Precipice Trail

Backpacker - - The Survival Issue -


Mt. Desert Is­land might be best known for its coast­line, but the Precipice Trail gives visi­tors rea­son to turn their gaze to­ward the sky, as it climbs the east face of 1,058-foot Cham­plain Moun­tain in dra­matic fash­ion. Us­ing a se­ries of fixed lad­ders and aids, the non­tech­ni­cal trail as­cends the peak from sea level to sum­mit block in about a mile.

Do it on the first leg of a 3.2-mile loop. The fun starts al­most im­me­di­ately with “The In­tim­ida­tor,” a boul­der that de­mands a cou­ple of awk­ward, hand-over-hand moves, then gets even bet­ter. Make your way through a scree field to the base of the peak near mile .4, then be­gin climb­ing in earnest, scram­bling along the base of a cliff to the first iron lad­ders. Go up, up, and away to reach the 2-foot-wide ledge that leads to the sum­mit block. Rail­ings and iron rungs pla­cate your nerves at the sketchi­est sec­tions, but the drop-off to the At­lantic still brings to mind The Princess Bride’s “Cliffs of In­san­ity.” Take in the view of Bar Har­bor and the Por­cu­pine Is­lands to the north be­fore loop­ing around on the Orange and Black Path.

Trail­head Precipice (44.3495, -68.1879) Sea­son Au­gust to Novem­ber (it’s typ­i­cally closed spring through mid­sum­mer for nest­ing pere­grines) Per­mit None Contact

Iron rungs give hik­ers a leg up Cham­plain Moun­tain; French­man Bay an­chors the view.

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