Sunday, August 16, 2015


Some may wonder how my journey into researching and documenting abandoned trails in Acadia Nationakl Park began.  Like any good journey worth its salt, there has to be a beginning, and in this case my journey began one evening after i had heard that there was a cave on the side of the Precipice.  I had lived here  and vacationed here for many years and never once had I heard about this cave, and I knew than that I had to find out more about it. 
That led me to the College of the Atlantic off of Eden Street, where i came upon an old map, and on the old map was the words "Where the little girl fell to her death."  All of a sudden I now had two mysteries on my hands, something I had not bargained on, but was more than happy to take up the challenge.  Below those words was the word CAVE.
My first priority quickly shifted to the little girl the map spoke of, who was she, how old was she, when did she die, and how did she die - I had to find out those answers and set about the task by going through many old books, and thus my adventure into abandoned trails had begun.

The Hanging Steps was part of the Orange and Black Trail.  When the Park Service abandoned half of the orange and Black Trail, so went the Hanging steps.  Unlike the great Cave, we had photos of the Steps, but their location remained a mystery.  Me and my son Dillon had made a number of trips to the Precipice Trail, and even conducted our searches as far away as Enoch mountain, with no success to speak of.  So where was the other half of the orange and black Trail?

As it turned out, one end of the official Orange and black Trail, the end that is on the Precipice trail, ended there not far from the boulder field that leads to the Great Cave.  To locate the missing section of the Orange and black Trail, you need to hike down the precipice Trail,  to a point just below an area of the precipice Trail the park has named the Turn-a-round.  The turn a round is nothing more than a gigantic boulder with a few iron rungs placed on it in a way as to make it very hard for hikers with not much experience to get past, in other words, the turn around was designed to make people turn around and give up their attempt to climb up the Precipice.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The Hanging Steps
You can still access the Great Cave trail without passing over the turn a round by simply walking up the road from the Precipice Park Lot to the Orange and black trail head, and hike to the precipice trail using that route, which gets you up and above the turn a round - but that adds time to your hike.  And if you don't know where the turn around is located, it will be the huge boulder you encounter with the first set of hand rails you encounter, you can't miss it.
So your now at the turn a round, on the low end, the path back to the parking lot is to the left, but the unmarked and abandoned section of the orange and Black Trail begins right there at the turn a round.  Instead of turning to the left, go slightly right and move out of the tree;s and out onto open granite, there is one of the missing ends of the lost trail.  It is not marked in any way, simply follow the open granite upwards until you come to a steeper section with woods up ahead.  Cross the final section of open granite to the woods where a very well worn trail can be located.  The dirt trail moves through the woods, until it arrives at walls of granite.  Here you must be extremely careful as the trail passes along the edge of a serious drop off.  To the right you will see piles of rocks and boulders, but a trail once passed through there, but was covered when the earthquake hit some years ago.  My son dillon was able to get through the fallen rocks and came to another serious drop off, and at the edge of the drop off was a number of iron rungs - sure signs a trail and perhaps a ladder was once located there.
The lost section of the Orange and Black trail continues just below the drop off, but I would advise anyone doing this section of trail to come up from the other end of the lost trail, which I will get to.  So just a little further on you arrive at the Hanging steps.

I would not recommend you attempt the trail from the way described above, I merely put that in there because that is how me and my son first discovered that end of the lost trail.  We stopped at the drop off and called it a day, still unaware of where the Hanging steps was located at.
As we were preparing for another visit to the area, we talked to another park volunteer who said they could not give us the exact location of the other end of the trail, but could steer us close to the area, which was a huge help.  Thank you nameless Trail warrior - that is a title we give to people who work for the park who also are silently cheering us on in our work to bring these abandoned trails back into the daylight for everyone to enjoy.

