Bar Harbor’s Bar Island Hike is a Must – If You Can Time It

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on January 12, 2024.

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Bar Harbor is a charming little town in Maine that is often used as a base to access the stunning Acadia National Park just a few miles away.

While most visitors stay in Bar Harbor for its park access, there are many great things to do in Bar Harbor that make it a destination to explore on its own right. 

One such attraction is a unique natural element that you may not get to experience anywhere else- the Bar Island hike. This one is only accessible during low tide as the land bridge that connects the island to Bar Harbor town is only safe to cross for just six hours a day- 1.5 hours each before and after low tide.

So to see this one, you may have to do a bit of planning and have some luck on your side for tide schedules, too!

What You Can See on the Bar Island Hike

Bar Island Sand Bar

You can see several things when taking the hike out to Bar Island in Bar Harbor.

Up first is the sand bar itself. This unique feature is only visible twice a day at low tide, and the sand bar that connects Bar Harbor to the island appears to rise and lower into the water as the tides move out and back in. We'll talk about this later, but being at the starting point for the hike roughly 1.5 hours before low tide (or even a bit before) is a sight as the land bridge starts to appear.

Once on the island, you get a beautiful walk around nature with some wooded sections, open fields, wildflowers during the blooming season (it was stunning during our mid-June visit), and perhaps some deer, if you're lucky.

Flowers on the Bar Island Trail

Most visitors who hike Bar Island head to a high point that has a view looking back to Bar Harbor as well; however, the region's frequent foggy and rainy weather often obstructs the view. We hiked out to this one on a mildly foggy day and barely could see Bar Harbor at all despite being less than a mile away. It really is the luck of the weather for that one!

Foggy Viewpoint of Bar Harbor

That said, if you are not hiking in Acadia National Park proper (even if Bar Island is technically part of the park) and the tide schedule works into your schedule, this one is a must-stop simply because it is so unique, even if the scenery itself is not as pronounced as other trails in Acadia.

Tips for Hiking Bar Island

Sandbar in Bar Harbor

There are two main considerations to remember when hiking to Bar Island- the tide and the hiking conditions themselves.

The unique element about Bar Island is that the sand bar you walk across to reach the island is only above the water's surface at low tide- particularly 1.5 hours before and 1.5 hours after. A good deal of the sandbar is often visible outside of this window, but you would not be able to cross outside of this window.

For those who wish to make the hike, you will have to plan your day accordingly as the sand bar is only available twice a day for three hours. Miss it, especially if you are already on the Bar Island side, and you'll either be waiting nine hours for the next low tide or will be calling for an expensive boat pickup!

As such, most who hike Bar Island head over to the trail at the start of, or before, the three hour window for low tide to ensure they have enough time to enjoy the island. From start to finish we spent about an hour on the island (including crossing the sandbar), but others may take longer.

As such, we cannot safely recommend starting a crossing (for a full hike at least) any time after the posted low-tide. With only 90 minutes of buffer you could potentially run the risk of missing your window- pending on how far you hike on the island, of course. Start this one as early as you can!

Warning Sign Bar Island

Going beyond this major concern, hiking Bar Island once you are there is pretty straightforward. The trails are somewhat wide, but can be muddy, have a bit of grade change as you climb up to the high point, and there are some rocks and tree roots to contend with. This should be easy for most visitors to manage, but having a good pair of hiking shoes on for this hike is recommended just as they are for any other hike in Acadia.

So while we would say this hike is generally easy, especially by Acadia National Park standards, it also is not accessible to everyone- you still have to make sure you have sure footing for these minor conditions all around.

Deer on Bar Island

Overall, the Bar Island hike outside of Bar Harbor is incredibly unique and is truly a sight to see. Although we admittedly found the connecting walkways rising and lowering in the water to be the most interesting part, be sure to check the tide schedule during your visit to see if you can make it over to the island (safely) all the same!

Have you hiked over to Bar Island? What did you think? Comment below to share!

About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

2 thoughts on “Bar Harbor’s Bar Island Hike is a Must – If You Can Time It”

    • I am not familiar with how well scooters would operate on wet, loose rocks and sand if I am honest. My gut feel would be no- but more because of performance over a law / trail rule. Once you’re on the island there is no paved trail either, and the path is quite rocky and with tree roots.

      Reply

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