Hiking Acadia National Park: Ocean Trail (Sand Beach, Thunder Hole)

Acadia National Park’s Ocean Trail is a really cool trail, despite being heavily trafficked. Whether you’re coming from Cadillac Mountain or you just drove in from Bar Harbor, you have to make a stop here. Along the way, you can stop off to enjoy Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. Make sure to check recreation.gov to see whether you need a reservation to drive on the road there, and don’t forget your park pass!

Ocean Trail

First, the trail itself. This trail is cool because you can walk along the beach or along a footpath lining the beach. If you choose the beach, you’re in for a rock-hoppin’ good time. I had SO MUCH FUN. There are places you need to climb over large boulders, so if that’s not your thing, take the footpath. Also, make sure you’re wearing sturdy shoes. It’s easy to get off balance on the rocky beach. Kids are always around and watching, be a good role model!

The Ocean Trail
The Ocean Trail

Sand Beach

Sand Beach is located at the beginning of the Ocean Trail. It was quite chilly when we went, so we really didn’t hang out on the beach long. I can see why people would when it’s warm especially because there are bathrooms here! It was also a bit crowded, despite the cold and Acadia’s reservation system. You’re very unlikely to get a parking spot in Sand Beach’s lot, but worry not, parking along the street is no big deal and it’s pretty easy to walk back to the beach if that’s your destination. We didn’t stick around long enough to get a good pic of the beach, though you can see it below in the distance from the Ocean Trail.

Sand Beach in the distance from the Ocean Trail
Sand Beach in the distance from the Ocean Trail

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is a stop along the Ocean Trail that you can get to off the footpath only (i.e., if you’re walking along the beach, head up to the footpath at this point). You take a path out to a particular rock formation on the beach where you hear the loud crack of thunder. The thunder is created by the water rushing into the rock. It creates a big splash, so you might even get wet! We enjoyed watching/listening to the thunder clap for a few minutes and kept on our merry way.

Thunder Hole along the Ocean Trail
Thunder Hole along the Ocean Trail

Otter Cliffs

You can see Otter Cliffs in the distance as you walk the Ocean Trail (see below). We didn’t actually go all the way to the cliff – you can walk out on the cliff and look out over the ocean – because we were too enamored with the Ocean Trail itself. We got caught up watching a seal and then saw the trailhead for Gorham Mountain, so we exited the Ocean Trail before getting to the cliffs. If you aren’t rushed like we were a bit, then go the distance! It a little bit depends on where you parked you car, as you may not want to walk that full way.

Otter Cliffs from the Ocean Trail
Otter Cliffs from the Ocean Trail

All-in-all, we really enjoyed the Ocean Trail. It gets crowded, but there’s lots of beach space to explore. You can treat it like a playground, hopping from rock to rock while the seals play in the ocean, or take the footpath and just enjoy the serenity. It’s easy, beautiful and has fun stops along the way, what’s not to enjoy! Don’t forget to check out Acadia’s other fun stops like Bass Harbor Head Light House or Beech Mountain and Pretty Marsh. Acadia has so much to explore!

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