Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park


Acadia National Park’s centerpiece is the highest mountain on Mount Desert Island: Cadillac Mountain.  At just 1,528 feet (470 meters), Cadillac Mountain is by no means an alpine peak.  If you’re used to summiting 14’ers in Colorado, a hill that barely breaks the fifteen-hundred mark won’t look very impressive, at least on paper.

But Cadillac Mountain is quite a stand-out, mostly because those 1,528 feet rise up quickly from sea level.  Once you’re at the easily-reached summit, you’re treated to a view of rolling hills, an ocean, islands and bays.  No 14’er can deliver all of that.

I decided to start one of my days in Acadia National Park atop Cadillac Mountain.  My plan was to rise early — something that’s not always fun to do on a vacation.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had the idea.

Dozens of people were already at the summit of Cadillac Mountain when I arrived.  Most of them were setting up tripods.  I’m fairly certain that some of them were the same folks I had seen the night before at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  Once again, I was squeezing in between professionals, trying to find the best view.

I found my spot — one with a nice view of Bar Harbor…

… and a shot directly east, to watch for the rising sun.

One thing I hadn’t counted on, is how amazingly bitterly cold it was before sunrise.  Also, since Cadillac Mountain is the highest point around, there isn’t anything to stop a howling wind from assaulting the top of the hill.  I would guess that the temperature was just slightly above freezing (in early October).  A long-sleeved t-shirt and a hoodie weren’t enough to fend off the wind.  My hands took turns — one bracing the camera, while the other hid in my pocket.  Both were numb.  I drew the string on my hoodie, leaving only my eyes and nose exposed.  Sunrise couldn’t come quickly enough.

But of course, it arrived just on schedule.  I looked out over the Schoodic Peninsula (also part of Acadia, but not attached directly to Mount Desert Island).  Some beams of light pushed through the clouds on the horizon…

… then the sun itself appeared…

… bringing to light the rocky surface of Cadillac’s mountaintop.

Suddenly I could see more of my surroundings.  I packed up my tripod and walked the short loop that circles around the top of Cadillac Mountain.

There are plenty of good views to be enjoyed, as the morning light warms the rocks.

After finishing the trail, then cranking up the heat in my car…

… I made the beautiful descent down Cadillac Mountain.  This road connects with the park loop road, not far from Route 233.  Downtown Bar Harbor isn’t far away, either.

The road provides the easiest way to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain, but if you’re in the mood for something more challenging, you can also hike to the top.  Trails leave from the loop road and from Bubble Pond.  You can also extend your hike up the slightly lower Dorr Mountain to include the top of Cadillac.

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