Stop #1: Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain is located in Acadia National Park. Follow the Park Loop Road signs to drive to the top.
44° 21’09”N, 68° 13’31”W
Cadillac Mountain stands as the highest point on Mount Desert Island (MDI) at 1530 feet above sea level. It is the first spot in the United States to see the sun each day. Further, Cadillac and other mountains on MDI have an unusual shape. Unlike many peaks in the Appalachian mountain chain, Cadillac looks more like a hump than a tall peak. The shape of the mountain is similar to that of a cat with its back arched. It has steep east and west sides, while the north and south sides are more gradual and gently sloping. The final shaping of Cadillac and the other mountains on the island was caused by glaciers over 14,000 years ago as they moved over Down East Maine.
The top of Cadillac was possibly the first surface of modern Maine to emerge from the ice about 17,000 years ago, during the last deglaciation. Because of the direction in which the glaciers moved, north to south rather than east to west, many of the mountains on the island have steep east and west sides and sloping north and south sides. Cadillac is composed of pink granite making it very pretty indeed. The pink comes from potassium feldspar and is also found elsewhere on MDI.
Cadillac is an accessible mountain to people of all different ages and fitness levels. There are four hiking trails leading to the summit. The North Ridge Trail is the easiest; it is about a two mile hike and is not very steep. There are good views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman’s Bay off to the east on this trail. Parking for the North Ridge Trail is along the Park Loop Road. Enter from the Rt. 233 entrance and turn left onto the one way section of the road. Signs will say Cadillac Mountain is the opposite direction, but that is for the mountain road. The South Ridge Trail is quite a bit longer than the North Ridge Trail but also not very steep. The trail is about six miles and can be reached from the Blackwoods campground. There is a little parking area right by the campground entrance; follow signs along Rt. 3 towards Blackwoods. There are some lovely views of the Bubble pond as well as the Cranberry Islands on this trail. There is nice long stretch along the Southern ridge that is exposed. Bring a jacket or wind breaker as it is often windy. The East Face Trail is short, about a mile but pretty steep with larger steps required to get up some of the bigger steps. There are limited views along this path since it is in between Cadillac and Dorr Mountains. The East Trail is accessible via the Gorge Trail which also begins on the Park Loop Road a bit further along than the North Ridge Trail. The West Face Trail is a lovely climb; relatively steep it but pretty short, 1.4 miles in length. Bubble pond and Pemetic Mountain are both very beautiful from a number of points along this trail. The West Trail is accessible from the Bubble Pond Parking lot along the Park Loop Road. Turn right at the Rt. 233 entrance to the Park Loop Road and follow the signs toward Cadillac Mountain but continue past the road that leads to the summit and on down the hill. The parking lot is just around a sharp right hand bend in the road.
There is a toilet at the Bubble Pond Parking Lot but no running water. There are no restrooms at any of the other trail heads; however, there is a restroom with running water at the summit. A gift shop is located at the summit. Of course there is also the Cadillac Mountain Road, which also goes to the summit.
The summit of Cadillac is one of the most heavily visited parts of Acadia National Park and a beautiful view, but please obey all signs. There are some paved trails that lead around the summit of the mountain, and they allow for lots of great vantage points. Feel free to hike the trails or part of the trails, but please stay on the trails. The plants that live at and around the summit are very fragile, and all it takes is one person stepping off the trail and onto these plants to kill them. The weather can be extreme for the exposed summit of Cadillac during the winter season, and these plants are specially adapted to live up there; because of this they are slow growing and have a shallow root structure.