The Beehive, Champlain Mtn., The Bowl

Destinations:  The Beehive (540'), Champlain Mtn. (1058'), The Bowl (410')
Trails:  Beehive Trail, Bowl Trail, Champlain South Ridge Trail
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Eastern Region
Location:  Bar Harbor, ME
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Views, summits, pond, rock scrambles, cliffs, ledges
Distance:  4.9 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1300 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 3:05  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 3:00   Typical: 5:30  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/21/2009 (Thursday)  
Last Updated:  08/08/2009  
Weather:  Sunny, some haze, about 80 degrees
Author:  Chip Lary

The Beehive (left) and Gorham Mountain (right) behind The Bowl with the ocean in the background. Photo taken from Champlain Mountain's south ridge.
(photo by Chip Lary)
The Beehive (left) and Gorham Mtn. (right) behind The Bowl with the ocean in the background (photo by Chip Lary)

Route Summary   

This hike climbs up, via cliffs and iron rungs, to The Beehive, then visits The Bowl (a pond), and then ascends easily up to the summit of Champlain Mountain. There are fabulous views from The Beehive and Champlain Mountain as well as from many places on the trails.

  • Start from the Sand Beach parking lot. Follow the gravel path to the right of the parking lot entrance as you walk up to Park Loop Road. Almost immediately cross the road to the trailhead for Bowl Trail. (The trailhead is about 100 feet to the right of the parking lot entrance, but on the opposite side of the street.)
  • Follow Bowl Trail for 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Beehive Trail where Bowl Trail goes straight.
  • The Bowl (photo by Chip Lary)
    The Bowl (photo by Chip Lary)
  • Note that Beehive Trail climbs steeply on narrow ledges with sheer drops. This trail is not for those that are afraid of heights or those lacking agility and balance. Iron rungs assist in the ascent up the nearly vertical rocks. If you wish to avoid this climb, you can access The Beehive from the backside; or skip The Beehive altogether and just go directly to The Bowl before heading up Champlain Mountain. See the trail map for the various route options that are available.
  • Climb on Beehive Trail, following the blue paint blazes, for 0.3 mile to arrive at its summit with fantastic views.
  • Continue on Beehive Trail for 0.3 mile, going straight through a junction where a connector trail leaves left, and arrive at the shore of The Bowl, a beautiful pond.
  • Follow the path left along the shoreline for 0.1 mile to a split in the trail where Bowl Trail goes left and Champlain South Ridge Trail (formerly called Bear Brook Trail) goes to the right.
  • Turn right and follow Champlain South Ridge Trail for 1.6 miles to the summit of Champlain Mountain.
  • After enjoying the views, retrace your steps for 1.6 miles on Champlain South Ridge Trail. Be sure to pick up the correct trail as there are four paths leaving from the summit; you want to be heading south.
  • At the junction with Bowl Trail, bear right on Bowl Trail and head away from the pond.
  • Follow Bowl Trail for 0.8 mile all the way back to Park Loop Road. En route you will pass two trails on the right leading up to Gorham Mountain and two trails on the left leading to The Beehive; keep straight ahead on Bowl Trail through all the junctions.
  • Cross Park Loop Road to return to the parking lot.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Bowl Trailhead (60') 0.0 0.0
The Beehive (540') 0.5 0.5
The Bowl (410') 0.3 0.8
Champlain Mtn. summit (1058') 1.7 2.5
Jct. Champlain South Ridge Trail/Bowl Trail (410') 1.6 4.1
Bowl Trailhead (60') 0.8 4.9

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Trail map of hike route to Champlain Mountain and The Beehive (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This hike covers some steep ascents, including iron rungs, some level walking around a pond, and then, from Champlain Mountain, perhaps the best coastline views available on any hike in Acadia.

Start on Bowl Trail which ascends over rocks and roots for a couple tenths of a mile. You will come to a split in the trail. Take the trail to the right to head up The Beehive.

