Hiking Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park

Our journey up Cadillac Mountain; the highest peak on the North Atlantic seaboard

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For most people, Cadillac Mountain is the first thing that pops into their head when they hear of Acadia National Park. And rightfully so! Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak in all of Acadia National Park. In fact, it is the highest peak in the entire North Atlantic seaboard as well! Rising 1,530 feet above sea level, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the entire United States that you are able to view the sunrise. It offers stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges, the rocky shoreline, and the various small islands surrounding Mount Desert Island.

Hiking Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park

Visiting Cadillac Mountain

Two main options exist for visiting the peak of Cadillac Mountain. The first, most popular option, is driving to the top via Cadillac Summit Road. This three mile long route has several scenic lookout stops along the way, and ends at a parking lot at the peak of Cadillac Mountain. However, in order to utilize the Cadillac Summit Road, advance reservation tickets MUST be purchased per vehicle PRIOR to your arrival. No tickets are sold at the entrance gate. Tickets cost $6 per vehicle. No RV’s, buses, or trailers are allowed, and your vehicle must be under 21 feet in length, including any bike racks or other storage racks you may have. To learn more about driving to the peak of Cadillac Mountain, click HERE.

The other option to experience the views atop Cadillac Mountain is to hike to the top, which is exactly what we did! With our bus being our only means of transportation at Acadia National Park, we were unable to drive up Cadillac Summit Road. Honestly, looking back, I think this was the greatest blessing in disguise! Hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain was a challenging, yet relatively short hike that was filled with stunning views and gorgeous sights of nature at every turn.

Summit of Cadillac Mountain overlooking rocky outcrops dotted with pine trees, the ocean is in the background with various small islands
View at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park; July 2021

Hiking Cadillac Mountain

We started our 4.5 mile hike up Cadillac Mountain at Gorge Path trailhead, right off of the Park Loop Road. There is a parking lot here, but it is very small. Thankfully, we didn’t have any problem getting a spot. I do believe that most people tend to start this hike earlier in the day, and were probably finished by the time we arrived at two in the afternoon.

As with many of the trails at Acadia National Park, the trails leading to the summit of Cadillac Mountain are pet friendly. However, please be aware that this hike is not easy, and has several areas of scrambling up rock faces and climbing through boulder fields. We did decide to bring Boone on this hike with us. He enjoyed the hike immensely and did well. Boone is an extremely athletic and agile dog, which is important for this hike. He wore these boots, which helped him with traction on the slippery rock. We also enjoy this pack, and wish we had brought it on this hike with us. A harness or pack would be highly recommended to assist your dog with the rocky areas of terrain.

Woman walking dog along rocky path in woods up Cadillac Mountain
Hiking at Gorge Path trailhead, Acadia National Park; July 2021

Starting at the Gorge Path trailhead, you follow the stairs down alongside the bridge. There you continue along the trail through the woods and across a small stream. Then, you meet the intersection with the Hemlock Trail, and continue straight.

Rocky path through woods leading up Cadillac Mountain
The Gorge Trail steepens as the hike progresses, Acadia National Park; July 2021

This is where the fun part begins! The trail gradually begins ascending along the gorge walls, and soon becomes steep and rocky. You will find yourself scrambling up the boulder field, with some sections having steps carved into the rock face. Along the way you pass a small waterfall feeding the smaller streams below.

Small rocky waterfall in woods emptying into a small pool of water
Small waterfall while hiking up Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park; July 2021

The trail finally begins leveling out and exits the dense woods. You will come across the intersection of the Cadillac-Dorr Connector Trail. Turn right to continue along the Gorge Trail, where you will then meet the Cadillac Summit Loop.

Woman stands with hands on hips facing away from the camera looking down from a mountain over lush green trees, across the ocean dotted with small islands
Near the peak of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park; July 2021

Congratulations, you did it! You reached the summit of Cadillac Mountain! Take a minute to give yourselves a pat on the back (and a good pat for your furry friend as well!). The views at the top are absolutely breathtaking. Every minute of the grueling hike are suddenly worth it! Make sure you take the time to walk around the summit, as the views of the rocky shoreline and scattered islands change dramatically. We actually spotted a pod of whales near the shore through binoculars!

Summit of Cadillac Mountain; rocky outcrops mixed with pine trees and brush are in view; the ocean below is dotted with small islands
Summit views from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park; July 2021
Woman and dog standing atop Cadillac Mountain looking out towards the ocean and the forest below
The views were worth the hike!
Woman, man, and dog are standing on rocky ledge on the top of Cadillac Mountain

Final Thoughts

We absolutely loved hiking Cadillac Mountain, and whenever we return to Acadia National Park, we plan to do it again! The entire hike, including our time spent taking in the incredible views, took our family about four hours to complete. Although the hike is only about 4.5 miles long, it can be rather challenging at times. The elevation becomes steep quickly, and the rocks can be slippery, especially if there has been any recent rain.

Next time we do this hike, Boone will be wearing either his pack or a harness. There were several sections of the hike that he needed assistance with climbing large rocks.

Although it would have been incredible to see the sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain, this is not a hike I would recommend in the dark, unless you have the proper gear to do so. Even during the daytime, all three of us were very thankful for the stability and grip our hiking boots provided us.

With some of the most stunning vistas in all of Acadia National Park, I would put Cadillac Mountain at the top of your must-do list while visiting. Whether you make a reservation and drive to the top, or take the challenge and hike it, it is an experience you will not want to miss!

Make sure to check out my full guide of Acadia National Park!

Have you ever been to the top of Cadillac Mountain? Did you drive to the summit, or did you hike?

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