Cadillac Mtn., Eagle's Crag, The Featherbed

Destinations:  Cadillac Mtn. (1530'), Eagle's Crag (700'), The Featherbed (1000')
Trails:  Cadillac South Ridge Trail, Campground Road, Park Loop Road
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Eastern Region
Location:  Bar Harbor, ME
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Views, summits, pond, ocean, rock scrambles
Distance:  7.3 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1500 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 3:15   Typical: 4:30  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 7:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/22/2009 (Friday)  
Last Updated:  08/15/2009  
Weather:  Sunny, about 80 degrees
Author:  Chip Lary

The Featherbed (photo by Chip Lary)
The Featherbed (photo by Chip Lary)

Route Summary   

This description covers a hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – the highest point in Acadia National Park – via Cadillac South Ridge Trail. There are 360-degree views from the top and en route you will visit Eagle's Crag (a lookout point) and The Featherbed (a small pond).

The statistics above reflect the hike from Route 3 to the summit and back. However there are two more options described in this trail guide that extend this hike. One option is to continue walking to Blackwoods Campground thus covering the entire length of Cadillac South Ridge Trail (or if you're staying at the campground, you can start the hike from this point). The second option is to go beyond the campground to a spot along Park Loop Road where you can touch the ocean – thus making this a hike ranging from the lowest to highest points on Mount Desert Island.

From Route 3 to the summit of Cadillac Mountain and back:

This basic option covers 7.3 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain.

  • Start from the Cadillac South Ridge trailhead on Route 3.
  • Head north on Cadillac South Ridge Trail. Note that Cadillac South Ridge Trail leaves both sides of the road; south goes to Blackwoods Campground and north leads to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
  • Climb for 1.0 mile until reaching a split in Cadillac South Ridge Trail. The paths rejoin after 0.3 mile via the right branch or 0.2 mile on the left leg.
  • Turn right and follow the trail for 0.3 mile which will bring you to Eagle's Crag where you can enjoy views from a ledge.
  • Continue across Eagle's Crag and just beyond it, reach the upper split in the trail. Turn right to continue your climb.
  • After hiking uphill for another 1.1 miles you will reach a 4-way trail junction and The Featherbed – a small pond.
  • Proceed straight through the intersection to resume your climb on Cadillac South Ridge Trail.
  • After 0.7 mile, Cadillac West Face Trail will come in from the left; keep going straight on Cadillac South Ridge Trail.
  • After another 0.5 mile you will pass over the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
  • Continue for 0.1 mile to reach the top of the mountain at the end of the auto road where there is a shop, bathroom facilities, and a summit loop trail (about 0.2 mile long) that allows you to take in the views and offers various informational signs.
  • To return to Route 3, head back down Cadillac South Ridge Trail, going straight through the 4-way junction near The Featherbed, and this time taking the opposite branch (bear right) when the trail splits near Eagle's Crag (unless you want to revisit the lookout).

Optional Extensions to Blackwoods Campground and the Ocean:

Extending the hike to Blackwoods Campground adds 1.4 miles and 150 feet elevation gain for a total trek of 8.7 miles. To continue the hike all the way to touch the ocean will require an additional 1.8 miles and 200 feet elevation gain for a total of 10.5 miles.

  • To continue the hike from the trailhead on Route 3, this time head south on Cadillac South Ridge Trail.
  • After 0.7 mile you will emerge at Blackwoods Campground on the paved perimeter road of the A Loop.
  • Turn right and walk on the paved perimeter road (staying to the right when connecting roads go to the left) for 0.3 mile.
  • Turn right onto a dirt road and walk for 0.1 mile which brings you to Park Loop Road.
  • Cross the street, then turn left and walk north along the ocean for approximately 0.5 mile.
  • When you reach what could be a dirt parking spot for a vehicle on the side of the road, look for a steep dirt path leading down to the ocean. Carefully work your way down the path and over some rocks so that you can touch the ocean water.
  • To return to your vehicle, climb back up the steep path, turn left on Park Loop Road, walk about 0.5 mile then cross the street at a crosswalk and head up the dirt road for 0.1 mile back to the campground. Turn left on the paved perimeter road, walk for 0.3 mile, then turn left onto Cadillac South Ridge Trail and finally hike easily for 0.7 mile to return to your vehicle at the parking area on Route 3.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Rt. 3 (180') 0.0 0.0
Eagle's Crag (700') 1.3 1.3
The Featherbed (1000') 1.1 2.4
Cadillac Mtn. summit (1530') 1.2 3.6
End of auto road (1510') 0.1 3.7
The Featherbed (1000') 1.3 5.0
Split in Cadillac South Ridge Trail (680') 1.1 6.1
Rt. 3 (180') 1.2 7.3
Blackwoods Campground (180') 0.7 8.0
Park Loop Road (80') 0.4 8.4
Touch-the-ocean point (0') 0.5 8.9
Blackwoods Campground (180') 0.9 9.8
Rt. 3 (180') 0.7 10.5

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Trail map of hike route to Cadillac Mtn., Eagle's Crag, The Featherbed, and the ocean (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This hike describes the longest, but most gradual way to hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in Acadia National Park. It includes a side trip to Eagle's Crag, a stop at The Featherbed, and a walk from the peak of Cadillac all the way to the ocean.

