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Ocean Path, Acadia National Park

Updated on October 4, 2015
Rocky shore along Ocean Path with Otter Cliffs in the distance.  Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
Rocky shore along Ocean Path with Otter Cliffs in the distance. Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine | Source
Ocean Path Trailhead at Sand Beach
Ocean Path Trailhead at Sand Beach | Source

Breathtaking Two Miles of Ocean Shoreline

This 2 mile stretch of ocean shoreline on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful anywhere. There are no long stretches of pristine white sand beaches here, just breathtaking pink granite shoreline, sheer cliffs, a sand beach, mountains, and a deep green forest providing awe-inspiring views in every direction.

Ocean Path starts at the upper parking lot for Sand Beach. One of the most popular attractions in Acadia National Park, Sand Beach is located along the Park Loop Road, on the left just past the park entrance fee station.

Bearing southwest, the trail winds its way along the rugged eastern shoreline of Mount Desert Island from Sand Beach to Otter Point. Along the way it passes Thunder Hole, Monument Cove and Otter Cliffs.

Besides parking at Sand Beach, there are other parking areas along the way and several parking spots at the side of the road.

This popular area and Ocean Path can get very crowded during peak tourist season. Early morning or evening hikes find fewer people. Being located along a portion of the eastern shore of MDI, sunrise hikes or drives only add to the almost indescribable views and experience. While sunny days are the best, the hike and views are still enjoyable even on a cloudy day such as the one when I took these pictures.

The trail, for the most part, parallels the Park Loop Road (Ocean Drive in this area). While many of the views can be enjoyed from the comfort of a car, don't pass up the opportunity to experience each and every step of Ocean Path. The round trip hike is 4 miles (2 miles one-way), but you'll make plenty of stops along the route.

Sand Beach with Great Head in the distance.
Sand Beach with Great Head in the distance. | Source
Looking southwest from the Sand Beach upper parking lot at Ocean Path trailhead.
Looking southwest from the Sand Beach upper parking lot at Ocean Path trailhead. | Source

Sand Beach

This 290 yard long beach of unique sand with crushed shell fragments spans the two rocky granite shores of Newport Cove.

Before you begin your hike, stop down on the beach to enjoy the views. With the blue ocean in front of you, to your left is Great Head, a granite peninsula with a 145 foot headlands, one of the highest on the Atlantic Coast. To your right, the rocky shore extends toward Otter Cliffs with the mountains of Acadia behind it.

Despite its popularity, with cool ocean breezes and a water temperature that is rarely about 55 degrees even in the summer, few bathers spend much time in the water. The beach is guarded from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Changing areas and restrooms are located just off the parking lot.

From the trailhead at the upper parking lot, after a gentile uphill climb through a pine forest, the trail emerges to parallel Ocean Drive. From here, you are on your way to one of the most spectacular walks of your life.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sand Beach and Great Head in the distance from Ocean PathFew bathers on Sand Beach on this warm early September afternoon.The Beehive across the park loop road from Sand BeachSand Beach viewed from afar.
Sand Beach and Great Head in the distance from Ocean Path
Sand Beach and Great Head in the distance from Ocean Path | Source
Few bathers on Sand Beach on this warm early September afternoon.
Few bathers on Sand Beach on this warm early September afternoon. | Source
The Beehive across the park loop road from Sand Beach
The Beehive across the park loop road from Sand Beach | Source
Sand Beach viewed from afar.
Sand Beach viewed from afar. | Source

Thunder Hole

Close-up of Thunder Hole
Close-up of Thunder Hole | Source

Thunder Hole

About 3/4 of a mile southwest of the start you arrive at another of the most popular, if not the most popular, attraction in Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole. Along the way, you will pass several wonderful vistas providing views of the pink granite shoreline. Some look back toward Sand Beach and Great Head, while others provide views of the ocean and islands. To your right, Gorham Mountain rises out of the trees.

Thunder Hole has been described as a small inlet or large crevice carved by mother nature deep into the rocks on the shore. A small cave in the closed end of the crevice is responsible for the "thunder". With the right circumstances, usually a falling tide and a rough sea after a storm, as the water rushes out, the cave partially fills with air. The next wave crashing in forces the air out of the cave and sprays seawater several feet (up to 40!) into the air. The air forced out creates a sound similar to thunder in the distance. If the phenomena is occurring as you approach Thunder Hole, you'll swear that a thunderstorm is on its way.

Thunder Hole is a great place to stop for a break and take in the sights, sounds, smell and feel of the ocean in front of you.

