Cadillac Mountain, located in Acadia National Park in Maine, is the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard of the United States. With an elevation of 1,530 feet (466 meters), it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area, including Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the Porcupine Islands. Cadillac Mountain is a popular destination for visitors to Acadia National Park, and it is easy to see why.
Quick History of Cadillac Mountain
The mountain was named after the French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, who established Detroit and was governor of Louisiana. The Wabanaki people, who lived in the area for thousands of years before European contact, called the mountain “Kadakit” or “Kadakodak,” which means “the highest point.”
Acadia National Park, of which Cadillac Mountain is a part, was established in 1916 as the first national park east of the Mississippi River. The park covers over 49,000 acres (198 square kilometers) and includes several other notable landmarks, including the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, the Jordan Pond House, and the Precipice Trail.
How to see the Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain is unique in that it is one of the first places in the United States to see the sunrise each day. From early October through early March, the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the first place to be seen in the United States. This phenomenon is due to the mountain’s location on the eastern seaboard and the curvature of the earth.
To witness the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, visitors must wake up early and make their way to the summit before dawn. The exact time of the sunrise varies depending on the time of year, but typically ranges from 4:30 am to 6:00 am. Click here to view the sunrise time at Cadillac Mountain. It is important to check the local weather forecast before planning a sunrise viewing, as cloudy or overcast skies can obscure the sunrise and diminish the experience.
There are several ways to reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The most popular is the Cadillac Summit Road, a 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) paved road that winds its way to the top. The road is open to vehicles from mid-April to mid-November, weather permitting. While the free Island Explorer park shuttle DOES NOT operate on Cadillac Mountain, there are two private park partners that do offer stops on Cadillac: Acadia National Park Tours and Oli’s Trolley.
Do I Need a Permit to Visit the Summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park?
Only if you’re driving. It is important to note that, beginning in 2021, Acadia National Park now requires a permit to access the Cadillac Mountain auto road.
- Vehicle reservations for Cadillac Summit Road are required May 24 through October 22, 2023.
- Cadillac Summit Road will be under construction through early summer, which may require temporary closures. Please check on the status of road closures at go.nps.gov/AcadiaAlerts
- Vehicle reservations are not required for any other areas of the park, or for visitors who enter the area by foot, bike, or taxi. Cadillac is not served by the Island Explorer bus system.
- Visitors must have a park entrance pass to enter the park in addition to purchasing a vehicle reservation for Cadillac Summit Road. Park entrance passes are available at the park or online at Recreation.gov.
- Vehicle reservations cost $6. They are sold online in advance at Recreation.gov. They are not available for purchase at the park.
- Please print or save a digital copy of the vehicle reservation with the confirmation QR code, which will be scanned to verify the reservation. Connectivity is unreliable in the park.
Hiking to the summit of Cadillac Mountain
For those who prefer to hike, there are a variety of trails to choose from, ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes, offering something for every level of hiker.
The most popular trail to the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the Cadillac North Ridge Trail. This trail is a 4.4-mile round trip hike, with an elevation gain of 1,528 feet. The trail is considered moderate to strenuous, with rocky terrain and steep inclines in some sections. Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and ocean, as well as the opportunity to explore the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
Another popular trail on Cadillac Mountain is the South Ridge Trail. This trail is 7.2 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 1,183 feet. The trail is considered challenging, with steep climbs and rocky terrain. Hikers are rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as the opportunity to explore the unique ecosystems found on the mountain.
For those looking for a longer and more remote hike, the Dorr Mountain South Ridge Trail is a 6.4-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 1,378 feet. The trail is considered challenging, with steep inclines and rocky terrain.
Once you reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views in every direction. To the east, you can see Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands. To the south, you can see Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island. To the west, you can see the Schoodic Peninsula and the mainland. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, over 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.
Visiting the Summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
On the summit, you can walk the short Cadillac Summit Loop Trail is a 0.3-mile loop that circles the summit of the mountain. This trail is paved and wheelchair accessible, making it a great option for families with young children or individuals with mobility issues. The trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and a chance to take in the beauty of Cadillac Mountain without too much physical exertion.
The summit of Cadillac Mountain is also home to a visitor center and gift shop, where you can learn more about the mountain’s history and geology, as well as purchase souvenirs and snacks. The visitor center is open from mid-May to mid-October.
In addition to its stunning views, Cadillac Mountain is also an important ecological site. The mountain is home to a unique ecosystem known as a subarctic-alpine environment, which is found at higher elevations in the northern latitudes. This environment is characterized by harsh conditions, including high winds, low temperatures, and thin soils. Despite these challenges, a variety of plants and animals have adapted to this environment, including dwarfed trees, arctic-alpine plants, and birds such as the black-capped chickadee and the boreal chickadee.