Do you have a thing for the iron rung trails in Acadia National Park? I do! I’ve done the Beehive and conquered the Precipice. Now it was time to tackle the third one on my list. The Jordan Cliffs trail is slightly less popular than the other two, but I think you will love it. It’s a little different than the other iron rung trails, but that’s what you’ll like about it. Plus the views along the trail are breathtaking.
Okay so it needs to be said right off the bat. This is an iron rungs trail. When you hear that think of ladders attached to the sides of rock that you have to use to pull yourself up. If you are scared of heights, please do not attempt.
The main difference with the Jordan Cliffs trail is that the trail goes up the side and then along the face of Penobscot Mountain (where the cliffs are). It doesn’t actually go up to the summit. So while there are iron rungs along some tricky parts, because it’s not a straight ascent, there aren’t too many of these (compared to the Beehive & Precipice).
But what it has instead are very steep drop-offs. I’ll get to this below. In terms of “scariness” I would put this second to the Precipice. I even passed a couple who upon seeing the upcoming cliffs ahead decided to turn around. They knew they wouldn’t be able to handle the heights.
Hiking the Jordan Cliffs Trail
My hike started off a bit later than normal for me. For both the Beehive and the Precipice, I was on the trail by 8am. But I didn’t get to the Jordan Pond House till about 10am. My sister and Dad (who don’t like heights) were planning on hiking the Jordan Pond Path (going counter clockwise) and were going to meet me at the far end of the pond so we could walk back together.
To get to the Jordan Cliffs trail, I took the Spring Trail from the back of the Jordan Pond House (right opposite the bathrooms) and followed this for about .3 miles. It led me straight to the Jordan Cliffs trailhead.
Now the Jordan Cliffs trail starts off steady and steep. It’s a slog up the mountain. The trail winds up along large boulders. And it’s a pretty hard climb for a good 15-20 minutes.
Finally (when I really needed a break) I spotted a bit of blue off to my right and small spur trail. I had hit my first beautiful viewpoint.
The views from the Jordan Cliffs trail are the main reason I loved it. (Of course followed closely by the fact that I think scrambling like this is just really fun.)
After leaving the viewpoint, the trail then weaved back in among the brush, and though there were glimpses of blue to my right, much of it was obscured by foliage.
That is until I hit the boulder field.
Now I’m not sure that this is what it’s called, but it’s what I named it. Basically it’s a hill of boulders. But it provides a great vantage point of the pond and what lies ahead. (It was right about here I bumped into that couple that turned around.)
First, the cliffs ahead. The trail would be making its way towards those two cliffs. With the second being slightly more sheer than the first.
Then to the right, another great view of the pond and the Bubbles. As a bonus, the boulders provided a great little shelf to prop up my camera.
From there the trail hugged the cliffside. And there were now plenty of breaks through the trees to take in the view. In fact there were a lot of sections where there was nothing between you and a pretty steep drop off. Sometimes this was sheer, sometimes not.
How sheer? Like legit there would be trail, a couple of feet of grass/rock, and then there was the edge. And if I would have fallen, I don’t think I would be getting back up again. I tried to illustrate this drop-off in the photos below.
After this first cliff section, it was back into the trees for a little bit. And my favorite part here was crossing over this cool little bridge. It wasn’t that high up and it’s very much in the trees.
I also bumped into a lady about this time who lived locally who woke up, saw the beautiful weather, and decided to go for a hike. (My hero?) She mentioned that the Jordan Cliffs trail was by far one of her favorites in the park.
I should also note here that I only saw 4 groups (about 1-2 people per group) for the entire duration of the hike. Some were going faster than me, like the lady mentioned above. Some were going slower. But I was surprised that the trail wasn’t packed since it was a glorious day and late in the morning.
As I approached the second cliff section, the number of iron rungs and “scrambling” sections started to increase. And, similar to the Precipice, this trail wouldn’t be easy for someone who’s a bit short. The footholds/handholds were often very high off the ground.
And just like earlier, the drop-offs were quite steep and very close to the trail.
But the highlight of this section had to be the two-tier climb around the side of the cliff. The first tier was quite hard to climb up since there were only a few rungs to assist. But the second was one of the tallest iron rung ladders I had seen in the park.
Once I reached the top though, I suddenly realized I was nearing the end of the trail. There was only a little bit more of it left before it disappeared back into the trees. So I lingered.
But finally, when the knowledge that my sister and Dad were waiting for me below, I continued on. I quickly reached the end of the trail and I headed down the mountain on the Deer Brook Trail.
This was a pretty steep descent and it took me a good 20-30 minutes to reach Jordan Pond. So I would definitely consider hiking this trail in the direction that I did. I didn’t see a single person going the opposite way.
Like I mentioned above, the views from the Jordan Cliffs trail that day were astounding. I loved how I could see the Bubbles, the pond, the house, and even the Cranberry Islands in the distance. Due to all the fog we had that week, this was our stand out day. And I don’t think I could have picked a more beautiful hike.
Getting There. Park at the Jordan Pond House (Google location here). Then you’ll need to take the Spring Trail to the start of the Jordan Cliffs trail.
Time. I did the full loop (Jordan Pond House -> Spring Trail -> Jordan Cliffs Trail -> East Cliffs Trail -> Deer Brook Trail -> Jordan Pond Path) and finished in about 3 hours.
When can you hike? The Jordan Cliffs trail is closed in the spring and the summer (from about mid-march to mid-august) for peregrine falcon nesting. Please respect this closure and plan to hike this in the fall.
Cost. It doesn’t cost money to hike the Jordan Cliffs trail, but you will need a pass to enter Acadia National Park. I bought a weeklong pass for $25.
Hiking Map. The highlighted route in blue below was the path I took.