Before hiking the Beehive Trail Acadia it helps to get an understanding and knowledge of the area before you set out for the first time.
Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful landscapes on America’s Eastern Seaboard: 47,000 acres including breathtaking vistas, beaches, woodland, and high peaks.
One of the most prominent is The Beehive, a popular destination for adventurous hikers due to its famous Beehive Trail, known for being a real challenge with difficult terrain and obstacles including steep stairs and iron rungs to climb, exposed cliffs with steep drops, and more.
While we don’t recommend this trail for beginners, small children, or anyone with a terrible fear of heights, it’s an excellent transitional trail for a seasoned hiker who craves some adrenaline and maybe wants to prepare to take it up to the next level.
Although challenging, it’s relatively short and could help prepare you for an even more intense climb with scarier drops such as Acadia National Park’s even more intimidating Precipice Trail.
Everything You Need to Know Before Arriving at the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park
The first thing you need to know before deciding to hike the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park is, as previously mentioned, it’s not a simple hike. While someone used to doing extremely challenge hikes may not find it the most difficult they’ve done, it’s still a strenuous climb, so just know what you’re in for.
Due to the rocky, steep terrain, dogs and other pets are not allowed on the Beehive Hike so be aware of that and leave your furry friends at home. And while it’s not explicitly forbidden, the Beehive Trail is also definitely too difficult and dangerous for the smallest children.
The steps in particular are too large for them. If your child is slightly older, you can use your own discretion, but even if you’re considering bringing a 9 or 10 year old, we’d recommend that you consider their level of physical fitness.
Also consider their ability to focus and behave safely on the trail. With the significant cliff drops, this is not a place to goof off or to attempt your first hike.
The Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park is about a 1.6 mile hike for the full round trip and takes somewhere between 1 and 2 hours, depending on various factors such as your level of fitness, speed, how many people you have with you, the current weather conditions, and so on and so forth.
The elevation change is approximately 520 feet, which also, naturally, affects how long it takes to accomplish. Although it isn’t a particularly long trail, relatively speaking, the Beehive hike has enough of a steep climb and uneven terrain that it can take much longer than it might seem at first glance.
When It Can Be Unsafe To Hike At Beehive Trail Acadia
Something else to consider is the time of year you are going. While the Beehive Trail, Acadia is technically available to hike all year round (unlike the Precipice Trail, which is closed in winter as well as from late Spring through August due to being a nesting area for the endangered Peregrine falcon), snow and ice in winter make it treacherous.
It’s also not recommended to go when it’s raining, as slippery conditions can make it significantly more dangerous, so plan ahead, check the expected weather, and be prepared to change your plans if it isn’t a clear day! Never go in the dark or when there’s poor visibility.
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As far as what to wear, we suggest sturdy shoes that have a strong grip to do your best to avoid any slipping or injuries.
A Few Handy Tips When Going To Beehive Trail Acadia
Acadia National Park’s regular opening hours (not counting holidays and the off season) are 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM.
The pricing goes as follows:
- $30 for a private (non-commercial) vehicle, and covers up to 16 passengers on the same fare
- $25 for a motorcycle, which covers 1-2 people
- $15 for a single person coming in either on foot or bicycle
- Free for a single person aged 15 and under
- $55 for an annual pass, and should a driver of a private vehicle have one, it covers as many passengers as they bring along (again, up to 16)
Another thing to be aware of is that the trail can get extremely crowded during the summer months, its peak season, which can cause logjams of people waiting to go, so we suggest there as soon as it opens to avoid the crowds, which can negatively impact your enjoyment of the day.
Pro-tip: One of the most beautiful times of the year to check out the Beehive Trail is the first weeks of October, when you’ll be treated to the gorgeous, vivid autumnal colors on all of the trees, making for a truly magical experience.
The downside of this time of year is that it gets darker a bit earlier and it might be more difficult than in summer to plan a day where the weather will behave the way you want it to, but the atmosphere more than makes up for these setbacks, if your schedule is able to accommodate navigating this.
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Getting to Acadia National Park
Most out of towners coming to visit Acadia National Park choose to get a hotel in nearby Harbor, but there are also many other nearby options for places that are less pricey and potentially less crowded and/or booked up depending on the season.
We recommend using a travel website to research the most affordable and/or (depending on your budget) best hotel, B&B, AirBNB, etc., options within the surrounding area to Acadia National Park.
If you did opt to stay in Bar Harbor, you can choose to get to Acadia Park via Schooner Head Road, which is only a distance of about four and a half miles, meaning the drive should only take you roughly ten to fifteen minutes, depending on traffic and your speed.
In order to go this way, drive your car south down Main Street, make a left to get onto Schooner Head Rd, and drive down until you reach Sand Beach on your right
From Bar Harbor you have two different options, however both require you pay an Acadia park fee at the Sand Beach entrance (entrance to Acadia is free with America the Beautiful National Parks Pass):
Great Meadow Drive
The other option is Great Meadow Drive, which is almost five and a half miles, and takes about fifteen to twenty minutes from Bar Harbor. It really depends on where in Bar Harbor you’ve decided to stay and/or how traffic looks in order to select which to go with.
If you go with Great Meadow Drive, you begin by driving south down Main Street, until you reach Cromwell Harbor Road on your right. Take that right, and then make the left to get on Great Meadow Drive. Continue along that way until you reach Park Loop Road on your left.
Take that left, and continue along down Park Loop Road past the trailhead of Precipice Trail and pull into Sand Beach.
