In just a few weeks (on July 8th) Acadia National Park will celebrate its birthday. For more than a hundred years, visitors have been hiking in Acadia National Park, enjoying miles of trails and the gorgeous views. Between now and the anniversary, we’re sharing some of our favorite hikes we did during our 2017 visit. We hope it gives you some inspiration to plan your own Acadia National Park adventure.
Today’s featured hike is the Ocean Path Trail. It’s one of the most popular coastal trails in Acadia National Park and has good appeal for families. What we loved most about it was that it helped us see a lot of the most popular sites along the Park Loop Road without having to fight traffic.
Here’s the most popular route for the Ocean Path Trail in Acadia National Park:
Planning Your Hike on the Ocean Path
About the Ocean Path Trail
The Ocean Path Trail is an out-and-back trail in the southeastern part of Acadia National Park. As the name suggests, the trail travels along the Atlantic coastline, offering visitors the chance to experience the rocky shores that Acadia is famous for.
Trail Distance: 2.2 miles one way, or 4.4 miles out and back
The park service describes the trail as a mostly flat and semi-accessible path. It’s a great spot for photos of the shoreline and a good option to watch the sunrise without a crowd.
The trailhead for the Ocean Path departs from the parking area of Sand Beach. If you plan to complete the entire 4.4-mile out and back hike, park your car in the Sand Beach parking area (or take the Park Loop road shuttle).
If you’d like to shorten the hike, you can also get on at Thunder Hole or Otter Point, although this will substantially shorten the hike. There’s also very little parking at either of these points, so best to make a stop at Sand Beach.
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When to Hike The Ocean Path
Given that Acadia is one of the most popular national parks in the United States and that it’s a small space, sometimes the trails here can feel crowded. The Ocean Path is especially popular between 9 am and 3 pm when the park’s shuttles carry the bulk of the visitors. If you want to hike with fewer crowds, go out early for a sunrise hike. Or travel to Acadia in the shoulder seasons (early May or mid-October).
Stops Along The Ocean Path
The best viewing spots along the Ocean Path include:
- Sand Beach – Before you head down the trailhead, stop at Sand Beach. Take a few minutes and admire the 290 yards of gorgeous sand and surf. It’s one of the few beaches like this in all of Maine. If you’re brave enough, dip your toe in the water–it rarely gets above a chilly 55 degrees here.
- Thunder Hole – Along the way to Otter Point, you’ll stop at one of the most famous tourist attractions in the entire national park. Thunder Hole, one of Acadia’s famous rock formations, creates a loud, thunderous noise when the waves hit. It only happens under certain tide/wave conditions, but worth a stop along your hike. Be prepped for crowds though, every bus tour to the park stops here.
- Otter Cliff – If you’ve done any research on hiking in Acadia National Park, chances are you’ve seen a photo of Otter Cliff. At 110 feet above the ocean, the rocks here are quintessential coastal Maine. Leonardo DiCaprio even filmed a rock climbing scene for “Shutter Island” here.
- Otter Point – This is the southern trailhead of the Ocean Path. From here you’ll depart back the way you came to Sand Beach. Before you head back, look for the plaque commemorating John D. Rockefeller, Jr., one of the many important people that pushed to establish Acadia as a national park.
Where to Stay when Hiking the Ocean Path
There are two options for lodging near the Ocean Path.
For anyone looking to camp in the park, try the nearby Blackwoods Campground. We’ve written here before that the Blackwoods Campground is the perfect place to use as a base camp for an extended hiking itinerary. There is no backcountry camping available in Acadia, so Blackwoods is your best choice in the area.
If you’re not camping in Acadia, it’s best to use the gateway towns of Bar Harbor, Seal Harbor, or Northeast Harbor for lodging options. Small bed and breakfasts, inns, and larger hotels are available in these communities. By far the most options are in Bar Harbor, although Airbnb and vacation rentals are available throughout the Mount Desert Island area.
For our full itinerary of the area, check out our park summary:
Acadia National Park Recap
Other Tips about Hiking in Acadia National Park
Hiking in Acadia National Park is our top recommendation for all travelers. Getting out of the car and onto the trail is the best way to see the park. If you’re going to be hiking several trails, remember these tips:
- Weather conditions in Acadia can change quickly. Dress in layers. In the summer months plan for cool mornings, warm sunny days, and the chance of afternoon storms.
- The Ocean Path and other coastal trails can be slippery and dangerous if you get too close to the edge. Be mindful of your footing and keep kids and pets close by.
- Acadia’s trails are marked with blue blazes and famous cairns. Do not disrupt the cairns, some of them have been in place since before the park’s founding. Do not create cairns of your own either, they can distract hikers from the designated route.
- Trail closures happen often in Acadia. Check with a ranger for the most current trail conditions before you go.