The trail quickly becomes a back and forth set of ledges leading up the front left side of The Beehive. I had heard quite a bit about this route and was wondering what my reaction would be to the slim ledges and drop-offs. From my perspective it didn't turn out to be that bad. There was one place where a set of thick iron treads had been put in place to bridge a gap in a rock ledge. I admit I paused for a second before stepping onto it and then across back onto the ledge. It vibrated slightly, but didn't bend at all under my weight – it was very solid.

Great Head and Sand Beach from high up on Beehive Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Great Head and Sand Beach from high up on Beehive Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

At one point I was taking a picture and noticed my foot was not very far from the edge of the ledge. I instinctively backed up, but my pack hit the rock wall behind me. I decided to take a couple more steps along the ledge to where it was a little wider. I would estimate the ledges average 3–4 feet in width. They are level, though, so you are not standing on something that is pitched toward the drop-offs.

Many iron rungs are well placed to help you safely ascend on the trail. Note: don't bring a hiking stick with you since you will need both of your hands for much of this part of the hike. In addition, do not try to bring a dog with you.

In using the iron rungs I realized that the method that worked best for me would be to take the final step up onto the next ledge, while simultaneously reaching for another iron rung or rock outcropping above to ensure I kept my upward momentum. Because of this I would not try to descend on this path. There are places where you would have to let go of the grip above you without yet placing your foot on the iron rung below. While I watched a couple of hikers do it one time, it's not something I would recommend.

The Beehive (photo by Chip Lary)
The Beehive (photo by Chip Lary)

The trip up The Beehive took nowhere near as long as I thought it would. There is no marked summit on The Beehive and you can walk around to different locations for views, but some are obscured by trees. We had planned for this to be our morning hike and we had so much time left over we decided to continue on to the peak of Champlain Mountain.

At this point in the hike a group of three others had joined us. They continued on ahead of us down the back of The Beehive. We saw one of them angrily destroy a cairn on the trail, scattering most of the rocks away. This surprised us because a cardinal rule is to not destroy trail markers. After a brief pause we rebuilt the cairn that had been destroyed. Almost immediately the woman was back demanding that we explain what we were doing. We did. She then explained that she was a member of a group that volunteers on the trails and that the cairn she destroyed did not conform to the traditional, four-rocks cairn that the park likes to use. This time it was rebuilt to that tradition and the extra rocks were carried off far enough to discourage others from adding to the cairn.

The Bowl with Gorham Mountain behind it as seen from the south ridge of Champlain Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
The Bowl with Gorham Mtn. behind it (photo by Chip Lary)

Descending the backside of The Beehive gives you a great view of The Bowl – a pond that formed between The Beehive and Champlain Mountain. Since this was May the water was still very cold, but it felt good on what was turning out to be an unseasonably warm day.

The trail goes clockwise around The Bowl until you reach another split in the trail. Take the trail to the right and continue clockwise around The Bowl. You will come to the outlet of the pond. You will need to step across on a few stones, but no wading is required. This outlet has been dammed up twice by beavers. The first dam was close to the trail and a second dam was built about fifty feet behind it. As I stood there on the trail looking at them I realized that the surface of the water behind the second dam was level with my head!

Beaver dams at the outlet to The Bowl: one in the foreground partially obscured by shrubs; and the other in the center of the photo with a higher water level behind it.
(photo by Chip Lary)
Beaver dams at the outlet to The Bowl (photo by Chip Lary)

The trail now continues up the south ridge of Champlain. The whole route traversing Champlain Mountain was formerly called Bear Brook Trail but has been renamed to Champlain South Ridge Trail and Champlain North Ridge Trail.

This part of the trail ascends gradually. There are sections that are a little steeper and that occasionally required a handhold or two, but it is nothing compared to what was already encountered going up The Beehive.

The entire ridge has open, 180-degree-plus views of the ocean, mountains, ponds, rivers, beaches, and islands. Gorham Mountain offers similar views, but Champlain is twice as high. On the way up I found myself looking behind me almost as often as I was looking ahead. I stopped many times to take photos.

Porcupine Islands and beyond as seen from the summit of Champlain Mountain (photo by Chip Lary)
Porcupine Islands as seen from the summit of Champlain Mtn. (photo by Chip Lary)

The trail is over rock ledges, but is well marked with cairns or painted blazes. You can see places where people have made side trips for particular views. Go ahead and explore, but always come back to the main trail. There are no other trails that intersect this one until you reach the summit of Champlain.

