Cadillac Mountain

The highest peak on the east coast.

For Tuesday’s hike I aimed at the main attraction – Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in Acadia National Park (and the highest peak on the east coast!) [NPS] [Wikipedia].  Even though we were now clear of the July 4th holiday weekend, the park was still extremely crowded – every trailhead and parking area was packed to overflowing.  I drove the park’s one-way Loop Road past several full parking areas, and looped back around to make another pass.  Ahah!  I lucked into one freshly opened spot in a parking area designed for four cars – as a bonus, my spot was in the shade. Read on for the full story and check out the photo gallery.

View of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay from near the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

The Gorge Trail begins here by immediately descending along the side of a beautiful stone bridge – of the sort used throughout the park, along the carriage roads and the park’s loop road.  The trail then follows a brook up into a rocky gorge, steeply at times.  The rockwork was impressive – perhaps a kilometer of stone steps and stone paving, laid down by a skilled trail crew.  Once the trail climbed out of the shady gorge, I turned right to climb steeply up the slopes of Cadillac.  

Here, as on so many Acadia trails, much of the trail is in the open, with scattered patches of brush and small pines to grant hikers occasional shade.  On the upside, this allows fantastic views back toward Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.

The summit was mobbed with tourists.  Fortunately, the Park Service requires drivers to obtain a reservation to drive to the peak – nominally to manage the limited parking at the summit, but also to keep the summit crowd to a hundred or two.  The bare summit offers 360º views, including all the surrounding peaks, bays, and islands. The mountain’s “name honors the French explorer and adventurer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac.” [Wikipedia]. A curiosity for my friends in New Hampshire: there was once a cog railway to this summit, and when it shut down the cog train was sold and moved to Mount Washington [Wikipedia].

I descended via the Northern Ridge Trail – a mostly open, rocky ridgeline – until I reached the Loop Road (where I’d failed to find parking!).  Fortunately the park has many nice connecting trails, allowing me a half-mile wooded walk back to my car. 

Check out the photo gallery – this hike offers a shady hike up the Gorge Trail and lots of exposed rock offering views of the surrounding bays and islands.

Hike stats:
Distance: 7.52 km
Time: 2.5 hours (approx)

Map of hike of Cadillac Mountain – clockwise, starting at Gorge Trail on right, summit at bottom, and North Ridge Trail at left.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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