Getting to the Beehive Trail Once You Arrive at Acadia National Park
Image Credit: Cheri Alguire/ Shutterstock.com
If you’re coming to Acadia National Park by car, the Beehive Trail itself doesn’t have an immediately adjacent parking lot. Instead, what you can do is park at the Sand Beach Parking Lot, which also provides a number of restrooms as well as access to the nearby Sand Beach.
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From there, you can cross Park Loop Road, where you’ll find the Bowl Trail route, which you can walk until you reach an intersection in the forest where you’ll find the sign for the Beehive Trail, which will guide you along your way up.
The Island Explorer has 12 stops all over the park, and you can find more information about it at its official site. We suggest parking by the visitor center and starting from there.
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Hiking the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park
As we explained, you should start out on the Bowl Trail path into the forest, which will not long after you get into the wooded area, take you to a trail marker that will allow you to either continue along the Bowl Trail, a much easier walk, or go up to the Beehive Trail.
You will want to choose the Beehive Trail, because the two form a loop, meaning once you’ve reached the top of the Beehive Trail, you can follow the Bowl Trail on the way down, so you won’t have to choose between one and the other.
The Bowl is a gorgeous alpine pond and a lovely place for a refreshing swim in order to unwind and cool off after your big hike, as long as you keep an eye out for leeches!
But, again, you’ll want to make sure you do the Beehive Trail first, because while it is physically possible to go the other way around, it causes two problems:
1. Especially on one of the Beehive Hike’s particularly crowded days, trying to climb down against the flow of traffic will only make things worse for everybody, and you don’t want to be that person!
2. As steep, difficult, and potentially dangerous as the Beehive Trail is to climb up, it’s even more so trying to go in reverse. So again, we highly recommend checking out The Bowl, but only on the way back!
And it’s better that way anyway, as it’s safer and less obstructive to other park visitors.
Challenging Climbing When Hiking At Beehive Trail Acadia
Due to the extreme rocky terrain that you have to navigate on the Beehive hike, a lot of people have described the experience of going up the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, as being the equivalent of rock climbing but without the need of all of the heavy technical gear that that usually requires.
Not long after you pass the trailhead, you will reach your first set of granite steps, of which there will be many along your way. As you will find, they are high and steep, one of the many reasons we suggest not bringing small children, and why dogs are not allowed, as previously mentioned.
Continue up the stairs, following the blue markings that have been painted on various trees as well as the granite to guide you along your way to the main section of the trail. At the beginning of this experience, you’ll find yourself climbing up granite (which, again, you should do carefully and slowly) until you reach yet more stairs.
This will lead you to a series of climb up different sets of stairs, and just be aware in advance that some of them don’t have any railings whatsoever to help with balance or to keep you steady, so again, make sure you’re confident with heights and that you feel physically fit enough to handle this before embarking on this journey.
Once you’ve gotten to the top of these steps, you’ll arrive at a bridge of sorts formed out of a set of iron rungs that have been planted over the rocks in order to create a pathway.
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Views Of Sand Beach
If you look down when you’re here, this spot in particular provides an absolutely breathtaking view of Sand Beach that you won’t want to miss, and which is great for photos and (careful!) selfies.
Once you’ve proceeded a bit past that point, you’ll get to the ladders made of iron rungs that have been drilled directly to the granite, and this is the bit that feels the most like you’re rock climbing, albeit without the gear. It can be quite nerve wracking and is one of the major reasons we only recommend this trail for adventurous types.
After a few of these ladders, you’ll come to one of the most iconic spots of the entire Beehive Trail, Acadia: a wooden bridge that is probably one of the most photographed sights of the entire journey and again provides another gorgeous view of Sand Beach.
From that point on, you’ll cross a series of very narrow and similarly nerve wracking ledges, followed by more ladders to climb and narrow paths to walk along, some of which have railings, others of which don’t.
As much as this can make it a bit scary, all of these narrow ledges and unobstructed sections are also exactly what provides such incredible views and makes the climb worthwhile.
Reaching The Summit at Beehive Trail Acadia
And lo and behold, after that point, you’re at the summit of the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, where you’ll get the best views of all! This includes Champlain Mountain rising over Frenchman Bay, and even further away, the Porcupine Islands.
On a not too crowded day, this can be a great spot to linger, perhaps have a packed picnic lunch, and of course indulge in some selfies in front of the gorgeous, sun-dappled vistas behind you. When there are too many people, however, it’s best and safer to move along!
From that point on, you can follow The Bowl Trail back down through the forested area until you reach the Bowl, as we described earlier on in this section.
Other Options After the Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park
Once you get to the summit and have had time to appreciate it, and then followed the Bowl Trail down to The Bowl itself, if you still aren’t yet ready to wrap up your hike, you have other options rather than simply going back down the rest of the Bowl Trail.
Instead, if you want to extend the hike it to a three and a half mile loop, you can choose to switch over to the Gorham Mountain and Ocean Path Trail rather than returning to the Bowl Trail.
You can also instead continue from the Bowl down to the Beehive Trail/Bowl Trail intersection and go from there to the Champlain South Ridge Trail to Champlain Mountain and back down, which would turn it into a five mile long hike.
By adding another loop from there onto the Champlain North Ridge Trail and/or the Beachcroft Trail, you could even extend it further into an over six and a half mile long hike! The wonderful thing about Acadia National Park, and particularly this area of it, is how many varieties of trails it offers for a fit, enthusiastic hiker.
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If you’re looking for a hike that’s difficult but not too difficult and gives you a taste of adventure while also being a manageable length then this is the hike for you. The fact that it doesn’t require gear in order to enjoy the thrill of a climb while providing the sorts of breathtaking views that hikers crave you need to check out The Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park.
This guide should have provided you with all of the information you’ll need to start planning your visit. This breathtaking natural beauty which we highly recommend will not disappoint.