Is This the Most Dangerous Hike in a National Park?

Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park offers thrills and views.Photo: Johnie Gall

National Parks may feel tame, but hike the steep and craggy Precipice Trail in Maine’s Acadia National Park and you’re sure to get the adrenaline kick you’re looking for.

Located on the east face of Champlain Mountain, the walk is widely considered the most dangerous hike of Acadia. While it’s not a technical climb, the steep vertical drops and exposed cliffs make it extremely hazardous. (The hike is no joke—a 22-year-old woman fell to her death here.)

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Sometimes the only way to stay on the hike is to grasp a primitive iron ring or pull yourself up a metal ladder jutting out from the sharp granite. Tackle this trek, and you’ll look at National Parks in a whole new way.

The stats: 1,058 feet final elevation, 1.6 miles round-trip, budget 3 hours, no dogs, and children under 5-feet 2-inches tall may not be able to do this hike.

Getting there: From Bar Harbor, Maine, follow the Park Loop Road along the eastern side of Mount Desert Island—while the National Park entrance is technically farther down the road, you’ll need a park pass to use the Precipice parking area. The trailhead sits obviously at the edge of the parking lot.

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dangerous hike
Check out a map before you tackle this dangerous hike to take the right trail back to the parking area. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

What to bring: Sturdy hiking boots, weather-appropriate hiking clothing, a hat, sunglasses, a small pack with plenty of water and food, a camera, a small first aid kit, and a cell phone.

When to go: Harsh Maine winters make this trail too dangerous during the winter and early spring seasons, and much of the spring and early summer the trail is closed off to protect nesting Peregrine falcons and their chicks. Call a park office to find out when the trail opens up, typically in early August.

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Primitive metal rugs offer hand-holds on steep granite, making this dangerous hike a little less dangerous. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

What to expect: The trail kicks off with a steep, flat boulder that requires you to trust your boots and depend on friction to cross—a good deterrent for less-able hikers and a taste of what to expect later in the hike. From there, you’ll follow the clearly marked trail through the woods, up a few rock scrambles, and to your first set of rungs. The trail emerges on to a steep ledge that winds back and forth up the mountain, with some ladders and long rungs peppered in along the way. The top of the mountain offers plenty of beautiful vantage points and lunch spots. You’re allowed to follow the trail back the way you came, but we suggest making it a loop for a safer experience.

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This dangerous hike does have its perks, including wild blueberries that grow all over the summit of Precipice Trail. Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

Do: Pluck a wild Maine blueberry to snack on toward the top of your hike.

Don’t: Lose your balance or take your hands off the metal rungs for a picture unless you’re secure. If you take a tumble, it may be your last.

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