Explore 9 mesmerizing fall hikes in Acadia National Park. Experience vibrant autumn colors on trails from easy to hard. A must for every hiker!
When autumn arrives, Acadia National Park in Maine transforms into a vibrant canvas of color. While the park is a hub for various activities year-round, there’s something particularly magical about its trails from October to November.
As leaves shift from green to brilliant hues of gold, crimson, and amber, hiking becomes more than just an activity—it’s an immersive experience.
Of the many paths we’ve treaded, here are 9 that stood out, offering sights that words can barely encapsulate. Join us on a journey through these autumnal wonders.
The Beehive Loop Trail (Hard)
The Beehive Loop Trail is a strenuous hike during autumn in Acadia national park Maine. The trail starts and ends on the same road, but it’s a different experience on each end. You’ll get to see the sea and forest, but you’ll also get to enjoy some amazing views along the way.
This hike is about 5 miles long, round-trip, with an elevation gain of about 1,700 feet (half of which is from the car park to the summit).
Jordan Pond Path (Easy)
The Jordan Pond Path is an easy hike during autumn in Acadia national park Maine.
This path is one of the most popular trails in Acadia National Park, and for good reason. The trail follows the shoreline around Jordan Pond, with views of mountains, water and trees.
The path begins at the parking area near the Jordan Pond House, where you can find restrooms and picnic tables if you want to stop for a snack or rest before continuing on your hike. The trail itself is wide and graveled, with wooden bridges over streams that drain into Jordan Pond. The trail runs through forested areas and open meadows, so there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife as well as enjoy the scenery.
After passing through a grassy field near the pond’s dam, you’ll come to a junction where you can turn right onto another loop trail that circles around this part of Jordan Pond (about 0.6 miles). This loop is shorter than the main portion of the trail but still worth checking out if you don’t want to continue all the way around the pond.
Gorham Mountain Loop (Moderate)
In the autumn, the Gorham Mountain Loop is an excellent way to see some of the most spectacular views of Acadia National Park. It’s a 5.5 mile loop that starts in the Schoodic section of the park, and it takes you through some of the most beautiful forests and vistas on Mount Desert Island.
The trail begins at the parking area for Schoodic Woods Campground and heads south towards Schoodic Head. The hike is mostly flat as you follow a gravel road until you reach a trailhead marked by a large sign that says “Gorham Mountain Loop.” From here, you’ll continue hiking south along an old stone wall until it ends at another trailhead with parking available nearby. This section of the hike has several viewpoints that offer incredible views of Frenchman Bay, which is one of Maine’s most beautiful gulfs where whales migrate every year from April through November.
From here, it’s time to turn around and head back towards the start of your hike near Schoodic Woods Campground. You’ll pass more viewpoints along this section of trail until you reach another trailhead where you can pick up your car or continue hiking if you have more energy left!
Cadillac North Ridge Trail (Hard)
Cadillac North Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain, located in Acadia National Park, is an easy hike that leads to a summit with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding mountains. This is a great hike for hikers of all ages and skill sets.
The trail begins at Sand Beach parking area and heads up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The trail is well-marked with blue blazes along the way. The path winds through forests of pine trees and spruce before reaching the rocky summit. Along the way you’ll see some small waterfalls and streams as well as views of Bar Harbor (which is about 10 miles southwest).
Atop Cadillac Mountain, you can stop by the visitor center to learn more about this part of Acadia National Park. From here you can see sweeping panoramic views of Frenchman Bay including Somes Sound, Eagle Lake, Jordan Pond and various islands offshore.
Ocean Path Trail (Easy)
One of my favorite places to visit in Acadia National Park is the Ocean Path Trail.
The Ocean Path Trail is a 3.4 mile loop that follows the rocky shoreline of Mount Desert Island and provides spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. The trail is located on the eastern side of the Park, near Otter Cliff Road, just north of Sand Beach.
It is a popular hiking trail with many scenic spots along the way, such as Bubble Rock, Sand Beach, and Otter Cliff. The trail can be hiked by itself or combined with other trails to create multi-day hikes.
The trail has two loops: an outer loop and an inner loop. I prefer to hike both loops together because they provide different views; however, if you’re short on time, you can opt to just hike one loop or even just part of it.
Precipice Loop (hard)
The Precipice Loop is a strenuous hike that traverses the edge of the cliffs above Frenchman Bay. The trail starts at the eastern end of the summit parking lot and follows a series of wooden bridges and iron ladders to the top of Champlain Mountain.
The Precipice Trail is one of the most popular hikes on Mount Desert Island and is often crowded in summer months. This trail is not recommended for children or inexperienced hikers due to its steepness and exposure.
The Precipice Trail begins by following an old dirt road as it descends towards a small pond. The trail then crosses several wooden bridges over streams before climbing up onto a granite ledge that provides excellent views of Frenchman Bay from above.
Hikers are now faced with one of two choices: continue along the granite ledges (the Precipice Trail), or take a detour down to an iron ladder (North Ridge Trail) that leads back down to the coast below. Both trails are very steep, narrow, and exposed so it’s important to use caution while hiking this section.
