Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
220.00 ft (67.06 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
1.70 mi (2.74 km)
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Great Head Trail is located on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. The loop trail can be reached via Sand Beach or the Great Head Trail Lot off Schooner Head Road. Traveling into the park via Schooner Head Road can avoid many of the notorious traffic backups during the peak summer months.

At only 1.7 miles from the Trailhead Lot, Great Head Trail packs a ton of scenery into a relatively short hike. Hiking clockwise from the parking lot, the trail takes hikers through the forested inland before climbing onto the granite coast to reach the overlook 145 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Once at the peak, the trail continues along the rugged coastline, providing expansive views of the ocean and shoreline. The section of trail coming down from the peak is particularly rocky. On rainy or foggy days, this section can be quite slippery and requires some agility and grippy shoes for safety.

Continuing around the loop, hikers approach the sand beach overlook. After this unique view of the very popular Sand Beach, the trail turns back inland. The elevation remains high enough for continued views across the head to see the Oak Hill Cliffs in the distance. After another steep, rocky descent, hikers reach the intersection for Sand Beach and the Great Head parking lot. The last 0.4 mile back to the parking lot are relatively flat with fewer obstacles.

Given the huge numbers of visitors to Sand Beach, just 0.2 mile away, one would think this trail would be more crowded. However, limited visitors make this loop trail a hidden gem located in plain sight. As with all the eastern coastline sections of Acadia, the most photogenic time to visit is during sunrise. The Great Head parking lot does not have any facilities or potable water. Alternatively, start at Sand Beach, where there is a larger lot, flush toilets, and potable water. Sand Beach also offers access to the free park shuttle for convenient access to the remainder of the park. As the busiest lot in the park, access to the Sand Beach lot during mid-day can be near impossible from July through August.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful coastline. Less crowds.

Cons

Rugged trail.

Trailhead Elevation

40.00 ft (12.19 m)

Highest point

145.00 ft (44.20 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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