Did you know that Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the first point in the United States to see the Sunrise for a majority of the year? I feel incredibly lucky to live in the great state of Maine because of all of the perks that this land provides for us! Planning for a Sunrise hike really just requires that you have a good headlamp with charged batteries, proper clothing since you will have no sunlight for warmth and are usually hanging out at a summit much longer than usual watching the entire sunrise, checking the weather forecast for some clear skies and checking to see when sunrise is for the day you plan on going. Basically, a sunrise hike requires all of your normal basics, but you definitely want to make sure that your headlamp is ready to go and has enough power to last the whole time you are headed to the summit.
Luckily, I always have my bag packed, so I made a last minute decision to join the "Sunday Hikers" for their sunrise Cadillac hike. Sunday Hikers is a central Maine based group that plans trips every Sunday, usually with a schedule a couple of months out. Sunday Hikers is led by Liberty Oulton who is super nice and thoughtful when it comes to her hikes, so check out her group on Facebook!
The trail of choice, which I agree with for doing a Sunrise hike to summit Cadillac Mountain, was the North Ridge Trail. Parking is an area large enough for about 10 cars (depending on size) along the left hand side of the park loop road. There is a decent amount of elevation gain in a little over two miles, however the trail is very well marked, dog friendly and a popular choice so you probably won't be hiking totally alone on this trail. This can alleviate any stress you may have if you plan on trying this as a solo hike in the dark. However, I do recommend bringing at least one person along with you if you have never hiked in the dark.
The Sunday Hikers group met at the trailhead at 3:45am for a 4am start. Sunrise time was projected at 7:01 am. The group hit the summit just before 6am, so we had about 35 minutes of total darkness before we started to see any color in the sky. This gave us time to heat up some water for some hot chocolate and to warm up some pre-made breakfast sandwhiches which was a great idea! Thanks Liberty! We watched the sunrise until about 7:15 or so. It was partly cloudy so luckily we got a lot of color, as we didn't get to see the sun really shine through the clouds that day.
One of the best parts of the hike was coming back down. This hike took place just past peak in October so there was still some yellow hues of color present in the Acadia region. The North Ridge trail follows close to the park loop road for quite a ways which is also a great route to get the foliage and ocean views. There is some rockface and some wet areas on this trail so be mindful of this when choosing your footwear.
Overall this hike was 4.2 miles round trip, elevation gain of 1.152ft, and took the group about two and a half hours of overall time. There was about 20 minutes overall on the round trip of actual stopping for those who needed to catch their breath, change batteries in headlamps, remove/add layers etc.
Things to remember for sunrise hike:
Headlamp and an extra set of batteries
An extra layer/coat for the extended time at the summit. (I love my Rab puffy for extended summit times)
Check the forecast
Double check when sunrise is and try to summit 30 minutes prior.
Plan for the trip to the trailhead (driving time, unloading your pack etc)
Pack good summit snacks
Be mindful of possible wildlife
Stay on the trail!
If you are bringing a dog, they do make glow collars/attachments or you can attach a glowstick to their collar for increased visibility of your dog
If you can plan a sunrise hike when the moon is close to being full, it increases visibility and is magical 👌😍
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!
Amanda & Brock