Hike Cadillac Mountain Via the Gorge Path in Acadia National Park

Hike Cadillac Mountain Via the Gorge Path in Acadia National Park

3.8 miles round trip
2ish hours
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors
Good for: casual hikers, anyone looking to hide from tourists

The Gorge Path begins with a leisure half-mile walk through pleasant forest. After crossing a gargling brook and a junction with the Hemlock Trail it begins a mile-long climb up the gorge splitting Dorr and Cadillac mountains. The trail parallels, crisscrosses and in many places is one and the same as the runoff stream splitting the gorge. In the middle of a summer dry spell there likely isn’t much water (if any), tilting the trail to the easy end of the scale so long as you watch your footing on the rock staircases.

It’s a trail. It’s a stream. Watch your step.

We just so happened to hike the trail on the second of back-to-back rainy days in October when the water was gushing off the two monolithic mountains and there was a fresh coat of leaves on the ground. We often couldn’t tell where the trail was, a consequence of it often being submerged, leading us off-trail and onto slippery rock surfaces. We both had our share of spills, which probably wouldn’t have been as numerous had we decided to ascend this trail instead of descend. It also didn’t help that I tried to tightrope walk a bark-stripped log. Sometimes common sense isn’t very common. The point I’m meandering around here is that the “moderate” difficulty ranking above is splitting the difference between fair and foul weather.

The gorge on a rainy day. That brook on the left is the trail.

I can’t attest for how much foot traffic the Gorge Path receives in peak tourist season, but I got the impression it’s the road less traveled. Walled in by impressive cliffs on each side—quite literally sticking hikers between a rock and a hard place—it feels far removed from the hustle and bustle of Acadia National Park’s most sought after vistas. Sheltered from the whirl of passing vehicles and nary a person in sight, I nearly forgot we were still in the park. There’s also something intrinsically rewarding about exploring a part of the park that those who drive Cadillac Mountain Road never see.

The last .4 of a mile is a relatively steep climb out of the gorge to Cadillac’s summit. It’s steep enough in spots to warrant the use of hands for a few rock faces, but nothing difficult enough to scare away casual hikers or older children.

Combine the Gorge Path and North Ridge Trail for a good 4.1-mile hike, not counting the pavement walk between the two trail heads (I forgot to measure this, but it’s roughly half a mile). The trail heads for both are near the beginning of the Park Loop Road, which makes this hike a great place to start your day in Acadia. I recommend parking at the North Ridge Trail head and walking down the road to the Gorge Path to ascend via this trail.

Take I-95 in Maine to exit 182A and merge onto I-395 east. From I-395 take exit 6A and merge onto U.S. 1A east to Ellsworth. From Ellsworth follow U.S. 3 east to Bar Harbor. The entrance to Acadia is well marked, and upon entering the park follow signs for the Park Loop Road (not the Cadillac Mountain Road). Both the North Ridge Trail and Gorge Paths are reached prior to the fee gate. There is only room for a couple of vehicles at the Gorge Path trail head; the North Ridge Trail has parking for about a dozen vehicles. In other words, arrive early.

If you’re planning a full day of hiking in Acadia, it’s best to stop at the visitor’s center to purchase the “Hiking and Biking Trail Map.” It is more detailed than the free park map and worth the $4.95 investment.

The renowned Gorge Path Falls, approximately three feet in height.
Frenchman Bay in Bar Harbor
Frenchman Bay in Bar Harbor isn’t viewable from the Gorge Path until the climb out of the gorge.
Um, yeah.

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