Summiting Acadia on the Beehive Trail Adventure

Ocean, water, trees, fall color
Ocean, water, trees, fall color
The view of fall colors from the summit of the Beehive Trail.

Are you up for a bit of adventure? Acadia National Park is one of the most-visited national parks in the US with outdoor adventures from hiking to biking, kayaking to rock climbing, and just about everything in between. Add in the amazing coastline with gorgeous blue waters and you can see that it lives up to the hype. The nature found on the coastlines and hiking trails made this my happy place for 6 months while I worked in a campground and explored Maine!

Water, Coastline, Blue sky, rocks

Welcome to Acadia National Park

With over 120 miles of trails, Acadia offers hiking experiences for everyone. If you are looking for a challenge, the Beehive Loop Trail could be just what you want. You will get a mix of thrills and stunning views along the way. It’s known for its steep climbs, iron rungs to hold onto, and the amazing panoramic sights of Maine’s rugged coastline.

The trail is rated as hard, which is usually a hard (pun intended!) pass for me. However, the opportunity to challenge myself while seeing beautiful views was intriguing so I added it to my hiking list and waited for fall to arrive. The park is known to be spectacular in autumn when the foliage turns vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. A perfect time for a hike!

Water, beach, rocks, sand, trees
Water, trees
Trail, Tree, view, dirt

Planning the Hike

The elevation gain is over 500 feet in just 1.5 miles. That’s a lot if you are more of an “average” hiker like me. I recommend doing test hikes on other high-elevation trails to prepare. There are exposed sections and rungs to navigate. This sounded like a cool feature but also added a layer of anxiety. 

Do your research before you go and decide if the hike is right for you. I read several reviews and talked to people I knew who had done it to make my decision. 

Here are a few tips I found helpful to be prepared for the day:

  1. Arrive early. Parking can be scarce, especially during peak season. Aim to arrive by 9-10 am to secure a spot and avoid crowds on the trail.  Taking the shuttle is another good option but if you go later in the day be sure you know when the last bus departs! 
  2. Check Weather Conditions: The trail becomes incredibly slippery when wet. Avoid hiking during or after rain, as the granite surfaces and iron rungs pose a significant safety hazard. The views from the top are the best part of the hike so go on a clear day if possible.
  3. Wear Proper Footwear: Good hiking boots with excellent traction are crucial. The trail is rocky and uneven. I cannot stress enough that you SHOULD NOT do this hike in flip-flops
Sign, water, trail

The Adventure

Upon arriving at the trailhead, I remembered a tip I had read in the reviews: hike it counterclockwise. 

This allows you to climb the rungs rather than descend them. It also helps to maintain the traffic flow on the trail. With this in mind, I hit the trail and started my climb. 

It was time to hit the rocky path and start the adventure!

Rocks, Trees

If you’re in good shape and up for a challenge, the Beehive Trail is an incredibly rewarding hike. The views from the top are some of the best in Acadia National Park, and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after completing the hike is unbeatable. The Beehive Trail may be short, but it packs a punch in terms of difficulty. Here are some additional things to know before hitting the trail:

  1. There are steep climbs and exposed sections. The trail ascends a 450-foot cliff with drop-offs that don’t have railings. This means you’ll need to be sure-footed and comfortable with heights.
  2. Sections of the trail require you to use iron rungs and navigate uneven terrain. It’s more akin to rock scrambling than a stroll through the woods.
  3. The Beehive Trail is not recommended for beginners, young children, or anyone afraid of heights. Also, dogs are not allowed on this trail.
Rocks, Trees

The path begins with a gradual ascent through a forested area before quickly turning into a steep, rocky climb. Iron rungs and ladders are strategically placed along the granite cliffs to help hikers navigate the vertical sections. As you ascend, the trail becomes more exposed, with narrow ledges and sharp drop-offs that require careful footing. The final stretch involves a series of switchbacks leading to the summit, where you’re rewarded with expansive views of the coastline and surrounding forests.

trees, water, rock
Rocks, trees, water
Trail, Tree, view, dirt

Facing the Challenge

I hiked the trail on a beautiful, sunny day in the fall and did the hike solo. However, I wasn’t alone. There were plenty of others enjoying the hike along with me. I met several ladies who welcomed me into their group. Their enthusiasm and encouragement kept me going when I felt anxious. Besides, the fall leaves were something to see and gave me a great reason to stop for breaks and enjoy the views!

