Many visitors wonder what the best route is to hike up Cadillac Mountain. With a number of trails that access the summit, this is a great problem to have.
This featured hike uses the two most popular trails, the Cadillac North Ridge Trail
and Cadillac South Ridge Trail
, to summit and then descend from Cadillac Mountain. This route is made easier by either using a second vehicle to leave at the Cadillac South Ridge Trailhead Parking Area or by taking the free Island Explorer Shuttle as a means to return to your vehicle at the Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead Parking Area.
Given its proximity to the Park Loop Road, this hike uses the Cadillac North Ridge Trail
first, in hopes to avoid high traffic times later in the day. Additionally, this approach generally climbs at a steeper grade, which hikers might find easier heading up instead of down, and is about half as long as the Cadillac South Ridge Trail
for those looking to summit before the epic sunrise view.
Start this hike on one of the most rewarding routes to the top of Cadillac Mountain, which at 1,528 feet is the tallest mountain in Acadia. The trailhead is located directly across from a small parking area on the left-hand side of the Park Loop Road.
From the trailhead, follow the blue blazes and rock cairns that mark the trail. Views of Bar Harbor will soon open up to the northeast. The higher you climb, the better the views become. You'll soon be treated to fantastic views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands. In places, the trail runs alongside the Park Loop Road, and you'll likely hear the sounds of passing cars. Thankfully, the final push to the summit is located away from the road, giving you plenty of peace and quiet - until you reach the summit, where you'll be greeted by a large parking area filled with tourists. Not to worry. By this point, you'll have so many endorphins flowing through your brain that the crowds will hardly matter. To celebrate your achievement, take a quick hike around the Cadillac Summit Loop
From the Cadillac Summit Loop
, locate the Cadillac South Ridge Trail
in the southwest corner of the loop to begin the descent. After the first couple hundred yards, the trail will skirt above the Park Loop Road and the pull-off for the Blue Hill Overlook.
Continue past a hairpin turn of the Park Loop Road as the trail heads away from the road, passing a junction with the Cadillac West Face Trail
heading off to the right. Follow the cairns and blue blazes as the trail gradually heads south along a rocky ridge, eventually crossing the Canon Brook Trail
. Just past this intersection, look for the Featherbed, a small pond that marks for a great spot to take a break.
From here, continue your descent for another two miles, taking in the beautiful views of the Gulf of Maine until you reach the Cadillac South Ridge Trailhead and parking area.
If you find yourself spending the night at the Blackwoods Campground, take note that this trail continues to the southwest corner of the campground.
Thanks to guidebook author and photographer, James Kaiser, for his help with this content. To learn more about visiting Acadia, check out his Guide to Acadia National Park