A woman walking along a narrow rocky trail above a scenic ocean view with fall foliage

Hiking the Beehive Trail | Acadia National Park

The Beehive Trail is a thrilling climb up iron rungs and ladders that will reward you with epic, panoramic views of Acadia. Use our guide to come fully prepared for your hike.

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The Beehive Loop Trail should be on any hiker's Acadia bucket list. But, is it dangerous? How hard is it? And what's the difference between the Beehive and Precipice trails?

Having hiked both of them, we're going to answer all of that and give you some first hand advice on how to tackle this beautiful but challenging trail. Spoiler alert: it'll get your heart pumping, but with some caution and good weather it's not dangerous. After reading through our guide you'll know exactly what you're getting into.

Quick Overview

Length | 1.5 mile loop

Elevation | 508 feet

Difficulty | Hard (short but steep, with rock scrambles and iron rungs)

A Guide to Hiking The Beehive Trail

From the top of the Beehive Trail you'll be looking out across the Atlantic to Schoodic Peninsula and the islands of Frenchman Bay.

If you're visiting in the fall, splashes of color dot the landscape all around you.

In the summer, bald granite peaks emerge from a blanket of lush green that runs right into the deep blue of the ocean.

The views are wonderful.

But the scenery comes paired with an adrenaline rush and undeniable sense of 'we just did that!'

Iron Rungs & Ladders

Besides the views, the biggest appeal to the Beehive is its iron rungs and ladders.

These make for a challenging but exhilarating trek, that will leave you feeling like an accomplished outdoor adventurer. Looking back down, about 500 feet from where you came, over boulders and up vertical cliff faces, it's hard not to celebrate.

So how scary and dangerous is it?

Honestly, we didn't feel uncomfortable doing the Beehive. There are some relatively narrow ledges, a portion of the trail early on where you'll need to step over a gap bridged by iron bars, and of course a few sections where you'll be climbing up on rungs or ladders.

But photos tend to make it look scarier than it is. They don't give you the full context, including how wide the trail really feels and what's below you.

A woman steps over a gap in a rocky hiking trail bridged by an iron grate.A woman climbs up a vertical cliff face using iron rungs anchored into the rock.

Having said that, here are our words of caution and advice:

If you have a legitimate fear of heights, this trail isn't for you. There are some steep drops and once you begin the climb up, the elevation gain is rapid. You'll also need to scale some short vertical sections of rock.

Once you've begun climbing the rungs, you really need to push through and finish. This is essentially a one way trail and it's very popular. There may be a line of people behind you waiting to go up. Attempting to turn around and go back down is not only more difficult and dangerous, it will create a lot of congestion on the trail.

If it's raining, has recently rained, or it's in the forecast during your hike, don't do the hike. Same for snowy or icy conditions. We had dry weather during our visit, but we've seen plenty of other people report that the trail becomes very slick when it's wet. This would make for some sketchy and dangerous conditions.

Bringing young kids along is a personal judgment call. If they're confident hikers and able to make it the whole way without being carried or holding hands, they might be ready. Note that some of the climbing could be a challenge for little ones or even adults who are shorter than 5' tall.

Come prepared. Most importantly, wear hiking boots with good traction.

But don't overlook appropriate clothing and hydration. This isn't mountaineering, but it's also not just a casual day hike.

Please don't be the people on the trail in tennis shoes and jeans who are carrying no water.

A woman walks along a narrow rocky ledge on a scenic fall hike above Acadia National Park's coastline.Looking up at several iron ladder steps anchored into a granite rock face.

Okay. Back down off our soap box.

Let's talk about the trail itself.

It starts with a moderately easy, rocky uphill walk through the trees that feels much like other New England hikes. It's marked with blue blazes.

For the first quarter mile you're on the Bowl Trail.

Once you reach the intersection with the Beehive Trail you need to turn right, to do the hike counter-clockwise. This is important, so that you'll be climbing up the vertical sections and not trying to descend them backwards.

From here you'll begin ascending quickly, over rock scrambles and granite staircases. The scenery also comes into view rather quickly, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to pause, take it in, and catch your breath.

After conquering the most difficult portion of the hike, it's a few hundred feet of walking to reach the summit, which puts you over 500 feet above sea level, with panoramic views.

A woman takes in the sunrise view from the top of Beehive Trail with fall foliage in the foreground

To complete the loop you have two options.