I won’t lie, the steep sections were a challenge. I am trying to conquer my fear of heights and I think I am making progress thanks to challenges like this hike. If you are like me and nervous about trail, here are a few tips for tackling the steep sections:

  1. Trust the iron rungs and ladders for support. They are there to help you safely navigate the steep sections.
  2. Keep your hands free and use a backpack for your gear to maintain balance and grip. Admittedly I packed a little too light, only bringing my camera. A small backpack would have been ideal, and I wouldn’t have had my camera swinging around.
  3. Take your time and don’t rush. Carefully plan each step, especially on narrow ledges and exposed areas. I wasn’t afraid to sit down and scoot across the narrower sections and plenty of other hikers did the same! The section of the hike with the most rungs is nearer to the top and if you have made it this far it is time to take a deep breath and push forward. Besides it is probably too late to turn around so you may as well enjoy it. Keep taking your time and don’t hesitate to let the folks who seem impatient go around you. Most hikers are taking their time and will help you with encouraging words and helping hands. Others are in more of a hurry and it is best to let them pass and continue on their way.
warning, sign
hiking, people, rock
Person, Climbing, Rocks, Rungs
Sign, Trail, Trail Marker, Trees

The Summit

As you approach the summit, pay attention to the trail markers and other hikers to avoid taking the wrong path which could end in disaster. My impromptu hiking party missed one of the rungs that would take us higher. We were trying to figure out how to navigate around a section when we discovered our mistake.

At just .5 miles in, you will have climbed 520 feet and reached the summit. It’s time to celebrate! Standing at the top, I felt a sense of pride and joy as I soaked in the stunning panoramic views of the coastline and Sand Beach below. It was the perfect moment to snap some photos and enjoy the moment. 

I was grateful for the unforgettable experience and the beauty surrounding me.

Water, Ocean, Sand, Beach, Trees
Sky, Water, Trees, Rock

Capturing the Memories

Good compositional rules and interesting subjects will help you capture breathtaking photos. The leading lines of the beautiful coastline can add the perfect element to a stunning image. I was thrilled that some fall color was showing and the view I had imagined lay before me. The light would have been more beautiful during golden hour but the risk of hiking this trail in low light (or no light!) was not worth it for me.

This hike was on my bucket list for a couple of reasons. I wanted to challenge myself and capture the beautiful fall colors of Acadia. I purposely waited until the end of the season to get as much color as possible. I may, or may not, have been giving myself time to chicken out but I am glad I didn’t. However you decide to capture the memories, make sure you do!

Sign, Trail Marker, Trees
Sky, Water, Trees, Rock
Trail, Tree, Rocks, Water

Leave No Trace

As always, remember to take only photos and leave only footprints. Take any trash with you if you enjoyed a snack on the trail. No one wants to pick up your trash and haul it out because you were too lazy to take it yourself.

Preserve the past by leaving rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them. Avoid picking flowers or disturbing historical structures and artifacts. Following the Leave No Trace principles helps protect natural environments and ensures they remain beautiful and accessible for future generations.

Reflecting on the Adventure

Hiking the trail counterclockwise means the hardest part is over. The back half of the trail is much easier and will take you on parts of the Bowl trail and past the Bowl Pond before arriving back at the Sand Beach parking lot. I found the wooded path back beautiful! I got a chance to get to know the ladies I had hiked with and found they were from the same town in California our daughter had recently moved to!

I felt a profound sense of accomplishment as I made my way to the parking lot to catch my bus. The thrill of the climb, the breathtaking summit views, and the beautiful descent all combined to create an unforgettable adventure. Completing the personal challenge of this iconic hike was an awesome feeling. With memories and photos to cherish, I left the trail with a renewed spirit and a deeper connection to the great outdoors, already looking forward to the next adventure.

Side note: I also left the trail without a ride back since I had missed the last bus. Pay attention to those scheduled bus times if you hike later in the day! Thankfully my new friends gave me a ride back. There really are good people out there!

I loved the thrill of the adventure, going solo but making friends along the way. I am happy that I challenged myself to push my limits and see what more I could do. It was a highlight of my time in Maine, and I gained a deeper love for Acadia and its rugged nature during the hike.

I learned a couple of lessons on the hike. Take water! I mentioned this earlier and should have taken my own tip! I was trying to go as light as possible but taking a small backpack would have allowed for snacks and water. Also, I would not take my DSLR the next time even though I loved having it at the summit. It was distracting during the climb. I could add it to the backpack though, so you never know!

Hiking, Person, Trail, Trees
Person, Hiking, Trees, Trail
Trail marker, Sign, Trees, Rocks

Wrapping Up

Thanks for reading and following my adventures on the trail! I am glad I challenged myself to this hike, but the trail may not be right for everyone. It is important to know your capabilities and make decisions based on them. It’s never too late to turn around, but once you climb the first set of rungs, it is considerably more difficult.

I had so much fun hiking in Maine and look forward to sharing more adventures in the future. And taking more trail selfies! 

Have you hiked the Beehive in Acadia? I would love to hear about your experience!

Person, Trees, Rock

Hi! I’m Shelle and my mission is simple: to inspire and empower adventurous souls like you to embark on unforgettable journeys into the heart of nature. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a passionate photographer, or simply someone who loves to wander, we’re here to fuel your wanderlust and provide you with the tools and resources you need to make the most of your outdoor adventures.

Join our vibrant community of fellow travelers as we dive into the beauty of the natural world, one adventure at a time. Let’s explore, discover, and connect with the world around us—together.

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