Peak Bagger's Delight: Hiking In One of The Quieter Parts of Acadia National Park
With the opportunity to bag four peaks within a few hours, it was hard to pass this up during a recent trip to Acadia National Park. Not only were my girlfriend and I rewarded with incredible views from each of the four peaks, but we also enjoyed solitude along this lightly trafficked section of the park.
We had read about this trip while having breakfast back at our camp during a classic crisp, windy fall New England morning. The loop was one described in the AMC's Discover Acadia National Park 3rd Edition as a strenuous hike with an elevation gain of 1,500 ft and a distance of 4 miles (we did a modified reverse loop with an elevation gain of 1,260 ft and a distance of 4.5 miles). We eagerly packed our gear and began our trip from the Norumbega Mountain parking area off Routes 198/3 (just north of Upper Hadlock Pond).
From there, we crossed the roadway and began our loop trip starting on the Hadlock Brook Trail.
After making a light descent into the woods, the trail transitioned into the classic rocky, root filled terrain you'd expect in New England.
Following a bit more of this terrain came a carriage road and then couple of intersections. First was a left to head north toward Sargent Mountain.
Then another turn onto the Maple Spring Trail.
The Maple Spring Trail then entered a beautiful gorge.
While the roots and rocks in this section made for good footing along the path.
After hiking through the gorge, we began to gradually climb the trail toward the first of the four peaks. Taking the Maple Spring Trail, allowed us to also pass under one of the many carriage roads throughout Acadia.
The gorge continued after passing under the carriage road, where we then weaved through Maple Spring periodically like a threaded sewing needle.
After making the moderate climb out of the gorge we arrived to a section of lumpy bits that reminded me of some sections in Rocksylvania along the Appalachian Trail. (Trail Tip: Expect to find similar terrain on trails such as Eagle Lake Trail, Bubbles Divide Trail and South Bubble Trail)
Once we got past this section we came to another junction before making the final climb.
From there the views began to reveal themselves. The pic below was taken on our ascent up the western face of Sargent Mountain. Directly below are the three other bald peaks that were on our itinerary for the loop (Gilmore Peak, Parkman Mountain and Bald Peak). Also in frame are Somes Sound, Norumbega Mountain, Acadia Mountain, Beech Mountain, Mansell Mountain, Bernard Mountain and Knight Nubble.
Trail Fact: Somes Sound is the only fjord on the entire East Coast of the U.S.
Continuing up Sargent the weathered, faint trail blazes were surrounded with us by stunted spruce, cedar, birch and sedges. Due to the exposure above treeline, cairns help direct the way to the peak (this navigation aid can be found throughout Acadia) while also protecting the fragile environment from being trampled.
Sargent Mountain is the second highest peak in Acadia National Park (Cadillac Mountain is the highest, 1,529 ft) with an elevation of 1,373 ft.
The winds were strong up here, but that didn't stop us from enjoying a snack and the view from the other side of the mountain. Pictured in a panoramic shot I took below are: Cadillac Mountain (front and center), North Bubble and South Bubble (just below Cadillac), Eagle Lake, Eagles Crag, Dike Peak, Pemetic Mountain and Frenchman Bay (in the distance)
After enjoying the views from the first peak, we looped and descended the rocky slope back into woodlands once again. From there we picked up the Grandgent Trail, hiking west toward our second peak for the trip, Gilmore Peak. With a little bit of climbing, the terrain near the top of this peak opened up once more to a new perspective.
Gilmore Peak only stands at 1,036 ft, but it provided us with one incredible view and no crowds.
Next up on our map was Parkman Mountain. Continuing west with another descent on the Grandgent Trail, we arrived at another junction. Only 0.3 miles until the next peak.
The hike to the top of Parkman was a close second favorite of mine from the loop trip (Sargent was the first). Though it was a short distance, there was a fun little section of scrambling before reaching the peak. Which also looked like something right out of a Lord of the Rings film.
At 941 ft, Parkman Mountain makes up for the lack of elevation with another expansive view and a closer look at Somes Sound. It is also the lowest of the four peaks in this loop.
After making it to Parkman, we had one more peak to complete our four peak loop trip, Bald Peak. The hike to the final peak and the descent that followed were filled with some of the beautiful fall colors New England is known for. Bald Peak is in the picture below, to the left.
One more junction soon followed, before making the climb to Bald Peak. After reading the signs to make sure we stayed on the correct path, we began our hike to the final peak.
Bald Peak stands at 974 ft and offered us a glimpse back at the other three peaks climbed throughout the course of the trip, as well as one more incredible view of the surrounding peaks and water bodies down below, before we made our descent toward the parking area.
Due to the abnormally warm temps we have been getting this autumn, the fall foliage has slowly been appearing in some spots of the park as with all of New England. The blend of colors and the glistening water made this one of my favorite views on the trip and a great way to end an incredible hike.
From Bald Peak we took the Bald Mountain Trail down to connect with the Hadlock Brook Trail once more and made our way back to the car.
But not before a little more cautious stepping to get there.
The Peak Bagger's Delight was a highlight for us both out of all of the trips we did during our stay. The solitude, technical terrain and vistas were all rewarding in their own unique ways. I look forward to making another trip here in the future and adding a couple more additional peaks to the loop. Avid hikers will most likely find this trip to be moderate with a couple of scrambles. Plan at least 4 hours to complete with an average hiking pace.