A slightly shorter alternative hike to the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, the Cadillac North Ridge Trail starts at the opposite end of the mountain at a trailhead along the Park Loop Road just .2 miles past the start of the one-way section. This easy-to-follow trail makes a slow and steady ascent though a few sections of pleasant forest to reach the higher sections of interesting pink granite formations, offering expansive views to the north. While this is arguably the least interesting trail to the top of Cadillac Mountain and cars on the nearby Cadillac Summit Road may prevent any wilderness experience, this is still a pleasant hike.
To get to the Cadillac North Ridge Trailhead from Bar Harbor, take Eagle Lake Road (Route 233) and then turn south on the Park Loop Road. Roughly half a mile south is the start of the one-way section of the loop road. (Just a bit further south is the Cadillac Summit Road if you want to take the easy drive to the summit.) Drive .2 miles on the one-way road and you will see the trailhead marker and signage on the right (south) side of the road. Limited roadside parking can be found nearby.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous day hike|
|Access:||Roadside trailhead along the Park Loop Road (.2 miles after the start of the one-way section)|
|Time Required:||1.5-3 hours (one way)|
|Length:||2.2 miles (one way)|
|Elevation Change:||1150-foot steady ascent to the summit of Cadillac Mountain|
|Seasons:||Spring through fall|
Hiking the Cadillac North Ridge Trail is pretty straightforward. The lower sections of the trail are forested but soon give way to the more open views as you gain elevation. As with many other peaks on Mt. Desert Island, beautiful pink granite formations can be seen everywhere. The trail does brush against the Cadillac Summit Road a few times which admittedly ruins any sort of wilderness experience. As you make your way up the mountain, be sure to look behind you to the north for increasingly beautiful views.
After about two hours of leg-burning uphill, the trail will top out at the north end of the summit parking lot which is typically swirling with cars and people during the summer months. Continue around the parking lot to the south side to tag the summit and stroll around the summit loop trail.
While this is a perfectly fine trail, the slightly longer Cadillac South Ridge Trail would probably be a more interesting hiking option due to its more remote and diverse scenery. If you have a car spot or want to use the free Island Explorer shuttle during the summer months, a few interesting options would be a through hike up the South Ridge Trail and down the North Ridge Trail or a loop hike up the Gorge Path and then back down the North Ridge Trail.