Located on the southwest shore of Echo Lake on the "quiet side" of Mount Desert Island, the Beech Cliff Trail is one of Acadia National Park's classic "iron rung" routes. Although less known than the popular Beehive Trail or Precipice Trail, this clever trail has a series of ladders that take hikers up through some of the most interesting and vertical cliff formations in the park. While this trail doesn't go all the way to the top of Beech Mountain, the views from the top of the cliffs of the surrounding area.
WARNING: This hike is not suitable for small children or anybody who has a fear of heights or who isn't steady on their feet.
IMPORTANT: This trail is sometimes closed between March 15 and August 15 for peregrine falcon nesting. (Closure signs are posted at the trailhead.) Please respect these closures and check trail status with the National Park Service.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous and exposed day hike with numerous iron ladders|
|Access:||Echo Lake Beach parking lot (south end of Echo Lake off of Route 102)|
|Time Required:||2-4 hours|
|Length:||1.8 miles total (including the Beech Cliff Loop and return via Canada Cliffs Trail)|
|Elevation Change:||480-ft elevation gain|
|Seasons:||Late summer through fall (sometimes closed in spring and early summer for peregrine falcon nesting)|
The Beech Cliff Trail starts at the Echo Lake beach parking lot, located at the south end of Echo Lake off of Route 102 (roughly a mile south of the roadside Acadia Mountain parking area). At the north end of the Echo Lake parking lot, find the trailhead marker. The trail starts off innocuously enough, heading north through the dense forest by Echo Lake, but soon enough, the trail turns left/west up into the hills under Beech Cliff. The uphill trail is fairly strenuous, but several sections have steps put in place to make travel easier. A marker indicates a short spur trail to a teaser overlook of Echo Lake now several hundred feet below.
Soon after the teaser view, the trail gets steeper and sections of wooden fence are put in place to help in a few moderately exposed sections. Soon enough, you will reach the fun part of this hike: the ladder section! After climbing up the first iron ladder, the trail heads north and skirts the base of some wonderfully sheer cliffs to arrive at a second taller ladder. After this ladder, there are two more ladders, one right after the other, that take you to the topout spot of the cliffs and the junction with the Beech Cliff Loop Trail and the Canada Cliffs Trail.
At the junction are some wonderfully unhindered views of Echo Lake to the northeast and the Atlantic Ocean far in the distance to the south. Continue north along the short and fun Beech Cliff Loop to be treated to even more views from the top of the cliffs. Note: While this trail is fairly level and easy, take care as there are several exposed sections.
Once you have looped around and are back at the junction, the Canada Cliffs Trail is the logical route back to the Echo Lake parking lot. The trail heads south and makes a much more gradual descent, but it still offers a few great views through the trees. Soon enough, you will be back under the forest canopy and the trail makes a few stream crossings as it wanders through a small ravine. The trail then loops around to the north to return you to the Echo Lake beach parking lot.
With some wonderful views and some spicy sections of trail and interesting ladders, this is really a fun little hike for those who don't have a fear of heights! While this trail isn't as exposed as the Precipice Trail, it still could be intimidating for some. For those who would like to see the Beech Cliff Loop without having to climb the ladders, you can alternatively park at the Beech Mountain trailhead and hike up the milder Valley Trail and/or Canada Cliffs Trail to the viewpoints.