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Acadia National Park: Gorham Mountain

Map of our hike on Gorham Mountain Trail.

Because it’s the only national park in the northeastern US, I’ve visited Acadia National Park several times over the years. But I’m a bit mystified that I’ve managed to hike it just once, and it was only last year. I think it is because I’ve come here in a large group, for which it’s not easy to plan a hike. Further, there are so many things to do that we’ve always managed to find other alternatives.

This time we picked up a Falcon’s Guide for Acadia, which suggests no fewer than 70+ hiking routes. We also bought a hiking map, produced by the Friends of Acadia based in Bar Harbor, which proved to much more portable. Both are available at any park gift shop.

Our first hike was Gorham Mountain. This seems to be one of the more popular trails, with its own parking area on the Park Loop Road just after Thunder Hole.

After a short walk, we came upon to a split in the path. Beneath an overhanging rock is a plaque, discolored with age, honoring Waldron Bates, an early pioneering trail-builder. He left his marks on many trails both well known and loved.


The left path takes us over rather ordinary woodland, but once in a while it comes to a clearing where we get a tantalizing view of the coast below. Soon we came to a bald top which appears to be the summit, though it turns out to be a false summit which was cleared by fire some time ago. False or real, the view is spectacular. Looking south over wide granite ledges, we can see the spit of land that is Otter Cliff.


Due east and below us is the rugged coastline for which Acadia is famous.


Northeast is the ever-popular Sand Beach, which in the summer is hands down the most crowded day-time attraction in the park.


Northward is the dome-shaped Beehive. Despite its cute moniker, it’s one of the more challenging mountains to scale. You can see hikers gingerly navigating the trail which clings to the precipitous rock face.


Far below we can see what appears to be a lighthouse on its own island.


A yellow biplane buzzes over head. We wish it’d fly closer to the Beehive!


Once we had our fill here, we continued on for about 0.2 mile to the true summit, but being more wooded it offers less expansive views.


On the way back down, we took the other fork, the Cadillac Cliffs path, and were not disappointed. This route is many times more interesting than the one we’d taken going up. True to its name, this path skirts the bottom of a towering cliff with massive rock slabs stacked like so many slices of bread.

This particular cliff appears to have been partially submerged in the past, because at the bottom is a smoothly worn “sea cave”!

Sometimes we had to clamber over jagged boulders.

Or picked our way among rocks strewn about like pieces of a broken glass.

Assistance comes in the form of these iron rungs driven into the rock. These are a common sight on the more challenging trails.

Don’t forget to stop and admire rocks shaped like the bow of a ship.

The path wends its way between gigantic obstacles.

Despite its short length (1.8 mile round-trip between the parking lot and the true summit), the Gorham Mountain trail offers unmatched views and a fun-filled side path for relatively little effort.