Our first day at Acadia National Park we decided to do two hikes, one in the morning along the Ocean Path Trail and one in the afternoon. We drove, along with hundreds of other tourists to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest point in Acadia National Park at 1,530 feet. We were miraculously able to find parking in the main, and topmost parking lot. There, we geared up. It must’ve looked odd to the hoards of tourists as we donned day packs and our hiking boots and left the main trail. Many people stick to the tiny, paved, and well trodden, Summit Loop. At only .5 miles it is very short and allows for several scenic vistas along the way.
We had our sights set on hiking down the east side of Cadillac Mountain and into the gorge and then back up the west side of neighboring Dorr Mountain (elevation 1,270 feet). The trail was difficult to find and we had to consult our GPS app, GAIA, to make our way onto the trail. We followed the Gorge Path down the mountain, which connected to the Schiff Path. From there we connected with the Dorr Ridge Trail and headed south to reach the summit of Dorr Mountain. All told the trail was only 1.85 miles with 728 feet of elevation gain. That may sound easy and like anybody could do it. Trust me when I say that this was one of the harder trails we have done. There wasn’t much of a “trail”. Instead, you follow the blue paint on the rocks, marked every dozen feet or so. It’s a straight scramble down the side of the mountain.
Once you reach the gorge you are given a bit of a reprieve and some normal ground to walk on. Soon enough you work up a good sweat as you scramble your way straight up the side of Dorr Mountain. There was lots of high stepping and some hands and feet scrambling. One woman exclaimed as she watched Bobby easily navigate a trickier section of the trail with about 40 pounds on his back, including Jack, “My goodness, you have amazing balance!” I couldn’t have agreed more! That was a difficult trail to navigate with just my small daypack. He was having to be aware of a whole other person on his back who makes him a lot wider then he’s used to. He did impeccably well and at no point was I nervous for either Jack’s, or his, safety.
Astounding views of Bar Harbor mixed with the bold autumn colors made this a spectacular hike.
You may think that because of the popularity of the summit that this trail would be packed. But, we only came across a handful of other hikers who trekked beyond the well-maintained, clearly defined paths laid out for the tourists at the top. The few people we did meet left a lasting impression. We met a set of grandparents near the summit who warned us of upcoming obstacles and discussed some other trail options with us. We also met a middle-aged couple who smiled broadly as they saw Jack. They told us how it was their family tradition to take their two boys hiking every Columbus Day and that their photo albums were filled with fall foliage hikes. Their boys are only 21 months apart and are now grown and both in their mid-20s. They also told us that their boys continue to be very passionate and participate in outdoor recreational activities now more than they ever did. That brought enormous smiles to our faces for so many reasons. Many people tout the line that one child is easy but two is damn near impossible. It was refreshing to hear the tales of a couple who had successfully continued the adventure with two kids in tow. Also, it’s good to know that we are helping to build a solid foundation in love and respect for the outdoors with our son.
When we finally reached the summit, huffing and puffing, we were shocked to find it so flat. We had seen the ridiculously large cairn, signaling the summit, from across the gorge, but didn’t realize how spacious and safe the summit was. Generally, summits aren’t a great place to let your toddler roam and explore, but Jack had a great time navigating the rocky summit.
We headed back the way we had come, enduring the brutal down and up once again. Switchbacks didn’t seem to have factored in to the creation of this trail! All in all this was a really challenging, but, REALLY fun trail! If you have a child in a carrier this trail is difficult, but doable with the added weight. I wouldn’t recommend this hike for a young, or new, walker. The trail is very challenging but an very fun, you won’t get bored on this one!
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