When relaxing at Acadia’s Sand Beach, you may look up and wonder what the rounded peak is to the northwest. It’s the Beehive rising 520 feet above the beach, and the ladder trail to its summit is one of the park’s most famous hikes. The Beehive Trail in Acadia includes a series of iron-rung ladders and railings that assist you as you scale the cliffside. It’s a thrill for hundreds of thousands of visitors to Acadia National Park every year, and often one of the highlights of visitors’ trips. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the Beehive Trail in Acadia for a safe and memorable trip to the top.
This post was updated on August 31, 2020. This page may contain affiliate links.
Beehive Trail in Acadia: Logistics
Length: 1.5 miles / 2.4 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet / 152 meters
Time: Allow at least 2 hours
Start/end: Park at Sand Beach along the Park Loop Road. From the parking lot, walk back to the Park Loop Road and turn right (against the flow of one-way traffic). After walking a few yards, you’ll see the trailhead across the street. If the parking lot is full, you may park in the right lane of the one-way road where permitted.
Beehive Trail Description
Hiking the Beehive Trail is one of the most popular things to do in Acadia National Park. To beat the crowds, arrive as early as possible (the park is open 24/7!), but remember not to hike this trail in the dark.
The trail begins on a gradual path through a beautiful wooded forest. You’ll come to a trail marker pointing you to the Beehive Trail or the Bowl Trail. These two form a loop. The Bowl, a scenic alpine pond between the Beehive and Gorham Mountain, is a worthwhile stop. On hot days, the Bowl is the perfect place for a swim – just watch out for leaches! Follow the sign to begin your climb up the Beehive Trail.
What to Wear: Be sure to wear shoes with good traction and grip. Closed-toe shoes are a must. I love hiking in my Keens.
When to Go: Climbing this trail in winter is not advised due to dangerous, slippery, and icy conditions. The Beehive Trail is best from April or May to October, depending on when any snow melts or begins to fall. Autumn is a great time to hike this trail and see the beautiful fall foliage across the landscape below.
Beehive Trail Restrictions
Pets: Dogs are not allowed on this trail (after all, they can’t climb ladders).
Small children: Not recommended; there are too many large steps that would be difficult for small children.
Exposure: If you have a fear of heights, this trail is not recommended for you.
Wet conditions: This trail is extremely dangerous when wet! Do not attempt if it has been raining.
Alternative: Still want to reach the top of the Beehive, but you’re intimidated by the iron rungs, have a fear of heights, or want to bring your dog? Use the Bowl Trail to reach the summit and take in the spectacular views.
Descent: Due to the popularity of this trail, do not take the iron rung ladders back down the Beehive Trail. This causes traffic jams and is extremely dangerous. Instead, form a loop with the Bowl Trail and descend that way. The short detour to the Bowl, a small pond, is worth the walk (and a great place to swim). By taking the Bowl Trail, you will end where you began.
Longer Descent: For a longer and perhaps more scenic loop, climb up the Beehive Trail, then follow the Bowl Trail to the Gorham Mountain Trail. From here, you’ll be able to see the Beehive and Sand Beach from a new angle. Descend from Gorham Mountain and meet the Ocean Path, an easy stroll that parallels the Park Loop Road back to the Sand Beach parking area.
Beehive Trail Map
The map below details the Beehive Trail and the loop you’ll form to descend on the Bowl Trail.
Hiking the Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park
The best way to describe hiking the Beehive Trail is that it’s like rock climbing without any technical gear.
Shortly after the trailhead, you’ll begin your climb on a series of granite stairs. These are a well-known staple in Acadia National Park and can be found on many of the park’s trails.
Follow the blue blazes on trees and granite up the stairs until you reach the true thrill of the Beehive Trail. You’ll start off by slowly scrambling up granite, which leads to more stairs on the cliffside. For some of these climbs, there are no railings.
Next, you’ll come to a make-shift bridge, a series of iron rungs between rocks to form a path. From here, you’re also treated to a marvelous view of Sand Beach below.
Shortly after that stretch, the iron rung ladders begin. Drilled into the granite, climbing these is like rock climbing without any ropes or assists. You’ll climb a few different ladders before reaching your next bridge.
This bridge is well-known on the Beehive Trail. Short and wooden, it’s likely been photographed millions of times. From the right angle, it looks like one step would take you right to Sand Beach. Continue onward to traverse more narrow ledges.
Next, you’ll climb a few more ladders and walk along a few more cliffside paths. One bend in the rock includes some iron rails for you to grab on to as you walk.
Before you know it, you’ve reached the summit!
Beehive Trail vs. Precipice Trail
In addition to the Beehive, another quintessential ladder trail in Acadia is the Precipice Trail. Precipice is closed for most of the summer while peregrine falcons nest on the cliff. The trail usually opens in late-August or early-September. Compared to the Beehive Trail, Precipice is much longer and more challenging.
Personally, when I hiked the Beehive Trail I was surprised at how quickly I made it to the top. I had expected many more ladders and drop-offs than I encountered. I believe it’s because I hiked Precipice first, and was comparing the two along the way. Still, if you’re visiting and are looking for a ladder trail, particularly in the earlier summer months, the Beehive is a great, cliff-hugging, thrilling hike to accomplish.
What to Pack for Your Beehive Trail Hike
- Navigation systems: map, compass, and/or GPS
- Sun protection: sunscreen and/or ballcap
- Insulating layers: synthetic or down jacket, rain jacket, hat, gloves, and leggings
- Illumination (flashlight or headlamp)
- First-aid kit
- Something to light a fire: lighter, waterproof matches, and/or fire starter
- Repair kits and tools: pocket knife, duct tape, screwdriver, and/or scissors
- Emergency shelter: tent, bivy, tarp, and/or space blanket
- Nutrition: food for both meals and snacks
- Hydration: water bottle, water treatment (LifeStraw or SteriPen), and water
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