The 1,530-foot panoramic views from the pink granite ledges of Cadillac Mountain, Maine, the highest mountain peak on the eastern seaboard of the United States are simply stunning, and a trip to the mountain’s summit, is well worth the effort. A bit out of the way, in comparison to many other Maine vacation spots, Cadillac Mountain, part of Acadia National Park, is located on Mount Desert Island, in Maine’s Downeast region.
The island can be reached by car. It was also once serviced by the CAT Ferry (a car ferry connecting Portland, Maine, Yarmouth, and Nova Scotia).
Although ferry service was discontinued in 2010, 3 miles from Acadia National Park, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport has flights connecting Boston to Bar Harbor. The airport also offers car rentals. And between June and Columbus Day (early October), free transportation to Cadillac Mountain and Acadia National Park is also available from the airport, via the Island Explorer Bus.
A quick look at a map of Maine might suggest that Coastal Route 1 is the most efficient route. Not necessarily! Traffic on Route 1 can be very heavy. My suggestion (many Mainers’ agree), take I-95 to Bangor and then head south to Ellsworth and continue on to Mount Desert Island.
Cadillac Mountain, Maine is one of the free Maine tourist attractions, easily accessible from either the Hulls Cove Entrance of the Acadia Park, where you will find the Hulls Cove Visitor Center or further south at the Cadillac Mountain Entrance.
For breathtaking views, bike, hike, or drive up the seasonally open 3.5 miles Cadillac Mountain Road, as it winds past numerous scenic overlooks Frenchman’s Bay, Blue Hill Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, with Great Cranberry Island, Little Cranberry Island, Bar Island and the Porcupine Islands – Sheep, Bald, Burnt and Long – Bar Island and Schoodic Peninsula, are all visible in fair weather.
If you are lucky enough to be atop Cadillac Mountain, Maine on a remarkably clear day, you may see Maine’s Mount Katahdin, over 100 miles to the west, and Nova Scotia, equally distant to the east.
Hiking Cadillac Mountain, Maine
Cadillac Mountain offers some of the most spectacular and diverse hiking in Maine. A moderate 4-hour hike takes you on a 7 mile round trip through spruce and fir forests, to nearly barren granite ledges, and back again.
Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to hike either the North Ridge Trail or the South Ridge Trail and therefore can’t provide specific information on either. However, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s website…
The Cadillac Mountain trailhead is a short distance west of the entrance to Blackwoods Campground, off Route 3 and 5.6 miles south of Bar Harbor.
Additional Acadia hiking trail information can be found in Acadia National Park trail guide books and at www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/hiking.htm, the National Park Service (NPS) website. If you hike Cadillac Mountain, Maine, be sure to head out prepared, with your trail map, a jacket, water, snacks, and a flashlight.
Cadillac Mountain Sunrise
Because of its geographical positioning, it is said that sunrise can be seen from the summit of Cadillac Mountain before daybreak appears anywhere else in the United States. Rise early, and on a clear morning, you can expect a treat of a lifetime. Even in partial clouds, and light fog, the view can be extraordinary!
Locals advise that you reach the summit at least one-half hour before sunrise. The Acadia Weekly publishes daily sunrise time in each issue and the free magazine is readily available throughout the island.
On my visit, I arrived three-quarters of an hour in advance of sunrise and was nearly alone, witnessing the transformation from the night’s darkness into daylight, with little more than a crescent moon, the morning star, and ocean breezes keeping me company.
My solitude didn’t last long. As the sun approached the horizon, dozens of people began to join me, all looking for front row seats along the Cadillac Mountain granite ledges. One look back at the parking lot and I was even happier that I had come so early.
For morning coffee lovers…
Although I didn’t check for myself, I was told by park rangers that the summit restrooms are open at this early hour. However, the summit gift shop, with its souvenirs and snacks, is not open until later in the morning.
What if you’re not a morning riser? You are in luck. A Cadillac Mountain sunset can be quite extraordinary, as well!
Bring a flashlight! I was so intent on making sure that I was on top of Cadillac Mountain, Maine, before the sun shone, that it never occurred to me – how was I going to find my perfect perch on the rocks, in the dark?