There were a few tiny ponds on the way up. They appeared to be only filled by rainwater, but there were many hardy plants and small trees growing in and around them.

From the peak of Champlain Mountain you can see in every direction, from Cadillac and Dorr Mountains one way, to Gorham Mountain and The Beehive, to the islands in Bar Harbor, to Great Head, to Sand Beach, and to Otter Cliffs. We sat here for a while, had a snack, and enjoyed the views. It was relatively windy, but it helped cool us off. On a cold day the wind would probably not be pleasant.

Kief Pond lies between The Beehive and Gorham Mountain. Photo taken from Champlain Mountain's south ridge. (photo by Chip Lary)
Kief Pond (photo by Chip Lary)

There are several trails that intersect at the summit with a signpost pointing in various directions. One of them, Precipice Trail, is closed for most of the summer because of peregrine falcons that nest in the cliffs that the trail descends.

At this point, turn around and head back down the south ridge of Champlain to The Bowl. As much as I enjoyed the views on the way up, I had more fun on the way down. I was now facing them and I had taken all the pictures I wanted so I simply hiked down while constantly taking in the unobstructed views.

Once you have returned to the edge of The Bowl where you took the trail to the right to go to Champlain, this time take the other trail. It will be to your right on the return trip. This is Bowl Trail and it will lead you between The Beehive and Gorham Mountain.

The Tarn (a pond) as seen from the ridge of Champlain Mountain with Dorr Mountain to the left (photo by Chip Lary)
Dorr Mtn. and The Tarn (photo by Chip Lary)

At first you will ascend on this trail as you move away from The Bowl, but soon it will start to descend. The section from here to the end is all wooded. Trails will come in from the left (another trail down from The Beehive) and from the right (two different trails from Gorham Mountain.) Stay on the main trail. You will eventually come back to the split in the trail where you earlier ascended to The Beehive. Stay on Bowl Trail and you will come back out to Park Loop Road. Cross the street and go back to the parking lot where you started.

We only encountered two other groups on The Beehive. One of those groups also did Champlain. Other than that we had the trails to ourselves. I've found that before-lunch hikes in Acadia are quieter than after-lunch hikes.

A warning if you don't like crowds, though. I have seen many people on The Beehive all at once. One time a school bus stopped at Sand Beach and dozens of kids decided to try The Beehive. From the parking lot you could see them swarming all over it like, well, bees.
 







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Tiny ponds near the summit of Champlain Mountain (photos by Chip Lary)
Tiny pond near the summit of Champlain Mtn. (photo by Chip Lary) Tiny pond near the summit of Champlain Mtn. (photo by Chip Lary)
 


ME - Central Southeast



  Driving Directions   

This hike starts from the Sand Beach parking lot, located within Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. It is in the eastern half of Mount Desert Island.

From Rt. 3 in Bar Harbor village:
  • Follow Rt. 3 south from Bar Harbor village. From the sharp right-hand turn in downtown Bar Harbor, travel on Rt. 3 for about 1.2 miles.
  • Then bear left onto Schooner Head Road.
  • Follow Schooner Head Road for about 2.5 miles, then at a 4-way intersection, turn right.
  • Drive for a bit more than 0.1 mile where the road will end at a T-junction with Park Loop Road.
  • Turn left onto the one-way Park Loop Road.
  • Travel on Park Loop Road for about 0.6 mile, then turn left into the parking lot entrance for Sand Beach.

View from Champlain's south ridge
(photo by Chip Lary)
View from Champlain's south ridge (photo by Chip Lary)
Winter: The trailhead is accessible during winter by following the above directions.

Facilities   

Bathrooms at Sand Beach.

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

View of wetlands and the ocean from the south ridge of Champlain Mountain
(photo by Chip Lary)
View from the south ridge of Champlain Mtn. (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
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Sand Beach as seen from Beehive Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
Sand Beach as seen from Beehive Trail (photo by Chip Lary)
 

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