Off the Beaten Path: 7 Less-Crowded Hikes in Acadia National Park

AMANADA GARZAThere are plenty of knockout views to be found on Acadia’s quieter trails, including this one of Somes Sound from Valley Peak.


If all you’ve seen of Acadia National Park is Ocean Path and Cadillac Mountain (1,530 feet), look again. Acadia has plenty of other peaks and bits of coastline to explore, especially during peak season when popular trails receive exceptionally heavy foot traffic, and the nearby roads and parking lots are jammed. Choosing a less crowded hike means you’ll share the path with fewer hikers and take some pressure off busy trails which can be damaged by overuse. Just keep in mind that even these trails may become busy and some of them have small parking lots. It’s always good to have a back up plan in case you arrive and find that the parking lot for the trailhead is full.

“I so appreciate the popular places because there’s a reason why they’re popular,” says Sue Alperin, who leads trips for AMC. “But it’s always fun to discover something new.” We consulted Alperin and AMC’s guidebook Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park by Jerry and Marcy Monkman to find the best recommendations for less-busy routes within this popular park. From a peak baggers’ delight to a secluded cobblestone beach, these trails are worth hiking any time of the year.


Eastern Mount Desert Island (MDI)

1. Hunter’s Beach Trail

Hunter’s Beach is one of Bangor Daily News’ favorite places in Maine and with good reason. It’s a gorgeous, isolated cobblestone beach in a small cove that feels a world away from the rest of the park. As a bonus, the trail there is short and family-friendly. It passes through a thick forest, traversing stone steps and wooden bridges before reaching the beach. The trailhead is on the southern end of eastern MDI down Cooksey Road off Route 3. Once you’ve turned onto Cooksey Road the trailhead is 0.2 miles away on the left.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.6 mile out and back

Info: Bangor Daily News; AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park



2. Compass Harbor Trail (Oldfarm)

This short walk leads to Dorr Point, a rocky stretch of coast with outstanding views. The point is home to Oldfarm, the former estate of George B. Dorr who’s known as “the father of Acadia National Park.” Heir to a New England textile fortune, Dorr devoted his life and money to create the park and died a pauper. For Alperin, this hike is “a nice connection that you make because you know this person gave everything to create this place.”

This trailhead is on Route 3 just south of Bar Harbor. The trail starts out beneath a thick canopy of forest and leads past the remains of Dorr’s cottage to Dorr Point. Views from the granite outcrop look out toward Compass Harbor and the Porcupine Islands in the distance.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.8 mile out and back

Info: Joe’s Guide to Acadia; AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park



3. Day Mountain (583 feet) via Day Mountain Trail

With Cadillac Mountain as competition, the bar for summit views in Acadia is set high, but this hike offers stunning views for relatively modest effort. The trailhead is on Route 3, 0.8 mile southwest of the intersection with Park Loop Road. After crossing two bog bridges the trail intersects with a carriage road. Look for the sign “Day Mountain Summit” and follow the road in that direction for about 100 feet until the trail (marked with a cairn) restarts to the left.

The only steep section is 0.3 mile into the hike but it’s brief and your reward is an overlook with an ocean view. Save your snack or water break for a series of ledges 0.6 mile up the trail with views on both sides of Hunter’s Beach, the Atlantic and Seal Harbor. The summit is only a short distance away, marked with a cairn and wooden sign with a near panoramic ocean view.

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Distance: 2.6 miles out and back

Info: Bangor Daily News; AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park



4. Bald Peak, Parkman Mountain, Gilmore Mountain, and Sargent Mountain Loop

This relatively short but tough loop traverses four peaks including Sargent Mountain (1,373 ft.), the second highest point in Acadia. The length of this hike is flexible, so you aren’t locked into one route if the weather or your own condition changes. Once you near the peaks, you’ll find a good amount of hiking above tree line, including some scrappy, granitey stretches.

The trailhead is at Norumbega parking area off Routes 198/3, about 1.5 miles north of Northeast Harbor. Start out on Bald Peak Trail, climbing moderately for 0.7 mile. The views are explosive once you clear tree line with Norumbega Mountain, Upper Hadlock Pond, and the islands at the mouth of Somes Sound fanning out below. You’ll also be able to see the other peaks on this traverse, and Penobscot and Cedar Swamp Mountains to the east. On a clear day you might even be able to see Blue Hill and Camden Hill far to the west.

