Beech Mtn., Beech Cliff,
Canada Cliffs, and Valley Trail

Destinations:  Beech Mtn. (839'), Beech Cliff (600'), Canada Cliffs (600')
Trails:  Beech Mountain Trail, Beech Cliff Loop Trail, Canada Cliff Trail, Valley Trail
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Western Region
Location:  Southwest Harbor, ME
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, cliffs, slab caves, fire tower, loop hike
Distance:  4.5 miles  
Elevation Gain:  880 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 2:45  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 3:00   Typical: 4:45  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/21/2008 (Wednesday)  
Last Updated:  10/22/2009  
Weather:  Mixed clouds and blue sky, seasonably cool
Author:  Chip Lary

Mansell Mountain (left) and Long Pond from Beech Mountain Trail, with little cedar trees in the foreground (photo by Chip Lary)
Mansell Mountain (left) and Long Pond from Beech Mountain Trail, with little cedar trees in the foreground (photo by Chip Lary)

Route Summary   

This hike is a combination of three short hikes in Acadia National Park, all starting from the same parking lot. You can choose do as few or as many as you'd like. The statistics above reflect the combination of all three options. See the Mileage Splits section for distances, times, and ratings for each individual segment.

Beech Mountan fire tower, taken from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
Beech Mountan fire tower, taken from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
The first part is a loop hike that summits Beech Mountain. There is a fire tower at the top and great views in most directions from the summit. The second segment goes to the top of Beech Cliff, where there are great views down to Echo Lake as well as out to the surrounding area, and then the hike proceeds to the top of Canada Cliffs before looping back down. The last portion is a walk in a valley at the base of Beech Mountain. The scenery is interesting and there are lots of neat boulders along this path.

First, in order to clear up any confusion, a few notes on names:
  • Beech Mountain Trail may also be referred to as Beech Mountain Loop Trail, or simply Beach Mountain Loop. The park service has renamed several trails so you may come across either name on signs and other references.
  • Beech South Ridge Trail may also be referred to as Beech Mountain South Ridge Trail. This is another route that underwent a name change as part of the park's management plan. Many of the changes revert to an earlier historical name.
  • Beech West Ridge Trail may also be referred to as Beech Mountain West Ridge Trail.

Beech Mountain:
  • Start on Beech Mountain Trail which is to the right, just after pulling into the parking lot.
  • Walk for less than 0.1 mile, then at the junction where Beech Mountain Trail splits to form a loop, keep straight/right.
  • Hike uphill for 0.6 mile, passing fantastic views of Long Pond and beyond, en route.
  • At a junction with Beech West Ridge Trail, turn left to stay on Beech Mountain Trail.
  • Hike for 0.1 mile which will bring you to a junction just below the fire tower. The left-hand turn will be your return route; for now turn right to reach the fire tower and the open ledges beyond it.
  • After enjoying the views, return to the junction just a few strides past the fire tower, and go straight/right to pick up the leg of Beech Mountain Trail that you have not yet traveled.
  • Hike downhill for 0.4 mile which will bring you to the lower junction of the loop.
  • Turn right and walk for less than 0.1 mile to return to the parking lot.

Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs:
  • From the Beech Mountain Trailhead, walk across the parking lot to the Beech Cliff Loop Trailhead. When you're first driving into the parking lot, this will be immediately on the left.
  • Hike up Beech Cliff Loop Trail for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a junction with Canada Cliff Trail on the right.
  • Go straight through this junction, still on Beech Cliff Loop Trail.
  • Just a bit later, you will reach another junction which is where Beech Cliff Loop Trail splits to form a loop.
  • Echo Lake and beyond, from Beech Cliff
    (photo by Chip Lary)
    Echo Lake and beyond, from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
  • Turn left and follow the loop around, reaching views of the surrounding area, and Echo Lake immediately below you, after 0.3 mile.
  • Continue along Beech Cliff Loop Trail for another 0.1 mile which will return you to the start of the loop.
  • Go straight, and then soon arrive back at the junction with Canada Cliff Trail, now on the left.
  • Turn left onto Canada Cliff Trail.
  • Hike for 0.05 mile and stay straight at a junction with Beech Cliff Trail on the left (not to be confused with Beech Cliff Loop Trail).
  • Continue on Canada Cliff Trail for another 0.15 mile which will bring you to a split in the trail where a loop starts.
  • Turn left and walk for 0.4 mile which will bring you to another junction along the loop.
  • If you wish, you can proceed straight down towards Valley Trail, but if want to finish walking the loop on Canada Cliff Trail, then turn right and hike for 0.2 mile.
  • Upon returning to the junction where you first met the loop, turn around and retrace your steps for 0.2 mile.
  • Now turn right to head down towards Valley Trail.
  • Hike for 0.2 down Canada Cliff Trail (so this trail is a loop, with a spur on either end) to reach its end at a T-junction with Valley Trail.
  • If you wish to return to the parking lot, turn right and walk for 0.2 mile. To continue with the last segment of this hike, turn left.

