Looking for a hard hike in Acadia? Want to climb the highest peak on Mount Desert Island and along the entire Eastern Seaboard? Look no further than the Cadillac Mountain hike!
At 4.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,128 feet, the Cadillac North Ridge Trail will not disappoint. Get your AllTrails queued up to track some fun!
About Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain is a popular and well-known mountain located within Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. At 1530 feet tall, it is the highest point in the park! The top of the mountain offers stunning views of a glaciated coastal and island landscape.
What makes this mountain so special is it’s the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Because of this, it is the first place to see the sunrise in the United States in the winter! People travel from all over to get the first glimpse of the sunrise in the country.
If you choose to do the sunrise hike, keep in mind that you will be doing the hike in the dark! Make sure you have headlamps and flashlights to make your way up the mountain. The hike in the dark is completely worth it though!
Where to Park
Be sure to get to the trail head early. Parking off the road does fill up quickly! I arrived to the North Ridge Trail head around 9am after breakfast and there wasn’t a spot left!
On Google Maps, just search ‘Cadillac North Ridge Trail Parking’. This is the closest parking available to the Cadillac North Ridge trailhead. The parking is going to be off of Park Loop Road.
Note, this portion of Park Loop Road is one way. If you cannot find parking, you will have to go all the way around to get back to the beginning of the trail.
To the unfortunate (or those who want extra steps), I was able to parallel park off of Paradise Hill Road near Cadillac Entrance Road. I parked just off of the Route 233 Bridge. There is a connecting trail that will cut through the woods to get to the trailhead.
If you still struggle to find parking, I recommend parking at the Welcome Center parking lot. From the Welcome Center parking lot, you can pick up a free shuttle that will drop you off. Be sure to take the Loop Road shuttle. This shuttle tends to make stops at all of the hiking trailheads upon request!
The Cadillac Mountain Hike
The Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead starts shaded. However, a majority of the North Ridge Trail is exposed to the sun. This made hiking on a warmer day a little more difficult.
The Cadillac North Ridge Trail is also narrower than the South Ridge Trail. Be sure to be courteous of those passing in opposite directions. For the first half of the trail, you will have to make sure to pull off to the side to let the opposite traffic pass.
The hike through Great Hill (633 feet) is gradual and wooded. After Great Hill, the trail picks up steepness and has very little tree cover. There are significant portions of the North Trail that require scrambling up the steep rocks versus a conventional dirt trail.
Shortly after Great Hill, the North Ridge Trail also follows the Cadillac Summit Road for the majority of the remaining steep ascent. Although the North Ridge Trail does parallel the car road, it does remain quiet for the majority of the hike. The exception comes when one of the tourists are thumping their bass all the way to the summit.
Scenic Overlooks Along The Hike
As you quickly gain altitude paralleling the car road, there are a number of scenic overlooks with some steep drop offs. Below is one of the overlooks not far from the summit. In the distance, you can see beautiful Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. My daughter Magnolia was of course knocked out for her easy ride to the summit.
After another mile of walking along the ledges after this scenic overlook, there is a fairly steep, granite staircase that will take you to the parking lot. The staircase is fairly short in distance. However, after doing 2.5 miles with a baby, it definitely got me winded!
A short walk across the parking lot will take you to the Cadillac Mountain summit. Be sure to take a left at the top of the stairs to get there. If you need the bathrooms or want a snack, be sure to continue straight through the parking lot.
The summit of Cadillac Mountain features a gift shop. I got myself an ice cream sandwich and turkey sandwich. It hit the spot! Be sure to read the signs along the way to the gift shop. It will give you some history into what the gift shop was in prior years!
Why Hike Cadillac Mountain
For starters, you can have bragging rights of doing the tallest mountain along the East Coast. Second, the North Ridge Trail offers a modest hike to burn some calories. I was able to get two times my daily calorie goal on the hike itself 🙂 Plus, this is a must do if visiting Acadia National Park.
There is not a bad view from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Whether you decide to hike the mountain during the day or during the night, this hike will not disappoint. I have always been one to do night hikes for a beautiful sunrise. Just be sure to bring some layers!
Given Cadillac Mountain is a popular destination, be sure to get there early. Otherwise, you may be walking an extra mile or two!
Frequently Asked Questions
It took me 2 hours and 27 minutes to hike the North Ridge Trail in and out. According to my splits, it took me a little over an hour to get up. That takes into account some of the extra walking I had to do before getting to the trail head!
This was with a 14 pound baby on me and a two liter pouch of water on my back. I saw some people do the trail considerably quicker (running) and some took longer! Take your time and watch your step.
I also hiked on a 90+ degree heat day. I was a little slower than usual!
AllTrails ranks the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail as ‘hard’. However, this was a leisurely hike for myself and daughter to do together! I saw plenty of families with smaller children doing the hike! There are certainly much tougher hikes to do in Acadia National Park.
The Cadillac South Ridge Trail would be the easier trail to the summit. Ranked as ‘moderate’ on AllTrails. The only difference is this hike is 1.5 miles longer in and out, so prepare for a longer hike!