At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. It is one of over 20 mountains on Mount Desert Island, Maine, that were pushed up by earth's tectonic and volcanic forces millions of years ago. Were it not for the once enormous glaciers that sheared off their tops, they would be even higher than what we see today. Note the slopes on the Porcupine Islands in the distance. The North side is on the left and the steeper slope, or the down side, is on the right east side. The glaciers creeped across the land here from the left to the right and stretched out to sea as far as 400 miles! (mobile)
Cadillac Mountain is actually in the city of Bar Harbor, Maine, a rising coastal resort with a unique blend of a Down East Maine fishing village combined with quiet New England charm. A wide range of activities, recreation, and entertainment, both nature based and community based are available. Much revolves around the coast and the park itself. The town's shopping district can easily be seen from the eastern side of the mountain. During normal season, there is a free shuttle bus service available that connects most important points on Mount Desert Island as well as to a few on the mainland.
The scenic Summit Road officially opened in 1931. It meanders along the North and eastern side of the mountain for approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) until reaching the top. There are several small observation points along the roadway that offer prime viewing opportunities. Take advantage of them on the way up as well as on the way back down. It is easy to get caught up in the views while driving but be sure to remain attentive as much of the road is right beside steep cliff like areas. Exercise caution when getting in and out of your vehicle as this can be a well traveled road during the summer and autumn months.
To the East, one greets the sunrise. And this takes place over Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland. There are several islands in between and immediately off the coast from Mount Desert Island such as Sheep Porcupine and Bald Porcupine. To the Northeast is the business district of Bar Harbor. To the North is Trenton. To the South is Islesford. To the Southwest is Southwest Harbor which is particularly beautiful in the late evening as the lights come on. To the West is Eagle Lake, Blue Hill Mountain and, of course, the setting sun. And, all around you is pink granite with forests of spruce and pitch pine combined with tiny subalpine plants (such as cinquefoil), squat, gnarled trees, wild blueberries, and various sized boulders. What is there not to love here? (See a beautiful mountain view during autumn.)
One of the most striking features you notice on Cadillac Mountain are the deep scratches or gouges in the bare granite that seem to follow north south directions. The reason is quite simple. This area has undergone millions of years of climate changes during which there were several enormous continental glaciers that squashed the land and sheered off mountaintops. The last glacier retreated about 18,000 years ago, was over 1 mile high, and reached as far as 400 miles out to sea. It was so powerful that it actually shifted the orientation of the mountains from east-west to north-south.
As difficult as it may be for some to imagine, the geological evidence is all around us. Just take a long look at the map of Mount Desert Island. Note the elongated lakes and ponds, even the shape of Somes Sound. Look further at the shape of the out islands such as Sheep Porcupine to the left. One side has a gentle slope. The other has a steep slope with many deposits. The land is like a book. One just has to learn the language in order to read it. Talk with some Park Rangers about the local geographical forces that shaped Cadillac Mountain and the rest of Mount Desert Island.
There is a small gift, snack, and information center with bathroom facilities at the top called the Cadillac Summit Center. You will find it on the right just as you reach the summit. A large parking area is to the left. Even so, there are some sunrises during peak season when this parking area is completely full so vehicles are parked for some distance on the sides of the roadway.
Cadillac Mountain was named after the French explorer and adventurer, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac in 1918. Prior to this, it was known as Green Mountain. From about 1534 through 1763, a substantial part of the North American continent was colonized and under the control of France. It was known as "New France" and at its 1712 peak, extended all the way from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains to the West and the Gulf of Mexico to the South. In 1688, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Sieur de Cadillac was given ownership of over 100,000 acres of land along the present day Maine coast which included Mount Desert Island and areas next to present day Union River.
During the 1880's, there was a slow cog railway excursion to the summit called the Green Mountain Cog Railway. This started at Eagle Lake and made the climb all the way to the summit of present day Cadillac Mountain to the Green Mountain House Hotel. The railway had a relatively short run and closed operations in 1890. The equipment was then sold to Mount Washington Cog Railway of New Hampshire.
The published coordinates for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey benchmark are:
Weddings: Visit the weddings section for information about having a wedding ceremony within the park or elsewhere on MDI or in nearby villages and towns.
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