But I love that I have to scramble my way to the top. And it’s also one of my favorites because I can hike it in the morning, in just a couple of hours ,and be rewarded with amazing views.
And if that’s not enough, then consider this. It’s one of the easiest hikes to work into your schedule as you drive the Park Loop Road.
This hike can seem daunting though. I remember my first glimpse of the mountain almost 15 years ago. I was looking out the window when I spotted the trail winding up a cliff. I don’t know if it was the Beehive trail or the Precipice trail that day, but I do remember what I said:
“Who the hell would want to hike that?!”
Fast forward and now the Beehive is one of my favorite hikes in Acadia National Park. And one I’ve returned to on each of our trips since.
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Read Next: The Best Hikes in Acadia National Park
Why is the Beehive trail considered tough?
So what’s the Beehive’s call to fame? Sure it’s considered one of the more strenuous trails in the park (even though it’s not that long). But the reason for its popularity are its iron rungs.
Yep, iron rungs.
You see, the Beehive trail ascends the front face of the Beehive mountain. There’s a lot of scrambling and climbing, and iron rungs have been bolted into the rock face to assist you. Cause you know, you are hiking a cliff face of sorts.
As soon as I read about these iron rungs, they called to me. I knew I had to do it. And since my first ascent, I’ve hiked the three other iron rung trails in the park: the Precipice, the Jordan Cliffs, & the Beech Cliffs.
But even if the idea of scrambling up the trail doesn’t appeal to you, the amazing views that await you at the top certainly will. Sand Beach and Frenchman’s Bay stretch out before you.
And if climbing up the face of the Beehive scares you, there is a way to go up the backside. Check out the map at the end of this article for this trail. (You’ll basically go up the way you would otherwise come back down.)
Because trust me, you do not want to miss this.
Beehive Trail Guide
I would wake up early. Each time I’ve hiked this, I’ve tried to get there as early as I can. My average is usually about 8am to 8:30am when I’m arriving at the trailhead.
Though I usually hope to get there a little before 8, I tend to avoid alarm clocks when I’m on vacation.
The trailhead is directly across from the Sand Beach parking lot. Which is relatively close to Bar Harbor (my usual base) so after walking out the door, I’m on the trail in like 15 minutes.
The first 100 or so yards of the Beehive trail are actually pretty tough. The trail follows what looks like an old riverbed up the hillside, but you don’t walk on the ground. Instead you have to hop from rock to rock. And these aren’t big boulders. Nope. They are much smaller.
I tread carefully, not wanting to slip and twist an ankle in the first 5 minutes.
After surviving the rocks, the trail turns left up the hill and winds its way up a large granite face covered in brush and small trees.
Don’t worry about missing the first intersection in the trail, the signpost is literally in the center of the trail. It kind of looks like a small monument.
At the split, you’ll want to head right towards the Beehive trail and start to make your way upwards. And here are where things start to get interesting.
Lots of clambering, scrambling, climbing, and shuffling as you’ll make your way up the iron rungs and boulders.
Two of my favorites are the two “bridges” you’ll have to cross: an iron gate and a wooden bridge.
The trail keeps winding its way up and up. And with each climb, each turn upwards, the tree and brush cover around you will become sparser and sparser until it’s gone all together.
I remember hiking this that first time. I was a little afraid that my occasional fear of heights would kick in. But nope. I was never scared or nervous.
Instead I was thrilled.
I felt like a kid in a playground as I made my way up the trail.
And each time I looked down, I wasn’t staring at the ground or the cliff beneath me. Nope, I was entranced by the view. Sand Beach stretched out below me and at every turn, at every open spot, the view was incredible.
I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I climbed, searching for the blue markers as I clambered upwards over the rocks and rungs.
But before you know it, the hike will be over. Getting to the top always takes me less time than I think it will. Sure you may be sweaty and winded (like me), but not dead tired. In fact, I’m always a little sad it’s over so soon.
After you reach the top, its now time to sit back and enjoy the view. I certainly did (as well as taking just a few photos of my victory).
As the morning wears on though, the number of people ascending the Beehive will being to increase drastically. Keep heading further up the trail towards the actual Beehive summit for some more breathtaking views.
In case you didn’t know (like I did the first time), the Beehive trail actually has TWO viewpoints. There’s the first, right at the top of the climb, looking down over Sand Beach. But then there’s the other, further up the trail and right at the actual Beehive summit.
This view points more north, and I think I felt my jaw drop when I stumbled upon it. This was incredible.
