Difficulty: Moderate. Beachcroft Path is 1.2 miles in length and climbs to the top of Champlain Mountain at 1,058 feet above sea level, for an out-and-back hike of 2.4 miles. Much of the trail is gradual, with the upper portion of the trail being noticeably steeper and more challenging. Exercise caution near the ledges, which may be daunting for hikers who are afraid of heights.
Information: Constructed in 1915, the Beachcroft Path is a historic memorial trail in Acadia National Park that’s famous for its twisting pathways and staircases built of granite blocks. Measuring just over a mile, the trail climbs over a small mountain called Huguenot Head, then climbs the west slope of Champlain Mountain to its summit.
The trail was funded by Anna Warren Ingersoll Smith in memory of her husband Charles Morton Smith, and was named after their summer cottage in Bar Harbor. In 1926, she established an endowment fund for its continued maintenance.
Starting at Route 3, the 1.2-mile Beachcroft Trail begins with a small granite staircase that leads into the woods. In the shade of a mixed forest, hikers are greeted with a long, straight path that travels over smoothed forest floor and is bordered by stone. Moving gradually uphill, the trail transitions into a path of granite blocks. This whimsical sidewalk zigzags up the steep west slope of Huguenot Head.
While the twists and turns of the trail add a certain beauty to it, the design is also practical. The switchbacks lengthen the trail and place it at an angle to the slope, making the grade much gentler than if the trail climbed the slope more directly.
Clockwise from left: A leaf display purple, yellow and red hues on Oct. 6, beside the Beachcroft Path in Acadia National Park; The Beachcroft Path is built with hundreds of granite steps; The path travels across a big ledge on Huguenot Head. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN; BDN reporter Aislinn Sarnacki walks along the Beachcroft Path Credit: Courtesy of Derek Runnells.
Near the top of Huguenot Head, the trail travels along impressive ledges that provide open views of the nearby Dorr Mountain and a pond called The Tarn. On both sides of Dorr Mountain, to the north and south, the view extends all the way to the ocean.
The trail skirts around the very top of Huguenot Head, which reaches a little over 700 feet above sea level, then dips down about 30 feet before beginning a steep ascent of the west slope of Champlain Mountain. This final leg of the trail — about 0.4 mile — is more challenging. The neatly placed stone steps disappear to be replaced with bare bedrock, and you may need to use your hands to navigate up a few steep sections.
The trail is marked with blue blazes and carefully constructed stone markers called cairns. However, in some areas these trail markers are spaced far apart. You’ll need to pay close attention to stay on trail.
Beachcroft Trail ends at the summit of Champlain Mountain, where it intersects with the Precipice Trail, as well as the mountains south and north ridge trails. There is no way to create a loop hike with these trails without including a long stretch of road, therefore Beachcroft Trail is usually hiked out and back.
The summit of Champlain Mountain offers open views of the nearby ocean to the east. There you’ll spot a number of small islands, including one that features Egg Rock Lighthouse. Across the water to Winter Harbor, home to the only mainland portion of Acadia National Park.
Huguenot Head was named by George Dorr, the park’s first superintendent, in honor of French explorer Pierre du Gua (c.1560–1628), Sieur de Monts, according to the book “Mountains of Maine: Intriguing Stories Behind Their Names” by Steve Pinkham. An important figure in early European history in the area, Pierre du Gua belonged to the Huguenot group of French Protestants, which were persecuted by the French crown during the 16th century.
Also named by Dorr, Champlain Mountain honors French explorer Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635), who actually piloted Pierre du Gua, sailing along the Maine coast. Champlain named Mount Desert Island.
Dogs are permitted on this trail if kept on leashes no longer than 6 feet at all times, however, the upper portion of the Beachcroft Trail is not recommended for dogs by the National Park Service.
Clockwise from left: A stone staircase leads up a steep slope on Oct. 6, on the Beachcroft Path in Acadia National Park; The path is built with hundreds of stone blocks, which gives it a whimsical feel; The trail twists and turns as it heads up Huguenot Head. The switchbacks make the trail more gradual; The upper portion of the Beachcroft Path travels over exposed bedrock on Champlain Mountain’s west side; Hikers practice social distancing as they enjoy the view from atop Champlain Mountain. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. All vehicles must display a park entrance pass clearly visible through the windshield. Park passes are usually available at multiple locations on Mount Desert Island, including park visitor centers. However, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is encouraging all visitors to buy and print a pass online before you arrive at the park. The only in-person pass sales location currently available on the island is the Sand Beach Entrance Station. For more information, visit nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.
Personal note: I decided to hike the Beachcroft Path this October on the recommendation of Benjamin Ball, an 8-year-old boy I recently interviewed and wrote a story about because he spent the summer hiking to the top of every mountain in Acadia. Because of its amazing stonework, the Beachcroft Path is one of Benjamin’s favorite hikes in the park. I’d hiked the path in 2012, but it had faded in my memory, so I decided to revisit it with my husband, Derek.
We weren’t disappointed. There’s something fantastical about hundreds of carefully placed stone blocks forming a path up a steep mountainside. It looked like it belonged in some fantasy world like Middle-earth or Narnia. And there was something oddly breathtaking about the view it provided of Dorr Mountain. From the ledges on Huguenot Head, Dorr Mountain loomed so close that you might be able to reach out and touch it.
How to get there: Take Route 3 across the causeway onto Mount Desert Island. After the causeway, veer left at the fork in the road and drive 10 miles to downtown Bar Harbor. Turn left onto Mount Desert Street (Route 3). Drive 0.5 mile, then turn right onto Main Street (Route 3). Drive 2.2 miles and parking for the trailhead will be on your right. Beechcroft Trail is across the road, a little bit farther south on Route 3, and is marked with a stone staircase and “Beachcroft Path” etched into a large, triangular chunk of rosy granite.
You can also park at nearby Sieur de Monts Spring, which includes Sieur de Monts Spring, Nature Center, Wild Gardens of Acadia, Abbe Museum and historic memorial paths. The entrance to Sieur de Monts is just 0.1 mile north of the Beachcroft Trail parking area (that’s 0.1 mile before it if you’re driving from Bar Harbor). Once you turn into the entrance, drive about 0.1 mile and then turn left, following signs to the parking lot. From there, navigate on the Jesup Path to The Tarn (a pond). At the edge of The Tarn, turn left onto a trail that leads to Route 3, directly across the road from the Beachcroft Path.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.