30-foot high sea stack along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

The Beehive, Gorham Mtn., The Bowl,
Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach

Destinations:  The Beehive (540'), Gorham Mtn. (525'), The Bowl (410'), Thunder Hole (0'), Sand Beach (0')
Trails:  Ocean Trail, Bowl Trail, Beehive Trail, Gorham Mountain Trail
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Eastern Region
Location:  Bar Harbor, ME
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Views, summits, pond, ocean, rock scrambles, cliffs, ledges, loop hike
Distance:  5.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  950 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 3:10  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 4:00   Typical: 6:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  06/06/2008 (Friday)  
Last Updated:  07/18/2009  
Weather:  Overcast, some rain, about 50 degrees
Author:  Webmaster
Companions:  SDHers: Dennis, Kristin, Mark, Dennis (another), Mariette

Great Head and Sand Beach taken from a ledge balcony on Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This loop hike walks along the ocean shore, climbs steeply up to The Beehive, visits The Bowl (a beautiful pond), then climbs up and over Gorham Mountain. The views from the shoreline path and ledgy mountain summits are magnificent.

Ocean Path and Sand Beach:
  • Start this loop at Fabbri picnic area.
  • Leave the picnic area at the west entrance in order to get on Park Loop Road.
  • Walk along Park Loop Road for 0.3 mile and then pick up Ocean Path on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Follow Ocean Path, with great views, for 2.1 miles until it ends at Sand Beach. Ocean Path is a narrow strip of land that runs between the Atlantic shoreline and Park Loop Road. At one point the trail is interrupted, requiring you to cross a bridge on Park Loop Road, but then the path resumes on the other side. En route, be sure to check out Thunder Hole (1.7 miles into the hike) where the waves come crashing into a narrow rock channel.
  • Upon reaching the end of Ocean Path, walk past the restrooms and changing rooms for Sand Beach and continue down towards the ocean for about 0.1 mile to reach the sandy beach.

The Bowl (photo by Webmaster)

The Beehive and The Bowl:
  • Leaving the beach, walk through the parking area to get to Park Loop Road in 0.1 mile.
  • Turn right and walk for about 100 feet, then cross the street and pick up Bowl Trail on the other side.
  • Follow Bowl Trail for 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Beehive Trail where Bowl Trail goes straight.
  • 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 to The Bowl before heading up Gorham 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, then turn left onto Bowl Trail while Champlain South Ridge Trail (formerly called Bear Brook Trail) veers to the right along the edge of the pond.

Views from Gorham Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)

Gorham Mountain:
  • After 0.2 mile on Bowl Trail, turn right onto Gorham Mountain Trail.
  • Follow Gorham Mountain Trail for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a junction with another branch of Gorham Mountain Trail.
  • Turn right, still on Gorham Mountain Trail, to continue the ascent of the summit.
  • After 0.4 mile you will arrive at the summit of Gorham Mountain with magnificent views.
  • Continue on Gorham Mountain Trail, descending down the other side, with many more views.
  • After 0.4 mile you will reach a junction where the trail splits and rejoins after 0.3 mile. The left branch is Cadillac Cliffs Trail which skirts along the base of some cliffs where there are some ancient sea caves and a rock tunnel. The right branch, which this hike follows, is Gorham Mountain Trail and offers more outlooks.
  • After the trails rejoin, continue straight on Gorham Mountain Trail for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a trailhead parking area and Park Loop Road.
  • Walk through the parking lot and then turn right onto Park Loop Road and walk for 0.1 mile, either along the road, or cross the street to get on Ocean Path (which you traveled earlier).
  • Take your first right onto Otter Cliffs Road and walk for 0.1 mile on the road.
  • Then turn left at a "parking" sign into the east entrance of Fabbri picnic area to complete the loop.

