Cycling Cadillac Mountain -- the #1 Bike Climb in Maine
Ride 5.6 miles gaining 1,426’ at 4.7% average grade.
PJAMM Note: Thank you to PJAMM friends and cycling documenting legends John Summerson (The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) 2nd Ed.) and Chris Destafano (extraordinary cycling and adventure/travel photographer at Christ Destefano Photography) and our cycling friends from Indiana, Tom and Carla Morton.
“Located in Acadia National Park right on the picturesque Maine coast, Cadillac Mountain is a very scenic climb that rises from just above sea level and is very likely the most difficult ascent in the state. It is over mostly moderate and fairly steady grade along the majority of its route. The views on top are quite good and you will likely have some company (mostly auto traffic) on your way up but not so much that it ruins the climb.
From climb start at the junction of Routes 3 and 223 in Bar Harbor, head south on 223 over shallow grade. You then stair step up the hill which includes a small descent. The grade then gradually increases and at mile 1.1 bear right into the national park to find a short stretch of solid grade. At the junction turn left to find shallow grade. From this point you ride along up and down slope for one mile with some traffic most days. At mile 2.2, turn left to the summit into the woods and find the steepest sustained climbing on the hill. Soon very good views appear to your left as you ride along the ridgeline as the trees disappear. The grade eventually eases back and then when it ramps up again, more very good scenery is encountered. Towards the summit you find a short descent. Climbing then resumes over shallow grade and the hill ends at a parking area with hiking possibilities. The descent of Cadillac Mountain is mostly uncomplicated except perhaps for its intermittent traffic.” (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in the Northeast, pg. 68.)
Cadillac Mountain, located within Maine’s Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island (MDI), sits at 1,530 feet and is the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard. The mountain is one of twenty on MDI, and is famous in part for being the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from early October through early March each year. Cadillac Summit Road is the paved road to the top of the mountain, and winds up the approximately 3.5 miles to the mountaintop. On a clear day from the top of the summit road, its possible to see Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest point, in the distance. You can read more about Cadillac Summit road here.
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain
Photo: Acadia Magic
Along the other mountains on MDI, Cadillac Mountain was formed by being pushed up by the earth’s tectonic plates and volcanic forces millions of years ago. Huge glaciers sheared off these mountains’ tops, causing the mountains we see today to be shorter than they once were. More information on the glaciers that once crept across the area can be found here.
The history of the roadways within Acadia National Park is rich. Between 1913 and 1940, the construction of 57 miles of Carriage Roads was financed and directed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These roads were built for use by hikers, bikers, horse riders, and carriages on MDI, and granite was quarried from the island to be used for roadway material and bridge facings. Today, this network of woodland “broken-stone” roads remains free of car traffic. 45 of the 57 miles of roadway exist within Acadia National Park, and some are used for cross-country skiing and even snowmobiling. More information on this unique and diverse roadway system can be found here.
A carriage roadway and wooden signpost in Acadia National Park