Cadillac Mountain has many interconnected trails that lead to the summit, but the most unique is the Gorge Path. Just to the east of Cadillac Mountain is its smaller sibling, Dorr Mountain, and their close proximity creates a narrow and dark gorge between the two. Gorge Path is a fairly strenuous hike that goes right up the forested valley, staying close to the watercourse of the seasonal stream to reach the north/south saddle between the two peaks. At the saddle, the trail brightens up and dries up as it turns west to ascend the steep granite outcroppings of the east face of Cadillac Mountain to finally reach the summit. This is one of the more outstanding hikes in the park!
To get to the Gorge Path 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. Drive roughly 1 mile on the one-way road (passing the prominent Cadillac North Ridge Trail trailhead) and you will see the Gorge Path trailhead marker on the right (south) side of the road right after crossing a large stone bridge (over Kebo Brook). Park at one of the roadside spots before or after the bridge.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous day hike|
|Access:||Roadside trailhead along the Park Loop Road (1 mile after the start of the one-way section)|
|Time Required:||2-3.5 hours (one way to summit of Cadillac Mountain)|
|Length:||1.9 miles (one way to summit of Cadillac Mountain)|
|Elevation Change:||1,300-foot ascent to the summit of Cadillac Mountain (800-foot ascent in gorge, 500-foot ascent along Cadillac east face)|
|Seasons:||Spring through fall|
From the bridge, walk the steps down to Kebo Brook and follow the Gorge Path south (upstream) into the dense and dark forest valley between Cadillac and Dorr Mountains. After the junction with the Hemlock Trail (which leads to the Dorr North Ridge Trail), you will start to see the walls close in as the valley starts turning into a deep gorge. The trail pretty much follows the watercourse of the stream which usually has good flow in the spring months and during a good rainstorm. (In fall, the gorge stays damp but there may not be much flow.) The ingenious Gorge Path has many stone steps put in place to ease the task of rock hopping.
After 1.5 miles of hiking, you will eventually reach the highpoint of the gorge: the trail junction at the north/south saddle. The trail to the east (left) heads up to the summit of Dorr Mountain and continuing south along the A. Murray Young Path leads down the other side of the gorge, but the Gorge Path turns west (right) to head up the steep east face of Cadillac Mountain. This section of the Gorge Path is a stark contrast to the lower section; once you are out of the belly of the gorge, the air is drier, the light is brighter, and you will be scrambling up large granite formations with wonderful open views around you.
As the trail makes its aggressive ascent up Cadillac Mountain, the gorge will slowly fade from view and you will realize how short Dorr Mountain is in comparison to Cadillac. Soon enough, after ascending roughly 500 feet from the saddle of the gorge, you will be standing at the summit mingling with the hundreds of tourists who drove to the top. Retrace your steps, or... aside from returning the way you came, there are many possibilities for alternate loop hikes, including descending the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, crossing over to Dorr Mountain and taking the Dorr North Ridge Trail back to even during a longer loop along the Cadillac South Ridge Trail/Canon Brook Trail/A. Murray Young Path. Each one of these stretches of trail has worthy scenery.
If you're in the mood for a fairly strenuous hike, do this one! The diversity of scenery is what makes this trail special, from the dark and mysterious scenery of Mt. Desert Island's deepest gorge to the idyllic granite formations and vistas of the east face of Cadillac Mountain, this is a fun hike!