Hike the Precipice Trail of Champlain Mountain in Acadia NP
Maine › Precipice Trailhead
Added by Lara Paul
Hike the most challenging trail in Acadia National Park. Along the exposed path, look over each edge of the cliff side to a clear view of the ocean.
The Precipice Trail is one of the most well known trails in Acadia, probably for its difficulty and the fact that it is along the exposed edge of Champlain Mountain. Much of this trail is more of a climb rather than a usual hike. You will have to climb and scramble over large rocks as well as climb iron rungs and ladders. Additionally, there are sections where you are just standing on a small sliver of rock along the cliff's edge (there are iron guards rails, but just make sure you are steady on your feet).
The trailhead has an actual parking lot located on Park Loop Road and road side parking if the lot gets filled during peak hours. At the start there is a visitor friendly sign describing the climb as "strenuous" and for the "physically fit". I don't think this climb was as scary or difficult as it may seem if you read up on it; but I do have to say that if you have even a tiny fear of heights, this is not the trail for you. Much of this trail is just exposed cliff side and awkward iron rungs that at times seem questionable on their sturdiness. One of my companions realized their fear of heights during this adventure (at one point pinning themselves along the side of the mountain; but regaining confidence after a couple deep breaths). Past this sign are a set of stone steps and then you're off!
After not too much time at all of easy hiking, you will reach the first set of iron rungs. These I think are placed in awkward positions on purpose, to create a point of deciding if you should continue on or not. If you are confident it should be no problem at all. However, if you were coerced into doing this trail by your friends, you might feel like this is very difficult. Let me reassure you that it is mostly a mind game. I'm sure your friends wouldn't make you do something dangerous that you were physically unable to do (or at least I hope). But if these 2 rungs prove too difficult for you, here is where you can turn around and take an easier route up to the summit.
You have made it past the trial period and now you are gonna make it to the top, since every other section of climbing is set less awkwardly than the first. There are points where you are climbing under rocks through holes and then you'll cross a bridge to the first junction where you'll want to follow the Precipice Trail.
The rest of this trail to the summit is a mixture of vertical climbs to switchbacks along the cliff's edge; each with a more and more beautiful view of the ocean. As said before, the trail is very exposed but there are enough hand and foot holds (either natural or the irons) that it is very easy and possible to ascend the trail. After all that climbing, the view from the summit is perfect and the top is a great place to stop for a snack and a break.
Once ready to descend, you can take the Orange and Black Path down and back to Park Loop Road where you'll have to walk a little along the road to return back to the parking lot. You can take Precipice back down, but it is not recommended. I also think you should not go back down such a narrow trail with others trying to experience what you already have on the way up. Be mindful of others.
Something worthy of noting: this trail is home to many endangered peregrine falcons. So the hiking trail may be closed during late spring to mid summer.
- Acadia National Park Entrance Pass
- Good hiking shoes
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Best of Both Worlds
Spent a weekend in Acadia and this was my first stop. I love scrambling so this was a fun climb! The views were beautiful. Love the mountains and sea!
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