Acadia National Park


The solitary national park in the northeast, Acadia offers dramatic and beautiful scenery along Maine’s rocky, rugged coastline that is unique to this part of the country. While the climbing in itself wouldn’t necessarily make Acadia a destination, the overall experience of spending time here coupled with wonderful food and rest day options makes Acadia worth a visit, especially if you’re already in this neck of the woods.

Kiki’s first multipitch.


Acadia’s climbing is all on granite, though the character varies substantially between the cliffs close to the ocean and those more inland. The broken, edgy rock at Otter cliffs and Great Head provides a sportier feel, and the sea mist can add a challenge by making the rock feel a tad slippery. Most parties at Otter cliffs tend to set up topropes using several convenient fixed bars meant for this purpose at the clifftop (just follow the trail down from the parking). Great Head has a mixture of traditional and harder sport lines with an intimidating setting above the crashing waves. Meanwhile, the pink granite of The Precipice cliff will remind one more of the classic crack and corner climbing at Cathedral ledge in North Conway.  The Precipice offers mostly traditional climbing with bolts here and there and a few pure sports lines, and even has some high quality multi-pitch climbing. It’s tough to beat the comfy rest ledges with views of the Atlantic up there, so if your time is limited at Acadia, climbing at The Precipice is highly recommended.

Otter Cliffs

The entrance fees to Acadia are $25 for a 7-day vehicle pass, or $12 per person for a 7-day pass. It is possible to avoid passing through the entrance from The Precipice by turning left just before the booth and exiting the park back toward Bar Harbor. It is also possible to access the Otter cliffs by entering the loop via Otter Cliff road rather than the main loop road entrance. However, if you’re planning to be here for several days, it makes sense to just buy the pass and avoid the hassle.

There is a guidebook to Acadia by Jeff Butterfield, but it’s out of print now and tough to come by. As an alternative, the Acadia page on Mountain Project is fairly comprehensive and you can get by with only this.

Classic Climbs

  • Old Town 5.7
  • Return To Forever 5.9+
  • A Dare by the Sea 5.10c
  • Head Arete 5.10+
  • Connecticut Cracks 5.11a


Acadia is primarily a summer destination (Memorial Day to Labor Day), and the weekends can get crowded during the summer. Some of the best times to visit are in the early season (April-May) and late season (Oct-Nov) when the foliage can be great if you arrive at just the right time.


Dirtbag camping is tricky anywhere on Mt. Desert Island, but there are some great established campgroungs. Blackwoods is within the national park, and you can reserve a site online. There is also Bar Harbor Campground, which does not take reservations and is a good option if you make an impromptu visit or the other campgrounds are booked.


There is no water at any of the cliffs, but it is easy to fill water at Blackwoods campground.


Downtown Bar Harbor has some awesome dining options for both breakfast and dinner. For a distinctly Maine experience, try on of the many lobster pounds around the island (see map).


The campgrounds have showers, but otherwise it’d be tricky to find a shower.

Rest Days

The rest day options at Acadia are quite good. The loop road around the island makes for a great scenic bike ride (~25 miles) with some challenging hills once you get back around to the inland half. For an added challenge, ride up Cadillac Mountain and earn some incredible views of Dutchman’s bay to the east. Sea kayaking is also super popular around Acadia. You can rent bikes and kayaks in town at Acadia Bike and Canoe (see map).

If you’re looking for a lazier rest day , Sand Beach is a great option, and there is some fun scrambling along the rocks on the coastline here.

Acadia is also famous as the first place where the sun touches America, so if you’re a morning person, you can drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain before sunrise to catch the first rays as the sun peaks up over the Atlantic.

The Precipice Hiking Trail is a via-ferrata style scramble up some steep rocks and precipitous rock faces (thus the name). If it’s open (often closed for peregrine nesting until early August), this is a fun quick jaunt, and you often get a good laugh seeing the fear in the eyes of families who didn’t know what they were in for when they started this hike, despite several warning signs.


By Tyler Wellman


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