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Cadillac Mountain: The Jewel of Acadia National Park

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay

Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay

It had been over 30 years since I last visited Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, so my memory was certainly clouded by time. As we drove the long access road to the top of the mountain, the faded pictures in my mind began to come into focus as the scenic vistas revealed themselves before us. This really is one of the most beautiful mountaintops on the east coast, and also one of the easiest to access. It’s no wonder that Acadia National Park is regarded as the crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast, an honor that it richly deserves.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park at 1,530 feet and is renowned as the first place in the United States to view the sunrise from October 7th to March 6th. Located on Mount Desert Island in the municipality of Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain is just one of over 20 mountains on the island that were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago and then shaped by retreating glaciers. The result is one of the most visitor-friendly mountaintops with spectacular views in every direction.

Cadillac Mountain. What a View!

Cadillac Mountain. What a View!

Summit Road and Parking

The Summit Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain travels for approximately 3.5 miles, with several scenic stops along the way. Use caution going in both directions as there is usually a lot of traffic coming in and out of the scenic stops. Also, I tend to look at the scenery as I drive, which can be dangerous on the Summit Road with steep cliffs right at the edge of the road, so pay attention to your driving, please.

View From the Top of Cadillac Mountain

View From the Top of Cadillac Mountain

With plenty of free parking, restroom facilities, and a small snack and gift shop, a visit to the summit of Cadillac Mountain is pretty stress-free. Taking in the scenic views is just as easy with a short trail that takes visitors around the summit. There is even a short wheelchair-accessible trail, which affords views of Bar Harbor and Frenchmen Bay.

Plenty of room to explore

Plenty of room to explore

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Summit Loop Trail

The top of Cadillac Mountain is mostly exposed pink granite surrounded by a forest of spruce and pine as the mountain gently slopes to lower levels. You’ll notice numerous large glacier placed boulders and a smattering of blueberry and alpine plants as you wander the summit.

Exploring the top of Cadillac Mountain via the 0.5-mile Loop Trail can be characterized as more of a leisurely stroll than a hike, and it’s a great place to bring a picnic or a good book to read. With all of the exposed rock, there are plenty of places to sit, and the view in every direction is something to behold so don’t forget your camera.

Looking toward Bar Harbor is particularly scenic, especially when a cruise ship is sitting just offshore. The downside to a cruise ship in Bar Harbor is that it can get crowded atop the mountain as cruisers head for the main attraction here.

Cruise Ship anchored at Bar Harbor

Cruise Ship anchored at Bar Harbor

With such an open expanse at the top, many people forgo the pathway and venture in whatever direction appeals to them. One of the great things about this mountaintop is that you can explore at will and find your own little corner of peace and serenity.

That said, please be aware of the off-limit areas with protected vegetation. While we all love to explore, we want to be good stewards of the environment and not do damage to the fragile plants that survive up here.

Plenty of room to explore even on a beautiful fall day with a cruise ship in harbor

Plenty of room to explore even on a beautiful fall day with a cruise ship in harbor

cadillac-mountain-jewel-of-acadia-national-park

While most visitors stick to the well-worn path around the exposed summit, many do not realize that the actual summit of Cadillac Mountain is up a short path hidden behind the gift shop. We had great fun trying to locate the summit marker and after a few minutes of searching, we did indeed find it. This part of the mountain is less traveled and the views are just as stunning, so check it out while you’re here.

Cadillac Mountain Summit Marker

Cadillac Mountain Summit Marker

If you would like to hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain there are several trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The North Ridge and South Ridge trails are the most popular, with the South Ridge trail offering a more moderate yet longer trek. We did not hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain, but we did climb to the top of Acadia Mountain, which is moderately strenuous and involved a fair amount of rock climbing.

  • North Ridge Trail: 4.4 miles round-trip, 1086 foot ascent, moderate.
  • South Ridge Trail: 7.4 miles round-trip, 1350 foot ascent, moderate to strenuous due to the distance.
Looking Toward Bar Harbor

Looking Toward Bar Harbor

It's All About the View

From the top of Cadillac Mountain, the views seem to go on forever. To the north, you’ll surely spot Bar Harbor and the occasional cruise ship anchored offshore in Frenchman Bay. To the west lies Eagle Lake and hopefully another beautiful sunset. To the south, you’ll locate the Cranberry Isles followed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean, and to the east, across the Mt. Desert Narrows lies the Schoodic Peninsula.