Continue north along the trail and onto Parkman Mountain Trail to reach Parkman Mountain. From here take Grandgent Trail east, descending a short way through a steep forested valley before ascending to Gilmore Peak. This section of the hike is fairly grueling but the open views in all directions atop Gilmore make it worthwhile.

Continue on Grandgent Trail for 0.7 mile to Sargent Mountain, passing Maple Spring Trail. The final push to Sargent is one of the wilder hikes in Acadia, with rough footing and encroaching fir, cedar and hardwood trees. The views from the top are almost limitless with the Bubbles, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac to the east along with Somes Sound and the western mountains.

Backtrack to Maple Spring Trail* to return to the parking area. This lightly trafficked trail is a picturesque descent. It passes through a varied landscape of rocky ledges, steep wooded slopes, brook crossings, a small gorge, and carriage road bridge. It’s great wind down after a tough trip.

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance: 4-mile loop

Info: Joe’s Guide to Acadia; AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park


*Maple Spring Trail is closed indefinitely due to severe storm damage. 


Amanda GarzaValley Trail passes through a gorgeous stretch of secluded forest to one of the best views on the park’s west side.


Western Mount Desert Island

5. Beech Mountain (839 feet) via Valley Trail/Beech South Ridge Trail

Valley Trail is one of western Acadia’s best kept secrets. The trail passes through a thickly forested valley beneath Beech Mountain that Alperin says has a downright otherworldly vibe. “Most people call it ‘the Enchanted Forest,’” she says, “because it’s like you’re experiencing Middle Earth and you’re waiting for the hobbits to show up.” This is one of her favorite hikes and her favorite route to the top of Beech Mountain. It’s also one of the least heavily trafficked routes to the top of this popular peak.

The trailhead is at the parking area at the end of Beech Hill Road off Route 102/Pretty Marsh Road. The trail starts out heading south, along the base of Beech Mountain through a gorgeous stretch of forest crowded with spruce and mossy boulders. After about 0.6 miles, Beech Mountain South Ridge Trail branches off on the right, climbing up steep, rocky terrain to the summit. The ridge line has remarkable, unobstructed views of Long Pond, Somes Sound, Cadillac Mountain, Sutton and Greening islands, the Cranberry Isles, Isle au Haut, and all of the western mountains. Take Beech Mountain Trail north to return to the trailhead.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.6 miles out and back

Info: AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park



6. Sauveur Mountain (679 feet) and Valley Peak (521 feet)

While St. Sauveur Mountain doesn’t offer any views it’s worth crossing over just to get to Valley Peak which overlooks Valley Cove and Somes Sound. The views are stunning and offer a surprisingly intimate look at this part of Mount Desert Island.

Start at the Acadia Mountain trailhead located along Rte. 102 east across from Echo Lake. Take St. Sauveur Mountain Trail up the mountain and enjoy one of the smoothest ascents in the park. Pass over the forested summit and continue on the trail to Valley Peak Trail. An eastern spur takes you out along the cliffs’ edge for an all-encompassing view of Somes Sound. Head back the way you came or take the western loop of Valley Peak Trail back to St. Sauveur Mountain.

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.2-mile loop hike

Info: Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park, Joe’s Guide to Acadia



7. Mansell Mountain (938 feet) via Perpendicular Trail

Also known as “the perp walk” this is a challenging trail with 300 stone steps, iron rungs and a small ladder that lead to the summit of Mount Mansell. It’s intimidating. It’s tough. However, for experienced hikers it can also be a lot of fun.

The trailhead is on the shore of Long Pond, off Long Pond Road. You’ll start your hike on Long Pond Trail, reaching the junction with Perpendicular Trail after 0.2 miles. The trail’s precisely positioned stone steps pass through an impressive boulder field and are a remarkable feat of trail building that accent the intensity of the climb.

Halfway up, the trail enters a more densely forested area and the rate of ascent eases. Near the summit a spur trail leads to a lookout onto Long Pond, Beech Mountain, and the ocean and islands beyond. The summit of Mansell Mountain is forested so if you’re in it for the view this is your reward. For a more leisurely route down, continue over the summit to Mansell Mountain Trail. Follow the trail until it ends at another parking lot. Take Cold Brook Trail 0.4 miles east back to Long Pond.

Difficulty: Challenging

Distance: 2.2 miles out and back

Info: Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park

About the Author…

Amanda Garza

Amanda Garza is AMC's Content Marketing Manager.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for special offers, conservation alerts, adventures near you, and stories from across the region.