Acadia National Park is filled with many interesting trails, but one hike that stands out above others is the Precipice Trail. This short, yet challenging hike ascents 1000 feet up to the summit of Champlain Mountain all while offering a bird’s eye view of the coastline and bay below it.
This trail is not for the faint of heart – you’ll need to scramble across giant boulders, climb up metal ladders and walk on narrow ridges that will make your heart skip a beat. But if you love thrilling hikes with a little bit of an adrenaline punch – this trail is for you!
If you’re planning a trip to Acadia National Park and are looking for information on how difficult the Precipice Trail is and what you should expect, this guide will cover all you need to know so you can be prepared for an incredible (and safe) experience!
Why Hike The Precipice Trail?
The Precipice Trail is truly one of the most interesting and unique hikes that I’ve ever done. The trill level of this trail is comparable to Stairway To Heaven in Hawaii or Angels Landing in Zion.
This is a strenuous one-way trail that climbs up the mountain’s face to a summit overlooking Acadia National Park. This trail offers jaw-dropping views that look especially stunning in fall as the trees turn to a sea of reds, oranges, and yellows.
While the hike is difficult, once you reach the top, you can relax, take a break, eat a snack, and continue in a loop on a much easier path that gradually descends through a forest. It’s not recommended to climb the same way down to avoid congestion and passing people on narrow ridges.
If you don’t want to climb the dangerous part, you can also take the Champlain North Ridge Trail to the summit, and back as an alternative option.
Parking For The Precipice Trail
Parking for the Precipice Trail is located in a small lot next to Park Loop Road. This lot can fit a few cars on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The earlier you come, the better chances you will have at securing a spot. If this lot is full, you can also park in the right lane along Park Loop Road.
We arrived on a Friday at around 11 am and were able to find a spot near the entrance easily. If all the nearby spots are taken, you might need to park further up and walk to the trailhead.
Location: Precipice Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
How Long Does It Take?
To hike the Precipice Trail, you should set aside a few hours. We followed the Precipice Loop route from AllTrails which took us about 3 hours with many stops to take photos, videos and enjoy the views.
This can be a slow-moving hike, especially on busy days. You might need to wait in a line as people climb up ladders and pass narrow sections one by one.
If you’re running short on time (or energy), on the way down, you have an option to take a shortcut out to Park Loop Road at mile 1.3. Then you can follow this road back to your car.
The full loop continues on a rocky Orange and Black Path which is more scenic but will take some time and make you more tired.
Is Precipice Trail Scary?
While this is one of the coolest hikes that I’ve done, in all transparency I will say that I had moments of doubt towards the summit of the climb that I had to push through. I’ve been battling a fear of heights most of my life so completing this hike felt like a big accomplishment.
People have been seriously injured and died from hiking the Precipice Trail so know what you’re getting into. This is a one-way trail so once you start the vertical climb up you can’t back out and are committed to completing the entire route.
If you are someone who experiences vertigo, dizziness, shakiness, or general panic attacks from heights, steep drop-offs, and narrow ledges, I would start small and check out some of the other trails in Acadia National Park like The Beehive Loop Trail before attempting the Precipice Trail.
This trail is also not recommended for small kids. There are parts where you will need to reach over to grab the handles or pull yourself up on metal bars that are the only thing separating you from 1000 feet below.
Note: While there are some warning signs at the trailhead, ironically, we did see a giant yellow warning sign at the summit that this trail has led to injuries and falls. Going down we also saw a sign that this is not a hiking trail, but a climbing route that should only be done by those with experience in climbing near exposed cliffs and heights.
Is Precipice Trail Harder Than Beehive Trail?
Yes, the Precipice Trail is much harder than the Beehive Trail. The Beehive Trail is located only 500 feet up the mountain while the Precipice Trail is located 1000 feet up.
The drop-offs on the Precipice Trail climb are much steeper and it goes for longer. That means more ladders, more climbing, and yes – more thrill.
The Beehive Trail is very similar in the landscape and setting, it’s just the easier and shorter version of it. If you can handle the Beehive Trail, you should be fine on the Precipice Trail as well!
When Not To Hike It?
For your safety, you want to hike the Precipice Trail at optimal weather conditions when the sky is clear. You want to avoid hiking this trail during rainy, misty, or wet conditions when these ledges can get slippery and dangerous.
It started raining during the last 15 minutes of our climb and from our personal experience, I do not recommend it because the metal bars became very slick and difficult to hold on to.
You also want to hike this trail during the daytime because you will need good visibility to see the ledges and where the handlebars are located. If you decide to hike it later in the afternoon, be sure to bring a fully charged phone with an offline map and a headlamp for the way down through the back end of the mountain.
Note that this trail is often closed from April to July for peregrine falcon nesting. During these months be sure to check out the latest reviews on AllTrails or call the park rangers to confirm trail updates and closures before heading out there.
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What To Bring?
We hiked this trail in mid-October and the weather was getting chilly, but not too cold. If you’re wondering what you should bring for the Precipice Trail, here are a few essentials:
- Having good hiking shoes is a must. The weather in Acadia National Park can be a bit unpredictable and it can start raining mid-hike. You’ll want to wear hiking shoes with a grip to prevent slipping and falling.
- Leggings. I love these sleek tights that are part of the Destination Wanderland collection by Stronger. These leggings are made of recycled materials and have a flattering cut that hugs the waist yet the material is super stretchy for comfort and movement as you make your way up the mountain.
- It can get chilly at the top so pack a light jacket. I love my Mountain Hardware jacket that comes with a hoody in case it starts raining and folds small so I can easily pack it in my day pack when it’s hot.