No matter what direction you look to, you’ll surely be greeted with picture-perfect scenery. A particularly popular time of year to visit is during the fall when the changing foliage carpets the hills with a kaleidoscope of color and makes an already stunning view even more spectacular.

Foliage just starting to turn in late September

Foliage just starting to turn in late September

Acadia Park Information

Acadia National Park is open year-round, however, not all facilities will be open and accessible during the winter. The Cadillac Mountain access road closes from December 1st to April 14th.

The Visitor Center at Hulls Cove is open from April 15th to October 31st from 8 am until 6 pm.

Cadillac Mountain is located within Acadia National Park, so entrance fees do apply.

7-Day Pass:

  • Individual: $15
  • Private Vehicle: $30
  • Motorcycle: $25

Acadia Annual Pass: $55

Lifetime Senior Pass: $80 (Age 62 and over)

Annual Senior Pass: $20

Active Military Pass: $0

All passes can be purchased online or at any of the visitor centers, campgrounds, at many gift shops in the area or simply pay the fee at the Cadillac Mountain entrance station.

Pets are allowed in Acadia National Park, but must be kept on a leash, so feel free to bring your furry four-legged friends.

© 2019 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 20, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy. It’s a beautiful area and certainly worth visiting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 20, 2020:

Thanks for writing about this beautiful spot in Acadia National Park. I have never made it that far up the east coast. It is definitely on my bucket wish list. Your photos and descriptions will undoubtedly lure many more visitors to Cadillac Mountain.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 10, 2019:

Thank you, Umesh, glad you enjoyed it.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 10, 2019:

Well presented. Elaborate. Thanks.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 10, 2019:

Thank you Heidi. It’s a beautiful area, you would enjoy it. The fall is an especially nice time to visit with the changing foliage. Have a great day.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on November 10, 2019:

I have some online friends who live in ME and VT area. I have got to get there someday to see these lovely sites like you've shown here. Cheers!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 09, 2019:

Hi Chuck. Acadia can get crowded especially when there is a cruise ship in port. We were there during a pretty busy time of year and had no problem parking or driving around the park. Bar Harbor can get very crowded but there is so much more to Acadia. Cadillac Mountain is a must visit when you go, the views are stunning . Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Chuck Nugent from Tucson, Arizona on November 09, 2019:

Great Hub and beautiful pictures. After reading this I regret not visiting Arcadia National Park last year. My wife and I flew to New York a year ago this past September for the wedding of one of our nieces. I grew up in New York state and have relatives there and in the surrounding states. Among other relatives we visited one of my cousins and his wife who live in Maine. I thought of going to Arcadia NP but hesitated after reading an article about traffic congestion and lack of sufficient parking and, while I hesitated, my wife saw a picture of the Toronto skyline from a boat on the lake and that resulted in our heading to Toronto (and Niagara Falls which I had seen many times both day and with the lights at night but she had only seen them once in daytime). Thanks to your article we will visit Arcadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain the next time we visit out east. Again, this was a great Hub.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 05, 2019:

Thank you, Linda. It really is a beautiful place to visit and very easy to get to. The top of the mountain is very open so you get great views in every direction.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2019:

This looks like another great place to visit. Your description of the caution needed while driving near a steep drop and the lovely views at the end of the drive reminded me of a popular mountain near my home. I think the drive that you describe would be very worthwhile. I'd love to explore Cadillac Mountain.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 03, 2019:

Hi Flourish. It is worth a visit, just a beautiful place. You know how it works, you live near a site, but never visit because it’s close by and you can go anytime. And then years later you realize that you never made it there. Have a great week.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 03, 2019:

Thank you Pam. You would love Maine. In the fall it’s beautiful with the colorful foliage. Have a great week.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 03, 2019:

How beautiful! I used to live in Augusta but never visited here. Looks like I missed a good site.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 03, 2019:

Cadillac Mountain looks beautiful and you gave us all the details for a perfect visit. Maine is one of the very few states I hav never visited, but I would like to travel there, particularly in autumn when the leaves are so beautiful.