Sunday, August 16, 2015


 Locating the Hanging Steps was not easy, in fact I had been researching it and combing the woods and mountain side for years.  One day as we had just finished doing a search for the Great Cave, we decided to head on up to Sand Beach to relax a bit.  As we departed the Precipice parking lot, we noticed those long line of cars parked along the side of the Precipice up ahead.  I have always wondered why people park along there when there are parking spaces available at the Precipice parking lot.  As we walked along those parked cars a bus was coming up behind us so we moved to the other side of the parked cars and spotted a very well worn path entering the woods, but oddly the much traveled trail had no sign post by it, it was unmarked.
We followed the trail in and very quickly came to a massive boulder with a post that had a wooden box which contained a sign in log, "All climbers are to sign in when entering this area and sign back out when departing this area."  So we had stumbled onto a part of the park I had never ventured into before, could this unmarked trail be the missing section of the Orange and Black Trail, the section containing the Hanging Steps?  We continued up the trail which came to some stone steps below a massive high wall of granite and there was a rock climber seated there.  I asked what goes on there and he replied this was an area in the park where Rock Climbers come to in order to practice their rock climb skills.  He was packing away climbing ropes and other rock climbing gear as we talked.  He told us if we were going to be in that area that we really should have hard hats on our heads for safety reasons.  Hard hats, I replied.  Yeah, he said, pointing upward at the towering wall of granite.  Right now there are a number of rock climbers making their way down and at any time a loose rock could come falling down this way.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The Hanging Steps

Okay, I replied as we stepped further away from the wall.  We told him to have a nice day and began to walk back out to the road, but I could not depart the area without going back and asking him the million dollar question, and so we returned.  Could you tell me something, I asked, while you were climbing up there, did you happen to see an old trail, or maybe even some stone steps?
Yes, there is an old trail up there as well as a nice set of large stone steps.  Thank you, I told him, I think I have finally found the trail I have been years searching for.  By the way, do you happen to know about where that trail begins?
He pointed to that towering wall of granite, to an area behind him, the old trail begins back there just around that corner.   I thanked him again and we left, only to return the next day.
So, yesterday armed with new information, we headed back to the trail with no name, which I refer to as "The Rock Climbers Trail."  This is where the local rock climbing schools bring their students and where experienced rock climbers come with ropes and anchors to do some serious rock climbing.  The same trail they use to reach the sheer walls of granite is also used to access the Hanging steps and the same area the missing end of the Orange and Black Trail passed through..

It should be noted that the start of this well worn trail is not at the Precipice parking lot, but 15 to 20 car lengths further down the roadway and the path is not marked and often the view of the path is blocked by parked cars.  So you don't miss the trail, I suggest you park at the Precipice parking lot, or get off the free Island Explorer bus (the Sand Beach Bus) and walk down the right side of the roadway in the direction of the traffic.  By doing so you will not miss the unmarked trail.
You don't get very far up the trail when you come to a sign in ledger on a post in front of a very impressive boulder.  The park service likes people to sign in when entering this area and sign out when leaving as people (mainly rock climbers using ropes climbing up sheer walls) have had bad falls in there and been seriously injured.  I never sign in since I have no plans on doing that kind of rock climbing.
Continue up the path a short ways right up to the sheer granite wall and take a moment to look upward - that is where the rock climbers go - straight up using ropes.
 Now go left and follow the worn path along the base of that wall of granite a short ways and you can see where the trail turns right and continues to follow the edge of a granite wall.

 You won't go far before you come to the  strange White birch, which we refer to as the octopus, very strange White Birch.
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.
Your job is to go below that huge boulder and once you are several car lengths past it,  the path begins to turn to the right and moves upward along a rock strewn gully.  You won't go far when you will see the first of many stone steps on what is The Hanging Steps, or Black and Orange trail.
start of stone steps
Now the mistake we did the first time, and others have since made the same mistake, is that where the trail begins to turn to the right, it does appear the trail should go downward into a deep deep, where a worn path can be seen moving out of the dip, making its way along a granite wall up toward the tree's.  That route ends at a dead end,  and if you miss the turn return back to that twisted tree and make your way forward again, looking for the chance to turn right.
Just as a side note, we did poke around that huge boulder field to the left and was able to find several caves.
Once you have turned the corner and found the first stone steps, you don't need any more instructions, the trail is plain as day.

The Hanging Steps - Acadia National Park

Once you have reached the top of the Hanging Steps the trail continues onward, coming out atop some high cliffs with very narrow dangerous ledges.  .  From there the trail makes its way to and through a section of woods, the trail in the woods is well worn and easy to follow.  Once the trail leaves the woods you are open granite.  It is a little steep at first, make your way down over the open granite, as you do so there should be a gully just inside the tree's to your left.  The trail joins the Precipice trail at the point of where the Turn around is, that first section you come to with the iron hand rails.


I have done a separate blog on the lost Rudolph Brunnow trail, which is not easy to locate.  Here is a quick way to locate that trail, begin at the Precipice parking lot and walk against traffic making your way toward the Orange and Black trail.  As you do so, pay attention to the storm drains on the left hand side of the roadway as you walk.  At each one, turn around and look back toward the Precipice parking lot, you will be able to see the Precipice sign by the roadway as far as storm drain 5.  At storm drain 7 when you look back you will no longer be able to see the sugn.  The trail is an almost straight line into the woods to the base of the mountain where it makes its way up a rock gully.  For photos and better instructions see the blog on this trail.



That lighter marked map began directly across the roadway from THE HIGH SEAS - the house owned by Rudolph Brunnow.


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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