TRIP REPORT: Cadillac Mountain via The Ladder Trail – Acadia NP, ME 7-3-16
Hiking stats at a glance:
Trailhead: Lot off Rt 3 in between The Tarn and Sieur de Monts park entrance.
Hike Highlights: Cadillac Mountain , Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail
For our second day in the park we decided to go with a hike of Cadillac Mountain via the ladder trail and then loop back down via the Gorge Trail. Cadillac is the tallest and most popular mountain in the park but most people only experience it by driving to the top but of course we had to hike up to the summit the harder way! We decided to start from the trailhead along Rt 3 which is between The Tarn and the Sieur de Monts park entrance. From here we took the ladder trail up and over Dorr Mountain and then on to Cadillac.
Once we parked we gathered up our gear and headed down the trail towards the pond, aka The Tarn.
The Tarn is just through the trees at the end of the parking lot and it is really a beautiful spot all on its own. From here we took the trail down and around the pond (on the opposite side of the road). Alternately you can start at a parking lot on the other side of The Tarn but we thought this would be a more interesting option and also split the difference distance wise on the way back.
The trail leading around the pond is very rocky but you can tell a lot of work went into making it as smooth as possible. It was a pleasant section of trail which then lead us back into the woods on the other side. From here we quickly reached the junction for the start of the Ladder trail.
Although the Ladder Trail does have a couple of ladders a more apt name would really be the “Staircase Trail” as the trail is really just a mile long series of stone staircases. It was not a “hard” trail per say but was more like doing a hard session on the stairmaster at the gym. That aside near the top are some fun elements and exposed cliffs which make for a fun hike overall. The slab at the very top was also quite fun.
Before too long we finally reached the top of the many stone staircases and had our first decent views of the valley below us. The views here just like everywhere else in Acadia are pretty incredible.
Once we got close to the top of the steepest cliffs we reached a trail junction with the Dorr Mountain Ridge Trail which is an alternate way up that avoids the steepest sections we had just climbed. We hung a left at the junction and kept on our way towards Dorr Mountain.
Another short section of woods brought us out to the final slabs on the side of Dorr Mountain. This section was short but pretty cool and offered some really great views.
After the short slab section we reached the summit of Dorr Mountain which was mostly wooded with short spruce trees but did offer obstructed views of the surrounding area.
From here we also got our first view of Cadillac Mountain in the distance and could see quite a few people milling about on the summit even from this vantage.
The trail down into the col between Dorr and Cadillac was fairly steep but it was short so it didn’t take us too long to make it back down to the bottom of the col.
Once we reached the col we reached the junction for Cadillac and the Gorge Trail which we planned to take on the way back down. We didn’t linger long and kept making our way onto Cadillac.
The last stretch of trail up to Cadillac was pretty steep but short and involved a little bit of scrambling over rocky sections before finally topping out on the rocky summit.
The summit itself is quite large and holds a parking lot in addition to a gift shop and other facilities which for me personally detracts from the wilderness experience but going by the crowds a lot of people certainly don’t mind. Despite the crowd the views were still pretty fantastic from this vantage point.
We didn’t linger very long before heading back down the trail to somewhere a bit less busy. We stopped for a bit along the cliffs to enjoy a snack and the view in relative quiet before making the final hike back down the Gorge Trail to the car. The Gorge trail turned out to be really pretty beautiful and very different from the rest of the trails we had hiked while in Acadia. Unfortunately the lighting at the time and the pictures I took do not really do a great job of capturing the atmosphere on that particular stretch of trail.
The trail itself is easy to follow and is similar to the Ladder trail in that it is mostly a series of stone steps laid out the entire way. A small brook runs along the trail and there are several sections where short cliffs rise up to either side of the trail creating a cool atmosphere. I would be happy to go back and hike this section of trail again anytime.
After we exited the Gorge Trail we had to follow a bit of a maze of trails that run around the Nature Center which is right next to where we had parked. We followed the signs for the Jesup Trail which lead us right back to the side of The Tarn and our trailhead. It was a pretty easy process on smooth carriage roads and we only had to look at the map once or twice. Although even if we took the wrong the trail we would of ended up in roughly the same place eventually anyway.
The hike overall was very enjoyable and a good way to spend a few hours. The summit of Cadillac was a little bit of a bummer because of the crowds but the rest of the hike definitely made up for it. I think next time I would like to go back and make the hike a bit longer by adding on some additional objectives. At the end of the day the views were beautiful and I would be happy to come back again to experience them.