountry camping and backpacking are not allowed in Acadia due to its small size and numerous visitors.