There are two different places to start this hike. There is a trailhead in Blackwoods Campground that leads you through the woods to Route 3. There is then parking and a trailhead on Route 3 itself. Unless you are staying at Blackwoods Campground I recommend starting at Route 3. There is no parking available at the trailhead in the campground and starting at Route 3 shortens the hike for those concerned about the length. If you get back down to where you started and decide you want to do the whole trail you can then hike across to Blackwoods and come back in order to cover the entire Cadillac South Ridge Trail.

This trail report is broken up into two sections: one for the basic up-and-back trip to Cadillac Mountain (including Eagle's Crag and The Featherbed), with the second section covering the optional extensions that lead to Blackwoods Campground and then the ocean:

Eagle's Crag, The Featherbed, and Cadillac Mountain
Blackwoods Campground and the Atlantic Ocean


Eagle's Crag, The Featherbed, and Cadillac Mountain   

The ascent to Cadillac Mountain naturally breaks into three sections: Route 3 to Eagle's Crag, Eagle's Crag to The Featherbed, and then The Featherbed to Cadillac's summit. These are roughly equidistant sections.

Route 3 to The Eagle's Crag:

This is 1.3 miles long and is completely wooded for the entire length. It rises gradually and is an easy hike. It took me less than 30 minutes to get to Eagle's Crag.

A mile into the hike you will come to a split in the trail. Signs for Eagle's Crag will point you to the right; take this trail. This will lead you out onto a rock ledge (Eagle's Crag) that gives you the first views to the ocean. You have not gained a lot of elevation yet, so the views are not comparable to seaside peaks such as Gorham Mountain, The Beehive, or Champlain Mountain. There is also tree growth that hindered the view some. It is a hint of what is to come, though.

Eagle's Crag to The Featherbed:

You do not need to retrace your steps back to the original trail. You can continue off the back of Eagle's Crag on a trail that connects back onto Cadillac South Ridge Trail a little north of where you left it. When you come to this junction head right to continue up Cadillac South Ridge Trail.

This section is still wooded for a while. You will hike over two small hills. The second hill looks down upon The Featherbed – a small pond that has formed between the hill and Cadillac Mountain's upper section. By this point the views will have opened up and you can see for more distance. You will have to hike down about 100 feet to reach The Featherbed. There is a bench where you can sit and rest or just relax and look at the water. Two other trails meet here. The one coming from the left would eventually take you to Jordan Pond. The one coming from the right would connect you to trails for Dorr Mountain.

The Featherbed as seen from farther up Cadillac South Ridge Trail. The hill behind it is the second of the two small hills I mentioned. Cadillac South Ridge Trail goes to the left of the pond in the photo and the bench to sit on is also on the left. The ocean is in the far background, faded by some of the haze in the air.
(photo by Chip Lary)
The Featherbed from Cadillac South Ridge Trail (photo by Chip Lary)

The Featherbed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain:

This section starts with an immediate elevation change up and away from The Featherbed. This is probably the quickest, sustained elevation gain of the entire hike. After a few hundred feet up though, it eases back to a long, gradual rise until just short of the summit.

You will now be hiking over exposed ledge so make sure you watch for the cairns to stay on the trail. The view back behind you is now unimpeded all the way to the ocean.

As you continue upward you will come to one final trail that connects in: Cadillac West Face Trail. This is the shortest, steepest way to get to the summit of Cadillac. It comes in from the left.

Next, you will come very near the auto road that goes to the summit. At this point the trail has a couple of small, sharp rises requiring your hands (one is 6–8 feet and another is 20–30 feet.) There is one iron rung to assist with this climb. Once over these you come to what appears to be a maintenance road. Turn left onto this and follow it all the way to the end. You will come out beside the tourist store that is at the end of the auto road.

Cadillac Summit Area:

There are bathrooms and water fountains at the store. You can buy food, snacks, and drinks inside, along with any number of "touristy" things. You can also walk over to the boardwalk to join with the sightseers who drove to the top. There is a short walking loop you can make at the end of the auto road, if you so choose.