Valley Trail:
  • If you're doing this portion of the hike without the Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs segment, then you'll be starting from the parking lot. From the lot, pick up Valley Trail which leaves from the far left-hand corner of the lot (the end opposite from where you drove in) and follow it for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a junction with Canada Cliff Trail. Keep straight on Valley Trail.
  • If you've just finished the Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs hike, then from Canada Cliff Trail, turn left onto Valley Trail.
  • Walk for 0.6 mile on Valley Trail, passing along the base of the tree-covered cliffs of Beech Mountain, until you reach a junction with Beech South Ridge Trail.
  • This is your turn-around point. Retrace your steps on Valley Trail for 0.6 mile which will return you to the junction with Canada Cliff Trail on the right.
  • Keep going straight on Valley Trail for another 0.2 mile which will bring you back to the parking lot.

Harbors from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
Harbors from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)

Segment 1: Beech Mountain
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Beech Mtn. parking lot (500') 0.0 0.0
Beech Mtn. summit (839') 0.8 0.8
Beech Mtn. parking lot (500') 0.5 1.3

Segment Rating: Easy/Moderate
Segment Elevation Gain: 360 feet (cumulative)
Segment Typical Hiking Time: 0:50
Segment Typical Outing Duration: 1:45

Segment 2: Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Beech Mtn. parking lot (500') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Beech Cliff Loop Trail / Canada Cliff Trail (570') 0.2 0.2
Beech Cliff (600') 0.3 0.5
Jct. Beech Cliff Loop Trail / Canada Cliff Trail (570') 0.1 0.6
Jct. Canada Cliff Trail / Valley Trail (480') 1.2 1.8

Segment Rating: Easy/Moderate
Segment Elevation Gain: 420 feet (cumulative)
Segment Typical Hiking Time: 1:10
Segment Typical Outing Duration: 1:45

Close-up of Greening Island (foreground) and Great Cranberry Island (background) from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
Close-up of Greening Island (foreground) and Great Cranberry Island (background) from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)

Segment 3: Valley Trail
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Jct. Canada Cliff Trail / Valley Trail (480') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Valley Trail / Beech South Ridge Trail (420') 0.6 0.6
Jct. Canada Cliff Trail / Valley Trail (480') 0.6 1.2
Beech Mtn. parking lot (500') 0.2 1.4

Segment Rating: Easy
Segment Elevation Gain: 100 feet (cumulative)
Segment Typical Hiking Time: 0:45
Segment Typical Outing Duration: 1:15


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Trail map of hike route to Beech Mtn., Beech Cliff, Canada Cliffs, and Valley Trail at Acadia National Park (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Three different trails all start at the Beech Mountain parking lot: Beech Mountain Trail, Beech Cliff Loop Trail, and Valley Trail. I started a different hike from each of these access points. First a loop trail to Beech Mountain with great views, then a hike to Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs with Beech Cliff offering views down to Echo Lake, and finally a forest walk on Valley Trail with interesting boulders and the steep eastern side of Beech Mountain looming above. Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Beech Mountain    |    Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs    |    Valley Trail


Cranberry Islands from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
Cranberry Islands from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)

Beech Mountain   

First walk towards the northwest corner of the parking lot (immediately to the right as you drive in). There will be a trailhead for Beech Mountain Trail which forms a loop. Soon after leaving the parking lot the trail splits. The loop can be hiked in either direction. This describes a counterclockwise route.

Take the trail to the right. You will not gain a lot of elevation at first as you start around to the west side of Beech Mountain. As you get higher on the trail tremendous views of Long Pond appear. The pond remains in sight for quite a bit of time as you traverse the western side of the mountain.

Once you have gone all the way around to the west you will start gaining elevation more quickly. Long Pond will disappear from view. As you near the top this trail will meet Beech West Ridge Trail, then the upper Beach Mountain Trail split, and it will finally arrive at the summit.

