Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. From the Gorge Path trailhead on Park Loop Road, the trail is 1.9 miles to the top of Cadillac Mountain, making for an out and back hike of about 3.8 miles. The trail starts out gradual but becomes very rocky and steep as it climbs the eastern slope of the mountain.
How to get there: Drive onto Mount Desert Island on Route 3 and after the causeway, veer left at the fork, staying on Route 3 toward Bar Harbor. Drive 7.7 miles on Route 3 and turn right into Acadia National Park at the entrance of Hulls Cove Visitor Center. At the first intersection, turn right and drive south on Paradise Hill Road for about 3 miles, then take a sharp left onto the one-way Park Loop Road. Drive about 0.9 mile and the trailhead to Gorge Path will be on your right, just after the road crosses a stone bridge. Limited parking is available along the right side of Park Loop Road. The trailhead is marked with a subtle wooden sign.
Another option is to start at the Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead, where there is a larger parking area, and hiking the Kebo Brook Trail 0.4 mile east, then hiking south 0.4 mile on the northernmost section of the Gorge Path to the trailhead on Park Loop Road.
Information: Running through a dramatic gorge between Dorr and Cadillac Mountain, the Gorge Path is a special hiking experience that includes hundreds of granite steps, tiny waterfalls and breathtaking views of Dorr Mountain and beyond that to Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands.
From the Gorge Path trailhead on Park Loop Road, the Gorge Path heads down a slope on stone steps to Kebo Brook. There the trail reaches an intersection where you continue straight to hike toward Cadillac Mountain on Gorge Path. (If you turn left instead, you’ll hike under the bridge north 0.4 mile to Kebo Brook Trail).
The trail slowly climbs through the forest, becoming increasingly rocky and crossing a few narrow bog bridges. At 0.5 mile, the trail passes a junction with the Hemlock Trail, which will be on your left (east) and leads to Kebo Mountain Trail and Dorr North Ridge Trail.
Continuing on Gorge Path, the trail climbs gradually up and enters the gorge between Dorr and Cadillac Mountains. At that point, the trail is made up primarily of granite steps. As you hike up through the gorge, the trail becomes steeper and the jagged cliffs on both sides draw in closer. Through the middle of the gorge runs a brook that forms tiny waterfalls as it tumbles over the granite blocks piled up between the cliffs.
Gorge Path is one of several memorial trails in the park. On a cliff in the gorge is a memorial plaque for Lilian Endicott Francklin (1891-1926). The plaque states that the trail was endowed by her friends. Originally from New York, Francklin died of cerebral embolism in her eighth month of pregnancy, leaving behind her husband and two young children. She was the descendant of William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, according to Don Lenahan, author of the 2010 book “The Memorials of Acadia National Park” and member of Friends of Acadia.
Also of note, the Gorge Path wasn’t always as well constructed as it is today. In fact, the trail was eroding badly not too long ago. In 2014, the trail underwent a major rehabilitation project, funded in part by an $800,000 federal grant and the Acadia Trails Forever endowment, consisting of $4 million in park user fees and appropriations and $9 million in donations from the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, according to the third edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” by Dolores Kong and Dan Ring.
As the trail climbs up and out of the gorge, it comes to a trail intersection with about 1.5 mile from the trailhead. From the intersection, follow the signs to hike up the steep eastern slope of Cadillac Mountain 0.4 mile to the summit. (The intersection is with A. Murray Young Path, which leads south 1.2 mile to Canon Brook Trail, and an unnamed trail that climbs a steep 0.3 mile to the summit of Dorr Mountain.)
The last 0.4 mile of the Gorge Path travels over exposed bedrock, through low-bush blueberries and sheep laurel, to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain in Acadia National Park at 1,529 feet above sea level. Along the way, hikers enjoy great views of Dorr Mountain, Bar Harbor, the Porcupine Islands, Bar Island and Winter Harbor.
Like all trails in Acadia National Park, Gorge Path is marked with blue blazes and rock piles called cairns, and intersections are marked with wooden signs. Always keep an eye out for these trail markers to avoid getting off trail, especially as the trail approaches the summit of Cadillac Mountain, where sections of the summit are roped off to help restore delicate alpine vegetation that is trampled by visitors every year.
It’s also important to carry a detailed trail map which hiking in Acadia. These maps are available for sale at park visitor centers, such as the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, which you pass on the way to this hike.
Dogs are permitted on this trail on leash no longer than 6 feet, though the upper section of the Gorge Trail is too steep and dangerous for many dogs.
All park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October. These passes can be purchased at park visitor centers, at park entrance stations and online. Pass cost varies, depending on the type of vehicle and the length of visitation. Often, people purchase the $25 pass, which is good for a private vehicle for 7 days.
For information about park regulations and to purchase an Acadia pass online, visit www.nps.gov/acad. If you have specific questions about the park, call 288-3338. The phone is answered weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Personal note: The wild blueberries were ripe on Cadillac Mountain on July 14, when I hiked the Gorge Path with my coworker Micky Bedell, a visual journalist at the BDN who is especially good at producing videos. Micky had agreed to hike with me to help me improve the videos I produce for my blog, and it was a big help. As we tackled the rocky trail, we paused often to discuss camera angles and settings and methods for keeping the camera stable while huffing and puffing after a strenuous climb.
In the gorge, we paused so often to photograph the jagged cliffs, whimsical staircases and cascading brook that we were passed by several groups of other hikers, and one group let us know that while it was quiet in the gorge, the wind was howling atop Cadillac Mountain.
Climbing out of the gorge, we navigated the intersection and clambered over a jumble of granite rocks and out of the woods. The view suddenly opened up and we stood for a while, marveling at the rough, rocky side of the nearby Dorr Mountain (another great hiking location).
Plucking tiny, tart blueberries from time to time, we made our way up the east side of Cadillac Mountain, laughing at the fierce, warm wind, which quickly dried sweaty tank tops. Atop the mountain, we joined the usual crowd and wandered the smooth paths that curl around the summit, taking in the views before ducking down behind a rock to snack of water and crackers. There atop the mountain, Micky pulled out her cell phone and managed to capture two Pokémon creatures wandering the summit on the new mobile app Pokémon Go (which I refuse to download for fear I will become addicted).
Worried we’d become cold in the wind, we wrapped up our rest break quickly and headed back down the mountain the same way we came, then headed to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor for ice cream and truffles.