The Precipice Trail to the summit of Champlain Mountain is a precarious trail carved into the cliff face. It is a very unique hike offering different terrain including normal trials, boulder fields, and iron ladders driven into the rock face. The views from the trail are incredible. Most of the trail overlooks the Mt. Desert Narrows, Egg Rock, and the surrounding islands. The view from the summit is amazing and offers a breathtaking panorama of most of the eastern part of the park. If the Precipice Trail sounds too intense, there is an alternate way to the summit of Champlain Mountain using the Orange and Black Path which is much easier. Whether you use the Precipice Trail or the Orange and Black Path, Champlain Mountain is definitely one the best views in the entire park.
Acadia National Park, Maine
The trail head is off Park Loop Road which is a one-way road headed south from HWY 3. There is a small parking lot on the right-hand side of the road. Because the parking lot is small, it fills up quickly. When the lot is full, people just park on the side of the road which is allowed near the trail head. There are no restrooms or places to get water near the trail head so plan accordingly.
The hike starts at the Precipice Trail Head and follows either the Precipice Trail or the Orange and Black Plath to the summit of Champlain Mountain. The Precipice Trial, while the ascent is not long in distance, is nearly vertical for a large portion of the uphill hike. The Precipice Trail starts with up uphill climb switching between steep trail and scrambling through fields of boulder. Less than half a mile up, the trail starts its straight up ascent. The trail becomes a ledge on a cliff face and uses iron bars driven into the rock as ladder to reach the next ledge. This ledge/ladder climbing continues for another half mile until almost the summit. About a quarter mile from the top, the trail becomes a normal trail with a reasonably easy finish to the summit.
The Orange and Black Path is much easier, but also much longer than the Precipice Trail. For inexperienced hikers, people afraid of heights, or people hiking with pets the Orange and Black Path is a much better route. About a quarter mile after starting at the Precipice Trail Head, the Orange and Black Path forks to the right. While not incredibly difficult, the Orange and Black Path does climb quickly creating a steep, narrow trail. After about half a mile, the trial splits and you take the Champlain North Ridge Trail the rest of the way to the summit.
From the summit, there are several ways down the mountain. This can be confusing because only two of the five trails lead back to the Precipice Trail Head parking lot, the Precipice Trial, and the Champlain North Ridge to the Orange and Black Path. The other trails lead to the valley on the other side of the mountain with no easy way back to the parking lot. We would not recommend hiking back down on the Precipice Trail as some of the ladders would be very difficult to descend. Also, the Precipice Trail is built for one person at a time which could lead to backups if two people were going different directions.
See interactive map for trail locations and general elevation information.
- Since there are no bathrooms or water source at the trail head, stopping at the visitor center near the park entrance, Sieur de Monts, or Bear Brook are the best options to use the restroom and get water before the hike.
- Bring snacks and water for the hike.
- If you are inexperienced, have children or pets with you, or are not it great physical shape, avoid the Precipice Trail. Go up and down using the Black and Orange Path/Champlain North Ridge Trail.
- Avoid using the Precipice Trail for your descent. It is mainly a one-way up trail.
- If possible, hike early. By early afternoon there will be lots of people on the trail which can create some backup.
- On a sunny day there will not be much shade toward the top. If you plan to stay at the top for an extended period, sunscreen or long sleeves could be a good idea.
- Allow 3-4 hours for the hike unless you plan on hiking very quickly.