View from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
View from the summit of Beech Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)

As you climb up onto an open summit, you will see an unmanned fire tower. It is the only one in the entire Acadia Park system. The top of the tower is locked, but you can climb partway up the stairs to get longer views.

From the summit you can see all the way to the ocean and the Cranberry Islands to the south. From the fire tower you have greater than 180-degree views of the surrounding countryside.

The hike down will be via the leg of Beech Mountain Trail that you have not yet taken. This trail is shorter than the first part of the loop and you descend quickly. When you come back to where the two branches of the loop rejoin, turn right and you will come out in the parking lot where you first started.

You can end your hike here or you can explore the other options you have from this same starting point.

Echo Lake and Echo Beach from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
Echo Lake and Echo Beach from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)

Beech Cliff and Canada Cliffs   

To go to Beech Cliffs cross the road at the entrance to the parking lot. The trailhead for Beech Cliff Trail is found here.

This trail is short and it rises steadily, but not steeply. You will come to a split in the trail. Heading right takes you to the Canada Cliffs trails. For now head left to continue to Beech Cliff.

When I hiked it there were signs about peregrine falcons nesting in the cliffs. The trail was still open, but you were not allowed to leave the trail because you might disturb the falcons.

After taking the left path you will quickly come to another split in the trail. This is a small loop at the end of Beech Cliff Loop Trail. When you emerge at the outer arc of the loop you will see Echo Lake stretching out below you. At the south end of Echo Lake is Echo Beach, a part of the Acadia National Park system. There are several informal trails leading away from this loop, but I did not explore them because of the ban.

Beech Mountain and its fire tower from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
Beech Mountain and its fire tower from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)

When you are done admiring the views from here, complete the circuit and come back to where the loop started. Head back down the trail to where you went left towards Beach Cliff. At this fork now head left onto Canada Cliff Trail.

Despite the name, there are no real open views on Canada Cliff Trail. This is a forest loop that provides an interesting contrast to the prior hikes of open ledges.

As you start on Canada Cliff Trail, you will soon pass Beech Cliff Trail, which uses ladders, on the left. This is a steep descent to Echo Beach. A little farther on Canada Cliff Trail you will come to a split. The trail forms a loop at this point.

Take the trail to the left. You will wind your way around so that you are heading back in the direction that you came. At the next junction, heading left will bring you to Valley trail. Heading right will bring you back to where you started on the loop. If you do this section to complete the loop you should then turn around and come back to this junction. This time take the trail to the right to go to Valley Trail.

This section of the trail will end the Canada Cliffs hike. It quickly connects to Valley trail. If you want to end your hike, then turn right and follow Valley Trail north. It will come out at the end of Beech Hill road where you parked.

Echo Lake as seen from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)
Echo Lake as seen from Beech Cliff (photo by Chip Lary)

Valley Trail   

If you want to continue your hike then turn left and follow Valley Trail south. This is another forest walk, but with a twist. You will be walking at the eastern base of Beech Mountain with cliffs rising very steeply above you. In these steep cliff faces, large trees have managed to take root and grow.

Valley Trail descends gently on a well-worn path. In less than a mile of straight hiking you will come to a place where a trail heads off to the right and starts to gain elevation. This is Beech South Ridge Trail which leads to the summit of Beech Mountain. The trail that continues straight is still Valley Trail and it will take you to a different parking lot at the end of Long Pond.

I turned around at this point and hiked back up Valley Trail all the way to where I parked. There is a barrier at the end of the Valley Trail where it connects to Beech Hill Road. This is to prevent people from driving vehicles onto the trail.

All in all this was an interesting combination of mountain ledges, mountain summit, cliff top, and forest trails, and all of them can be done from the same starting point.

Long Pond and beyond, from Beech Mountain Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Long Pond and beyond, from Beech Mountain Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
 













 


ME - Central Southeast





  Driving Directions   

This hike starts from the Beech Mountain parking lot at the end of Beech Hill Road, located within Acadia National Park in Southwest Harbor, Maine. It is in the western half of Mount Desert Island.

Rhodora growing on a boulder on Beech Mountain Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Rhodora growing on a boulder on Beech Mountain Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
From the North:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 102 in Bar Harbor, pick up Rt. 102 South.
  • Follow Rt. 102 South for about 5.3 miles.
  • Where Rt. 102 splits, turn right onto its western branch which is also called Pretty Marsh Road.
  • Drive for 0.25 mile then turn left onto Beech Hill Road.
  • Follow Beech Hill Road for 3.1 miles until it ends at the Beech Mountain parking lot.

