Article Overview: Hiking the Precipice Trail in Acadia
Are you tough enough to handle Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park? Through a mix of rocks, cliffs, and narrow ledges, you’ll climb the height of the Eiffel Tower in less than a mile. The hike is tough, the views are outstanding, and trail access is fleeting.
My name is Jennifer and I’m going to walk you through the steps and slides of the Precipice Trail, having tackled it several times despite a minor fear of heights.
Precipice Trail at Acadia ranks as the hardest hike in Acadia National Park and sits with the behemoth hikes of Half Dome in Yosemite and Angels Landing of Zion as the most formidable in the park system. Half Dome has cables. Angels Landing has chains. Precipice Trail in Acadia has ladders.
At just 2-3 miles roundtrip, it doesn’t seem as daunting as the other steep trails. Don’t let that fool you. Let’s walk the edge step-by-step.
Precipice Trail in Acadia
Article Overview: Hiking Precipice Trail in Acadia
Table of contents: Hiking Precipice Trail
- 5 Quick Things to Know Before Visiting Death Valley National Park
- Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park: Step-By-Step
- Precipice Trail Descent
- Precipice Trail in Acadia Map
- When to Hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia
- What Makes the Precipice Trail So Special
5 Quick Things to Know Before Visiting Death Valley National Park
- $35 per vehicle, $20 per person, but you’ll get more value from the America the Beautiful Pass to access all public lands for just $80 a year.
- Pack to be hands-free during the ascent, as your arms and legs will be busy most of the time. Gloves, hiking boots with good grip, and an extra layer of warmth are recommended.
- Do NOT attempt if you have a fear of heights. This isn’t the hike to test your limits.
- Words cannot express how slippery this train is when wet or icy. Do not attempt unless conditions are dry.
- Here’s my favorite guidebook, map, bug spray (DEET OPTION), and sunscreen.
- This is the ideal place to stay in Bar Harbor, right near the Acadia entrance.
Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park: Step-By-Step
Distance: 3.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,000+ feet in one mile
Time: 2-3 Hours
Precipice Trail at Acadia is intimidating from the start. The trailhead signs immediately advise you to consider other trails. There will be another sign that warns you, “Falls on this mountain have resulted in serious injury or death.”
The warning is true. As recently as 2021 a man fell and became trapped on a icy cliff face. He survived.
After doing some research, I found the reality is that the most recent death was in 2012. Before that, there hadn’t been a fatality on this trail for 27 years.
“The Eliminator” of Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park
You’ll reach the area known as “The Eliminator” around 530 feet (0.1 miles) into the hike. This short climb using rungs tests your climbing skills. It’s called “The Eliminator” because if someone struggles with this point, they should consider turning around.
HEADS UP: As a 6′ tall person, I was able to grip the rungs easily, but some of my shorter hiking friends had trouble grabbing two rungs at once.
You’ll scramble up a boulder field, always looking for those blue blazes to make sure you’re not leaving the trail. Some of the boulders you’ll climb over, others you’ll have to bend down and crawl through. You’ll be thrilled to come across a few stone stairways that take the burden off of your arms.
Then comes the first cliff walk of the Precipice Trail after you cross a short wooden bridge. Here you get a taste of the walking rollercoaster design of the cliff’s edge.
Precipice Trail Point of No Return
I’d be lying if I didn’t look longingly at the Orange & Black Trail sign that takes you safely back to Park Loop Road. Conveniently, I already scrambled, used ladders, and walked the edge of a cliff. This will be your absolute last chance to bail if you struggled with the first 0.2 miles of the trail.
Summiting Champlain Mountain
I felt the spirit of Samuel de Champlain pushing me upward and taking the hairpin turn on the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park.
Here are a few things to know about the runs and metal bars along the way.
- Like guardrails on roads, metal rungs are placed sporadically along the cliff drops.
- The guardrails are at waist level in some places. In other spots, they look more like giant staples that barely rise above ankle height.
- More metal rungs are drilled into the rock wall, providing balance and support as you navigate the cliff edge.
- The ladder runs aren’t always even or orderly. They can be haphazardly placed on rocks, but it’s well thought out for the tough spots where you might need a boost.
Spots along the cliff’s edge can be narrow with the pathway slanting down, and in some places, you’ll take a blind walk around the rock. This can be one of the congestion spots where you wait for the next person to pass.
Precipice Trail Descent
The Precipice exodus is ranked as moderate, with steep trails across more rocks and a few nail-biting cliffs. On the contrary, it’s nothing like what you experience on the Precipice.
You’ll take the North Ridge Trail of Champlain Mountain for 0.6 miles until you reach the Orange & Black Path, which returns to Park Loop Road in .25 miles.
Finally, finish the easy half-mile walk on Park Loop Road.
Precipice Trail in Acadia Map
Acadia National Park sits just four miles from downtown Bar Harbor. At any rate, the Precipice Trail in Acadia has its own parking lot before the Sand Beach Park Entrance. Do not miss the turnout for the parking area since Park Loop Road is a one-way street. You will have to complete the 27-mile loop to get back to his parking area.
About 20 parking spots are available there; understandably, the lot fills up quickly. A sunrise summit on Precipice Trail in Acadia is ideal to avoid crowds and snatch one of those spots.
When to Hike the Precipice Trail in Acadia
To begin with, you need to know that, more often than not, the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park is closed or not safe to climb. But doesn’t that make it all the more alluring?
The trails, including Precipice Trail in Acadia, close during Peregrine Falcon nesting season. That starts March 1 and can go into August. The rainiest month in Acadia National Park is November. The snowy season runs from late October through late April.
That means the best month to attempt the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park is September and October. As a bonus, it also coincides with amazing Maine fall foliage.
Why Peregrine Falcons Close the Precipice Trail
Peregrine Falcons might be the fastest animal on the planet, but their nesting season isn’t as speedy. As part of the Acadia National Park’s support of the Endangered Species Act, the falcons are monitored by park staff when they start nesting in the spring.
At the same time, reintroducing the falcon to Acadia has been a laborious process, but since 1991, at least one pair of birds has been successful at breeding. Peregrine falcons mate for life and usually return to the same nest. One of those nesting locations is on the cliffs of the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park.
In addition, keeping hikers off the trail helps prevent humans from disrupting the nests.
Even during nesting season, you can stop by the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park parking lot, where park rangers host “Falcon Watch.” The trail could open sooner if the falcons don’t produce eggs in any given year.
If you visit during a time when the Precipice Trail is closed, try the challenging Beehive Trail of Acadia National Park.
Is Precipice Trail Harder than the Beehive?
The two toughest hikes of Acadia National Park are Precipice and the Beehive, but Precipice Trail in Acadia is longer and higher. The Beehive (below) still gives the experience of ladders and rungs along the way. One unique trait of the Beehive is there are parts where gaps in the rock require the addition of short iron bridges or wooden steps.
What Makes the Precipice Trail So Special
Overall, the beauty of Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park is heightened by its ephemeral nature. Trying to find the sweet spot when the trail is open but the weather is willing to let you climb the mountain majesty makes it a hike for the ages. If you can handle the heights, you’ll get the thrill of rock climbing without the gear.
Finally, whether you love the adrenaline rush of heights or want to take in Maine from a vantage point usually reserved for falcons, this trail will satisfy your thirst for adventure.
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