Friday, August 3, 2012

Hike – Sargent Mountain and Penobscot Mountain (Deer Brook Trail, East Cliffs Trail, Sargent South Ridge Trail, Penobscot Mountain Trail)

Jordan Pond as seen from the northern shore
Many people who visit Acadia National Park in Maine either drive or hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest mountain in the park.  The second highest mountain, however, is almost unvisited in comparison.  That is Sargent Mountain.  It can only be reached by hiking, and even then it’s not straightforward.  On its southeastern shoulder is Penobscot Mountain.  This post describes a loop hike that traverses Sargent Mountain and summits Penobscot Mountain. 

Directions – Drive about one mile north up the Park Loop Road from the Jordan Pond House.  You will see a sign for a turnout on the left to view Bubble Rock.  Pull in here.  There is no bathroom or water.  Note: About a half a mile beyond this pullout on the Park Loop Road is the parking area to hike up to Bubble Rock.  If you reach this you have gone too far, but you can start the hike from here, if you choose.  It will add about .8 miles to the total.  (I will explain below.)

Approaching Sargent Mountain from the east means hiking a little ways just to reach the trailhead.  Regardless of which parking area you used, take the connecting trails off the back of them.  The first trail you come to on both is the Jordan Pond Carry Trail.  Turn left onto it.  This will take you down to the shore of Jordan Pond.  Turn right onto the Jordan Pond Path and follow it around the northern perimeter of the pond past the Bubbles Divide Trail.  Cross over the wooden bridge and in a short distance you will see the trailhead for Deer Brook Trail on the right.  Take it.

Wooden bridge at the northern end of Jordan Pond

Note: I actually parked at the Bubble Rock hiking area and took the Bubbles Divide Trail over to the shore of Jordan Pond.   While this is a couple tenths of a mile shorter than what I described above, it is a more difficult hike.  Coming down the western slope between the Bubbles the trail goes over small boulders (or large rocks, depending on your perspective).  The trail drops moderately and there are any number of opportunities for a turned ankle if you do not watch your footing.  There are no views from this trail.  Unless you would prefer this bit of a challenge, I would take the first set of trails I described in the previous paragraph.

Deer Brook Trail rises moderately most of the way, with a few somewhat steep sections.  There are a lot of rocks and roots on this trail.  It follows alongside, and sometimes crosses, Deer Brook.  There are some nice, small cascades on this.  There is a great view of the Deer Brook Bridge on one of the carriage roads. 

Deer Brook Bridge on the Deer Brook Trail

After crossing the carriage road the trail continues to rise to a four way intersection.  Take the trail to the right – East Cliffs Trail.  You may have noticed the word “cliffs” in the name of this trail.  It is appropriate.  The trail rises steeply at first, then very steeply where about 500 feet of elevation is gained in only one quarter mile.  There are some steps, but there is also some steep ledge.  There was some water running down the day I did my hike that made me a little more conscious about finding good footing.  While doing this section, look back behind you for a good view of the northern end of Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond as seen from the Sargent Mountain East Cliffs Trail

The steepest section is done when you get above the treeline on the east slope of Sargent.  There are good views to the north here.  Follow the cairns up the slope.  There is one last steep section before the summit, but it is short. 

View of Eagle Lake and Frenchman Bay from the eastern slope of Sargent Mountain
View of Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean from the eastern slope of Sargent Mountain

There are 360 degree views from the summit.  It is relatively flat at the top of Sargent, though, so some views immediately to the south and northeast are blocked by ridges.  Views further in those directions are still plentiful.  I could see birds riding thermals over the southern ridge.  I met one woman coming up Sargent from another trail (there are four ways to the summit), but she was the first person I had seen the entire hike to that point.

View of Acadia, Beech, Mansell, and Bernard Mountains from the summit of Sargent Mountain
View of the northern end of Somes Sound from the summit of Sargent Mountain

When you are done at the summit, head down the South Ridge Trail.  The views are wide open as you stay above the tree line for quite a ways.  Pass the Maple Spring Trail and the Hadlock Brook Trail, both coming in from the right.  The Penobscot Mountain Trail will then come in from the left.  Take this trail. 

Looking down the south ridge of Sargent Mountain
Looking to the west from the south ridge of Sargent Mountain
Flowering shrubs growing in a crack in the ledge
View of the summit of Penobscot Mountain from the south ridge of Sargent Mountain

It looks like the valley between the two mountains is very deep, but this trail doesn’t drop as much as I was expecting.  You go back down into the trees and then come to a small pond (Sargent Mountain Pond).  Continue past it and you will come to a trail junction with the Deer Brook Trail.  Continue straight across on the Penobscot Mountain Trail to go to the summit.  It is steep, but only a tenth of a mile.

Sargent Mountain Pond on the Penobscot Mountain Trail

The views from Penobscot are blocked in the direction of Sargent, of course, but you could see in all the other directions.  There was a couple already at the summit that I talked with for a while.  They had come up Penobscot’s southern ridge.  After they left another couple also came up the same way.  The entire hike I only met a total of five people.  When I was done here I retraced my steps back down to the Deer Brook Trail junction just below the Penobscot summit.

View of the Cranberry Islands from the summit of Penobscot Mountain
View back at Sargent Mountain from the summit of Penobscot Mountain

Turn right onto Deer Brook Trail.  This is the upper end of the trail from earlier in the hike.  There were tons of roots and rocks on this part, too.  For an additional challenge this part of the trail was not blazed very well.  At one point I discovered that I had left the trail without realizing it.  I searched around for about 5 minutes before reconnecting with it.  It continues to drop moderately back down to the four way intersection with the East Cliff Trail.  Continue straight here to stay on the Deer Brook Trail.  Follow it all the way back down to Jordan Pond. 

Beavers have been hard at work on this tree on the shore of Jordan Pond

Turn left and follow the shore back to the Jordan Pond Carry Trail.  Be careful not to take the Bubble South Ridge Trail which reaches the Jordan Pond shoreline at the same spot as the Jordan Pond Carry Trail.  Follow the Jordan Pond Carry Trail back up a steady, easy rise to whichever of the connecting trails you came in on.  Turn right onto the connecting trail and you will quickly come out to where you parked.

Recommended hike:

Cumulative distance:             4.7 miles round trip
Cumulative elevation gain:   1,450 feet
Cumulative duration:            4 hours, plus 1 hour combined at the two summits

Acadia Hiking Guide


  1. Chip we hooked you up with the new and improved Liebster Blog Award

    1. Thanks. I received it a couple weeks ago. I answered your post at your blog.