1-minute hike: Dorr Mountain in Acadia National Park

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. At 1,270 feet above sea level, Dorr Mountain is the third tallest mountain on Mount Desert Island. Multiple trails lead to its top, including the Ladder Trail, which includes rungs and metal ladders, making it an unsuitable route for dogs. Regardless of which trail you take, expect rocky terrain and a steep, steady climb. The shortest route to the top of the mountain, out and back, is just under 3 miles.

How to get there: Take Route 3 across the causeway onto Mount Desert Island. After the causeway, veer left at the fork in the road and drive 11.3 miles to downtown Bar Harbor. At the intersection with Route 233, turn left to remain on Route 3 (Mount Desert Street). At 11.8 miles (from the causeway), turn right to remain on Route 3 (Main Street). And at 13.9 miles (from the causeway), turn right into the Sieur de Monts Entrance. Drive about 0.1 mile, then turn left and follow signs around the loop to find the parking area.

The summit sign

Information: Historic hiking trails made up of hundreds of granite steps lead steeply up Dorr Mountain, a peak named after “Father of Acadia” George B. Dorr. This mountain features some of the most impressive trail engineering in the Acadia National Park, and from its summit, hikers are rewarded a 360-degree view of Mount Desert Island.

Multiple hiking trails explore the rocky slopes of Dorr Mountain and lead to the wooden sign at its summit. Trails run up the mountain’s north ridge, south ridge and steep west slope, but the most popular trails for hiking Dorr are on the mountain’s east face, starting at Sieur de Monts Spring.

From the parking area at Sieur de Monts, a network of easy, smooth footpaths lead to a number of nearby natural and historic attractions, including the Sieur de Monts Spring House, a structure built over the spring in 1909 by George B. Dorr, the first superintendent of Acadia National Park. On a nearby rock, Dorr carved “The Sweet Waters of Acadia.” This spring is known as the birthplace of the park. In fact, the park began as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 and became Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi, in 1929.

Also near the Sieur de Monts parking lot, paths lead to The Wild Gardens of Acadia, a garden created and maintained by volunteers to include more than 400 plant species indigenous to the park. Near the gardens is a nature center, and just beyond it, the Abbe Museum, which also has a location in downtown Bar Harbor. The Abbe Museum was founded in 1926 by New York physician Robert Abbe, a summer resident of Bar Harbor who assembled a collection of early Native American artifacts found in the region. Today, the museum continues to celebrate and share the history and cultures of Maine’s Native people, the Wabanaki.

The Tarn

Navigating with a park map, you can trace multiple routes from this cluster of attractions to the top of Dorr Mountain. You can start on one of three trails: the Homans Path (starting near the parking area), the Emery Path (starting near the Abbe Museum) or the Jesup Path (which runs just downhill of the museum, heading south.)

The Tarn

Both the Homans Path (0.3 mile long) and Emery Path (0.4 mile long) lead steadily uphill to the Schiff Path, a scenic trail that runs north to south, traversing the mountain about halfway to the top. The Jesup Path, on the other hand, runs along the base of the mountain, striking south through the woods 0.3 mile to The Tarn, a shallow 8-acre pond at the foot of Dorr Mountain.

The Jesup Path was named in 1918 in memory of Morris K and Maria De Witt Jesup, “Lovers of the Island,” according to a plaque beside the trail.

At the shore of the Tarn, a trail called the Kurt Diederich’s Climb (0.4 mile long) splits off to your right, climbing past scenic waterfalls to reach the Schiff Path. You can take the Kurt Diederich’s Climb or continue along the shore of The Tarn on Kane Path, named in 1913 in memory of Johninnes Kane, “a man of kindness who found his happiness in giving others pleasure,” according to a plaque beside the trail. The Kane Path, which may be partially flooded in the spring, runs directly along the shores of The Tarn, then dips into the woods to intersect with the Ladder Trail in 0.5 mile.

(Do you see why a trail map is important to have on you now?)

A view on the Ladder Trail

The Ladder Trail (0.4 mile long) is famous for its hundreds of granite steps and two sections of metal ladders that allow hikers to safely navigate the mountain’s granite cliffs. This trail also leads through a few interesting rock formations, including a long narrow fissure in the rosy granite that forms a sort of tunnel. In less than half a mile of steep climbing, the Ladder Trail ends at the Schiff Path.

A view from Ladder Trail of Champlain Mountain and Huguenot Head

A ladder on the Ladder Trail.

No matter which trail you take up the mountain’s east side, you’ll eventually find yourself at this point — the intersection of the Ladder Trail and Schiff Path. From there, you’ll follow the Schiff Path up the mountain another 0.5 mile, through stands of twisted pines and across stretches of exposed granite covered with colorful lichens. Atop the mountain, you’ll come to an intersection with Dorr’s North Ridge Trail, where signs will direct you south for a final 0.1-mile trek to the summit.

Marked with a summit sign staked into a massive pile of rocks, the summit of Dorr Mountain is wide open, offering a 360-degree view of Mount Desert Island. To the east, you’ll see the humps of Champlain Mountain and Huguenot Head (which you would have already seen several times on your way up the mountain); to the northeast is a wetland known as the Great Meadow, and beyond that, the Porcupine Islands and the breakwater the protects the Bar Harbor; to the west is Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the island; and to the south, the Cranberry Isles.

The summit is wide open

If considering this hike or any other hike in the Acadia, keep in mind that all park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. Passes vary in cost, with private vehicles costing $25 for a 7-day pass.

Also, be sure to brush up on park regulations. For example, dogs are permitted on most trails if kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times. For more information about the park, visit www.nps.gov/acad/ or call 207-288-3338.

There’s Cadillac!

Personal note: Hiking is a great activity for getting to know someone. I’ve had this opinion for a while, having walked trails with many different people. And on Sunday, while hiking Dorr Mountain with a fairly new friend, I thought about it again.

While walking a trail, you can talk to someone without staring them down across a table. Plus, you’re surrounded by beautiful things that can serve as fodder for conversation. And, because you’re both exercising and getting fresh air, it’s pretty difficult to be in a bad mood. As hiking buddies, you’re thrown into a situation where you need to look out for one another, which I think helps people form a certain kind of bond. And by the end of the hike, you’ve both accomplished something together and share a few good memories.

Lacey under a Bates cairn 😀

That’s how I felt on Sunday, as my friend Lacey and I hopped from rock to rock along the edge of The Tarn, pausing to look at rock ferns, tree mushrooms and a beaver lodge. I learned that she liked taking photos of nature just as much as I did, though as a gardener, she was much more interested in plants. As we hiked, she pointed out different species of shrubs and ferns, and I returned the favor by identifying birds — the turkey vultures soaring overhead and the cute dark-eyed juncos singing in the trees.

We had both hiked Dorr Mountain before, but not for several years, so we worked together to navigate, opting to climb the fascinating Ladder Trail to the Schiff Path, which we followed to the summit. We then descended the beautiful Schiff Path and followed it across the mountain to Kurt Diederich’s Climb, which we descended to The Tarn, then headed back to the parking lot on the Jesup Path for a hike of 3.6 miles.

We only had to contend with slippery snow in a few shaded areas of the mountain. The rest of the trail was bare. Water was running down the mountain in vast quantities, and in some places, it invaded the trail to spill over the granite steps. Spring had sprung. We took off our fleece jackets to feel the warm sun on our arms. A garter snake, curled up on a rock beside the trail, had the same idea.

After the hike, as we sat eating tacos and quesadillas at Jalapenos in Bar Harbor, I pressed my fingers against my cheeks and felt the heat of a slight burn from the sun and wind.

More photos: 

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.