The Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park is a short but thrilling and adventurous hike, perfect for those who aren’t sure about heights but want a taste of adrenaline. Beehive’s cone shaped cliffside drop offs and stellar views are the ideal warm up act for hiking the longer, more intense and nerve racking Precipice Trail.
Comparisons between the two quintessential Acadia hikes are inevitable.
Beehive Trail is much shorter, easier and less scary than Precipice – but it is still definitely one of the best hikes in Acadia National Park and you should include both on your itinerary.
We’re going to walk you through exactly what you can expect from hiking the Beehive Trail, climbing iron bar ladders and scaling cliff edges with stunning views over the Gulf of Maine.
Let’s get right into hiking the Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park!
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What is the Beehive Loop Trail In Acadia National Park?
Ascending Beehive Trail is one of the best things to do in Acadia National Park.
If you look at the Beehive Trail from afar, you can see exactly why it gets its name.
What you are about to climb looks just like a cone-shaped beehive, with trees and vegetation growing on the sides, a steep granite rock face and tiny ant-sized humans dotted on narrow cliff edges.
Beehive Trail is an adrenaline pumping and exciting climb. Note how we use the word climb rather than hike?
That’s because this trail is a thrill seeking, fear conquering, straight up ascent. It’s not as intense as the Precipice Trail but you’ll definitely feel those butterflies jumping around.
Looking for more amazing hiking trails? Read our popular guide to the 50 best hikes in the USA next!
Acadia Beehive Trail Safety and Difficulty
Now that we’ve terrified you with an overly dramatic description, let’s move onto safety:
In all honestly, Beehive Trail really isn’t as scary as it looks or sounds.
All Trails rates this hike as ‘hard’ and we agree it is hard because of the climbing elements. However, it is very short, doesn’t require endurance and you will not be out of breath … except from adrenaline spikes and making the age old mistake of looking down!
The climb is NON technical, which means you don’t need any climbing experience. We’ve hiked more challenging trails labeled with easy and moderate tags.
The major problem you will face on this climb isn’t the climb itself, it is waiting around in lines to actually get up to the summit. In Summer and Fall between 9am-3pm this hike is extremely crowded.
If you want to climb Beehive Trail but your only concern is standing on cliff edges in lines with people waiting above and below you, we strongly recommend you arrive as early as possible.
- Important: If you do have a fear of heights, vertigo or claustrophobia, please do not attempt this hike. You will struggle and once you start climbing, it is very unsafe for yourself and others to climb back down.
- Top tip: If you want the same views but don’t think you’re up for the climb, simply walk further up Bowl Trail, turn onto Beehive Loop and summit from the back instead. There are no ladders or steep drops on this side.
Preparing for the Hike
OK, so now you know that you’re in for an exhilarating climb-hike, what do you need to know?
Aside from the obvious fact you will be looking at several steep drop offs, please be aware that this hike is open and exposed on sheer granite rock.
That means when the weather isn’t playing nicely, it can be a very dangerous hike. High winds cause obvious issues but rain is perhaps more of a concern. Water will create slick surfaces on the granite rock but also on the iron rung ladders.
To prepare for this trail, we very highly recommend hikers wear a strong and sturdy pair of shoes with good grip. Having a grippy sole is going to help you get traction on the iron rungs and narrow rocks as you climb.
Otherwise, it’s just the usuals, sunscreen on a hot day and layers on a cool day. The trail is very short so you don’t need to take gallons of water or a three course meal in your backpack.
We started out with the camera but quickly packed that up and just used our smartphones. If you have a GoPro, don’t forget your head or chest strap.
Check out our guide to the 10 most important things to bring on a day hike for in depth trail packing information.
Directions from Bar Harbor to Acadia Beehive Trailhead
Beehive Trail begins not long after entering Sand Beach entrance into Acadia National Park on the park loop road. Traffic is going to be busier in peak season and between 10am-2pm.
Most visitors to Acadia stay in Bar Harbor, but there are plenty of quieter and more affordable options if Bar Harbor is fully booked or too expensive.
Read our detailed guide to the best hotels in Bar Harbor and near Acadia National Park for a list of lodging options spanning the budget range.
From Bar Harbor you have two options but both require Acadia park fee at Sand Beach entrance (entrance to Acadia is free with America the Beautiful National Parks Pass):
1. Schooner Head Road – Drive South on Main Street, turn left onto Schooner Head Road and take a right into the Sand Beach pay station.