The salt air, the bell of a buoy ringing in the distance, the sound of thunder beside you, the sea mist spraying across your face, the cool salt air, maybe even a little morning fog, and seagulls above, I can't imagine a more beautiful place on earth.

With a parking lot across the street and parking along the road, tour buses in the area, and the Island Explorer bus stopping nearby, Thunder Hole can get crowded.

The flatter rocks on the shore between Thunder Hole and Monument Cove attract picnickers, birdwatchers, photographers, and sunbathers. Artists, drawing or painting the breathtaking and beautiful scenery, are not uncommon.

Visitors often escape the crowds by moving down the shore, walking and climbing on the massive granite boulders (referred to as "rocking"). Drawing or painting, reading or just sitting there to pass the time, they enjoy the natural beauty all around them.

Eventually, it is time to move on, to continue your walk further along Ocean Path.

A 20 foot pillar of rock stands in front of the shear granite shore in Monument Cove
A 20 foot pillar of rock stands in front of the shear granite shore in Monument Cove | Source

Monument Cove

Between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs is a little noted area, Monument Cove. This small cove is marked only by a low stone wall along Ocean Path. Named for a 20 foot tall pillar of granite that stands free of the steep granite shore, the rock tower was created by the ocean eroding away weaker rock around it. The massive angular rock formations along the shore and in the cove are completely exposed at low tide.

Just south of Monument Cove and across the park loop road is a small parking area with the trailhead for a hike up Gorham Mountain.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Monument CoveRocky shore along Ocean PathRocky shore near Monument CoveThunder Hole
Monument Cove
Monument Cove | Source
Rocky shore along Ocean Path
Rocky shore along Ocean Path | Source
Rocky shore near Monument Cove
Rocky shore near Monument Cove | Source
Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole | Source

Otter Cliffs and Otter Point

Beyond Monument Cove, the trail bends away from the roadway and through the pine forest. The only noticeable elevation gain occurs as the path rises out of the forest towards Otter Cliffs

At 110 foot high, Otter Cliffs, is one of the highest headlands on the Atlantic Seaboard. The sheer cliffs stand in contrast to the rounded and jagged boulders along the shore nearby.

Climbers are often seen at the top of the cliff preparing to repel down the side to the ocean shore below. Others can be found on the sheer walls climbing back up one of the regular climbing routes.

Feel energized after your hike? Really want to join the climbers? No equipment? No experience? No problem. Contact Atlantic Climbing School or one of the other local outfitters to make it happen.

Prior to heading back to Sand Beach, relax or even have a picnic on the rocks at Otter Point. Comfort facilities are available in the Otter Cliffs parking lot.

Enjoy the scenery one more time as you retrace your steps. By the time you get back you'll be planning your next journey along this beautiful and breathtaking two miles of ocean shore.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Looking back toward Great Head from Otter CliffsOcean Path near Otter CliffsOtter CliffsLobster boat working off of Otter CliffsOtter CliffsClimbers at the top of Otter Cliffs
Looking back toward Great Head from Otter Cliffs
Looking back toward Great Head from Otter Cliffs | Source
Ocean Path near Otter Cliffs
Ocean Path near Otter Cliffs | Source
Otter Cliffs
Otter Cliffs | Source
Lobster boat working off of Otter Cliffs
Lobster boat working off of Otter Cliffs | Source
Otter Cliffs
Otter Cliffs | Source
Climbers at the top of Otter Cliffs
Climbers at the top of Otter Cliffs | Source

Ocean Drive (Park Loop Road) and Ocean Path

show route and directions
A markerSand Beach, Bar Harbor, ME -
Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
get directions

B markerThunder Hole, Bar Harbor, ME -
Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
get directions

Hiking Options:

In the summer, when the Island Explorer Bus is running, this can easily be made into a 1 way, 2 mile hike. Park your car in the parking lot at Otter Cliffs. Hike to Sand Beach and let the free bus transport you back to your car.


For a more strenuous return to Sand Beach parking lot, take Gorham Mountain Trail to Bowl Trail and return to your starting point. For an even more strenuous hike include the trail up and over The Beehive.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Park Loop Road (Ocean Drive) Bridge over Otter Cove as you leave Otter Point.Looking back across Otter Cove to Otter Point
Park Loop Road (Ocean Drive) Bridge over Otter Cove as you leave Otter Point.
Park Loop Road (Ocean Drive) Bridge over Otter Cove as you leave Otter Point. | Source
Looking back across Otter Cove to Otter Point
Looking back across Otter Cove to Otter Point | Source

Caution:

The rocky shore along Ocean Path looks very inviting. There are always several people on the rocks, but be careful if you go out on them. Wear sturdy shoes. The rocks can be wet and slippery.

