(Strenuous hiking, 1.3 miles one-way)
The sheer cliff walls of Champlain Mountain rise dramatically from sea level to over 1,000 feet on the eastern edge of Mount Desert Island, just a few miles south of Bar Harbor. The rugged and challenging Precipice Trail, perhaps the most famous trail in Acadia National Park, scales these airy heights in just over a mile utilizing iron rungs and ladders in some places.
According to a bright yellow warning sign 100 feet up the path from the trailhead, Acadia National Park maintains the Precipice Trail as a non-technical climbing route, not a hiking trail. As such, hikers are advised to attempt the Precipice Trail only if you are in good physical condition, are wearing proper footwear, and have experience and a comfort level climbing near exposed cliffs and heights. This route should be avoided in inclement weather or darkness. Hikers should remain on the trail and be careful not to dislodge rocks onto hikers below.
Peregrine falcons were reintroduced to Acadia National Park in the mid-1980’s and are making a successful comeback. Champlain Mountain and its environs provide ideal habitat for peregrines because of their proximity to abundant prey found in the forests, meadows, and ocean waters nearby. Peregrines are no longer on the federal endangered species, but are still carefully protected by the State of Maine. As such, park rangers may close the cliff face and the Precipice Trail during the nesting season from March to August. Rangers are often at the trailhead with telescopes and binoculars to help visitors get a sighting of these magnificent birds soaring on the thermals above.
The Precipice trailhead is found on the Park Loop Road, about five miles south of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and a mile north of the Sand Beach Entrance Station. The Island Explorer shuttle bus serves this trailhead and many other points along the Park Loop Road.
The trail ascends over a rugged talus slope of large boulders to the junction with Orange & Black Path. Above, the trail became increasingly steep and difficult, but a series of iron ladders and rungs are in place to assist hikers across the most precipitous sections. The final climb to the top is over more gentle slopes and ledges.
For the extra physical effort, Precipice Trail hikers are rewarded with astounding vistas ranging from Cadillac Mountain to Bar Harbor; The Beehive to the islands in Frenchman Bay and further out to Schoodic Peninsula.