Breathtaking panoramas, a challenging climb, and rugged mountains- the Precipice trail in Acadia National Park has it all! This is one of the most unique hikes in the entire country with amazing pay offs.
The Precipice trail climbs 1,000 miles in just under a mile, so it’s a very tough climb! Along the way, you’ll have to climb up sheer cliffs with changing obstacles. There are times where you’ll need to use iron rungs to ascend up or walk on narrow paths next to drop offs.
If you are afraid of heights, you may want to skip this trail!
My husband and I went on over 150 hikes in a year, and this one was one of the most memorable. We both loved the extra challenge of climbing along cliff’s as we made our way to the summit of the mountain. Fall colors 🍂 lined the cliffs and a gorgeous pink hue filled the sky. It was incredible.
If you are planning on going to Acadia, then you should add this park to your itinerary! Read below for my comprehensive Precipice Loop guide including when to go and a detailed trail guide.
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Table of Contents
Precipice Trail Details
Quick Hike Info
Distance: 1.2-1.5 miles
Elevation: Roughly 500 feet of gain
Type: Loop Trail
Length: 1.5-3 hours total (depends on your pace and trail conditions)
Difficulty: Hard (short, steep and you have to climb up rungs)
Where is Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park sits on the beautiful and remote Mount Desert Island, where the pine 🌲 covered mountains meet the rocky shores of the ocean. This island is located off the Eastern coastline of Maine in the central portion of the state. In 1916, the government established this area as a national monument to protect this unique landscape before it became a park.
Bar Harbor is an adorable coastal town right next to the park. You can make this town your base as you adventure into the park. Although this town only has 5000 full-time residents, the population booms during nice months. There are plenty shops, restaurants, lobster rolls, hotels, and campgrounds here.
It’s best to have a car when exploring Acadia National Park. But, you can fly into towns nearby to get there.
Driving Times 🚗:
Boston: 4.5 hours
Portland: 3 hours
New York: 8 hours
You can take a flight ✈️ to Boston Airport and take a connecting flight to Bar Harbor, which is just 10 miles from the park. Or, you can fly into the Bangor Airport, which is about an hour from the park.
Best time to Hike the Precipice Trail
Unfortunately, there is a very small window of time to hike the Precipice Trail. In the winter, the trail is closed because it gets too dangerous with icy conditions 🥶. Then, in the summer the Precipice Loop closes to protect the falcon’s nesting grounds. This lasts from April through mid-July.
This means that the only time to hike this trail is usually between the end of summer and end of Fall. In the late summer, trees are lush and the weather can get really hot 🥵. Also, it’s the most crowded time of year, so you may have to wait at times to progress on the trail. However, it’s still a beautiful scene well worth the challenging climb.
In my opinion, Fall is the best time to visit Acadia and hike to the top of the Precipice Trail. As you climb up the mountain, yellow, orange, and red trees 🍁 begin to shine through the landscape. At the top of the summit, you can admire the rainbow of colors that fill the area below.
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 Acadia’s entry fee is $30 for a private vehicle, which is good for a week. You can also use the annual passes including the America the Beautiful Pass to enter the park.
☀️ Weather can change quickly at times. Precipice Trail is very dangerous when there are wet conditions. If there is rain in the forecast or the ground is wet, you may want to save this hike for later.
⛺️Mount Desert island has two campgrounds. Both campgrounds require reservations, which you can get up to six months in advance on recreation.gov.
🦮 Although pets are permitted in many areas of Acadia, they are prohibited on the Precipice Trail.
🚙 You can find parking in a parking lot that is along the Park Loop Road. In the busy months and on weekends, the parking lot fills up very quickly. Luckily, you are also allowed to park along the one-way road near the trailhead.
⚠️ This trail closes during the winter months and during falcon nesting season in the summer. You can check trail closures on the NPS website or at the visitor center.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Precipice Trail Description
Beginning the Hike
As soon as the trail begins, you’ll realize that this hike is not for the faint of heart. The hike begins with a series of rocky steps that were carved into the mountain side. Once you’ve gotten to the top of these stairs, a giant border 🪨 pile extends upwards.
Follow the blue blazes 🟦 to stay on the correct path.
Walk over boulders, using your hands and feet to life yourself up and over them. There are some areas that have iron rungs and others where you may have to climb under boulders. You may find yourself huffing and puffing, as the boulder section is steep. As long as you continue following the blue trail markers, you’ll make it to the top of the rocky area.
Up Over Obstacles
After you get over the steep boulder covered hill, you’ll get to the area that can be intimidating. It starts off easily to test your inhibitions as you walk over a wooden bridge on the edge of the mountain.
Continue to test your nerves as you walk over a series of cliff ledges. These are less steep than the ones you will see further into the trail. After a few of these, you will get to a split in the trail. If you are too nervous 😬 at this point, you can turn back on the Orange and Black Trail, otherwise you can continue on to the peak.
From this point on, the thrilling trail obstacles truly begin. You’ll have to walk over narrow cliff ledges, crawl up over steep boulders, use iron rungs along the sheer mountain side, and hold onto iron bars over bridges.
I found this part of the trail to be incredibly exciting. As you climb over these obstacles, you get breathtaking views 🤩 over the water below. It felt exhilarating and as if you were climbing up to the top of the world!
Champlain Mountain Summit
Finally, after summiting over the cliffs and iron rungs, you will get to Champlain Mountain’s peak. From the top, enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views over Mount Desert Island.
Frenchman Bay sits just below the cliffs of Champlain Mountain. The views of the water extend far out beyond the mountains. In my opinion, it’s one of the very best overlooks ✨ in the entire park.
We timed this hike to reach the peak for sunset 🌅 and it was an incredible sight. Pinks and oranges filled the sky. If you choose to do this, pack headlamps for the way down!
Stop at the top to take in the view, capture some photos, and revel in your accomplishment!
Down to the Parking Lot
There are two options for getting down to the bottom: the Champlain North Ridge or the Champlain South Ridge.
We chose the Champlain North Ridge, which is the faster and easier route to the bottom. Take the Orange & Black trail to the bottom is relatively easy with no additional obstacles. You can meander down the mountain and through the woods until you reach Park Loop Road again.
If you have a lot more energy, then you can connect this hike to the Beehive Trail. In order to do this, you will take the Champlain South Ridge path towards the Bowl. Continue on and you’ll eventually make it to the Beehive Trail 🐝, which is an additional 4 miles in total.
I loved both the Precipice and Beehive hikes, but I recommend doing them separately. It is a more enjoyable experience and you will get to soak both of these fantastic trails in.
Packing Guide for Precipice Loop Trail
Even in the summer months, the summit of Precipice Loop can get really windy 💨. It’s best to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions by wearing plenty of layers on your hike.
Because this trail is very steep and the sun can be strong, it’s important to pack water and sunscreen. This short trail packs a punch as you ascend into the mountain. You should bring at least a liter of water 💦 per person. It’s important to be properly fueled so you can make it to the summit.
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Small Pack
- 1-2 Liters of Water
- Snacks and Food
- First Aid Kit
- Bug Spray
- Hat to block sun
- Rain jacket or light winter jacket
- Satellite phone
- Parks Pass
Final Tips for Hiking Precipice Trail
Despite the challenging trail, the vistas along the way make this trail well worth it. If you are wary about the heights or the cliff ledges, just take it slow and know your limits. Try to go earlier in the day ⏰ so that you can have the hike to yourself and you won’t feel pressure to climb fast. I have done many of the hikes in Acadia and this remains my favorite one.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this trail guide!
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