Acadia National Park’s iron rung hikes are some of the most park’s most iconic trails in my opinion. They’re not your every day kind of hike. They’re difficult, perhaps a bit scary, but oh so rewarding. I’ve hiked each one (you can find the full trail guides below), and each time I return to Acadia I make an effort to revisit them.
If you are afraid of heights then these trails are not for you. I do not suggest them for anyone who might be hesitant. The trails are narrow at times and a few are very popular. Stopping will cause backups as others won’t be able to get around you.
You are also not allowed to go back down the trail. This goes for each one on this list. They are one-way only. But don’t worry! It’s very easy to make a loop that will take you back to the parking lot.
I’ve included each trail’s elevation gain. This will give you a good idea to the difficulty of the hike. But elevation gain and length alone are not the only factors. The openness of the trail (or how close the trail is to the edges) is another factor of difficulty.
As a final note, none of the iron rung hikes are dog friendly. This is due to the nature of these trails (rungs and ladders) and there is not a way for a dog to climb these.
IMPORTANT! Most of the iron rung trails are closed during the spring and summer for peregrine falcon nesting. Be sure to check on the closures before you head out. The Beehive is open during this time. And sometimes Beech Cliffs. This is one reason why I love visiting in the fall. All of the trails are open then.
This was the first iron rung trail I ever hiked and it’s one I return to often since it’s so easy to get to (and it’s fairly short). Due to this, it’s also very very popular. If you want any kind of privacy, plan to get there very early (like on the trail well before 8), and even then in the summer you won’t be alone.
The trailhead is located right across from the Sand Beach parking lot on the Park Loop Road. The trail starts up the hill over a bunch of rocks (watch your footing) before you get to a well marked intersection. Head right to start the climb up the Beehive.
Expect lots of scrambling and climbing. The iron rungs are bolted straight into the rock as you make your way up boulder faces. And the higher you climb, the more the foliage around you drops away. While this may be a bit unnerving, the views are impressive as Sand Beach and Frenchman’s Bay open up before you.
You may reach the top sooner than you think (I usually do), so take a minute to celebrate your victory. Then continue on the trail towards the actual summit (and maybe the better viewpoint of the two).
After you’ve gotten your fill, keep following the trail down the backside of the Beehive. For a full description and map, check out my full trail guide.
This is probably one of the hardest and most difficult hikes in the park. It’s not just taller and longer than the Beehive. It’s steeper. There’s more rungs and ladders. And these ones are longer. It’s not just a couple of rungs you’ll need to climb. You’ll have to climb some tall ladders, step onto a boulder, and then climb another ladder.
The hike starts off difficult as you’ll navigate up and around (or under) a set of huge boulders. After you cross a wooden bridge, stay left to stay on the Precipice Trail. This is where it really begins. Every climb upwards at this point is via rungs and ladders. Like a lot of them. And if you aren’t climbing up, then you’re walking along a cliff edge.
After climbing up the face, head towards the summit for some congratulatory photos. On the way back, head down the North Ridge Trail and Orange & Black Trail. For a full explanation, additional photos, and trail map (and the easiest way to get back to the car), check out my full trail guide.
Jordan Cliffs Trail
Though this is the longest iron rung hike, it doesn’t actually have that many rungs and ladders. However I think it is second scariest trail on this list (after the Precipice). Because instead of ascending to the top of the mountain, it winds its way along the cliff face of Penobscot Mountain.
A couple in front of me came to an opening, saw the cliff face ahead (where the trail was), and turned around because they weren’t sure they could do it.
After you climb up to the cliffs (no easy feat as you slog up the trail), you’ll then make your way along the side of the mountain. And there isn’t a lot of room. Like legit there’s the trail, a couple of feet of grass or rock, and then the edge. Where the drop-off could be steep.
If the heights won’t scare you, this is one of my favorite trails. The views towards Jordan Pond, the Bubbles, and the ocean are incredible. Plus it’s not as popular as the Beehive or the Precipice.
For a longer description, photos, and a full map on which trails to take to do this loop, see my full trail guide.
The Beech Cliffs Trail has the fewest amount of rungs and ladders, and the hike up to the top of the cliffs is much more doable since it’s mostly just switchbacks (be prepared for a workout though).
There are 3 ladders on the way up. And they are legit ladders. If you can brave climbing a ladder for like 2 stories (as the longest is at the end), then you can handle this. All of the climbing is in the forest as well. The trail up isn’t exposed like the other iron rung hikes on this list.
At the top though you’ll want to go to the right and hike the Beech Cliff Loop. Here you’ll find amazing views of Echo Lake and the surrounding area. Now this part of the trail is exposed, and it does come very, very close to the edge. Be careful if you’re afraid of heights.
Now the Beech Cliffs Trail is less popular. It’s located over on the west side (or quiet side) of the island and it will take a bit of a longer drive to get there (from the Bar Harbor area). And you won’t have those amazing coastal views. But I still couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
For a full description of this hike along with a map and more pictures, check out my full trail guide.
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
- Discover the Iron Rung Hikes in Acadia National park
- Jordan Pond Path
- Ocean Path
- Great Head Trail
- Bubble Rock Trail
- North Bubble Loop Trail
- Acadia Mountain
- 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:
On our first trip to Bar Harbor we stayed at the Holiday Inn Regency. It was a little outside of town but was on the Island Explorer bus route which was handy.
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.
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.