- Light medical kit – this trail is notorious for injuries and my husband severely bruised his leg on a rock from stepping wrong. Bring a small emergency kit with antibiotic ointment and medication for the pain.
- Bring plenty of water especially in warmer weather. There are no water sources along the trail.
- Mineral sunscreen – part of this hike is completely exposed offering little to no shade so sunscreen is a must. It’s easy to get sunburned even on cloudy, overcast days.
- Portable phone charger in case you get lost. It’s easy to take the wrong turn on wilderness trails like this so you’ll want a fully charged phone to reference hiking maps.
- Snacks to eat once you get to the top so you have the energy to battle the section down.
- Headlamp for the way down in case the trail takes longer than expected.
- Small day pack to store all of your hiking essentials.
What not to bring:
- Don’t bring anything that you need to hold in your hands. You will need to use both hands to climb ladders, boulders and pull yourself up.
- You can leave your hiking poles at home unless they fold small and can fit in your backpack. On this trail, they’ll just be in your way.
Description Of The Trail
If you have decided to hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park, below is a detailed description of our experience and some tips that will help you along the way!
You can start the hike at the Precipice Trailhead which is clearly marked at the center of the visitor parking lot. You will see a couple of maps and large stairs that lead directly into the trail.
The Precipice Trail Loop is 2 miles long and takes around 3 hours to complete. Right from the beginning, the trail starts to climb up but there will be metal bars and rock stairs to assist in the steeper parts.
The first challenging section is a field of what seems like never-ending boulders. This part will require you to tackle each boulder one by one including crawling underneath giant rocks that you just hope won’t collapse on top of you.
Once you make it past the boulder field, the trail will become narrower and start traveling next to ridges. You’ll pass a scenic bridge with direct views of the bay.
At 0.3 miles you will reach the last point of “no return”. If you want to keep going, continue on the Champlain Summit Trail to the left. If you don’t want to do the vertical climb, you can take the longer more gradual trail called the Orange & Black Path that goes to the right.
Or if you’re just not up for this hike, you can turn around and head back down to the parking lot – which is totally fine too! Many people make it to this point, take a rest break to think on whether this trail is for them or not.
If you decide to go on, the next part will start a vertical ascent up an exposed cliff. There will be metal handles for assistance but some will require you to pull your body weight up – especially if the metal bars are placed far in between.
The first vertical ladder is probably the most intimidating. But once you reach the top you will be far above the tree line and will be able to see sweeping views below you. Most people take a quick break here to enjoy the views and take a few photos.
The next section gets a bit more difficult because the drop-offs are more intimidating and there is less space to take breaks. This is also when it started raining on us – not the most ideal timing but we made it through just fine. At this point, we put away the camera to solely focus on finishing the hike safely during rain.
Unfortunately, once we made it to the summit, the views were completely covered in fog and we couldn’t see anything in front of us. Usually, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views of the Frenchman Bay, Porcupine Islands, and Schoodic Peninsula.
This is a one-way trail so once you’ve spent some time at the top, you can continue on a path back to your car which is pretty easy and doesn’t involve heart-stopping climbing as the first section did.
On the way down there are three exit routes:
- The first one exits at 1.2 miles and goes to the Champlain North Ridge Trailhead.
- The next exit is located at 1.3 miles and goes on a shortcut to Park Loop Road that you can take back to your car.
- The last exit loops back to the original Precipice trail on the Orange & Black Path. This is the route that we took but it was much slower.
If you still have any questions about the Precipice Trail, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them. Or if you have hiked any of the trails at Acadia National Park we would love to hear about your experience!
Where To Stay
Based on our own experiences and research, we have selected some of the best places to stay around Acadia National Park for visitors.
These hotels and vacation rentals are within a short walk or ride from the main Bar Harbor amenities like restaurants, breweries, shops, and other attractions.
- The Bar Harbor Grand Hotel has a three-star rating and is housed in a replica building of the historic Rodick House at the center of Bar Harbor’s Main Street. Elegance and first-class amenities are all part of the experience at the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel. Many of the decorations and furniture pieces are built to replicate those from the original hotel in the 1800’s.
- Bar Harbor Villager Motel – Downtown is an excellent choice for a casual stay in downtown Bar Harbor. Each room at this motel comes equipped with a coffee machine and a mini-fridge along with a grab-and-go breakfast to start the day off right. Guests can also enjoy the seasonal heated outdoor pool.
- This lovely waterfront VRBO rental overlooks Frenchman Bay and sleeps up to 6 people. On the patio, you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a fresh meal at the café style table with chairs. While the terrace makes for the best spot in the home for views of the bay, the coastline can be seen from every bedroom in the house.
Other Things To Do Nearby
Looking for some activities to do around Acadia National Park besides hiking? Here are some of the favorites in the area:
- Go On A Culinary Walking Tour. This tour combines the best of a walking tour, history, and my favorite part – eating. During this tour, you’ll visit several local Bar Harbor eateries and get to try a variety of goodies while learning about this region’s history.
- Rent E-Bikes To Ride Around Acadia National Park. Getting an e-bike rental is one of the best ways to experience visiting Acadia National Park. Instead of spending the day in a car, you can cruise around Acadia taking in the fresh air on e-bikes that will assist you with the hilly sections.
- Go On A Ship Cruise Of Frenchman Bay. This 2-hour sailing cruise offers stunning views of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. During this cruise, you’ll get to see the raising and lowering of the sails, enjoy the scenery and observe lobster boats.
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