Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hike – Cadillac Mountain, North Ridge

Bar Harbor from a little way up the North Ridge trail
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park in Maine.  It is also the highest mountain on the Atlantic Ocean anywhere north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the Fall and Winter it is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sunrise.  It has a free auto road that allows people to drive right to the top.  It also has multiple hiking trails to the summit.  Some are more challenging than others.  This post describes a hike up the North Ridge trail, one that is intermediate in difficulty among them, but still not that bad.

Directions - This hike starts on the Park Loop Road not far after it begins at the Route 233 entrance.  Parking is on the left on a small overlook of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay.  The trailhead is across the road from the parking area.  Please note that when you leave you are on a one-way road, so you will need to continue down the Park Loop Road instead of turning around and driving back the way you came.  The Park Loop Road is part of Acadia National Park and you will need to pay an entrance fee when you reach the gate.

The hike starts with an immediate quick rise.  I had hiked several miles the day before and was regretting that at first.  The trail then eased off, my legs loosened up, and I was fine after that.  There was one section that was a little steeper, but still not that bad.  I hiked with my brother-in-law, George, and he thought it was a good trail, too.

At the beginning you will travel in mixes of trees and more open rocky ledges.  The trail is well marked and easy to follow.  After passing through one last set of trees, and a steeper section, the trail steps out onto open ledges that continue all the way to the top.

From these ledges you have 180 degree views from Eagle Lake to the left, through Bar Harbor in the center, and Dorr Mountain to the right.

From here watch for the cairns to guide you the rest of the way up the mountain.  Now and then you will see heavy metal rings and stakes set into the stone, but they are not trail markers.  They were for some past purpose. 

You will come near the Cadillac Mountain Auto Road now and then, but the trail avoids intersecting with it.  You do not have to worry about having to cross over it.  We could hear vehicles driving up the road, including a tour bus from a cruise ship in the harbor, but for the most part the trail is separated enough from the road so that any engine noise is minor.

The trail comes to an abrupt end as you step out onto a sidewalk built around the parking area near the summit.  Taking a left and following the sidewalk will quickly bring you to the 180 degree viewing area that has been built for everyone.  There are displays set up to identify the various mountains and islands that you can see.

There were dozens of people at the top when we got there.  Even though I had been there several times before, it had always been by car.  This was the first time I had hiked to the top of Cadillac and it felt more special.  As I walked among the others at the top I felt that they were missing out and that I had had a better overall experience.

There is a loop "trail" that has been built near the summit.  It consists of a quarter mile of boardwalk and crushed stone that you can follow.  It starts from either side of the viewing area and drops down the mountain towards the views.  This can be an interesting little walk and it gets you away from some of the crowds that are at the top.  You can also get some different angles for photos from this boardwalk.

George framed against the view from the walking path near the summit

Another view from the walking path near the summit

When you are done looking at the views continue clockwise around the parking lot and you will reach a small store, bathrooms, and a water fountain.  You can buy food, drink, and tourist items in the store.

Note that at this time you have not actually summitted Cadillac.  The viewing area is not built on the true summit.  You can find that up in back of the store.

Take the dirt road just to the left of the store and walk up the small hill for a few hundred feet.  Keep an eye out on the right for a couple sets of ledge that rise from the top of the hill.  Go over to them and you will see metal disks set into them.  One of them indicates the true summit and elevation (1,532 feet.)

Once you are done here retrace your steps to the store.  The North Ridge Trail is now directly ahead of you on the other side of the parking lot.  If you don't want to get one last look from the viewing area then just head straight across the parking lot.

As you descend, the excellent views are now in front of you for at least half the way down the trail.  Eventually you will re-enter the wooded sections and the views will become intermittent from there.  Continue down the trail and you will emerge back on the Park Loop Road.  Cross straight across to the parking area to complete the hike.

This hike is a good complement to the South Ridge hike (coming in the next hiking post.)  Both offer continuous, unobstructed views for more than a mile of hiking.  North Ridge is shorter than South Ridge, and therefore steeper, but it is still a not too difficult way to get to the top.  Even though North Ridge is supposed to be a popular hike, we met no one else going up or coming down.  We started the hike at 9:00 AM and completed it a little after Noon. I've found that morning hikes in Acadia National Park are less crowded than afternoon hikes.

You can read about hiking up Cadillac via the South Ridge Trail here, via the West Face Trail here, and via the east side Gorge Path here.)

Cumulative distance:             4.5 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   1,126 feet
Cumulative duration:            3-4 hours (including time for photos and summit activities)

Acadia National Park Hiking Guide 

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you how much I love the Arcadia National Park area!! Anyone who is interested in hiking, this is a must do. Hiking the Carriage trails is also nice.