Climbing at Acadia Acadia National Park offers a variety of fine climbs on small cliffs created during the last continental glaciation. Most of these cliffs are composed of solid coarse-grained pink granite. The longest routes are three pitches. Otter Cliffs and Great Head provide a spectacular setting for sea cliff climbing not commonly available elsewhere in the
Climbers assume responsibility for personal safety. On some routes local climbers maintain fixed protection or rappel stations. As always, evaluate them before using. At Otter Cliffs, the park maintains fixed anchors on top that must be used instead of trees to belay several climbs. Evaluate these anchors as well, and notify the park immediately of safety concerns. Climbers at Great Head and Otter Cliffs should know tides and weather forecasts; climbing at these areas is more difficult and dangerous at high tide or in heavy seas. Climb within your limits. Emergency phone: 207-288-8791 or 911 .
Climbing instruction, guiding, and equipment are available locally. Check with area chambers of commerce .
Jeff Butterfield: Acadia, A Climbers Guide .
Pete Warner: Rock Climbing in Acadia National Park .
John Harlan: East Coast Rock Climbs (some information on Acadia).
A copy of A Climbers Guide to Mount Desert Island by Geoffrey Childs (1979 - out of print) is available for review at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and local libraries.
Otter Cliffs: 60' sea cliffs, crack and face climbing, rappel access, routes up to 5.12 South Wall (Champlain): 3-pitch routes to 5.12, good corners and thin cracks Central Slabs: 1-pitch routes, some good beginner routes, routes to 5.10 South Bubble: 1- to 3-pitch routes, some friction climbing, good beginner routes Great Head: high-grade sea cliff climbing, rappel access, know tides and weather
Many other small areas are used infrequently. Good bouldering can be found along the ocean between Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs, and near Blackwoods Campground.
Between 1995 and 1997 a climbing management plan was developed with public input. The plan is expected to guide climbing management for three to five years. Development of this plan, along with legislative mandates and NPS policy, helped formulate the regulations and guidelines listed here. For information about climbing management at Acadia, visit the climbing management information page.
As an important part of climbing management, a climbing advisory group consisting of climbers, park staff, and others makes recommendations to the superintendent on climbing issues. The advisory group works through the existing Acadia National Park Advisory Commission.
Please sign daily use logs at Otter Cliffs, Canada Cliffs, and the South Wall. Daily use logs help monitor annual climbing use and ensure climbers know regulations and guidelines.
New route development is defined as installing fixed protection (including piton use) or cleaning routes (route cleaning is the systematic and comprehensive removal of soils and vegetation from climbing routes). It is permitted only with the prior approval of the superintendent and only at the Precipice Wall, South Wall of Champlain, Jordan Cliffs, Beech Cliffs, Canada Cliffs, Great Head, Dorr Mountain (pinnacle), Enoch Mountain (upper area), and Mansell Mountain. The climbing advisory group reviews new route development proposals and makes recommendations to the superintendent. If approved, climbers will be issued a permit that covers fixed protection, route cleaning, and the use of a power drill. The advisory group also reviews proposals for the replacement or removal of fixed protection. New routes without fixed protection or route cleaning may be established freely. Effects of these new routes should be similar to those of a cross country hiker: no blazing or clearing of a trail, and largely incidental (not deliberate) effects from passing through. Removal of soils or vegetation from these new routes should be minimal.
A maximum size of 12 persons, including guides, applies throughout the park to all organized climbing groups. Groups of friends are not considered organized groups. Groups must make reservations for Otter Cliffs from Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Two groups per day may reserve Otter Cliffs. Organized groups of five persons or less do not need reservations. Group leaders should approach other climbers about sharing routes. For more information, visit the group climbing information page or call 207-288-8791.
Anyone offering instruction or guiding services in the park for a fee must obtain a business permit (36 CFR 5.3).
Climbing and bouldering are prohibited on all park bridges. (36 CFR 2.1 a 5)
Dogs are prohibited at climbing areas to the extent that they may not be tethered or allowed to run loose while their owner is climbing (36 CFR 2.15 a). Dogs must be leashed and attended at all times. Dogs can harass wildlife, disturb other visitors, damage vegetation, and accelerate erosion by digging.
The Precipice Wall, Jordan Cliffs, and Beech Cliffs are usually closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons between early April and mid-August. Exact dates will vary annually (36 CFR 1.5).
Climbers must use existing fixed anchors for climbs at the north end of the cliff near the route "A Dare."
Avoid using trees for belays to prevent continued soil erosion, especially at Otter Cliffs. Use established access trails and walk on solid rock to reduce impacts to soils and vegetation. In May and June, black guillemots nest at Otter Cliffs. Check for them and consider using other routes. Social trails are proliferating on top of Otter Cliffs because climbers are using vegetated areas as toilets. Use the portajohn in the parking lot or urinate in the intertidal area.
Group Climbing at Acadia The Acadia National Park Climbing Management Plan, completed in 1997, recommended a reservation system for organized groups climbing at Otter Cliffs. Otter Cliffs is popular with organized groups for introducing clients to rock climbing. A spectacular oceanfront setting, easy access, and beginner routes all contribute to this popularity.
The Climbing Management Plan described damage to soils and vegetation and problems with crowding at Otter Cliffs. Some of the damage and crowding was due to several groups arriving to climb on the same day. Also, the number of climbing routes, especially beginner routes, is limited. The goal of the reservation system is to spread this group use out across the summer to protect resources and provide a better experience for group and individual climbers.
Reservations are required for organized commercial and noncommercial climbing groups wanting to climb at Otter Cliffs. They are not needed for groups of friends climbing together. The reservation season will run from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Two groups of up to twelve persons, including any guides or instructors, will be accommodated per day. Organized groups of five persons or less do not need a reservation for Otter Cliffs. Organizations will be limited to 10 days of climbing between the above dates.
The group size limit of 12 applies to ALL climbing groups using ANY park climbing areas at any time of the year. The purpose of this size limit is to reduce the effects of large groups on park resources and the climbing experience. We request your cooperation.
Complete a separate reservation request for each day you wish to climb, up to a maximum of 10 days per organization. There are no fees. Reservations can be sent by mail or fax, postmarked or faxed March 15 or later. Mail or faxes postmarked or sent earlier than March 15 will be discarded without action. Reservations can also be made in person at park headquarters beginning March 15. Telephone requests will not be accepted. A lottery system will be used to process requests by the date received. We will then notify you by mail.
An Otter Cliffs climbing reservation does not authorize the exclusive use of any climbing routes. Group leaders are expected to contact other climbers about sharing routes. They are also expected to use extreme courtesy when dealing with other groups that may not be aware of the reservation system. If there is a conflict, work out an appropriate on site solution together and tell the leader to contact the park. You should then contact the park also. We can suggest other climbing areas suitable for groups.