From the East:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 233 in Bar Harbor, pick up Rt. 233 West.
  • Follow Rt. 233 West for about 5.9 miles where it will end upon meeting Routes 3 and 198.
  • Turn right and follow Rt. 198 North for about 1.4 miles where it will reach a junction with Rt. 102.
  • Turn left and follow Rt. 102 South for about 0.9 mile.
  • Where Rt. 102 splits, turn right onto its western branch which is also called Pretty Marsh Road.
  • Drive for 0.25 mile then turn left onto Beech Hill Road.
  • Follow Beech Hill Road for 3.1 miles until it ends at the Beech Mountain parking lot.

Winter: The parking lot is not plowed in winter but you should be able to park at the end of the road.

Other Notes   

A fee is required to enter Acadia National Park between May 1st and October 31st.

For more information on entrance fees please refer to the Acadia National Park website.

Rates:
  • $20 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the regular season (June 23rd–Early October)
  • $10 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the off-season (May 1st–June 22nd and Early October–October 31st)
  • $40 for a year-long pass for one vehicle
  • $5 for a week-long pass for one pedestrian

Long Pond (left) and Beech Mountain Trail (right) (photo by Chip Lary)
Long Pond (left) and Beech Mountain Trail (right) (photo by Chip Lary)

About Acadia National Park   

Acadia National Park, covering about 48,000 acres, is located on Mount Desert Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the "Downeast" region of the state of Maine. The park spans several villages including Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor. Acadia includes miles of ocean shoreline, many freshwater ponds, a couple lakes, waterfalls, bare ledgy mountaintops, and deciduous and softwood forests. There are two sections of the park that are not on Mount Desert Island: Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut.

Acadia National Park offers a unique hiking experience in New England. From the many bare summits, not only can you see other mountains, but also gorgeous vistas of the sea along with islands, promontories, coves, and boats. The hiking is rugged with many easy rock scrambles, yet the elevations are low, making the ledgy peaks accessible to most people. The incredible network of trails allows you to tailor hiking distances to your wishes – you can devise a route that will keep you going all day; or simply choose a short jaunt to give you great vistas without a lot of effort. There are a couple dozen peaks and well over 100 miles of hiking trails.

View from Pemetic Mtn. at Acadia National Park (photo by Webmaster)


There is an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities at Acadia. Spend some time sunbathing at Sand Beach, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Atlantic shoreline, bicycle or ride a horse on the 57 miles of carriage roads, paddle in the many ponds, swim at Echo Lake, take a boat tour on the sea or to an island, stay overnight at the park's campgrounds, and of course you can hike up mountains, through forests, and around ponds. The winter season provides great terrain for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If your taste runs to less physical activity, then you can drive up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – Acadia's highest peak at 1,532 feet elevation – in fact the highest point on the United States' Atlantic seaboard. From Cadillac's bare summit are views in every direction – you can watch the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening. The forest service offers many ranger-led programs from mid-May through mid-October to introduce you to the nature and wildlife of the park. You can drive on Park Loop Road for a tour of the park with many picnic areas and pullout spots offering scenic vistas available. Or stop in at Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea. Shopping, restaurants, and lodging are available in Bar Harbor as well as the other villages within or next to the park. Whale watching and bird watching are other popular activates.

Rhodora bloom (photo by Webmaster)


The varied natural habitat of Acadia National Park – from ocean to mountains – offers a plethora of plants and wildlife – both marine and land-bound. It is home to about 50 species of mammals, 325 bird species, and 1,000 species of flowering plants. Both bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest on the island. Mammals include deer, porcupine, and beaver. Whales and harbor seals are common marine animals.

The park was established in 1916 under a different name and became Acadia National Park in 1929. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated about one-third of the park's acreage and was responsible for creating the gorgeous carriage roads that wind through forests, around ponds, past waterfalls, and over beautiful granite bridges.

An entrance fee is required to enter the park. See the forest service's Fees and Reservations page for more information.

The park is open all year, although services are reduced and many roads closed during the winter season.

Acadia National Park
P.O. Box 177
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207.288.3338

More Beech Mtn., Beech Cliff, and Canada Cliff Trail Reports   

 








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The cliffs of the east side of Beech Mountain as seen from Valley Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
The cliffs of the east side of Beech Mountain as seen from Valley Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
 

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