Place         Split
Fabbri picnic area (60') 0.0 0.0
Thunder Hole (0') 1.7 1.7
Sand Beach (0') 0.8 2.5
The Beehive summit (540') 0.6 3.1
The Bowl (410') 0.3 3.4
Gorham Mtn. summit (525') 0.9 4.3
Fabbri picnic area (60') 1.1 5.4

Wild sarsaparilla on Ocean Path (photo by Mark Malnati)

Bunchberry (Canada dogwood) along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Pollen cones on a pitch pine tree along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Pollen cones on a pitch pine tree along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)


Trail map of hike route to Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, The Beehive, The Bowl, and Gorham Mtn. (map by Webmaster)


Yellow clintonia along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Maple seed pods along Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)

  Trail Guide   

This loop hike gives you a great taste of Acadia National Park with a walk along the ocean shore, a precipitous climb involving rock scrambles and iron rungs, a gorgeous pond, and magnificent views from mountain summits. It includes visits to Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, The Beehive, The Bowl, and Gorham Mountain.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Ocean Path and Sand Beach    |    The Beehive and The Bowl    |    Gorham Mountain

Sand Beach (photo by Mark Malnati)

Ocean Path and Sand Beach   

We started an easy walk along the shore of the ocean. Although the day was overcast – with even some sprinkles that we firmly told ourselves were ocean spray and not rain – the views out to the sea and nearby landforms were still wonderful. Ocean Path is a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Park Loop Road. We did this hike on a Friday in early June so the park wasn't at all busy; perhaps that's why the nearby road was barely noticeable or perhaps it was because our eyes were constantly being pulled in the opposite direction out to the ocean, ledges, boats, and wildflowers.

There were a few spur paths that led to ledgy outlooks over the ocean. Early in the hike at one of these viewpoints, we could look across Otter Cove and see the Blackwoods Campground area. Well, we could see lots of dark conifers populating the opposite landform – and we just happened to know that's where the campground is located. Sometimes the ledges and boulders were mainly gray in color and at other places they were varying shades of orange.

View of Atlantic shoreline from Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

We saw many wildflowers: bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), also called Canada dogwood, grows low to the ground and its bright white flowers stand out against its rich green leaves; some low-growing blueberry plants with delicate pinkish/whitish bell-shaped flowers; yellow clintonia (Clintonia borealis) with yellow flowers clustered on stalks above large, shiny leaves; and wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) which has strange little white flowers on stalks emanating from a central point so that the flowers and stalks taken as a whole form a sphere.

We walked past pitch pines (Pinus rigida) which thrive in rocky or sandy habitats. We were able to observe its pollen cones which looked somewhat like clusters of little purplish-colored hand grenades on some trees and like clusters of small spotted bananas on others. Pollen cones are soft and fall to the ground by mid-summer, unlike the hard cones which can persist for several years. Chokecherry trees (Prunus virginia) were in bloom, bearing oblong clusters of small white flowers. Morrow's honeysuckle shrubs (Lonicera morrowi) had stringy white and yellow flowers. Rugosa rose bushes (Rosa rugosa), also known as seaside rose, were sporting showy hot pink blooms that were accented by rain drops.

Views from Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

The stroll along the shore was also an auditory treat with the waves crashing against the rocks, seagulls croaking, and offshore buoy bells clanging. Looking down into one cove with a stony beach, we saw a sea stack rising to about thirty feet tall. This rock formation was once part of the nearby ledge but the action of the waves eventually eroded away the surrounding rock so that it stands alone like a lonely pillar.

After walking for 1.7 miles, we reached Thunder Hole. This is a touristy destination but nevertheless, fun to check out. It's a spot where the ocean comes crashing into a narrow gorge, throwing up spray and making, well, thunderous booms. You can watch the action from a safe distance above the "hole", or descend down a railed walkway to get a close-up look.

Here's a helpful hint: If you don't want to get soaked, then don't stand on sections of the walkway that are wet. Part of our group learned this lesson the hard, wet, way. They rushed down as near as they could get, leaning over the railings for an even closer look at the swirling waters. The waves repeatedly rushed in producing various amounts of spray and booms. Then came the whopper: suddenly everyone on the lower walkway was thoroughly soaked by the waves ricocheting off the ledge walls and dumping buckets of water on the spectators. Our previously dry friends looked like they had just stepped out of the shower but with all their clothes on.

