Difficulty: Moderate. The 4-mile loop hike of Gorham Mountain includes a long stretch of even terrain (Ocean Path), a gradual ascent up the south side of the mountain, and a gradual descent down the north side of the mountain.
How to get there: Hikers can use several trailheads to hike Gorham Mountain in Acadia National Park. To reach all trailheads, enter the park at the Sieur de Monts Entrance, south of downtown Bar Harbor off Route 3. Turn onto Park Loop Road and drive south. Pass the entrance station, where you will pay a fee if you have not already secured a park pass, and follow the signs to the large Sand Beach parking lot.
You can park at the Sand Beach parking lot if you wish to complete the loop hike of Gorham Mountain, which is 4 miles long. To hike the loop clockwise, start at the Ocean Path trail head on the south side of the parking area, past the restrooms. (If facing the beach, to the right side of the parking lot.) To hike the loop counter-clockwise, start at The Bowl Trail head, which is across the Park Loop Road from the parking lot (and a few hundred feet north).
If you’d prefer a shorter hike (1.8 miles) to the summit of the mountain and back, drive past the Sand Beach parking area and park at the Gorham Mountain Trail parking area, which will be on your right, past Thunder Hole.
Information: Gorham Mountain rises 525 feet above sea level near Sand Beach on the southeast coast of Mount Desert Island. Located in Acadia National Park, the mountain is a popular hiking destination because it offers stunning views but isn’t considered a strenuous climb. Gorham Mountain Trail, which leads up and over the mountain’s summit, is gradual and well maintained.
The loop hike of Gorham Mountain includes three trails: Ocean Path, Gorham Mountain Trail and Bowl Trail. Starting at the Sand Beach parking area, the Ocean Path leads to Gorham Mountain Trail, which leads to Bowl Trail, which leads back to the Sand Beach parking area. The loop can be hiked in either direction.
The Ocean Path: Starting from the Sand Beach park lot, this trail remains on even ground and traces the shore from Sand Beach to Otter Point. Along the mostly gravel path, side trails lead to various outlooks, including the famous Thunder Hole, a small inlet where powerful waves rush in and create thunderous sounds, as well as a great deal of sea spray. (Be careful on the wet, slippery steps to the observation deck.) If hiking the Gorham Mountain loop, you will turn off the Ocean Path after Thunder Hole and long before it reaches Otter Point. A sign to Gorham Mountain Trail will direct you to turn right. Cross Park Loop Road and a small parking area and you will find the trail head to Gorham Mountain Trail.
Gorham Mountain Trail: Starting at the Gorham Mountain Trailhead parking area off the Loop Road, this trail leads 0.9 mile to the bald summit of the mountain. About halfway to the summit, the Cadillac Cliffs trail spurs off to the right. At this juncture, a bronze memorial plaque to Waldron Bates (1856-1909), the father of Mount Desert Island’s path system, has been set into the rock of an interesting boulder formation. The Canada Cliffs Trail rejoins the Gorham Mountain Trail in about 0.2 mile, according to the tenth edition of “A Walk in the Park: Acadia’s Hiking Guide,” by Tom St. Germain.
The Gorham Mountain Trail leads to the bald summit (which is marked by a sign) and descends the mountain and meets Bowl Trail before heading to a trail juncture between the summit of The Beehive and Halfway Mountain. If hiking the Gorham Mountain Loop, you will turn right onto Bowl Trail and hike the last 0.5 mile to the Sand Beach parking lot.
Bowl Trail: Starting across the road from the Sand Beach parking area, Bowl Trail leads to the summit of The Beehive. The famous Beehive Trail spurs off from the Bowl Trail and scales the cliffs of The Beehive with rungs and ladders. The Bowl Trail is the more gradual and safer option for people to reach the top of The Beehive. If hiking the Gorham Mountain Loop, Bowl Trail completes the loop by connecting the Gorham Mountain Trail to the Sand Beach parking lot.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Passes are non-transferable, and credit cards are accepted at all fee collection areas. For the cost of various park passes, along with other information, visit www.nps.gov/acad or call 288-3338.
Personal note: On May 10, Derek and I walked into the Bangor Humane Society in search of an addition to our small family and we walked out with a 7-month dog named Oreo. He’s a black and white pit terrier mix, as far as we can tell, and extremely friendly. A dog that requires a lot of exercise, Oreo seemed to us to be just the dog to become my canine hiking buddy (on the trails that allow pets).
The Gorham Mountain loop hike became Oreo’s first hiking trip on May 19. Oreo exceeded our expectations as a hiking buddy, though I need to teach him to sit while I pause to take photos or video, otherwise, his leash tugs at my arm and makes for interesting footage.
We brought plenty of treats to reward him for behaving around all the other dogs and people, and he earned them. And he drank water during our rest stops from a collapsible bowl made by the Maine company Guyot Designs.
The Gorham Mountain loop was a perfect workout for Oreo, with a few challenging rock steps and a well-defined trail he could easily follow (though I did have to correct his direction a few times on the ridge of the mountain, as the trail was marked mainly by cairns, without woods or brush to hedge him in.) He certainly enjoyed himself and seemed to become increasingly confident navigating the rocky areas. By the time we got back to the car, he was ready for a nap.