Compare these two pictures of me on Cadillac Mountain’s South Ridge Trail this October and last.
Gauging the weather and what to pack is a key challenge for hiking in Acadia National Park in the fall, but the rest is bliss.
One reason is that during autumn the mountains on Mount Desert Island’s eastern side – in the areas of Bar Harbor, Ocean Drive, and Jordan Pond – are much less crowded. We chose two of the most popular, Cadillac and Champlain, to hike this fall.
The West Face of Cadillac, according to Tom St. Germain, is the shortest, but most difficult, of the eight ways to hike to the top of Acadia’s tallest mountain. During a mile of hiking, the elevation changes 1100 feet. The granite face often seems to be at 45-degrees – not an angle of repose for a hiker. We used crevices in the rock to be able to move across it.
After rigorous stretches, we’d stop and look back over Bubble Pond.
West Face Trail then intersects with South Ridge Trail to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain at 1532 feet.
For the descent we hiked down the South Ridge of Cadillac all the way to The Featherbed, a small glacial pond filled with rushes, the inspiration for its name.
This 5.2-mile hike compensates you for all of its challenges by ending with a long stroll on a carriage road beside Bubble Pond.
For our hike to the top of Champlain Mountain, another popular peak, this year we chose an old trail that was new to us. Beachcroft Path was built in 1915 as part of the Memorial Paths program created by George Dorr and was reinforced twenty years later by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. This history gave us a lot to think about as we climbed the stone stairs in switchbacks up the western face of Huguenot Head.
Beachcroft Trail has great views of the Tarn, as well as Otter Creek and the Atlantic beyond.
Huguenot Head then connects to Champlain Mountain, where you ascend first on more stairs, then across a sheer, steep west face marked by cairns.
The spectacular top of Champlain, overlooking Frenchman Bay at an elevation of 1058 feet, is the same reward hikers get when they climb the Precipice.
With late afternoon sun spotlighting the Porcupines, we descended along the north ridge of Champlain on Bear Brook Trail.
The walk back along the road past Beaver Dam Pond was a bonus.