For Most people, the Precipice Trail Hike is one of the most sought after hikes to accomplish during their visit to Acadia National Park in Maine. This hike was definitely one of our goals and one of our favorite hikes of the park. This guide will help you with planning your own trip.
About the Precipice Trail Hike
The Precipice Hike is one of the most famous and most popular hikes in Acadia National Park. The challenge of the hike and the views are certainly one of the highlights of my travels to Maine and Acadia in general.
Along with the Beehive hike, they are the most exposed hikes in Acadia National Park. Precipice is certainly the more famous and larger hike. But I would highly recommend doing the Beehive hike as well if you have the time.
Best Times to do the Precipice Trail Hike
The best times to visit the Precipice Trail hike are late spring to Autumn during times of good weather. Weather is a very important consideration for the hike due to the slick rocks and exposure of the trail.
Early mornings are likely the best in terms of crowds for the hikes. Since much of the trail is one-way, you’ll be best served to go at times when the crowds are low.
Later in the day it is possible to also get lower crowds. However, you don’t want to go too late, as you don’t want to be stuck somewhere exposed after sunset. Even with a headlamp it would make the trail more difficult and slow-going.
How to Get There
The Precipice Trail Parking lot and trailhead is located directly off the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. This link will direct you to location of the parking lot. The trail head is 4 miles and about 10 minute drive from Bar Harbor Maine.
There are about 20 legal spots in the parking lot and they can fill up quickly. We started the hike around 630 in the morning and were the first one there.
The trail is located within Acadia National Park (but outside of the Entrance Station that takes payment). There is still a fee required technically from May 1st – Oct 31st. I recommend displaying your pass / receipt if you’ve already entered the park prior to visiting.
Hiking the Precipice Trail
Distance: 2.6 Miles (0.9 to summit) | Elev. Gain: 1,053 ft. | Avg. Time: 2hrs. | Type: Loop | Difficulty: Hard
Rising over 1,000 feet in elevation over less than a mile, the precipice hike is less hike and more “non-technical” climbing. The trail requires you to navigate around narrow cliff walkways, climb metal rung staircases, and hold onto metal poles to aid you in navigating the trail.
Before going on the hike, there is a warning for the Precipice Hike trail. If you are afraid of heights, concerned about exposed ledges, bad weather, bad footwear, You might want to reconsider. I often scoff at these warnings, but this is a useful one. People have died on this mountain.
The Precipice trail requires some upper body strength and climbing various different obstacles. You can see me here climbing one of the early obstacles. I like when there are a few ones early. It helps prepare or weed out people who don’t want to do them before things get difficult.
The trail does ascend pretty quickly in the beginning of the trail. It’s not very long but its steeper. As I said you’ll be gaining good elevation in quick sucession.
After ascending you’ll finally get to a bridge. It’s here when you’ll start feeling some of the exposure the hike is famous for. You’ll go around a corner and get a beautiful view of the water. Definitely take an opportunity to enjoy the vista.
About half-way through the hike (about 0.4 miles), you’ll reach a fork in the trail. Follow the information on the sign and follow the precipice trail to the left. You’ll eventually end up on parts of the Orange & Black trail later.
This I believe is when the trail starts to get more interesting, and definitely more exciting. You’ll get to more exposed areas and more climbing.
The Trail starts to get very vertical. You’ll be climbing the metal rungs as ladders.
The Trail continues higher and higher. It’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the trail. Going early was the key here. We didn’t have to wait for other folks. That would make the trail longer and honestly less fun than it was.
The trail continues along the ledge here. I was a bit nervous taking photos in a few of those places. You can also see the small hand rungs in the photo above. Definitely make use of them.
The ledge is very thin at times, and there are a few points where there are metal rungs on the ground (to help keep you from slipping). My friend thankfully was able to get a few photos.
The Hike continues along a ledge on the mountain. The Views…the views are why we do it. We were able to thankfully stop in some decent areas to get some great views of the hike. There were definitely a few points I didn’t want to move much to get a photo from. So there were definitely a few precarious spots on the trail here.
Crossing over quite a few of the various rungs and along the edges. you’ll get to the last bit you need to go up for the peak.
And there you are. You’ve reach the top. The Summit of Mount Champlain in Acadia National Park. You’ve now completed the tough part of the hike and if you do it right, you won’t have the same crazy difficulty on the way down.
This is a great spot to relax a bit, take in the awesome views, grab a snack. Eventually, though you’ll want to go back down to get on with your day.
When you are ready for the way down, look for the sign for the Orange and Black Trail. I said earlier you would find yourself here. This is the best way down. There is an opportunity to hike other places and do other hikes, but I would recommend this as the best way down.
The trail is the fastest way to reach the parking lot.
The hike down for the Orange and Black Trail is pretty steep in places. However, thankfully its not exposed and pretty easy going. We were able to make pretty good time getting down the trail.
We wanted to try to get to the Beehive Trail after this one. While you could technically do both trails together from here, you should do the Beehive going up as well. To do that you’d either need to do a very long round trip or park another car by the Beehive Trail.
Tips and FAQs
- Be sure to pay attention to the weather. You don’t want to be hiking during or directly after inclement weather. Slippery rocks with exposed cliffs are a dangerous combination. People have died here.
- Check Trail Status Conditions. The trail closes occasionally due to Peregrine Falcon nesting.
- Hike the trail going up (not down). You can (or used to) be able to hike in both directions. When I visited since Covid it was one direction. And definitely better to stay one-way. It’s not practical in some areas to pass people.
- Go Early. In my opinion getting there early in the morning with low crowds is best. Parking will be easier too. We did the Beehive after (with more people) and it was definitely slower going and more precarious with not everyone following directions.
- If you are planning to do both Precipice and Beehive Trail the same day. Start Very early and I recommend doing Precipice first. The parking lot is much smaller.
- Wear good boots or trail shoes. You need shoes that secure to your feet, no flip-flops, etc. You want footwear with good treads/grip. The rocks can be slippery.
- Bring snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen. Parts of the trail are strenuous, you want to be fueled properly. The trail is also very exposed, so you’ll get lots of direct sun.