*Adapted from Acadia: The Complete Guide
At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak in Acadia National Park. It’s also the highest point on the U.S. East Coast. From the granite summit, you’ll enjoy sweeping 360-degree views of Downeast Maine. Smaller mountains surround Cadillac, and beyond them, stretching towards the horizon, lies the island-strewn Gulf of Maine.
Cadillac Mountain is famous as the first place in America to see the sunrise. But this is only true for part of the year. From mid-September to mid-March, Cadillac Mountain is the first place to see the sunrise in the U.S. The rest of the year, Mars Hill Mountain in northern Maine is the first place to see the sunrise.
Cadillac Mountain is one of the longest, best hikes in Acadia. Its views are among the most impressive in the park. The only downside: a 3.5-mile paved road that twists to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll share the views with dozens (sometimes hundreds) of other visitors who arrived by car. But after a long, hard hike, your endorphin-soaked brain will enjoy the views more!
Cadillac Mountain – North Ridge Trail
Distance: 2.2 miles, one-way
Hiking Time: 2–3 hours, one-way
Elevation Change: 1,463 feet
The Cadillac North Ridge trailhead is located along the Park Loop Road, 1/3 of a mile past the Y-intersection where the Park Loop Road becomes one-way. There’s a small pull-out across from the trailhead, but parking is limited. A better option is the free Island Explorer shuttle, which stops at the Cadillac North Ridge trailhead along the “Loop Road” route.
From the trailhead, the Cadillac North Ridge trail rises through a dense patch of woods. After a short ascent, nice ocean views open up to the north. The higher you hike, the better the views become. En route to the summit, the trail parallels Cadillac Summit Road, and you’ll probably hear passing cars. You might not mind, however, because the views to the east — of Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay — are so lovely.
The North Ridge Trail ends at the north end of the Cadillac Mountain parking area. Continue along the summit loop trail, which offers 360-degree views of Mount Desert Island. A small gift shop near the parking area’s west end has bathrooms and drinking water. Follow the dirt path next to the gift shop to the island’s true peak, where you’ll find a metal USGS marker embedded in the bedrock.
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Cadillac Mountain Hiking Photos
Not long after starting the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail, you’ll enjoy nice views of Frenchman Bay. The Porcupine Islands lie just offshore downtown Bar Harbor.
Cairns (carefully arranged rock piles) and blue blazes mark the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail. For the most part, the trail is easy to follow. But there are sections over bare granite where you’ll need to look for cairns and blazes to find the way.
A 3.5-mile paved road twists to Cadillac Mountain’s summit. At times the North Ridge Trail parallels the road, and you can hear the sound of passing cars.
Spring wildflowers brighten up the trail. In the distance, the Porcupine Islands lie offshore.
Approaching Cadillac Mountain’s summit, with Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands, and Frenchman Bay in the background.
Strolling along the Summit Loop Trail on top of Cadillac Mountain. In the distance, looking south, are the Cranberry Isles.
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