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The Beehive Trail Hiking Guide – Acadia National Park

By Thomas Tash

The Beehive

The Beehive Trail Hiking Guide – Acadia National Park

February 15, 2024by Thomas Tash

Hiking The Beehive: Everything You Need to Know About Acadia National Park’s Iconic Trail

Towering over Sand Beach along the Park Loop Road on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park stands an impressive, unmistakable mountain known simply as The Beehive. It’s not the height that makes this mountain so well-known, as it stands at only 539 feet above sea level, instead it’s the jaw-dropping ascent over iron rungs and ladders with virtually endless views over the southeastern corner of Acadia National Park and off into the Atlantic Ocean. The Beehive Trail is a 1.4-mile loop that is generally considered to be one of the two most-challenging hikes in the park, the other being the Precipice Trail, which is closed most of the summer due to Peregrine Falcon nesting.

Getting to The Beehive

The Beehive is located along the popular Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. It can be found nestled within a relatively small area that also includes iconic destinations such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and the Otter Cliffs. Because of its proximity to other well-known park sites, it’s recommended that hikers plan ahead to park at the Sand Beach parking lot earlier in the morning, typically before 9 AM. The earlier, the better. Pro tip: if you’re a confident hiker, bring a headlamp and head up just before sunrise to enjoy the spectacle from the summit (avoiding the Cadillac Mountain crowds and permits).

Parking Details:

  • Sand Beach Parking Area: The Sand Beach parking lot is the ideal place to begin your hike to the top of The Beehive. This area offers many amenities that will help you get off on the right foot, including restrooms, drinking water stations, changing rooms, and even an Island Explorer park shuttle stop if you choose to take advantage of the free Acadia National Park shuttle system.

Starting the Beehive Hike

From the parking area, you’ll begin by walking out of the parking lot entrance and taking a right to head north up the Park Loop Road. There is a paved footpath that runs along the east side of the road for a few hundred feet, ending at a crosswalk that takes you across the Park Loop Road right to The Beehive Trailhead.

The Beehive Trail isn’t especially long; however, it does pose some challenges along the way. From the beginning of the trail, you will cover the first stretch over a moderately difficult rock scramble. You’ll follow blue paint blazes on the rocks to stay on course. This first stage leads you to a well-marked intersection with signs pointing you right towards The Beehive or straight towards The Bowl, a small but pristine mountain pond located between The Beehive, Champlain Mountain, and Gorham Mountain. Most hikers summiting The Beehive will find themselves looping by The Bowl on their return to the trailhead.

Ascending The Beehive

Once you take the right turn towards The Beehive, you’ll begin to ascend to the foot of the mountain. Warning signs will mention the potential dangers and rules when hiking this trail. It becomes quite clear once you start to ascend the mountain that the dirt trail gives way to steep granite switchbacks and rocky steps. It does not take long before you’ll be catching sight of Sand Beach, the Park Loop Road, and Great Head down below. The view becomes a reliable occurrence throughout the hike and only improves the higher you go.

Like many other well-known hikes throughout the National Park System, including Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Morro Rock in Sequoia National Park, and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, one of the reasons that so many visitors to Acadia are drawn to The Beehive is due to the iron rungs, ladders, and bridges that one must navigate in order to reach the summit. You’ll feel exhilaration as you walk across the iron rung bridge that connects the trail across a gap in the granite. You’ll feel this again later when you reach a wooden bridge that makes its living on the trust of hikers. The iron rungs themselves are generally used to help provide a handhold when climbing up over larger rock formations; however, there are moments where the rungs become ladders that help you reach the top.

The Beehive Trail sweeps back-and-forth east to west across the bold face of the mountain, providing stunning views of Gorham Mountain to the west, the Otter Cliffs to the south, and Sand Beach, Great Head, and the Schoodic Peninsula to the east.

Reaching the Summit

Once at the final stretch, the intense cliffs give way to the familiar rocky summits that Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island are so well known for. From here you’ll find hikers taking in the views and celebrating their success as you trek across the remaining few hundred feet to The Beehive summit marker. It’s at this point that the north side of the mountain becomes visible, providing nearly 360° views that now include Dorr Mountain and the Precipice Trail to the north, Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands, and Frenchman Bay to the northeast, and a sweeping view of the west side of the Schoodic Peninsula to your direct east. From here, once you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the summit, you’ll continue on towards The Bowl where you can connect to other popular hikes, including Champlain Mountain, Gorham Mountain, or return back to the Sand Beach parking area where you started.

Important Considerations

It is important that hikers be aware of the inherent risks and dangers before starting this hike. Small children and those with a fear of heights should not attempt this trail. Dogs are not allowed on the Beehive Trail per the National Park Service, and it is not recommended for hikers to climb down the mountain face, rather to ascend the mountain face in one direction and loop down and around the back of the mountain by The Bowl, a small mountain pond located behind the mountain, and back around to the parking lot.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Beehive Trail

Where to park when hiking The Beehive Trail?

  • The closest parking area to The Beehive Trail is the Sand Beach parking area located along the Park Loop Road.

What is the best time to hike The Beehive Trail?

  • The best time to hike The Beehive Trail is in the morning before 9 AM or in the later afternoon/evening. Parking is limited at most popular attractions in Acadia National Park, and The Beehive Trailhead area is located in the busiest part of the park near Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and the Ocean Path. The hike and connected trails only take 1-3 hours to complete, so if you start between 7-9 AM, you’ll be finished by the time the crowds arrive.

Can I take the free Island Explorer Shuttle to hike The Beehive Trail?

  • Yes! One of the main Island Explorer shuttle stops is located in the Sand Beach parking lot, just a short walk from The Beehive Trailhead. If you’re looking to hike later in the day and don’t want to worry about parking, this is a great option. Please note that the trail can be very busy mid-day, and you may end up waiting for people ahead of you along the trail.

Can I bring my dog on The Beehive Trail?

  • No, the National Park Service strongly advises hikers not to bring dogs on this trail. There are multiple signs alerting hikers to this along the start of the trail.

Are kids allowed to hike The Beehive Trail?

  • It is recommended that young children and those with a fear of heights do not hike The Beehive. Ultimately, it’s important to know the abilities and limits of everyone hiking in your group.

How long is The Beehive Trail?

  • The Beehive Trail is a 1.4-mile loop trail that makes use of The Bowl Trail. Hikers ascend 450 feet to the summit at 539 feet. The Beehive Trail takes 1-2 hours to complete depending on pace.

Ready to explore The Beehive? Buy your Acadia National Park Pass here and start planning your next adventure.

*Before embarking on any hike, you should always consult a map and stop by a visitor center or ranger station to ask a ranger about the latest trail conditions. Trail conditions can change rapidly due to weather or other factors, and park rangers can provide the most current information to ensure your hike is safe and enjoyable.

Thomas Tash

Tom Tash is the Founder and Co-Owner of Acadia East Campground and Pocket Parks Campgrounds. Tom began his career in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Maine at Machias before joining the City of Portland Recreation Department and becoming the Recreation Director for the Town of Bridgton. Tom became deeply invested in the national parks as the Marketing Director for a national park travel guide company. He co-founded Acadia East Campground in 2017/18.

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