Difficulty: Moderate. Hiking to the summit and back is 2 miles, or you can create a loop hike by continuing past the summit and turning onto the Man O’ War Road for a 3.2-mile hike. Regardless of the route you take, expect a few steep sections of trail that include staircases of granite blocks. Hand-over-foot climbing is required in several especially rocky areas on the section of the Acadia Mountain Trail between the summit and the Man O’ War Road.
How to get there: After crossing the causeway onto Mount Desert Island, veer right at the fork and drive 5.2 miles on Route 102-Route 198 to the traffic light in Somesville. Drive straight through the traffic light, heading south on Route 102 (Main Street). Drive 2.4 miles and the parking lot will be on your right, while the Acadia Mountain Trailhead will be on your left (directly across the road from the parking area). Exercise caution when crossing the street to reach the trailhead.
Information: Located on what’s known as the quieter side of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Acadia Mountain rises 681 feet above sea level, making it one of the smaller mountains on the island. Nevertheless, the top of the mountain is free of vegetation in several places, including the summit, offering great views of the region. The mountain also features beautiful stands of twisted pitch pine trees and an abundance of lowbush blueberries.
Starting at the trailhead, Acadia Mountain Trail begins with a series of steep granite steps, which is appropriate, seeing how there are so many sections of these scenic staircases throughout the trail.
After just 0.1 mile, the trail comes to an intersection where you turn left to hike toward Acadia Mountain. From there, the trail travels gradually downhill and crosses a small brook, lined with delicate grasses and soft moss. About 0.3 mile from the trailhead, the trail crosses Man O’ War Road, which is a wide gravel multi-use trail. From there, the trail climbs steadily up the west side of the mountain, then becomes steeper and rockier as it nears the summit.
Near the top of the mountain, the trail travels through pitch pines to an overlook, a granite hump with partial views to the west over the dense woods. This is a good place to rest and have a drink and snack. Just a little bit farther, you will reach the summit (about 1 mile from the trailhead). Marked with a wooden sign speared in a pile of rocks, the summit of Acadia Mountain offers an open view to the south, to Somes Sound and the nearby St. Sauveur Mountain and Flying Mountain. And farther out, in the ocean, you can see Greening Island, and beyond that, the Cranberry Isles.
At the summit, you can turn around for a 2-mile out-and-back hike, or you can continue on the trail to complete a more difficult loop hike that will be 3.2 miles long.
If you decide on the loop hike, you’ll follow the blue blazes past the summit, heading west along the ridge of the mountain, where you’ll come to several additional scenic outlooks to the south and east. This open area of the mountain, with a lot of exposed bedrock and low-lying vegetation is especially beautiful, but keep in mind that it’s open to the elements for quite a stretch. Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a windproof jacket are important pieces of gear to have in such exposed areas of the island.
This section of Acadia Mountain Trail, traveling down the mountain’s east side, is especially steep and rocky and requires some hand-over-foot climbing. However there are no ladders or rungs, as there are on many of the park’s steepest trails.
About 1 mile from the summit, the trail starts to level off and to your left, a short side trail that leads down to a viewpoint at the shore of Somes Sound. Continuing on the main trail, you’ll soon reach a major intersection, where you can turn right onto Man O’ War Road to hike back to the Acadia Mountain Trailhead for the 3.2-mile hike.
Man O’ War Road is smooth, wide and leads gradually uphill. You can either take this “road” all the way back to Route 102, then turn right and walk along the road to the trailhead parking, or — just before the end of Man O’ War Road — you can turn left onto the Acadia Mountain Trail and trace the first section of that trail (0.3 mile) back to the trailhead.
Some people bag both Acadia Mountain and St Sauveur Mountain in one hike. To do this, instead of taking Man O’ War Road back to the trailhead, you would continue straight at that intersection and hike up St. Sauveur Mountain on Valley Peak Trail, then down the mountain on St. Sauveur Trail to make a big loop that is about 4 miles long.
All visitors to Acadia National Park are required to pay an entrance fee upon entry May through October, regardless of whether they pass by an entrance station or not. Park passes, which are $25 per private vehicle and are good for seven days, can be purchased at park visitor centers and several other locations on Mount Desert Island. They can also be purchased online.
Dogs are permitted on Acadia Mountain if on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length at all times, but this hike is not recommended for dogs because it includes several steep, rocky sections that dogs may have difficulty tackling.
For more information, call the park at 207-288-3338 or visit www.nps.gov/acad.
Personal note: I could feel the sun burning my bare shoulders as I walked along the ridge of Acadia Mountain on Friday, May 19, enjoying the warm spring afternoon. In clusters of pitch pines, sheltered from the steady wind, dark butterflies fluttered over low-lying bushes. And out in front of me, Somes Sound yawned into the expanse of the Atlantic.
The weather was perfect for hiking, with the wind keeping the black flies at bay, and the temperature warm, but not hot. On a hump of open bedrock, I sat down for a drink of water and granola bar, then laid back against my backpack and watched black ants mill about my legs on the rough granite.
Normally I would have been hiking with my dog, Oreo, but he recently split one of his toenails and had to get the whole nail removed at the veterinary office. He’s perfectly fine, but he needs to take it easy for a few weeks while the nail grows back. So on Acadia Mountain, I tried to enjoy the solitude, stopping to photograph blueberry blossoms (without Oreo yanking impatiently on his leash). Serenaded by a variety of migrating songbirds, I found myself not at all lonely as I hiked up and over the mountain, then back on the Man O’ War Road.