Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hike – Champlain Mountain, Huguenot Head, Beachcroft Trail, Champlain North Ridge Trail

The Thrumcap as seen from Champlain Mountain
This post describes a loop hike that traverses Champlain Mountain from west to north, with a walk back along part of the Park Loop Road.  In my opinion, on a clear, sunny day there is no better place to be in Acadia National Park than atop Champlain Mountain with its views of the ocean and surrounding area.

Directions: Take Route 3 south out of Bar Harbor.  Just past the sign to turn in for Sieur de Monts there will be a pond (The Tarn) on the right.  Pull over to the side of the highway here.  (There is also a small parking area a hundred feet or so before this on the same side of the road.)  The trailhead is across the highway.  Be careful crossing since traffic moves quite fast here.

This hike starts on the Beachcroft Path.  It is an old trail, but it may be the single best built trail I have ever hiked on.  The entire length up to the south end of Huguenot Head is almost 100% laid with flat stones.  They either provide an inclined stone path, or a series of stone steps that wind back and forth up the west side of Huguenot Head.

Large boulder on the Beachcroft Trail
You rise rapidly on the trail, but the combination of straightaways and switchbacks makes it feel like you’re not just doing umpteen flights of stairs up the side of a mountain.  There are great views of The Tarn as you rise and then a little later the view opens up to the north and south, too. Dorr Mountain dominates the view to the west.

The Tarn as seen from the Beachcroft Trail
Dorr Mountain in the morning sun

The Beachcroft Trail finally reaches the south end of Huguenot Head and it becomes open ledge with fantastic views to the south.  Be careful here since the ledge has a slight incline to it.  If you tumble you might roll over the edge.

View to the south from southern ledge of Huguenot Head

At this point there is no official trail to the summit of Huguenot Head, but you could make your way up over ledge and between trees for a little way if you wanted to. I stayed on the trail as it wrapped around the southern end and then started making its way back to the north on the east side of Huguenot Head.  You lose a little elevation here as you drop down between it and Champlain Mountain.

The start of the hike up Champlain provides the greatest physical challenge.  There is a short, very steep rise up over open boulders.  Once by this section the trail opens up to mixed ledge hiking among small trees.  The ledge is somewhat steep for much of the rest of the hike, but it’s easy to move from cairn to cairn, picking out where you want to put your feet for the next stretch.  Honestly, as well built as the steps were on the first part of the hike, for me I greatly prefer ledge hiking.  In wet conditions this section of the trail might be a little hairy, though, especially if you are descending.

Huguenot Head framed against Dorr Mountain as seen starting up the west side of Champlain

As you near the top the trail will ease off, you will step out from some small trees, and there is the signpost where four trails all meet at the summit.  This is very near the eastern edge of Champlain, and it is right where the famous Precipice Trail comes up.  In fact, the trail might be better known by name than the mountain it summits.

I spent quite a bit of time here enjoying the unlimited views.  Several other people were around, either from before I got there, or that came up the various ways you can summit Champlain.  For a description of hiking the South Ridge Trail, which in my opinion has the best overall trail views, you can click here.

Schoodic Peninsula seen from the summit of Champlain Mountain
Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay as seen from the summit of Champlain Mountain
View of the Great Head peninsula (in the foreground) from the summit of Champlain Mountain

I reluctantly continued my hike down off the summit.  I took the North Ridge Trail.  It has some great views of Frenchman Bay for a while before it drops down below the tree line.  This trail descended more rapidly than I had been expecting.  For whatever reason I had thought it would run along the top of Champlain before meeting the Orange and Black Path that rises up the east side of Champlain to the north of the Precipice Trail.

Bar Island and the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay seen coming down the North Ridge Trail

In actuality, the North Ridge Trail descends moderately over ledge, rocks, and sometimes dirt.  In six tenths of a mile you will come to a marker for the Orange and Black Path.  Continue on the North Ridge Trail.  You will now see Jackson Labs come into view, along with Beaver Dam Pond to the south of it. 

The shadow of a solo cloud heading towards Jackson Labs and Beaver Dam Pond

You reach the end of the North Ridge Trail as it connects with the Park Loop Road.  Turn left and start walking back up the road.  You will be facing traffic, and it moves relatively slowly, so it is safe.  In fact, enough people had apparently made this same loop that there was a worn path just off the pavement.  In not much distance you will walk right by the edge of Beaver Dam Pond.  I could see some beaver houses, but I didn’t see any of the animals. 

Beaver Dam Pond
A beaver house on Beaver Dam Pond

Continuing on, at one point I saw a slightly worn path heading off in the woods on the left. I wondered if it might be a shortcut back to Route 3 to where the hike started, but I noticed I was right across from a picnic area, so I figured it was 50/50 that it might just be a place where folks decided to take a short walk in the woods after eating.  I looked into it afterwards and this would indeed have been a shortcut back.

I continued on the Park Loop Road and in a total distance of less than a mile I came to the overpass for Route 3.  There was a worn path on the left that led up to Route 3.  This was only a few hundred feet from where I had parked, and there is a wide, paved roadside on Route 3, so this was also safe to walk on.  The very last piece is crossing back over Route 3 to where you parked, so once again watch and listen for traffic because it will be moving fast.

Huguenot Head seen across Route 3 from the start/finish of this hike

Cumulative distance:            3.2 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:  1,350 feet
Cumulative duration:            2 – 2.5 hours (including time for photos)


  1. so beautify, This year is very slow for me, next year I will start doing some of these hikes.