Either follow the trail down to The Bowl, a small pond that's nestled between The Beehive and Champlain Mountain, then take a short section of the Champlain South Ridge Trail to rejoin the Bowl Trail, and head directly back to the trailhead.

Or take the shortcut trail to the left, 0.1 miles beyond the summit, and make your way back without stopping at The Bowl. This shortcut trail saves about 0.3 miles off the full loop.

Expect the entire hike to take between one and two hours.

Beehive Trail vs Precipice Trail

If you're considering both hikes while in Acadia, we'd definitely recommend trying the Beehive Trail first.

This is what we did and, after completing it without any problems, it gave us a confidence boost to move on to Precipice.

Precipice is undoubtedly more difficult than Beehive. It's longer with double the elevation.

But it also has the advantage of being a little less crowded than Beehive and some would argue that the views from the summit are better.

If you have the time, we can definitely recommend doing both of them.

Before You Go

When planning ahead for your hike, make sure you have an entrance pass to Acadia National Park.

A day pass is $35 per vehicle, but the best value is an America the Beautiful Pass. It's $80 for annual access to all the National Parks and other federal sites throughout the country. If you spend more than a few days out of the year in the parks or National Forests it pays for itself.

The best time of year to take on the Beehive is summer or fall. Beginning in late spring the conditions could be right, but it will be colder with a slightly higher chance of rain.

Peak summer season, in July and August, can be hot and the park will be very crowded. If you're visiting in these months, plan your hike for early in the morning.

We'd argue that the optimal time to go is in October, when fall foliage is at its peak and the summer break crowds have moved on. There will still be plenty of folks out, chasing fall colors through New England, but temperatures are mild and the views are killer.

Pets aren't permitted on the Beehive Trail, so leave 'em behind.

But don't forget some hiking essentials. At a minimum, wear decent hiking footwear, and bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. Have a headlamp with you if you'll be going for sunset, dress in layers on chilly days, and consider a small day pack to carry everything.

Getting There

Hikers begin the Beehive Loop from the Bowl Trailhead, which is directly across from Sand Beach parking lot.

You can get there by taking either Park Loop Road or Schooner Head Road south from Bar Harbor. The drive is about 15 minutes.

Cell phone service is very limited inside the park, so make sure you download offline maps, including driving directions and a trail map, before heading out.

Parking

The parking lot at Sand Beach is closest to the trail. It has 101 spaces, but fills up quickly during busy times of the year. The National Park Service has a gauge on their Acadia parking page that will tell you the busiest times, based on the day. The Sand Beach lot is generally considered 'busy' or 'very busy' between 7 AM and 7 PM.

From the lot you can cross Park Loop Road, walk back up the road just a bit, and jump on the trail.

Parking is allowed in the right hand lane of Park Loop Road, unless otherwise posted, so if the lot is full this is still an option.

Other Things to do in Acadia

North Gorham Mountain Trail

If the Beehive doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you can still catch some elevated views of Acadia National Park from the same trailhead. The North Gorham Mountain Trail splits off from the Bowl Trail after 0.3 miles and heads up to a peak just south of Beehive but with the same elevation.

The hike up is much more gradual, without the iron rungs and ladders, but still moderate in difficulty since there are some rock scrambles.

As an out-and-back from Sand Beach, it's 1.5 miles.

It can also be done as a 3.0 mile loop trail that takes you all the way up and over Gorham, then back down the Ocean Path. This trail follows the coastline and is a great way to see another popular Acadia attraction, Thunder Hole.

There's an optional side trail on the loop, Cadillac Cliff, that does involve climbing iron rungs.

Driving Park Loop Road

No trip to Acadia is complete without taking a scenic drive around Mount Desert Island on the Park Loop Road.

It begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center just outside Bar Harbor and is a (mostly) one way tour through the most popular parts of the park, taking you out to the southeastern coastline, and then back inland to Jordan Pond.

Enjoy the scenic stops and history of Acadia even more by downloading a self-guided audio tour for the drive.

Cadillac Mountain

Perhaps the most popular destination inside the park is its highest point, Cadillac Mountain.

It's also the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard and home of the earliest sunrise in the US between October and May.

Because of its popularity, you'll need a vehicle reservation to drive up. They can be purchased up to 90 days ahead of time for $6 per vehicle.

A dramatic pink and orange sunrise over the Atlantic ocean with a rocky foreground.

Want to hike the Beehive? Pin it for later!

A woman walks along a narrow rocky ledge above views of fall foliage with text overlay that says 'Hiking Acadia's Beehive Trail'

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