The 1.4 mile (2.2 km) Great Head Trail is rated as “moderate” and loops around the perimeter of the small peninsula called Great Head located on the east side of Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. (photos) This is a great early morning hike, or afternoon for that matter, and one that the whole family can experience (with caution of course).
Park in the lower Sand Beach parking area located on the left of the Park Loop Road and on the east side of Mount Desert Island. (This trail may also be accessed from the Schooner Head Road out of Bar Harbor.) Granite steps lead down to the beautiful Sand Beach. Straight ahead to the east, you will see the cliffs which is your direction. Depending on the tide, you may want to walk on the compressed sand next to the shore for an easier walk. Note the fence to your left to protect the grass on the sand dunes.
Near the base of the rocky outcropping, look to your left for a great view of The Beehive reflected in a tidal pool. It's 520 foot (158 m) summit is often visited by hikers. Depending upon the time of day, you may have already noticed climbers on its trails going along its face when you arrived earlier. If not, be sure to look up when you return to your vehicle.
Close to this spot you will see a small sign leading to steps where you will begin your ascent. This starts as a leisurely climb leading to some beautiful pink granite cliffs. Follow the blue lines to be sure to stay on the best route up as it can be steep at times. Pause to look back at Sand Beach, The Beehive, and other sights when you are in a safe and well balanced position.
Once on top, the hike is fairly easy. A sign leads your way to the right leading to Great Head where you will have wonderful views of the rocky coast, Otter Cliff, and the churning ocean below. There are ample spots for you to have a picnic, relax, or sit and reflect on the power of this place.
As you continue on the loop back, you will go through a beautiful pathway through a section of white birch trees. Up ahead, there will be a path split. Take the left up the granite, following the markers, to return to Sand Beach. Watch for signs. There is one that you will not see the front of until you look back at it as you pass. If you continued straight, it would lead to the Schooner Head Road in Bar Harbor.
By now, the daylight has changed somewhat and many of the sights will have changed. Have your camera ready because there is much beauty here. Take your time and enjoy!
(Refer to the Hiking Trails and Safety Tips pages for suggestions and rules while trekking in the park. Always wear the appropriate attire such as hiking shoes, let others know where you will be, and excercise caution!)
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