Starting from a roadside trailhead along Route 198 outside of the NPS boundary near Somes Sound, the Giant Slide Trail is a hike that is off of most tourists' radars, but it is a worthy adventure if you're looking for something different in a quiet corner of the park. This clever route follows Sargent Brook up into a boulder-filled valley, weaving around and even under large boulders as it makes its way upstream. Once above the "Giant Slide", a popular option is to continue along the Grandgent Trail to the top of Sargent Mountain, Acadia's second tallest peak.
The Giant Slide trailhead is located along Route 198, roughly one mile south of the junction with Route 233 (Eagle Lake Road). (Somes Sound is just to the west, although it is hard to see from the road.) Look for the standard Acadia-style log trailhead marker; there is limited roadside parking along the shoulder on both sides of the road.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous day hike with some scrambling|
|Access:||Roadside trailhead along Route 198, roughly one mile south of Route 233 junction|
|Time Required:||3-5 hours for enitre loop hike|
|Length:||Roughly 5 miles for "lollipop" loop hike up Giant Slide to Sargent Mountain and back|
|Elevation Change:||1300 ft elevation gain to the top of Sargent Mountain|
|Seasons:||Spring to fall|
The Giant Slide Trail starts on privately-owned conserved land, so please obey any posted signs, including "no bikes are allowed". (The trail used to start a bit more to the south following an old dirt road where bikes were permitted in the past.) The trail heads east through a typically beautiful forested valley through an unusually flourishing lichen community. As the signs warn, please stay on the trail to protect these fragile plants. Soon enough, the trail enters Acadia National Park proper and after the first carriage road crossing, the trail joins up with Sargent Brook and the hike gets much more interesting.
The trail follows Sargent Brook up a small boulder-strewn valley (aka the "Giant Slide.") Hikers must boulder-hop to cross the stream several times, scramble up and around several obstacles, and even crawl under a few chockstone boulders. Just past the junction with the Sargent Northwest Trail (our return route), the trail even goes through a cave-like formation created by a giant slab of granite. While all of the scrambling may be strenuous and may get your shoes wet, this section of trail is FUN! Soon enough, the terrain mellows out and we cross over another carriage road, the "Around-Mountain Carriage Road."
To make this hike into a nice loop, it's fun to continue on to the summit of Gilmore Peak and Sargent Mountain before heading back. At the next trail intersection, take the Grandgent Trail left (east) to head up to the top of Gilmore Peak, one of the more beautiful and lesser-visited minor peaks in Acadia. The trail continues down the east side and after the next stream crossing and trail junction, the Grandgent Trail makes its big ascent up the west side of Sargent Mountain. While the trail is fairly steep, it relents soon enough and you will be standing on top of the second highest peak in Acadia. (The views from the top of Sargent Mountain are admittedly a bit muted because the mountain is such a large dome formation.)
For the return hike, from the summit of Sargent Mountain, take the Sargent Northwest Trail back down; this trail feels like one of the least-traveled stretches of trail in the park. After crossing the Around-Mountain Carriage Road again, the Sargent Northwest Trail continues its descent back to Sargent Brook and the intersection with the Giant Slide Trail. Retrace your steps back to the Giant Slide trailhead.
Note: With so many trails in the area, the Sargent Mountain loop is just one suggestion. Doing a loop up to Parkman Mountain with a side trip to Bald Peak would also be fun.
The Giant Slide Trail is a fun and unique route that confirms that hiking isn't always about the destination; it's about enjoying the "getting there." I'm ever thankful for the historic Acadia trailblazers for finding so many unique and amazing spots and setting trails through them so that we can all enjoy them. If you're looking for something different and fairly strenuous, this is a wonderful route!