Beech Mountain, at 839 feet (256 meters), has a commanding position over the southwestern part of Mount Desert Island. There is an observation tower on its summit that can be seen from many miles around. Access to the Beech Mountain hiking trails is from the Echo Lake parking area or from Beech Hill Road. (photos)
When you arrive at the Echo Lake parking area you can't help notice the high cliffs along the western side to your left. The cliffs continue along the western shore of Echo Lake as well. There is a hiking trail that leads up the side of the cliffs from the parking area starting at the far end. Extreme caution should be used while on this trail and after arriving at the top of the cliffs. The view is well worth the hike. Far below, people on the beach appear like little ants. To the right or to the south, you can clearly see Greening Island and the little house where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stayed and wrote many of his poems. Beyond this, you can see Great Cranberry Island. To the right on Mount Desert Island is the beautiful town of Southwest Harbor, a well known yacht building community.
The other access point is from the parking area at the southern end of Beech Hill Road that is west of the cliffs (see GPS below). The beginning of this road is just south of Somesville, north of Echo Lake on Route 102. From this parking area, you may hike a short distance to the east to arrive at the cliffs that overlook Echo Lake, or you may hike west further up Beech Mountain to the summit where the observation or fire tower is located. The Beech Mountain Trail is designated as Moderate (some steep grades, some level stretches) but these two parts of the trail should probably be discussed or explained differently. The trek from the Beech Hill Road parking area going east the the mountain overlook that is right beside Echo Lake is largely a relaxed and gradual climb with very few stepper sections. However, trail portions are right next to the cliffs so use extreme caution. The westerly or southwest trek to the Beech Mountain Summit is a little more challenging.
The observation or fire tower located at the summit of Beech Mountain was originally a wooden tower constructed by the men who lived at the Civilian Conservation Corps camps on Mount Desert Island. The historic fire tower was in use between 1941 and the mid 1950s. Because of deterioration, the original tower was replaced by a steel tower in 1962. Since then, the tower was only manned by a Park Ranger sporadically during the day until 1976, when it was no longer used at all. The tower is now on the National Registry of Historic Fire Towers and is usually not open to the public for viewing. For more information, you may call the National Park Service at 207.288.3338 and press "0" during the prompt, Monday - Friday from 8 A.M. - 4:30 A.M. EST.
Echo Lake Beach Parking GPS: Latitude 44.314308; Longitude -68.336482
Beech Mountain Trail GPS (Access from Beech Hill Road): Latitude 44.31522; Longitude -68.343608
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