Thunder Hole (photo by Mark Malnati)

Certain times of the day are better than others for visiting Thunder Hole. The more dramatic displays usually occur two hours before or after high tide. If you need a break, across the street is a small gift shop selling a few drinks and snacks with bathrooms available outside the building.

About 0.7 mile later, Ocean Path ends as it meets some buildings and a small grove of trees just before Sand Beach. There were several bathrooms here although at this time of year only one was open. A couple of our Thunder Hole victims took time out in either the bathroom or changing rooms to switch into dry clothes. We all continued down to check out Sand Beach. It was nice yet strange to see this wide expanse of sandy beach after walking past so much rocky shoreline.

Sand Beach (photo by Webmaster)

The Beehive and The Bowl   

Leaving the beach behind, we headed to our next objective: The Beehive. This is a 542-foot tall mountain shaped like a beehive. Its steep-sided silhouette could be seen on the lower part of the trail as we entered the woods and began the ascent.

Aside from offering fantastic views from its ledges, the appeal of The Beehive to adventurous souls, is the death-defying climb up sheer ledges and the hike along narrow balconies where one misplaced step would send you tumbling through the void for hundreds of feet. For those that like this kind of stuff, this is a really fun, exhilarating hike; for those that don't, there are other routes allowing you to approach The Beehive from its backside or to avoid it altogether yet still easily rejoin the others in your group to complete this loop.

The climb started out with "standard" rock scrambles: boulders requiring big steps up or the use of hands. Soon, iron rungs come into play and aid you in quickly gaining elevation. The hike becomes more and more exposed even as the views open up and lure you to continue. The first vista looked down to the cove that includes Sand Beach with Great Head (a peninsula) on its far side.

View of Frenchman Bay from The Beehive (photo by Webmaster)

Later the path broke out onto a balcony that seemed to be only about eighteen inches wide, althouth perhaps it was as wide as two feet in places. One part of the path would have been completely absent were it not for a iron grate that filled in. I admit I was bit nervous crossing over that and was happy to regain the relatively safe ledge underfoot. The instinct was to turn outwards to the views but each time I started to do that my pack bumped into the rock wall that formed one side of the path, reminding me that there aren't many options for maneuvering on a narrow pathway bordered by a cliff on one side and open air and sheer drops on the other.

I spotted some three-toothed cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) sprouting from a crack between boulders. This five-petaled white flower gets its name from the three teeth at the tip of each of its leaflets. Then the trail gives you a bit of a break. You have several sets of rungs to navigate but these ledges are set back from the sheer drop-offs. And a bit later there's an easy staircase, formed by boulders, to climb. You get a southerly outlook to small Kief Pond below with Gorham Mountain – which we tackle later in this hike – rising above it.

Kief Pond and Gorham Mtn. with Otter Point to the left, as seen from Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Next the path traverses another airy, narrow shelf with views out to Sand Beach and Great Head again. Yet since we are now much higher, we also get vistas to the northeast of Frenchman Bay and Porcupine Islands. We arrived at the summit and stopped for a break to enjoy the views from a luxurious sitting position on wide ledges. We watched a cruise ship go by as we snacked and snapped photos. The Beehive's summit is partially wooded but turning around and looking inland, we could see Cadillac Mountain and Champlain Mountain.

We descended the backside of The Beehive which gave us more views to the surrounding mountains. Traversing some ups and downs and easy rock scrambles, we soon arrived at The Bowl – a beautiful 8-acre pond. You can get a nice overview of the pond and mountains beyond it from a perch on a low ledge; or you can scramble all the way down to the shoreline.

