How Long To Hike Cadillac Mountain In Acadia National Park, Maine

Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the East Coast of the United States. At 1,530 feet, it draws people to the 47,000-acres of Acadia National Park. Despite the park being relatively small by US standards, the desire to see the views from the top of Cadillac Mountain makes it one of the top-10 most visited US national parks. But how long does the hike take?

Hiking Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park can take 2-5 hours, depending on a person’s fitness level and route selected. Those that drive up the mountain to take the .4-mile wheelchair-accessible Cadillac Summit Loop should budget 30 minutes. However, you may need to book ahead for the loop.

The summit of Cadillac Mountain provides sweeping views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands. Glaciers carved this area, gouging the granite, creating a unique landscape of what is now a collapsed volcano. Thus, people don’t come to Cadillac Mountain just to say they’ve been to the top but also to take in the magnificent sight, especially at sunrise. 

How Much Time To Hike Cadillac Mountain?

Hiking Cadillac Mountain is done on three main routes:

The Summit Loop Trail is the shortest, easiest, and most accessible. The South Ridge is the longest, most strenuous, but the most scenic. You will need around 30 minutes to do the Summit Loop, as even if you are a fast walker, the crowds will slow you down. The ridge trails take between 2-5 hours, depending on fitness, weather conditions, and breaks.

Please be aware that there is no transportation at the summit for ridge hikers to be taken back down. Therefore, those hiking up will need to return to the bottom using their own boots.

How Much Time To Hike Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop Trail?

The Cadillac Mountain Loop is a mostly level paved .4-mile path providing summit views. It is wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers. To reach the loop, visitors must drive up 3.5 miles up the windy Park Loop Road to Reach the Cadillac Summit Road. Please note RVs and trailers are not allowed on the Cadillac summer road.

Due to traffic and congestion, both the drive and the parking will take longer than the distance would typically require. In addition, people often spend time at the gift shop, where the restrooms are located. Thus, the entire outing will take much longer than the 30-minute walk along the path.

How Much Time To Hike Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail?

The Cadillac North Ridge Trail takes an average hiker 2.5 hours to do the 4.4 miles up and back. However, depending on factors, it can take some up to 4 hours.

 The Cadillac North Ridge Trail is a moderate route that can be hiked with a headlamp for those wishing to use the path to witness the famous Cadillac Mountain sunrises and sunsets. The trail is rocky, with granite slopes, and does have some stairs. If done in ice conditions, the terrain will require a slightly higher skill level.

Those hiking in daylight will enjoy the scenic views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the Schoodic Peninsula.

The Cadillac North Ridge Trail has two starting points:

  • From the Island Explorer bus stop, take Kebo Brook Trail for .1 miles, then turn right up the stone stairs. Up top, cross the road, and you will join the Cadillac North Ridge Trail.
  • Just after Sand Beach’s one-way section starts, there is a pull-off on the left side with limited parking. From here, cross the road to join up with the Cadillac North Ridge Trail.

The National Parks Service recommends the first option.

How Much Time To Hike Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail?

The 7.5 mile Cadillac South Ridge Trail is the longest and the most challenging summit trail option. It takes hikers around the same time as the South Ridge. However, if conditions are poor, it can take up to 5 hours.

This route is beautiful and includes a pond with a bench along the way. There are incredible views of the forest and the ocean. There tends to be a bit more wildlife on this route, including frogs.  

There is an exposed granite section, and excellent hiking boots are a must. Pets are permitted to join in so long as they are leashed. However, some dogs find the rocky, steep sections hard, so do not take an inexperienced pet.

What’s The Best Time Of Year To Hike Cadillac Mountain?

The best time of year to hike Cadillac Mountain is October 7 – March 6 for those wishing to be the “first” to see the sunrise on the continental United States. Those wishing to drive up the loop to witness the event are advised to arrive 1-2 hours early, as parking is difficult during sunrise and sunset throughout the year.

Those wishing to drive up the Cadillac Summit Road from May 25 – to October 22 will also need to book a reservation and secure their entrance pass. You can secure your slot as early as February 25. Nearly a third of all reservations are made 90 days in advance.

Thus, what time of the year is best depends on your personal goals. If you want to hike during less crowded periods, visit outside of Mary – October, avoiding sunrise and sunset. However, conditions may be icy, and those doing the ridge trails will require the correct gear and skills.

What’s The Best Time In The Week To Hike Cadillac Mountain?

Hikers will find it easier and safer to hike mid-week than on the weekends. There are slippery and narrow sections on the ridge trails, and navigating these is harder when there are more people. Thus, if your schedule allows, try to avoid hiking Cadillac on the weekends and national holidays.

Conclusion

Cadillac Mountain has a summit hike to suit anyone. However, book ahead if you need to use the most accessible path at the top. Those hiking the ridge routes will need excellent footwear and a headlamp if doing the sunrise or sunset hikes. Visitors will have the most elbow room if they come during the mid-week. Happy hiking, and enjoy the science views.