Difficulty: Moderate. A variation of hiking routes lead to Beech Mountain’s summit. From the Beech Hill Parking Area, hikers can plan a 0.8-mile hike, 1.1-mile hike, 1.4-mile hike, 2.1-mile hike or 2.4-mile hike, and all of them lead to the summit and back down to the parking area. The trails include some rocky sections and stone steps. Also, be careful of exposed roots and a few muddy areas near the base of the mountain.
How to get there: Drive onto Mount Desert Island from the mainland on Route 3. The road splits at the end of the causeway. Veer right onto Route 102-Route 198 (toward Somesville) and continue 5.2 miles. Turn right onto Pretty Marsh Road (Route 102). Drive 0.3 mile, then turn left onto Beech Hill Road. Drive a little less than 3 miles to the end of the road, where the parking lot to Beech Mountain trails is located. Two trails that lead to Beech Mountain — Beech Mountain Trail and Valley Trail — leave from the parking area.
Information: Beech Mountain rises 839 feet above sea level on Mount Desert Island and is one of the many popular peaks of Acadia National Park. On the mountain’s partially bald summit, hikers can enjoy views of Somes Sound, the Cranberry Isles, nearby St. Sauveur Mountain and other Acadia peaks. For an unobstructed panoramic view, hikers can climb the sturdy steps of a metal observation tower.
From the Beech Mountain Parking Area at the end of Beech Hill Road, there are a few ways to climb Beech Mountain. First, hikers must choose between two trails:
– Beech Mountain Trail splits into a loop about 100 yards from the trailhead. The trail to the right is 0.7 mile from the parking lot to the summit; and the trail to the left is 0.4 mile from parking lot to the summit. Understandably, the shorter trail is steeper. The longer trail provides excellent views of Long Pond.
– Valley Trail leads through a mossy and boulder-strewn forest. About 0.8 mile from the trailhead, veer right onto Beech Mountain South Ridge Trail, which is about 1 mile long and climbs steeply up a series of rock stairs and rocky terrain to the summit. Another option is to stay on the Valley Trail and hike to the shore of Long Pond, then turn right and climb the 0.9-mile Beech Mountain West Ridge Trail, which leads to Beech Mountain Trail about 0.1 mile from the summit.
The observation tower at the summit was originally a wooden tower constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps stationed on Mount Desert Island, according to the National Park Service.
The tower was used to spot forest fires on the island between 1941 and the mid 1950s. The tower began to deteriorate and in 1962, it was replaced by a steel tower. Park rangers continued to man the tower during times of high fire risk until 1976. Today, the tower serves as a place for hikers to enjoy panoramic views of Mount Desert Island, the ocean and nearby islands and is on the National Registry of Historic Fire Towers. While the top deck is usually closed to the public, people can take in the views from the first landing.
For information, call the National Park Service at 288-3338.
Personal note: I spied Beech Mountain fire tower from afar while hiking Beech Cliffs Trail and Canada Cliffs Trail during the spring of 2012, but it wasn’t until Sept. 6, 2013, that I decided to make my way over to the tower with my dog Oreo.
I chose to start the hike on Valley Trail, which traveled through a beautiful mossy forest and weaved through large boulders. (In short, I recommend hiking this trail.) From Valley Trail, I veered right onto Beech Mountain South Ridge Trail, which at first is made up of long stretches of stone steps that switchback up the mountain. The trail then travels over the partially bald south ridge of the mountain to the summit.
Oreo was full of energy that day. Honestly he was quite a challenge to handle, constantly tugging on the leash and trying to pursue squirrels (though in his defense, the squirrels seemed to be taunting him). At the summit, Oreo refused to climb the metal stairs to the first landing on the fire tower, so I secured his leash to the bottom of the tower while I climbed up to take photos.
As we rested on the granite summit, soaking in the sun, a couple of young women reached the summit with their poodle-like dog (which was on a leash), and Oreo went ballistic, barking and straining at his leash. The two women were understanding, and we tried to stay out of each other’s way. Oreo and I headed down the Beech Mountain Loop Trail, taking the longer side of the loop, which I had read was more scenic. I can’t compare it to the other side of Beech Mountain Loop Trail (as I haven’t hiked that trail), but it did travel along an open area that offered great views of Long Pond.
Being such a nutcase, Oreo didn’t earn himself a post-hike ice cream that day. But I guess we all have our bad days.