Otter Cliff in Acadia
Otter Cliff, in Acadia National Park, Maine, is one of the most spectacular sights along the North Atlantic Seaboard. On the east side of the Park Loop Road, about .7 miles past Thunder Hole, is the famous 110 foot high Otter Cliff - one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands north of Rio de Janeiro. Just before Otter Cliff is a beautiful spot called Monument Cove. Right after this, the road begins to curve to the left. To the right is a small parking area with portable rest facilities. On the other side of the street is a path that leads to the cliff.
Otter Cliff Parking GPS: Latitude 44.310803; Longitude -68.189828
One of the most noticeable features in most photos of Otter Cliff, along with the headland itself, are the thousands of rounded boulders in the foreground that are in the small cove immediately to the north. Over countless centuries, the rocks have been pounded by the sea and eroded by both water and against each other after being deposited by huge glaciers that once moved across the land here on the island. When the light is low on the horizon, the warm sunlit sides on the left contrast with the cool shadow sides on the right and these rounded shapes contrast further with the rugged and weathered vertical granite cliffs set ablaze by the rising sun. The viewing of this can quicken the heart and and mind, creating lasting impressions of millennium condensed into one's own life.
A bell buoy located just off the shore from Otter Cliff has special historical significance. It warns of an often hidden rock formation called the "Spindle." Centuries ago on September 5th, 1604, while sailing around Mount Desert Island at high tide, the explorer Samuel de Champlain was drawn closer after he noticed smoke rising from a Native American encampment near Otter Point. Unfortunately for Champlain and the crew, they did not see the dangerous rock formation in time to avoid it. The damage to the hull of the ship forced them to spend the following winter in Otter Cove for safety and repairs. This was 16 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and the key reason why many places along the Maine Coast have French origin names. This area was then known as “New France.”
The Ocean Path that begins back at Sand Beach and passes by Thunder Hole, arrives at Otter Cliff. Along the way are many wonderful vantage points from which you may partake in this visual feast in all its splendor and it is highly recommended. Since this is on the east coast of Mount Desert Island, this whole section of Acadia National Park is perfect for watching a sunrise.
Use utmost caution when near the cliffs. The rocks may be slippery and little bits of sand and rock particles can act like marbles causing you to slip and fall. Severe injuries can result.
Note: Just prior to arriving at Otter Cliff, you may notice a road on the right called Otter Cliff Road. If needed, this will take you to Route 3 where you can take a right to return to Bar Harbor or take a left to go to Otter Creek and Seal Harbor.
As you are approaching Otter Cliff via the one-way Park Loop Road, there are a few choices to make depending on what you want to do after. If you want to continue through the Park on the same Park Loop Road, but want to make a short stop at Otter Cliff and Otter Point, I suggest parking in the main parking area. As you round the curve to the left, the parking area will be on the upper right. Once parked, just cross the road where you will find some granite steps leading to the cliffside. Note that the Ocean Path can be seen on the left once you reach the cliffs. Following this path will take you near some other access points. If you want to get some image captures of the big round boulders, you can pull over to the right side of the road and park before you get to Otter Cliff. Cross the road to the left and you will find a short and steep trail leading down to the rocks below. Be very careful if you choose to do this as it can be dangerous. I would not recommend this except for those used to hiking in rough areas. An alternative is to go out onto the land to the left of the cove.