Note that at this point you have not actually summitted Cadillac. There are no signs pointing to it, but the peak is nowhere near all the boardwalks built for the people to walk around on to take in the views. The peak is actually back up behind the store. Just at the point where you started downhill on the maintenance road toward the store, and while facing towards the store, head off the road to your left. The peak is marked with a small metal disk set into the top of a stone about 20–30 feet off the road. Be aware that there is another stone nearby with a similar disk. The one for the actual peak states the elevation.

When you want to start back down you can avoid the last small sections where you had to scramble over some quick rises. You can instead choose to walk down the auto road about 0.3 mile to a scenic overlook. A worn path leads left off the auto road back to Cadillac South Ridge Trail. It connects where you found yourself closest to the auto road on the hike up. You could also use this to skip the last few scrambles on Cadillac South Ridge Trail on the way up.

To get back to where you started the hike simply follow the same trail all the way to the branch trail for Eagle's Crag. Unless you want to visit it again, simply stay on the main trail. You will shortly go past the path you originally took to Eagle's Crag and then you have one mile through the forest back to where you started.

Blackwoods Campground and the Atlantic Ocean   

You now have two options – call it a day or decide to do the section to the trailhead in Blackwoods Campground. I decided I would go for a third option – get all the way to sea level and touch the ocean. This was perhaps not the wisest choice on a hot day, but it was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Of all the trails that lead to the top of Cadillac Mountain only one, Cadillac South Ridge Trail, comes out anywhere near the ocean. On the way down I had decided that this was a great opportunity to walk from the highest point on the island to the lowest.

I therefore walked across Route 3 to continue to the Blackwoods Campground trailhead on Cadillac South Ridge Trail. This was a relatively level walk through the woods, over roots and rocks. It came out onto a paved road in the campground. It was seven tenths of a mile.

I had expected that there was a way to get to Park Loop Road from the campground, but I had to ask some campers how to get to it. I took a right from the trailhead and walked around the perimeter of the campground on a paved road. Several other roads connected into this one from the left, but I stayed on the perimeter road. I eventually came to a dirt road leading off to the right. This was a maintenance road that connects to Park Loop Road. I picked up speed as I figured my goal was close at hand. I walked across Park Loop Road on a painted crosswalk, stepped through some trees and saw the ocean – 75 feet below me down a sheer cliff. It was one that I would not have been able to get down even if I hadn't just hiked more than eight miles.

I made my way back and forth over the rocks looking for a way down, but finally decided there was no way to get to the water from here. I knew that Park Loop Road came to a sharp turn at Otter Cove, which was to the north of where I was standing. What I didn't know was how far it was to reach that point; I had only ever driven Park Loop Road.

There was no way I was going to give up now with my goal so close. I still had plenty of water since I had filled up at the summit. I also rationalized that I wouldn't have to walk all the way to Otter Cove; that logically the shoreline would drop as I got closer to it and that I ought to be able to find a way down somewhere along the way.

I walked for what felt like a mile, but was probably only about a half-mile. I tried here and there to make my way down to the water, but had to stop each time as it was still too steep to descend. I also noticed the occasional poison ivy plants growing in the grass alongside Park Loop Road, so be sure to avoid them.

I finally reached a spot where there was a little dirt beside the road, as if a car parked there periodically. I took a closer look and saw a steep dirt path leading down to some rocks. I decided to try it. I had to use my hands to grab trees to ensure I didn't lose my balance, but I made it.

As I came out on the rocks I saw a small shack that had seemingly washed up on the shore. There were "No Trespassing" signs on the doors and windows, though, so perhaps someone came there to fish and that is why there was the dirt shoulder and path.

I stepped carefully over about 40 feet of wet rocks and finally achieved my goal of walking to sea level. I reached down into the ocean and used the water to cool off my arms and legs. There was no dry place to sit, though, so after all that I didn't stay more than a few minutes before turning around to leave.

I now faced a steep scramble up over the dirt path to Park Loop Road, a walk back uphill to get to the dirt maintenance road, a walk up this road to the Blackwoods Campground paved road and then a walk uphill to the trailhead. It's funny how I never noticed all those were downhill when I was first walking them.

I finished my hike "from the mountains to the sea" by crossing back across to Route 3 to my car and the additional water that I had in it. I was also quite happy to be able to finally sit down and rest my legs.

So, was it worth it? I feel it was. I'll probably never be in a situation like that again, with both the opportunity and the desire to see it through to the end. I am glad that I accomplished it.
 





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  Driving Directions   

This hike starts at the Cadillac South Ridge trailhead on Route 3, located within Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. It is in the eastern half of Mount Desert Island.