After taking taking in the magnificence of the Beehive’s views, it’s time to head onwards. You have a few options at this point.
If you are in a rush and need to head back, you can keep following the trail and then take your first left to come down the backside of the Beehive. This is a short and easy route back because…
You should never hike down the face of the Beehive. All of the iron rung trails are one-way only up the face. It’s super dangerous to go down while people are coming up.
Take a look at my map at the bottom of the post for the way back down, the shortcut is highlighted in green.
However if you have just a bit more time, then you should make your way towards the Bowl just to the northwest of the Beehive. Hiking this will only add about a 1/2 mile to your hike and allow you take in more of Acadia National Park.
From the summit, I’ve reached this small pond in only about 10 minutes. On my first hike, I remember staring at the cool water, and briefly thinking about jumping in when I overheard one of the families nearby say the word “leeches.”
No thank you.
After another quick break, it’s time to head back towards Sand Beach. You’ll pass by several junctions in the trail, but it’s easy to follow the markers.
When you reach that first signpost again, look up. This spot has one of the best views of the Beehive.
Then it’s back down over the rocky riverbed and, before you know it, you’ll be at the Sand Beach parking lot.
I’ve now hiked the Beehive several times on our visits to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. But my favorite is still that first time. Standing at the top of the trail, sweaty, winded, but feeling absolutely exhilarated.
If you end up loving the Beehive, then you’re in luck! There are several other iron rung trails in the park, including the Precipice (its taller counterpart).
However the Precipice (and the other iron rung trails) are actually closed for most of the summer for Peregrine Falcon nesting. So be sure to visit in the fall if you want to check out these trails as well.
Tips for Hiking the Beehive
Start early in the morning. Starting at 8am, I reach the top just a little after 9am, and the number of hikers is already steadily growing. An hour after that (10am) and I passed several groups headed for the trail as I made my way towards Sand Beach. And by 11:30am, people are waiting in line to go up the Beehive.
Don’t hike down. Please, just don’t. It’s annoying. Passing is near impossible. If you don’t want to hike all the way down to The Bowl, there’s a short connector trail right past the summit that cuts off the pond, and it will take you right back to the start quickly (see my map below). Plus you won’t accidentally push someone off a mountain.
Water. This hike and its views are exposed. Though it’s short, you’ll definitely want to take some water.
Don’t go if you’re afraid of heights. Please don’t. This is not a hike for the faint of heart. If you want the views at the top without freezing in fear halfway up, then go up the backside. See the map below.
Buy a map if you need to. It’s important to note that many of the trails in the park intersect with each other. The route I used is below, but if you want your own map, check out my favorite hiking options below.
My Acadia Gear:
Some of my favorite hiking gear:
Beehive Trail Map
The highlighted route in blue below was the path I took. After hiking up the face of the Beehive, I made my way to The Bowl before heading back.
However, if you are short on time, you can cut off The Bowl. Just hike a little bit past the actual Beehive summit, and you’ll reach a connector trail that will loop you back around to the beginning quite quickly (this connector trail is highlighted in green).
Lastly, if you are afraid of heights and don’t want to hike up the Beehive face, you can hike up the backside (the way I go down) to reach the summit.
FAQs for the Beehive
How do I get to the Beehive trailhead? You can find the start of the Beehive trail across from the entrance to Sand Beach (along the Park Loop road). But parking can be tricky. If you go early, you can easily find a spot in the Sand Beach parking lot. If you aren’t a morning person, you’ll have to find a spot along the road.
Don’t want to drive? No problem! You can catch a ride on the free Island Explorer. Buses number 3 (Sand Beach & Blackwoods) and 4 (Loop Road) both stop at the Sand Beach parking lot. Check out the Island Explorer site for information on times and other routes.
What trails make up the Beehive loop? You’ll actually start on The Bowl trail (across from the Sand Beach parking lot), and after .2 or so miles, you’ll reach the first fork in the trail. Go right to climb the Beehive trail. Continue straight and you can make your way to The Bowl or up the backside to the Beehive summit.
How long does it take to hike the Beehive? I stopped often for photos (including probably 30+ minutes at the top) and easily finished in under 3 hours. If you’re in shape and hit the trail early, you could do the loop in less than two hours. However, if you go later in the day, you’ll probably have to wait in lines to go up.
How much does it cost to enter Acadia National Park? You will need a pass to enter Acadia National Park. I bought a weeklong pass for $30. Check out the fees for the park before you go.
Would you want to hike the Beehive trail?
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.