Be particularly careful when the ocean is rough. In bad weather, rogue waves have, on rare occasion, swept onlookers right off the rocks.

© 2012 bankscottage

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    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Beautiful hub bankscottage! We love Acadia and that drive is gorgeous. These photos are of the same places we stopped. What wonderful memories. We stayed at Hadley's Point campground. Shared!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Glimmer Twin Fan, Acadia is my favorite place in the world. With a camp not far away, I get there several times a year. Otter Cliffs on a sunny day is breathtaking (I wish it was sunnier the day I took the pictures). I want to get some sunrise pictures next year.

      Glad the Hub brought back great memories.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I would love to visit Acadia National Park someday. The description and your photos of this 2 mile segment make me want to see it even more. Thanks for a delightful hub! Many up votes and sharing with my followers + tweeting.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Peggy W, thanks for the votes and shares. I hope you can get to Acadia someday. Put it on your 'bucket list'. You won't be disappointed.

    • cascoly profile image

      cascoly 4 years ago from seattle

      The hikes up Cadillac and adjacent peaks are some of our favorites, then we usually finish by taking the ocean shore drive. Great hub - I'm just finishing an Acadia hub about some of the lesser known areas.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      cascoly, thanks for stopping by. I love the lesser known areas. I look forward to your hub. Have you seen the historic barn on the Crooked Road or been to the Seal Cove Auto Museum? My favorite hike up Cadillac Mtn is via Gorge Path. A beautiful hike up a granite creek bed with a forest canopy. Don't go after a rain.

    • jessefutch profile image

      jessefutch 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Amazing and beautiful scenery here. Thanks for such an amazing and relaxing hub!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Jessefutch, glad you enjoyed the hub and the pictures. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • cascoly profile image

      cascoly 4 years ago from seattle

      I did get my hub posted, finally - by coincidence i mentioned the Gorge Path - last time we did it we just hitched back to our cars at the start of Dorr Mountain trailhead

      Haven't seen the barn [unless it's the one that's now an antique shop] or the auto museum but they're on my list now

      have you stopped at the granite mining museum near Halls quarry? tiny sign along the main road to SW.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I have been to Hall's Quarry but haven't stopped there. I've taken the loop, but didn't stop at the museum,. I'll check it out next summer.

      The Crooked Road is actually on the busy side of the island. It runs from Hulls Cove to Town Hill. I'll e-mail you a picture.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Beautiful Pictures! Pink granite instead of white sand--Thunder Hole--Monument Cove, all very interesting. Thanks for this refreshing outing!

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      MsDora, glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks for commenting.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      It's been over 25 years since I went to Acadia NP. Your hub makes me want to go back now. Great job with wonderful photos. VU, Sharing,,,

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What a beautiful place! Mountain cliffs, pine trees and beaches, all in one place. What more could I ask for! I would love to visit here some day. This is a beautiful hub, I love all your pictures and great information. Voting this up +++ and pinning!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Looks like a beautiful spot to visit. You did a great job of including plenty of interesting information and great pictures. Voted up and interesting.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Bdegiulio, glad you enjoyed the Hub. You are going to have to plan a trip back. Thanks for the votes and share.

      sgbrown, Acadia, and this stretch of ocean front, to me, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is hard not to believe in a Higher Being when you see this place, particularly on a sunny day. Thanks for the votes and pin.

      Crystal, thanks for the kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks for the votes.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      I love Acadia. I've been there three times, and looking at this great hub makes me want to go back. Voted up++.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      mperrotte, thanks for stopping by, commenting and voting. Hope you can get back to Acadia again soon!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Beautiful hub on Acadia National Park. It's very informative and useful for those who wish to travel to Maine. Voted up and congrats on HOTD!

    • QuoteAmber profile image

      Amber 22 months ago from Earth

      I've been on that path! It really is beautiful.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 22 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Hope you get to back again soon.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 22 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Kristen, thanks for the nice comments and votes. Acadia is one of my favorite places in the world.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      You're very welcome Bankscottage. It's my pleasure. I would love to visit there someday.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 22 months ago from Chicago

      Wonderful hub. My husband lived in Maine as a teen and we've really been wanting to get back. Lovely.

    • bankscottage profile image
      Author

      bankscottage 22 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for your comment Chantelle. Maybe it is time to plan a trip. Weather is usually great in July and August, but not as crowed in September or early October. Leaf season is wonderful.

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