It’s located over on the west side (or the quiet side) of Mount Desert Island and maybe that contributes to its lack of popularity. But a slightly longer drive from Bar Harbor should not dissuade you from this hike.
It does take you up the Beech Cliffs with assistance from several ladders along the way. But once you reach the top, the views along the Beech Cliff Loop are breathtaking.
However, and this is a big however, the ladders themselves should not be traversed by those afraid of heights. And though the loop at the top is not steep, it’s very exposed. Those afraid of heights should look for other trails.
If you’ve already hit up some of the other more popular trails in Acadia National Park, then definitely think about trying out the Beech Cliff Trail. I think you’ll be glad you did!
Read Next: The Best Hikes in Acadia National Park
Beech Cliff Trail Guide
This Beech Cliff Trail is actually a loop hike consisting of a few different trails. The route will go Beech Cliff Trail -> Beech Cliff Loop Trail -> Canada Cliffs Trail.
This guide will follow this loop and I strongly recommend you hike the trail in this direction. Hiking down any of the iron-rung trails, including this one, is not advised.
To hike this trial, you’ll want to head for the Echo Beach Parking lot. Then park at the north end of this lot and you’ll see a set of stairs and a trail post. Head down the stairs and hook a left to start your hike!
Now the hike starts off easy, making it’s way through fairly flat forest but that soon fades away as the trail turns up.
And up it goes. But, for better or worse, there are steps in place to help you with this ascent. And if you’ve hiked some of the park’s more strenuous trails, this isn’t as intense.
But after climbing (a lot of) steps and a quick scramble across a boulder-filled hillside, you’ll reach a small stopping point.
A trail sign right after this boulder-y part points you to small overlook that teases you with the views that await you at the top. The views here aren’t outstanding (yet), but this small rest will allow you to catch your breath before continuing upward.
After this small viewpoint, the fun part of the hike starts. The ladders are what this trail is known for. But unlike the other iron-rung trails, there’s only 3 parts of the trails where you’ll encounter these ladders.
The first ladder is the smallest, a baby ladder if you may. And after you ascend it, you’ll head along the bottom of some beautiful cliffs through the forest before reaching the second.
It was about halfway up the second ladder that I started to feel that woosh of excitement. Iron rungs attached to exposed boulders don’t give me pause. But a basic metal ladder, and I start to feel the first tingles of excitement (and nervousness).
These ladders though aren’t too intense. And I’ve tried to include photos of each to help you judge whether you’d be comfortable with the hike.
The last ladder section consists of two separate ladders. And together they’re definitely the tallest on the trail. But once you make it to the top of the second one, you’re in the home stretch!
Now if the ladders aren’t a good indication, then let me be clear. This trail is quite steep. In the photos that follow, realize that you start by the lake at the bottom and climb all the way to the top. It’s not a ton of elevation, but it is quite steep in some areas.
Once you reach the top of the trail, take a moment and celebrate your victory! You’ll be treated to some amazing, un-hindered views of Echo Lake, Acadia Mountain, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.
Now if you’re in a hurry, you can go ahead and turn onto the Canada Cliffs Trail. (The top of the Beech Cliff Trail is at an intersection with the Canada Cliffs Trail and the Beech Cliff Loop Trail.)
But if you have some time, I strongly recommend turning right and following the Beech Cliff Loop trail. It’s not very long, and it’s fairly level. So you should be able to hike it rather quickly. Though we didn’t. Why?
All of the overlooks!!
Basically this loop trail rings the top of the Beech Cliffs, and every turn will give you another great viewpoint to sit back and stare out in wonder.
We spent a good long while just taking it all in and, obviously, taking loads of photos.
Now one word of warning, this part of the trail is very exposed. For several of my photos where I’m literally by the cliff, I’ve just taken a few steps off the marker of the trail. It’s that close to the edge in some parts.
If you have kids or dogs with you on the loop, please please please watch them carefully.
After you’ve gotten your fill of jaw-dropping views, it’s time to make your way down the mountain along the Canada Cliffs Trail.
Now please don’t hike down the Beech Cliff Trail. Navigating down ladders as people are trying to come up is dangerous. And hiking back along the Canada Cliffs will take you right back to the Echo Beach parking lot.
The Canada Cliffs trail is definitely more gradual but you’ll still spot some great views along the way as the trail winds south. If you’ve got a good eye, you might even see the tower over on Beech Mountain (to your right).
You’ll pass through an intersection during this part of the hike, so be sure to stay on the Canada Cliffs Trail towards Echo Beach (it’ll the one to the left). If you go right, you’ll take the trail towards Beech Mountain.
After this intersection, the trail winds down into a small valley before looping back north towards the Echo Beach Parking lot. Just follow the trail all the way to its end and then make your way through the parking lot to your car.
Or, if you have some time, definitely take a stroll out on Echo Beach. The water is cold (though some people swim there in the summer, these people are crazy). However I loved sitting back and looking up at the cliffs I climbed up to.
FAQ for the Beech Cliff Trail
- Is the trail dog friendly? Technically, yes. But if you decide to hike the trail as I’ve described, please don’t bring them. The ladders are tall, there aren’t “other ways around them,” and you’d have to carry your dog up the ladder. That’s dangerous for both you and your dog.
- Where should you park? Definitely park at the Echo Lake Beach parking lot. The trail starts at the far end of the lot, so park at the back.
- Is there an alternative way to the top? Yes there is! If climbing up the cliffs via ladders isn’t your thing, there is an alternative. You’ll want to park at the Beech Mountain parking lot and then take the Beech Cliff Loop Trail towards the loop. It does have a bit of an elevation change, but there are no ladders.
- Is there a trail map? I’ve included an image of the map below as well as a recording from my hike (note my total time was longer due to all the stops for photos). Also weirdly, it looks like I cut off half the loop. I’m not sure if I turned off the trail early by mistake or if Acadia National Park has shortened the trail. Either way, be sure to follow the trail markers.
What to Pack
This is a relatively short trail. So you shouldn’t need a whole lot. I’ve included some of my favorite Acadia hiking maps and day hiking gear below. Also don’t forget some snacks too!
My Acadia Gear:
Some of my favorite hiking gear:
Planning your trip to Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor?
Itineraries & Guides
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Acadia National Park
- One Week in Bar Harbor Itinerary
- 5 Awesome Things to Do in Acadia National Park
- One Day in Acadia National Park
- The 5 Best Hikes in Acadia National Park
- The Best Lobster Pounds in Bar Harbor
- The Best Restaurants in Bar Harbor
- 20 Photos of Bar Harbor
- Bar Harbor in September
- Great Head Trail
- Bubble Rock Trail
- North Bubble Loop Trail
- Jordan Cliffs Trail
- Beech Cliff Trail
- Beehive Trail
- Gorham Mountain Loop Trail
- Precipice Trail
Other Things to Do in the National Park and in Bar Harbor:
- Biking the Carriage Roads
- Rock Climbing
- Sea Kayaking
- Bass Harbor Lighthouse for sunset
- Whale Watching Tour
- Walk to Bar Island
- Atlantic Brewery Tour
- Ghost Tour
Where to Stay:
If you want to stay in one of the classic Bar Harbor inns though, you can’t beat the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa. This is literally in the heart of Bar Harbor.
When my whole family goes, we usually rent a house with VRBO or Airbnb. The extra space for 4 adults really comes in handy. There are several options in Bar Harbor and on Mount Desert Island.
New to AirBnb? Click here to get a free credit towards your first stay!
There’s also a few campgrounds in Acadia National Park as well if you’d like to stay in the park. Make sure to check the location of where they are.