From Rt. 3 in Bar Harbor village:
  • Follow Rt. 3 south from Bar Harbor village into Acadia National Park. From the sharp right-hand turn in downtown Bar Harbor, travel on Rt. 3 for about 5.6 miles.
  • Just after passing the entrance to Blackwoods Campground on the left, park in the wide dirt area to the right of the highway.

Starting the hike from Blackwoods Campground:
  • If you are staying at the campground, or simply want to start from the campground, look for the Cadillac South Ridge trailhead on the outer perimeter of the A Loop.
  • If you are camping within the A Loop, it's probably best just to leave your car at your campsite and walk westwards along the perimeter road until reaching the trailhead.
  • If you're camping within the B Loop, or not staying at the campground, turn into the entrance of Blackwoods Campground (mentioned above) and follow Campground Road through the campground ranger kiosk.
  • Beyond the kiosk, follow the signs for the A Loop.
  • You will soon see a small parking area on the right. This is overflow (a campsite with more than one vehicle) and visitor parking. Park here. Do not park at a campsite or anywhere else along the road that is not officially a parking area.
  • Leaving your car, continue along the perimeter loop for about 0.2 mile.
  • The Cadillac South Ridge trailhead will be on the right.

Winter: The trailhead on Route 3 is accessible year-round; the one in the campground can not be driven to during the winter.

Facilities   

Bathrooms and water fountains at the tourist shop on the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

Other Notes   

A fee is required to enter Acadia National Park between May 1st and October 31st.

For more information on entrance fees please refer to the Acadia National Park website.

Rates:
  • $20 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the regular season (June 23rd–Early October)
  • $10 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the off-season (May 1st–June 22nd and Early October–October 31st)
  • $40 for a year-long pass for one vehicle
  • $5 for a week-long pass for one pedestrian

About Acadia National Park   

Acadia National Park, covering about 48,000 acres, is located on Mount Desert Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the "Downeast" region of the state of Maine. The park spans several villages including Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor. Acadia includes miles of ocean shoreline, many freshwater ponds, a couple lakes, waterfalls, bare ledgy mountaintops, and deciduous and softwood forests. There are two sections of the park that are not on Mount Desert Island: Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut.

Acadia National Park offers a unique hiking experience in New England. From the many bare summits, not only can you see other mountains, but also gorgeous vistas of the sea along with islands, promontories, coves, and boats. The hiking is rugged with many easy rock scrambles, yet the elevations are low, making the ledgy peaks accessible to most people. The incredible network of trails allows you to tailor hiking distances to your wishes – you can devise a route that will keep you going all day; or simply choose a short jaunt to give you great vistas without a lot of effort. There are a couple dozen peaks and well over 100 miles of hiking trails.

View from Pemetic Mtn. at Acadia National Park (photo by Webmaster)


There is an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities at Acadia. Spend some time sunbathing at Sand Beach, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Atlantic shoreline, bicycle or ride a horse on the 57 miles of carriage roads, paddle in the many ponds, swim at Echo Lake, take a boat tour on the sea or to an island, stay overnight at the park's campgrounds, and of course you can hike up mountains, through forests, and around ponds. The winter season provides great terrain for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If your taste runs to less physical activity, then you can drive up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – Acadia's highest peak at 1,532 feet elevation – in fact the highest point on the United States' Atlantic seaboard. From Cadillac's bare summit are views in every direction – you can watch the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening. The forest service offers many ranger-led programs from mid-May through mid-October to introduce you to the nature and wildlife of the park. You can drive on Park Loop Road for a tour of the park with many picnic areas and pullout spots offering scenic vistas available. Or stop in at Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea. Shopping, restaurants, and lodging are available in Bar Harbor as well as the other villages within or next to the park. Whale watching and bird watching are other popular activates.

Rhodora bloom (photo by Webmaster)


The varied natural habitat of Acadia National Park – from ocean to mountains – offers a plethora of plants and wildlife – both marine and land-bound. It is home to about 50 species of mammals, 325 bird species, and 1,000 species of flowering plants. Both bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest on the island. Mammals include deer, porcupine, and beaver. Whales and harbor seals are common marine animals.

The park was established in 1916 under a different name and became Acadia National Park in 1929. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated about one-third of the park's acreage and was responsible for creating the gorgeous carriage roads that wind through forests, around ponds, past waterfalls, and over beautiful granite bridges.

An entrance fee is required to enter the park. See the forest service's Fees and Reservations page for more information.

The park is open all year, although services are reduced and many roads closed during the winter season.

Acadia National Park
P.O. Box 177
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207.288.3338
 
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