so we went to the area we had been told about, but as luck would have it, we failed to make a right turn and ended up at a dead end, again we called it a day.  On out next trip we nailed it, though I am not sure if we reached the prize first or if Matt beat us to the punch, i know one thing for certain, it was close either way as we both hit the blog zone and put up photos.
So to locate the easy way to the Hanging Steps, drive to the Precipice parking lot, than walk up the right hand side of the park loop road a short ways.  Most likely there will be a line of cars along the right hand side of the road, it is important you walk on the right hand side of any parked cars or you may walk right past the unmarked trail you will be looking for.
Once at the unmarked trail on the right, you will see it is very worn, how could an abandoned trail be so worn? If you continue a short ways down the trail it quickly becomes evident why the trail is so worn, today this unmarked area is used by the local rock climbing schools so students can practice their rock climbing skills.  In the center of the trail is a massive boulder with a wooden post in front of it.  Inside a wooden box is a ledger where people coming into the area are to sign in when entering the area and to sign out when departing the area.  this is because if some one doesn't return back to their campsite or hotel while rock climbing in the park, Rangers can check the ledger to see if perhaps some one is on the mountain side injured.
Continue up the trail a short ways to a sheer wall of granite, from there turn left, and shortly after that turn right where the trail moves upwards toward a old twisted tree blocking the path.  Mover under its branches, and continue upward along the edge of the granite wall - you will be passing an area right after that twisted tree with more massive boulders perched above the trail.  Continue upward until you reach an opening where you can turn toward the right.  Going straight will take you down a deep dip and than up the side of the mountain to a dead end, so avoid the deep and move to the right and than to the left where you will easily begin to see stone steps.  The Hanging Steps is just around the corner.
So just how did the Hanging steps get their name, you might wonder?  After they were constructed using a new method of using iron pins, a ranger went up and visited them and stated that "They look like hanging steps - like they are hanging in mid air," thus the name Hanging Steps.  Once at the top section of the steps there are a few great views.  I have been asked a number of times, does the trail end at the steps?  No, but you need to look around for the next section of trail, which leads you upward toward a cliff.  Once on the cliff, you follow the trail to the woods and follow the well worn path until it comes out to a slightly steep section of flat granite.  Follow that downward and continue to follow the open granite until you come to the precipice trail by the area of the turn a round.
pass under the twisted white birch

Pass under its twisted branches and look up - that huge impressive  boulder seems like its ready to drop right down onto the path where your standing.

start of stone steps


The Hanging Steps - Acadia National Park



trail begins
latitude  44 20' 50"N
longitude  68 11' 15"W
right turn
latitude  44 20' 49"N
longitude  68 11' 22"W
right turn
latitude  44 20' 50"W
longitude  68 11' 22"W
to woods
latitude  44 20' 50"N
longitude  68 11' 21"W
woods path
latitude  44 20' 51"N
longitude  68 11' 21"W
woods path
latitude  44 20' 52"N
longitude  68 11' 20"W
open granite
latitude  44 20' 53"Nlongitude  68 11' 20"W
open granite
latitude  44 20' 55"N
longitude  68 11' 19"W
Precipice Trail
latitude  44 20' 57"N
longitude  68 11' 19"W


At August 27, 2015 at 2:05 PM , Blogger Angela Bouchard said...

The East Face Trail is a part of what used to be the Orange & Black Trail, which started at High Seas (used to be Brunnow's residence) & went up to cross what is now the Park Loop Road to the East Face, then beyond the Precipice & Great Cave, down the Hanging Steps & to points beyond. Like many "lost" places on today's maps, the Hanging Steps are easily found once you know where to this case, from the dirt path climbers use past the Precipice parking lot. Not as much of a boulder climb as the Great Cave, but with an overhanging birch tree added in, a fun quick hike to find them. Once past the birch tree, hang a right in the direction you just came from & they're not far ahead.

At August 27, 2015 at 2:50 PM , Blogger J.R. Libby said...

Thanks for these instructions, I now know what I did wrong when I went to that area last year, I went straight and failed to hang that right. I will give this another try in the coming months. I also did not know the Black and Orange trail had continued on past the East Face trail, so that also is helpful. I did about a third of the East Face Trail nearly 30 years ago and was very impressed with it. Many any steps as I recall.


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