We turned left to follow the path which is squeezed in between some ledges and the water. There were some rhodora shrubs (Rhododendron roseum) along the footway with pretty magenta blooms.
Boat seen from Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Rugosa rose along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

Ocean Path leading down to the shoreline (photo by Webmaster)

Chokecherry blooms along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

The Beehive seen from the junction of Beehive and Bowl Trails (photo by Webmaster)

Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Rock staircase on Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Iron grate and balcony path on Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster) Iron climbing rungs on Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster) Mark on ledge shelf of Beehive Trail (photo by Webmaster)


Mountain cranberry along Gorham Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Black huckleberry (photo by Webmaster)
  Gorham Mountain   

After a short span, the path next to The Bowl veered away from the shore on boardwalks and we began our trek to the 525-foot Gorham Mountain. We walked on a rocky footway beneath hardwoods until reaching a faded trail sign directing us right. Soon we were back out to open ledges, but this time the footing was easy with no precarious drops.

Mountain cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) formed dense mats of shiny, tiny leaves interspersed with clusters of pinkish bell-shaped flowers. Black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), a shrub with reddish bell-shaped flowers, was common along this route as were blueberry bushes. There were also some mountain laurel shrubs (Kalmia latifolia) with dish-like, deep pink flowers.

Cadillac Mtn.'s long ridge line with Dorr Mtn. to the right, as seen from Gorham Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)

Behind us, we could look back and see The Beehive and as we climbed, more and more views opened up. We reached the summit with vistas in all directions encompassing both mountains and the ocean. The long ridgeline of Cadillac Mountain was visible with Dorr Mountain in front of it to the right. To the south was Otter Point where we started today's trek and we could also look back once again to Sand Beach and Great Head.

Leaving the summit, we continued to walk across ledges with many views. Partway down, the trail splits and later rejoins. The "high" road, which is Gorham Mountain Trail, offers more outlooks and the "low" road, which is Cadillac Cliffs Trail, skirts the base of Cadillac Cliffs where there are some ancient sea caves, rock scrambles, iron rungs, and a rock tunnel. We took the high road and stayed on Gorham Mountain Trail.

View from Gorham Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)

Near the lower junction of Gorham Mountain Trail and Cadillac Cliffs Trail, sheltered by an overhanging ledge, is a commemorative plaque honoring Waldron Bates. It reads, "1856/1909 Waldron Bates in Memoriam MCMX Pathmaker". Bates was the first to incorporate stone stairways and metal rungs into trails to facilitate traverses of steep ledges and talus slopes. He also introduced the "Bates cairn". Most cairns are conical piles of rocks but many of the cairns throughout Acadia consist of two large base stones supporting a mantel or bridge between them, with a fourth rock, know as the pointer rock, atop the mantel pointing in the direction of the trail.

As we got closer to the bottom of the mountain, trees obscured the views but the footway was still lovely, smooth ledge which made for easy walking. At one point there was a Bates-style cairn next to a tripod with a sign explaining the purpose of cairns. The sign also warned against adding to existing cairns or building new ones; in other words, let the trail makers take care of the cairns and the visitors should just enjoy the hike.

Before we knew it, we were at the trailhead parking area for Gorham Mountain. We headed out to Park Loop Road and walked just 0.2 mile along roads to return to the Fabbri picnic area to complete this wonderful loop hike.

Mountain cranberry along Gorham Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Gorham Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster)

View of Otter Cove and beyond, from Gorham Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)


ME - Central Southeast

  Driving Directions   

This hike starts at Fabbri picnic area, 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 into Acadia National Park. From the sharp right-hand turn in downtown Bar Harbor, travel on Rt. 3 for about 3.7 miles.
  • Seagulls along Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)
  • Then turn left off onto Otter Cliffs Road.
  • Follow Otter Cliffs Road for 1.7 miles, then turn right into Fabbri picnic area.
  • This hike starts at the far entrance road, opposite from where you drove in.

Winter: The Fabbri picnic area is accessible in the winter. The roads that the actual hike travels on or next to are accessible but also open to snowmobiles and skiers.


  • Bathrooms and picnic tables at Fabbri picnic area (starting point of loop).
  • Bathrooms and small shop across the street from Thunder Hole.
  • 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.

  • $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 from Ocean Path (photo by Webmaster)

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
More Beehive, Gorham, Bowl Trail Reports   

  Mountain laurel along Gorham Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Ledge along Gorham Mountan Trail (photo by Webmaster)


The Bowl (photo by Webmaster)


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