For the last 20 years I've had a couple trails in Acadia on my bucket list. My friends have done one or both of them and told me how awesome they are, but between the peregrine falcons and weather the timing never worked out for me, as both trails are seasonally closed for the nicer half of the year to protect the nesting birds. I made it halfway up once this trail in the cold November rain a couple years ago but was turned back by some slick wet ledges. Well, finally things aligned Thursday and thegibba and I headed back up to Acadia for some redlining and bucket listing, starting with the Precipice Trail. Described not as a hiking trail, but as a non-technical climbing route on the east face of Champlain Mountain, it gains about 1000 feet using fixed iron rungs, rails and ladders to cleverly work it's way along the cliff bands, or, when no bands are available by just going straight up. A really unique way up a mountain for sure and one I just had to do, even if 20 years of overthinking it had me feeling just a little apprehensive. In such cases I find it best to stop thinking about it too much and just do it, so that's what we did.
Another glorious sunrise over the Maine turnpike
Not nearly as time efficient as my trip a few days before but a whole lot more cost effective in a Prius
Parking at Compass Harbor we wandered the trails around the former estate of Acadia's founding father George B. Dorr first. Then it was a mile or so of warm up walking on the Schooner Head Path, which both of us needed bits and pieces of for redlining. After a couple miles of flat-landing we got a glimpse of Champlain Mountain across a wet meadow. We could see people climbing up the cliffs of the Precipice Trail and watched them go for a few minutes while we warmed up in the morning sun. Then it was off to the trailhead and an abrupt end to the whole flat thing.
Grabbing Compass Harbor Trails for thegibba
Still some green leaves around
View from Dorr Point
Cruise ship in town for the day
Sol's Cliff. You can rent the mansion here for $8,800 a week in the summer. So maybe get it for two weeks just to be safe
The Granite Staircase from the former Dorr "cottage"
The remains of the cottage
Former front door of the Dorr's
Schooner Head Path is a couple miles of this
First view of Mt. Champlain, home to the Precipice
Watching as others make the climb. Note the specks in the center
Close up of the cliffs you climb up. Find the person in the white shirt yet??
They appear to be crawling across some of the upper bands here
Arriving to take a turn on this one
The trail starts out working its way up the boulder field at the base of the cliffs. Minor scrambling and a few carefully placed sets of iron to "test" you out and see if you can manage what's coming. Some of the ironwork higher up is said to be tough to reach if you are on the shorter side, so the park service placed some bars awkwardly down low for you to test yourself out on. We passed, and moved on. Next up was the climb up a large rockfall, usually scrambling from rock to rock but a couple times you go under larger ones blocking the way. Similar to the Subway in King Ravine only a lot less of it. Then you hit the cliffs and the fun begins!
You have been warned
And warned again
Peter climbing up the proving ground
Now, go have some fun!
Don't forget to stop and smell the roses
Back to the fun
You work your way up the cliff bands. Sometimes you walk along the top of them with (slightly flexible) iron railings to help you balance or stop you if you tripped. Other times there are bridges built to cross gaps in the cliffs. Still other places have iron handrails drilled into the rock. Finally there are the ladders, both actual iron ladders fixed to the rock face and large iron rungs about 2 feet wide set in the rock when the "ladder" needs to climb but not necessarily in a straight line. Its kind of amazing that this was ever constructed in the first place, and in an age of lawsuits that it is still open to the public today. I said before I was apprehensive about the whole thing, and there were a few spots that gave me pause, but overall if you have some upper body strength and no vertigo inducing fear of heights I'd have to say this trail is just a heck of a lot of fun and not nearly as death defying as I had built it up in my mind to be. That is not to say there aren't spots where one slip or trip doesn't mean certain death, because there are a handful of them for sure, but pay attention, hang on tight and this is one heck of a thrill ride!
After the junction with the Orange & Black early exit route the real fun begins
The parking lot below and Peter about halfway up the first rung ladders
The tops of the cliff bands are all a pretty consistent couple of feet wide
Natural or man-made handholds were at about 95% of the spots you'd like them
Footholds too when deemed necessary
More jungle gym
A third section of vertical rungs
One of the few spots an extra bar would have been nice
Fourth and final grouping of rungs and rods
Saving the best for last
If you don't feel alive at this point you better check your pulse
After topping out on the climbing part we soaked in the sunshine and views to the east from the large ledges before finishing the trail to the summit of Mt. Champlain. Having been there more than a couple times we didn't stay long, and started to head down the North Ridge Trail before Peter mentioned he hadn't hiked the section of trail between Champlain and Huguenot Head. Well, why not?! In Acadia you can usually change plans on the fly and find your way wherever you want using various routes of about the same distance. Since Beechcroft is always one of the most enjoyable trails in the park down we went, deciding to finish the loop with a short road walk rather than revisiting 1.5 miles of the Schooner Head Path. We passed a guy who informed us we were not on the North Ridge Trail, which we already knew but apparently he didn't find out until he hit the bottom, then for some reason decided to hike all the way back up and then down rather than also do a road walk to his car. We said thanks and told him our planned route and parted ways, wondering if it ever clicked to him that he could have done an easy 2 mile walk rather than a 2.5 mile re-hike of the mountain to get back to his car. We stopped by Huguenot Head just because it was there, and who knows, maybe someday the Acadia Grid will take shape!
From there it was down and back to the car, officially crossing off this trail from the bucket list, and onward to the next one.
Climbing up the last crags to some nice open ledges
Onward to the summit
I'm thinking this is here to test anyone thinking of going down. Pretty sure the trail could have avoided it if they wanted to
One at each end of the Precipice Trail
Headed down Beechcroft Trail for Huguenot Head
Hikers making their way up Champlain of Beechcroft
Headed down Beechcroft Trail
Passing the Cube
A short road walk and that's that
1058 feet high doesn't rank this one near the top of the tallest mountains list, but for biggest thrills you can have hiking in the east it's easily in my top handful of trails. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be on the fear factor side of things and turned out to be way more fun than I thought it would also. Like a 1000 foot high jungle gym for adults really, and although it took me 20 years to finally climb this one I'm sure it won't take me another 20 to return. For one I was so busy wondering what was next and taking it all in I didn't do as much with the camera as a normally would. and more importantly this trail was just plain old F-U-N as well as the most spectacular and unique trail in the park. Add in the adrenaline rush and feeling of being alive you get when you climb up the last rungs and can relax and look around and this was instantly one of my all time favorite hikes.