Loving Nature on Mount Desert Island
Take a day hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain
Mar 12, 2020 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do by
Some people think that Acadia National Park makes up all of Mt. Desert Island. It actually makes up about half of this renowned island in Maine, the second largest in the Atlantic Ocean off of the east coast of the United States. For many, it is the whole reason for coming here. But once here, people discover that the rest of the island has also been graced by Mother Nature’s omnipotent hand and that in fact all of the island–with a total surface area of just over one hundred square miles–seizes the senses with an extraordinary beauty all year long. (Most people, however, come here during the fair weather season. And in July and August, they come in droves.)
It’s no wonder Acadia National Park, the first national park in the eastern United States, established in 1919, ranks second in popularity to Yellowstone National Park. When you consider how remote this far-reaching northeast corner of the United States is, that’s truly remarkable. Yet when you arrive, you discover why.
As the name indicates, Mt. Desert Island is about mountains and the sea. The name might lead you to think there’s only one summit when in fact there are eighteen. At 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest and it also happens to be the tallest along the whole North Atlantic seaboard. Close your eyes and imagine the vistas it guarantees. You can drive up the 3.5-mile narrow access road to the top or hike up the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. Go chill and be prepared to creep along some at certain times because this is the only site within Acadia National Park that can be reached by a vehicle. It also has the distinction of being the first place to view the sun rise in the U.S. from October through March, so you can bet that people head up here before the crack of dawn–a good part of the year actually. Taking a narrated bus tour with Acadia National Park Tours is a great way to go.
And what’s with the name? The French explorer Samuel de Champlain dubbed it “Ile de Monts Deserts,” which translates into island of desert mountains. Note how the peaks are barren, or desert-like. As with much of the rest of the central to northern part of the U.S. and a good part of Canada, the French held claim to this land for centuries. (Up until 1713, it was part of French Acadia.) What you most need to know today is that the word desert in Mt. Desert Island is pronounced like dessert. You’re welcome from sparing you from that gaff.
Throughout much of the island, the mountains and precipitous slopes plunge into the sea offering dramatic scenery at most every turn. Within the park, you can hike or bike along old carriage roads that offer many Instagramable moments. In winter, you’ll want to do this on skis or in snowshoes surrounded by a glittering blanket of white. Ice climbing is also big here and in general, climbing enthusiasts rejoice among the rock faces of the island. As is indicated on your Discovery Map, there are many super cool places of interest along the way–particularly along the island’s craggy coast–including Sand Beach (well, not so craggy here), Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs. No matter what season, make sure you bring lots of water, snacks and warm clothing for your outing.
For travel all around the island, consider taking a free ride on the Island Explorer. With ten different routes offered (throughout the fair-weather season), there’s a good chance it will be able to take you where you want to go.
Touring out on the water is tops on Mt. Desert Island and fortunately there’s a boatload of ways to do it. Athletic types enjoy being outfitted by National Park Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals, Coastal Kayaking Tours and Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Remember that in addition to the open sea, there’s a slew of ponds, inlets and inland waterways to explore.
There’s nothing like a relaxing sail to help you to unwind and connect with the serenity of the sea. Take a tour with Sail Acadia or Downeast Sailing Adventures if you don’t have a sailboat of your own. Wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the scenic nature tours offered by the Sea Princess, a company that has been conducting tours on the Maine coast since 1968. They feature a couple of Acadia National Park cruises as well as a Somes Sound Fjord Cruise. (A fjord is a long, deep, narrow inlet of the sea surrounded by steep cliffs. The one here is considered to be the only fjord on the east coast of the United States.)
Out on the open seas, you can learn much about lobstering with Lulu Lobster Boat Rides and Acadia Lobster Cruise. Acadian Boat Tours organizes fishing trips and nature cruises. And don’t forget about the whale watching, which is plentiful in the area during the summer season. Check out Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. for a thrilling excursion.
Visiting this magical part of the world by air is especially breathtaking. Contact Acadia Air Tours or Scenic Flights of Acadia to book an unforgettable adventure.
If you want to be a responsible visitor, use a bike as your main source of transportation on the island. Pedaling about is also the best way to feel the brisk breeze on your face, taste the salty mist around your lips, see the grasses waving in the marshlands and hear the marine life squawking by the beach and within the interior of the island. Acadia Bike in Bar Harbor or Island Bike Rental in Northwest Harbor can set you up just fine. And best of all, you’ll burn lots of calories while touring, enough to prime you for one of the many luscious lobster rolls and fries you can conjure up along the way.