Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. From the closest parking area, the Bubbles Parking Lot, the hike — out and back — is 3.6 miles. The first part of the hike, between the Bubbles and around the north end of Jordan Pond, is fairly easy. Then the hike becomes increasingly difficult as it climbs the mountain on Deer Brook Trail and the steep East Cliffs Trail. Both trails include hundreds of granite and wood stairs, as well as rocky sections where footing can be tricky.
Though the East Cliffs Trail does not include any rungs, ropes or ladders, it’s steep enough to be difficult for most dogs. Keep in mind that several other trails lead to the top of Sargent Mountain and may be a better choice if you’re hiking with a dog or if you simply don’t enjoy steep trails. These trails can also be used to form a loop hike so you don’t have to descend the steep East Cliffs Trail.
How to get there: Drive onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3, and after the causeway, veer left to drive toward Bar Harbor on Route 3. Drive 7.7 miles, then turn right to enter the park at the Hulls Cove Entrance on Paradise Hill Road. Drive a few hundred feet and you’ll come to a stop sign. Turn left onto Park Loop Road (labeled as Paradise Hill Road on Google Maps). Drive 5.9 mile and park in the Bubbles Divide Parking Lot, which will be on your right.
Most of Park Loop Road is closed annually December through April 14. During that time, you can start your hike at the Jordan Pond House Parking Lot. This will add 1.6 (easy) miles to the hike because it will require you to walk the length of Jordan Pond. To get there, drive to the town of Seal Harbor, then take Jordan Pond Road into the park. Turn left onto Park Loop Road and drive 0.5 mile to Jordan Pond House Parking Lot, which will be on your left.
Information: Rising 1,373 feet above sea level, Sargent Mountain is the second tallest mountain on MDI and has recently achieved a certain degree of fame among Maine’s birding community as hunting grounds for migrating snowy owls in the winter. Located northwest of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, the mountain can be hiked by a number of different trails.
While Sargent Mountain is a beautiful hiking location that offers stunning views of the island, some Acadia visitors may overlook it because there is no Sargent Mountain Parking Lot. To reach the mountain, you have to plan a short approach route on carriage roads or park trails. The closest parking lot to the mountain is the Bubbles Divide Parking Lot. From there, the quickest route to the summit of Sargent Mountain is 1.8 miles and includes four trails, ending with the 0.8-mile East Cliffs Trail.
From the parking lot, the hike starts on the Bubbles Divide Trail, which leads between the mountains North Bubble and South Bubble through a rocky, mixed forest and ends at the shore of Jordan Pond, which is known as one of the clearest bodies of water in Maine. There, turn right and walk about 0.1 mile on the wide, smooth Jordan Pond Path around the north end of the pond. After crossing a scenic, wooden footbridge, you’ll find the Deer Brook Trail on your right. Here you leave the pond behind to follow the Deer Brook Trail uphill on a series of granite and wood steps. Tumbling downhill to your right is the brook that the trail is named after.
After about 0.2 mile of steady climbing up Deer Brook Trail, the trail crosses the brook twice on stepping stones just below the beautiful, stone Deer Brook Bridge. The trail then climbs to a carriage road and crosses it, re-entering the woods on the opposite side. The trail continues to climb for about 0.1 mile, up a series of interesting wooden stairs and an exceptionally rocky stretch, to the trailhead of East Cliffs Trail, which will be on your right.
The East Cliffs Trail heads steeply up a rocky slope and soon arrives at a nice view to the east that includes the north end of Jordan Pond, North Bubble, South Bubble, and beyond that, Pemetic Mountain.
From this first open view, the trail continues to climb steeply up the mountain over rocky terrain that requires hand-over-foot climbing in a few places. It’s not long before you’re hiking over bare granite covered with green lichen. Following rock piles called cairns, be sure to stay on trail to avoid trampling delicate alpine plants as you near the summit of the mountain.
The summit is marked with a sign posted in a large rock pile, and near that is another signpost with wooden arrow signs that point toward the different trails that meet at that spot.
All trail intersections are marked with these types of signs in Acadia, and the trails are marked with blue painted blazes and cairns. Trails are also clearly labeled on park trail maps, which are always wise to carry with you on a hike.
At the summit, a view to the west opens up for the first time. This view includes Somes Sound, and Acadia and St. Sauveur mountains.
Dogs are permitted on these trails but must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times and are not permitted to swim in Jordan Pond.
During the off season, the closest open parking area to East Cliffs Trail is the Jordan Pond House Parking Lot, which is at the south end of Jordan Pond. Therefore, you’ll need to hike the length of the pond on the smooth, wide Jordan Pond Path to reach Deer Brook Trail. If you hike along the pond’s east edge, it will be a 1.8-mile hike to Deer Brook Trail; and if you hike along the pond’s west edge, it will be 1.5 miles. So, if you do all of the math (something I’m loathe to do), you’ll be adding at least an additional 1.6 miles to the hike during the off season.
All park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry to Acadia from May through October. Park pass costs vary, but most people purchase the $25 private vehicle pass, which is valid for 7 days. You can also purchase an annual vehicle pass for $50. For more information about Acadia, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, visit www.nps.gov/acad or call 288-3338.
Personal note: In the past five years, I’ve hiked in Acadia National Park many times. In fact, when I searched the park trail map last week for a hike, I realized there were only a few mountains I hadn’t climbed, and one of them was Sargent Mountain — the second tallest mountain in the park.
It seemed odd to me. Why hadn’t I thought to hike Sargent Mountain it yet? As I studied the trail map, the answer quickly came to me. Sargent Mountain doesn’t have its own trailhead. Hiking it isn’t exactly straightforward. To get to the mountain, you have to start at a trailhead that is named after another mountain or feature in the park, such as The Bubbles.
But that doesn’t mean the hike up Sargent Mountain has to be particularly long or complicated, I realized. So on Thursday, Oct. 27, I arrived at the Bubbles Parking Lot with my dog, Oreo, with a plan to hike Sargent Mountain on the East Cliffs Trail. Though the temperature was chilly — in the low 40s — the sunshine felt warm on my face. It had been a gloomy week, and I was glad to see blue skies.
During the hike, we passed by several other hikers, but the trail traffic was nothing compared to what is in the summertime or peak foliage season. Oreo was the only dog on the trail that day, and now I know why. He struggled on the steep rocky sections of the trail, but he made it through with a little encouragement and the occasional boost. If he’d been any less fearless or agile, I don’t think we would have made it.
A few especially scenic spots on the hike stand out in my memory. The first is the wooden footbridge spanning a brook at the north end of Jordan Pond. This spot is a great place to stop and watch for wildlife. In fact, while sitting at the summit of Sargent Mountain that day, a fellow hiker told me that a pair of loons had nested and raised their young within sight of that bridge this past spring.
Another beautiful stretch of the hike was just below Deer Brook Bridge, where the Deer Brook Trail crosses the water on the stepping stones and the stone bridge looms overhead.
And the final spot I especially enjoyed was where Oreo and I stopped to take a water break at the first overlook on the East Cliffs Trail. At the edge of a steep rock slope, we sat and enjoyed the late fall colors, the sun shining through illuminating the yellow and deep orange leaves still clinging to the trees.