Acadia National Park: Cadillac Mountain
I usually avoid doing anything that requires me to wake up at 2AM. I’m a 9 hours of sleep a night kinda girl. But if you want to hike up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park for sunrise you have to make exceptions. Sunrise was at 4:48AM and the park ranger warned us that it might be especially crowed since it was the first day of summer. Undaunted we decided that the alarm would be set for 2:00AM. This way we had plenty of time to head to the trailhead, hike a bit over 2 miles, and get ourselves a good spot to view sunrise.
The previous evening we located the trailhead and walked the first quarter mile to get an idea of what the trail would be like. I also talked to a ranger at the Welcome Center about my trail choice, and he confirmed that it was a good one for hiking in the dark. We reached the North Ridge Trail at a little after 2:30AM and headed out on our adventure under a full moon. Normally this is where I talk about this cool view, or that awesome feature on the hike, but it was dark, so we didn’t see all that much. On occasion we did get into clearings and since it was a full moon we could see the outline of surrounding islands and the “Maine”land. That was pretty cool. Both Jayne and myself had our Black Diamond headlamps on and I also put my Luci Lantern on the back of my bag to help Jayne see me better.
As we neared the 1529ft summit of Cadillac Mountain the trees became much shorter and the wind tried to push us back down the trail. We were at the summit by 4:00AM, way earlier than we needed to be. A total of about 6 cars meant we could sit anywhere we wanted. I tried to find a place that blocked the wind a little bit. It was mildly successful in blocking some wind. Having the Term-A-Rest Sleeping Pad to sit on helped and we also used our ENO Hammock as a blanket. Sure enough more people showed up, mostly by car. I was a little jealous of their nice blankets, but kept reminding myself of the night hiking experience we had. Sunrise did not disappoint.
In the winter and fall the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the United States to see the sun. That’s not the case in the spring and summer, yet this doesn’t stop throngs of people from waking up at the crack of dawn to watch it. It didn’t take long for all of the people who drove up to head back to their cars and go about their day. We headed to the deck at the Gift Shop/Bathroom to get protection from the wind so I could boil water for breakfast. When the water was ready I poured it into our Good-to-Go pouch and we headed along a new trail.
To avoid doing an out and back hike we headed toward the Gorge Trail for our return trip. Part way down there was a perfect ledge to sit on and enjoy our breakfast of Good-to-Go Herbed Mushroom Risotto. Good-to-Go is the best camping food that you can buy. All you have to do is add boiling water and wait about 20 minutes to get a delicious meal. Risotto may not be your traditional breakfast but it hit the spot.
So back to that view. Yeah, the mountains of Acadia National Park all give you pretty sweet views. This is what I was looking at as I had breakfast. It was 100% worth the wicked early wake up time for this.
Soon enough our hike had us down in the gorge. The gorge itself was formed at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers started receding. I could be wrong but it also appeared that there had been some mining here in the past. From the picture you can see it was VERY rocky in there. We thought that it was going to be a rough hike through all of those boulders. Instead we were surprised to find that there was a path of flat rocks. I cannot begin to imagine all of the time and effort that went into making this trail.
Our return hike was 2.75 miles making our entire hike slightly under 5 miles. We got back to the car at 7:00AM, still earlier than I like to be awake on my days off. Instead of heading back to bed we decided to seize the day and make the most of the longest day of the year. It was time to coffee up and explore more of the park on the Park Loop Road.
- Don’t expect to have the summit of Cadillac to yourself. It is probably the most popular hike and there is a road to the summit.
- Hike up Cadillac first and if you have time you can drive up it later if you want.
- Remember that it will probably be windier at the summit than at the trailhead. Pack appropriately.
- Talk to a National Park Ranger and ask them for their suggestions.
Check back on 7/8 for Part 3 – Hiking Flying Mountain, Acadia’s smallest mountain