The splendor of a mountain is only surpassed by another mountain that is on the coast. Cadillac Mountain, on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, provides the awe that causes us to pause long enough so that we have to remember to breathe. When we actually see the first light of dawn dancing across the tops of waves and islands and then feel the warmth of the rays touching our faces with hands unseen, we meld into the splendor as if we were part of the same glorious unfolding of nature. When visiting Acadia National Park, we actually are.
Cadillac Mountain, at 1,532 feet, is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place in the United States to be touched by the light of a rising sun from October 7 through March 6 of each year. It is the only mountain on Mount Desert Island that has a road that travels all the way to the summit. There are over twenty mountains on the island. Their appearance was so notable that the explorer Samuel de Champlain, upon arriving here in September 1604, named the island Isle des Monts Desert - the Island of “barren mountains.”
The “bald” look of the “barren mountains” that Champlain described and the "sloping land" that the coastal Abnaki Indians referred to (see history page), was caused by ancient continental glaciers, 1-2 miles high in some areas, that sheared the tops of the mountains off and acted like giant scouring pads across the geographic terrain, leaving north-south gouges in the landscape. To view this, one only need to see a map of Mount Desert Island or fly high above in an aircraft of some kind.
Cadillac Mountain, as with several other areas on Mount Desert Island, is composed largely of pink granite. This is why there is a strong reddish appearance at sunrise or sunset when the light temperature has shifted to the warmer colors. The two of these combine to create often stunning color contrasts with the cooler sky colors.
The mountain tops are not quite as barren as Champlain observed. Spruce and pitch pine are the dominant trees on the mountain combined with tiny subalpine plants (such as cinquefoil), squat, gnarled trees, and wild blueberries. The blueberry plants are usually what has the deep reds during the fall. (see photo)
The Park Loop Road leads to Cadillac Mountain. The 3.5 mile road to the summit section officially opened in 1931. During the 1880s, there was a slow moving cog railway ride to the summit. This eventually stopped operation when it became apparent that the descent was faster than desired which had to be scarry indeed.
Photos: South View | Bar Harbor | Autumn | Summit Road | Sunset | Sunrise
Cadillac Mountain GPS Coordinates: Latitude 44.352643; Longitude -68.224610
Experience the Splenor of Cadillac Mountain