Acadia National Park Hiking Guide | Beech Mountain West Ridge and South Ridge Loop

Distance: 2.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 767 Feet
Location: Southwest Harbor, ME

Beech Mountain was my favorite hike as a kid. The fire tower at the top stirred curiosity and wonder in me. I remember clearly how alien that human structure felt to me then. And useful, protective, isolated, not proud, not decorative, not celebratory.

The idea of spending your day at the top of a mountain scanning the panorama for smoke and fire, hoping never to be necessary. The vocation struck me even then as peculiar though not without allure.

I believe the fire tower has been in disuse for the three decades I’ve been on the earth, but when I was a kid, you could actually enter the tower itself and survey the vast territory between the tower and the horizon as if looking for fire.

All trails up Beech Mountain begin in dense conifer, but as conversations with old friends often do, the trails open up quite quickly bringing air and light and views of neighborly primordial shapes: mountains and oceans, cliffs and lakes.

In winter, the quiet that accompanies the shapes feels equally ancient. Snow seems to muffle sound.

It could be something in the paint, but the natural world can't help but exist in dialogue with trail markers. Here, lichen moves to erase a blue blaze.

This hike also shows the greyscale world of a Maine winter. On cold sunny days, snow reflects sunlight seeming to double its brightness. But on a cloudy day, color only exists up close.

The fire tower now strikes me as no less peculiar but perhaps more alluring.

I believe that it was here that my restlessness was formed or at least made permanent.

My whole life, people have asked me how I could move from here to New York.

Now, I think I see why. Both worlds exist without stasis. Here and in New York, the same day never happens twice. 

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