Once you reach the top, enjoy spectacular views of Frenchman Bay below as well as Cadillac Mountain rising above Sargent Mountain at Acadia National Park.
At the next junction, in 0.6 miles, turn right onto the Orange and Black Path. There are several steep sections, so care is advised.
Turn left to continue on the Champlain North Ridge Trail and to a small alternate parking area on the Park Loop Road. You will need to walk the Park Loop Road back to the parking area.
At the base of a stone staircase, the Orange and Black Path splits. A right traverses the steep slope of Champlain’s East Face and intersects with the Precipice Trail.
For an easier return to the parking lot, turn left and continue down to the Park Loop Road. Take a right and walk back to the parking area. Watch for traffic.
The trail is 3.5 miles round trip!
Great Head Trail (Moderate)
The Great Head Trail starts at the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Acadia National Park. It’s a relatively easy hike that takes you through the spectacular scenery found on the east side of Cadillac Mountain.
This is an ideal trail for families with small children and people who are looking for something a bit easier than some of the other hikes in the park.
From the parking lot at Mile 3 on North Road, walk along a paved path as it winds through a marshy area and then up to a wooden observation tower. From here, take in views of Frenchman Bay and Somes Sound before heading back down to the parking lot.
Great Head Trail Hike Details:
Distance: 1 mile round trip
Trailhead Elevation: 1,305 feet (396 meters)
Cadillac Summit Loop Trail (Easy)
Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on Mount Desert Island, and it’s the first place in the United States to see the sunrise each day. The trail to get there is not difficult, but it is steep.
A good level of fitness, especially for your legs, is required. The trail is short at only 1 mile long, but it does require a bit of climbing.
Most people hike up Cadillac Mountain early in the morning when there aren’t many people on the trail and the weather is clear. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy some great sunrises or sunsets, hike this trail later in the day when you can catch some of Acadia National Park’s famous sunsets!
Ship Harbor Trail (Easy)
Acadia National Park is a spectacular place to visit any time of year. But autumn is particularly magical in the park, as the trees turn colors, the air becomes crisp and clear, and the crowds thin out.
If you want to enjoy Acadia’s natural beauty but don’t have much time, consider hiking Ship Harbor Trail. This short trail offers beautiful views of Frenchman Bay and Bar Island, as well as a peek at some of Acadia’s history.
The trail starts at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and follows an old carriage road along the rocky coast. The trail climbs slightly up a hill before descending again to follow a rocky shoreline. The trail ends at an overlook above Ship Harbor with views of Bar Island in Frenchman Bay. It’s also possible to continue on to Sand Beach by taking a spur trail off Ship Harbor Trail.
10 Reasons to Acadia National Park Every Fall
- Vivid Fall Foliage: Unlike other places, the blend of deciduous trees like maples, birches, and oaks in Acadia offers a breathtaking spectrum of autumn colors ranging from deep reds to bright yellows.
- Cadillac Mountain Sunrise: As one of the first places in the U.S. to see the sunrise, the view from Cadillac Mountain in the fall is enhanced by the misty, colorful landscape below.
- Less Crowded Trails: Fall sees fewer tourists than summer, making popular trails like the Precipice Trail and Jordan Pond Path less crowded, offering a more peaceful hiking experience.
- Ideal Photography Conditions: The soft, diffused lighting in fall, combined with the vibrant colors and misty mornings, makes it an ideal time for photographers to capture the park’s beauty.
- Wildlife Watching: Fall is a great time to spot wildlife preparing for winter. You might see deer foraging, birds migrating, and if you’re lucky, moose in the more remote areas of the park.
- Night Sky Festival: Held annually in September, this festival celebrates Acadia’s clear, dark skies, making it perfect for stargazing and learning about astronomy.
- Comfortable Weather: The cooler temperatures of fall make strenuous activities like hiking and biking more comfortable compared to the humid summer months.
- Fall Festivals in Nearby Towns: Surrounding towns like Bar Harbor often host fall festivals celebrating the season with local food, crafts, and entertainment.
- Scenic Drives: The Park Loop Road, which covers some of Acadia’s most iconic landmarks, is especially picturesque in the fall, with colorful foliage reflecting in ponds and lining the roadway.
- Seafood Harvest: Fall is the season for seafood harvests in Maine. After exploring the park, you can indulge in fresh, local seafood like lobster and clams at nearby restaurants.
Remember, while these reasons are specific to Acadia, it’s essential to check for any park advisories, weather conditions, or seasonal events before planning your trip.
Fall is a great time to visit Acadia National Park, whether you live in Maine, are visiting the state, or are passing by while traveling. It offers a wide array of hiking trails of all levels and lengths, along with a wealth of other recreational options.
Whether you choose to explore during the day or the night, there’s no denying that Maine has something special to offer the world at large.
In general, Acadia National Park is a great choice if one’s trying to experience the best of fall hiking. While the color change doesn’t occur on every tree at once and some varieties don’t change colors at all, the changing leaves can still provide a weekend full of beautiful scenery and inspiring photography.