- Distance from Bar Harbor: 4.4 miles
- Drive time from Bar Harbor: 10-15 minutes
2. Great Meadow Drive – Drive South on Main Street, take a right onto Cromwell Harbor Road and left onto Great Meadow Drive. Turn left onto Park Loop Road and follow it past Precipice trailhead to enter at Sand Beach pay station.
- Distance from Bar Harbor: 5.3 miles
- Drive time from Bar Harbor: 15-20 minutes
- Hike Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip (option for 1.2 mile shortcut)
- Type: Loop trail
- Hike Time: 1-2 hours depending on crowds and stops
- Elevation Gain: 500 ft (152 m)
- Summit Height: 520 ft (158 m)
- Trailhead: Beehive / Bowl
- Recent Comments: All Trails
Walkthrough of the Acadia Beehive Trail Hike
That’s all of the important details and logistics out of the way, now let’s get onto the fun part. Beehive is the most popular hike in one of the best USA national parks, this is not one to miss!
We’re going to walk you through hiking the Acadia Beehive Trail with plenty of images so you can visualize the trail and see what you’re up against.
Get Parked Up Early
We can’t stress how important this is if you want to climb Beehive Trail with fewer people also ascending at the same time.
Crowds will be of more concern to some than others but we still recommend arriving early, just so you can guarantee a parking spot.
Parking in National Parks is always a drama. In our personal experience, Acadia has been one of the worst parks for getting parked. Not just at Beehive but also at the Bubbles and Precipice Trail.
Parking at Beehive Trail is available in Sand Beach parking lot but otherwise you will have to find a spot along the roadside.
We arrived at 7am in October and got a parking spot in the designated lot but by the time we were back at the car it was chaotic and the sharks were circling!
Follow Bowl Trail
Once you’re parked up you can begin to relax and focus on the trail.
Walk 0.2 miles along an attractive forested and slightly rocky creek bed until you reach Beehive / Bowl crossroads.
Take the right turn to follow Beehive and before you know it you will begin your ascent. Now is the time to turn around if you don’t feel up to it.
Begin the Beehive Trail Climb
You will hike up boulders and across narrow cliff edges with iron ladders built into the ground to provide more support for your feet.
In the steeper straight up climbing sections, iron rungs are in place to assist and should be used when appropriate.
You will be inside the tree line for the first part of the climb but when you look backwards you will see a stunning view opening up.
More climbing, more ladders and more scaling along narrow ledges will reveal beautiful views over Sand Beach and the Gulf of Maine.
Be prepared to wait in line for other climbers and be patient. Eventually you will reach a point in which the gradient becomes less severe and you can walk directly up this face.
Acadia Beehive Trail Summit
The final approach is ladder-free but requires shoes with good grips due to the steep rocky incline.
Views over Acadia National Park and the Atlantic Ocean are spectacular, a worthy climax to the exhilarating Beehive Trail hike.
Please do not return down via the same route, it is dangerous for others as they ascend. Instead, walk over the summit, enjoy the views and descend down to the Bowl.
Loop Around Back To The Bowl
The Bowl is a picturesque pond next to which you can relax for a few minutes and take some deep breaths!
The hike back to Sand Beach parking lot is gradual, easy and short from the Bowl. But you can take a shorter route back as you descend the Beehive summit by taking a left turn on the way down.
We took the shortcut because we had many more awesome places to visit in Acadia National Park.
Our Hike To Beehive Trail Summit In Pictures
Best Time To Hike Acadia Beehive Trail
Acadia is a hugely popular East Coast National Park and it benefits from a stunning Fall foliage season. So, you can expect the park to be extremely busy in both Summer and Fall.
Spring is a good time to hike Beehive Trail if you want to avoid the worst of the typical Acadia crowds.
As mentioned above, an early start is the best way to hit the trail with few others but also consider later in the day if morning isn’t an option.
We’ve found 4pm-6pm to be our second favorite time to hit the popular national park hikes after 6am-9am.
More From Acadia National Park
- 10 best hikes in Acadia National Park
- 17 best things to do in Acadia National Park
- Precipice Trail hiking walkthrough
- Where to stay near Acadia National Park
- 10 key things to know about visiting Acadia in September or October
We hope this hiking guide helped you plan your climb up the fun Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park!
Have you been to Acadia? What are your favorite hikes in the national park?
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your hike.
Mark and Kristen
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