Alpha Guide: Mount Monadnock's White Dot & White Cross Trails

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No American mountain has been climbed by more people than this southern New Hampshire classic, and for good reason. 

Mount Monadnock has many distinctions. It’s the second-most climbed mountain in the world, it’s one of only 13 mountains on the list of National Natural Landmarks, and its summit is the only place where it’s possible to see all six New England states at once. On this miraculous mountain, the most popular route is the four-mile loop via the White Dot and White Cross trails. This absolute classic is a must-do trip for every New Englander.

Quick Facts

Distance: 4 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half day for most
Difficulty: ★★
Scenery:★★★★


Season: Year-round. Best from May through October
Fees/Permits: $5/person, and $2 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are free.
Contact: https://www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/monadnock-state-park.aspx

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Turn-By-Turn

People coming to Mount Monadnock from the Boston area will want to follow Route 2 West to its connection with Route 140 North (exit 24B). After roughly nine miles, Route 140 becomes MA 12 North. Continue on MA 12 until its intersection with US 202, and then, follow US 202 over the Massachusetts-New Hampshire state line through the town of Rindge and eventually into the quaint town center of Jaffrey. In Jaffrey center, take a left onto Route 124 West. Follow 124 West for about two miles, before taking a right onto Dublin Road. From here, simply follow the signs to the parking lot.

People coming to Monadnock by way of Interstates 93 or 95 can simply exit onto US 101 West and take it to US 202 West, and then, use the directions from above. The only difference will be taking a right turn onto Route 124 West instead of a left.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Into the Woods

Hiking Mount Monadnock via the White Dot and White Cross trails is quite straightforward. Leave the parking lot in the direction of the Park Store, and continue past the store toward the restrooms. If nature calls, it’s worth taking the opportunity to go here, as the trail can be busy, and privacy may be hard to come by from here on out. Just past the restroom is the well-marked trailhead (42.845619, -72.088699).

The trail starts off wide, allowing enough room for hiking shoulder to shoulder. And, on busy weekends, it gives hikers the chance to disperse before the terrain gets more technical. Although this section is neither wide nor steep, the trail is littered with chunky rocks and roots, so watch your step.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Choices

After roughly a half-mile, hikers will come to the intersection of the White Dot and White Cross trails (42.851715, -72.091652). Although hikers may do the hike in either direction, the preferred and most common way is to hike up the White Dot Trail and descend via the White Cross Trail, as White Dot’s steep, slabby terrain is easier to negotiate going uphill.

To continue on the White Dot Trail, just follow the painted white dots straight ahead. Soon, the trail begins to steepen, and the day’s first challenge, a series of steep, slick ledges, comes into view. Finding traction here requires careful footwork, however. Over the years, many people have climbed this exact route, leaving the stone polished and smooth in places. Concerned about the slabs? Take an extra moment to evaluate where you are going, and often, an easy path will present itself.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

A short while later, you’ll come across the Cascade Link junction (42.853878, -72.092758). Stay straight. From here, the trail weaves through the forest and scrambles up short sections of steep rock slabs. As the slabs open up, make sure to turn around and take in the view. Here, the Wapack Range is quite prominent.

As you get above treeline, the trail stops ascending and begins corkscrewing around the mountain, and you’ll wonder if you’re staring at the summit. You’re not. It’s a false summit, and you’ve still got a little farther to go. Here, you’ll encounter a series of open ledges, which can be a great place to have a snack if your group is so inclined.

After this, there’s some more slab climbing, until you come to a large sign that marks the intersection of the White Dot and White Cross Trails (42.859726, -72.104698). You’re not done yet, so continue upward.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Final Push

After the junction, the trail steepens, and you’ll be traveling entirely on rock up to the summit. At this point, you’ve surpassed the trail’s most difficult sections, but don’t let your guard down when the summit comes in sight. You’ve still got to get through a few spots requiring fancy footwork. On windy days, it is also a good idea to layer up for this section.

As you work upward, the trail remains well-marked and easy to follow. It does, however, bear sharply right at one point. Fortunately, there’s a large sign (42.860313, -72.107361) there that’s pretty hard to miss.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit

Sine it’s the tallest peak for miles and unprotected, the winds often rip across Monadnock’s summit (42.861385, -72.108063). Luckily, natural windbreaks abound, offering great places to take a break, pull on a puffy, and have a snack. Once refreshed, stand up and take in the fantastic 360-degree view. In the distance to the north, look for the White Mountains. Much closer to the east is the Wapack Range. To the south, you can see Mount Wachusett. And, Vermont’s ski mountains are visible to the west. While you’re admiring the view, try to identify landmarks in all six New England states.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Return

From the summit, retrace your steps on the White Dot Trail. Below the summit proper, you’ll encounter a few smooth, slabby sections, so watch your footing.

As you descend, look for the sign that indicates the White Dot Trail will take a sharp turn. This time, however, you’ll be turning left. Soon thereafter, you’ll be at the well-marked junction for the White Dot and White Cross Trails (42.859726, -72.104698). Since the footing on the latter is a little easier and the incline more moderate, start following the white crosses down. Before you do so, though, make sure to look back uphill to get one last look at the summit.

From the junction, the White Cross Trail meanders below treeline, working through some easy slabby sections and then into the woods. The trail is pleasant and quite moderate as it approaches the White Dot-White Cross junction (42.851715, -72.091652). At the junction, turn right (downhill) onto the White Dot Trail, and you’ll be in the parking lot in no time.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Diversions

Mount Monadnock is forever linked with the great transcendentalist writers and philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Because of this, many spots are marked to note their connection with the mountain. A diversion from the White Cross Trail takes you across the Smith Connector Trail to the Cliff Walk Trail, where you will find “Emerson’s Seat” and “Thoreau’s Seat” at around 2,350 feet. Both “seats” offer fantastic views and perhaps will inspire you as it did them.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • Much of the White Cross and White Dot trails are on exposed rock that has been made smooth and slick by the boots of hundreds of thousands of hikers. With traction a necessity, consider a pair of trail runners, like the Brooks Cascadia 12 (Men’s/Women’s), or hiking shoes, such as the Oboz Sawtooth (Men’s/Women’s).
  • These trails can get especially slippery. If you’re unsure of your footwork, don’t want to roll an ankle, or simply hope to stay upright, pack a pair of trekking poles, such as the Black Diamond Trail Back poles (Men’s/Women’s) for added stability and confidence. Need some convincing? We’ve covered all the benefits of trekking poles here.
  • Loosely translated, “monadnock” is an old Abenaki word meaning “mountain standing alone,” and you’ll definitely notice the isolation with the ridgeline winds. Even on nice summer days, bring a windshirt, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi (Men’s/Women’s), for blocking the breeze.
  • Pick up the Mount Monadnock Trail Map before you go to get psyched, bring it along just in case you make a wrong turn, and consult it after to start planning your next trip. Pumpelly Trail, perhaps?
  • Although Mount Monadnock is near a lot of places to grab a bite to eat or a beer after your hike, it’s not really close to any of them. Instead, pack a picnic in the Mountainsmith Deluxe Cooler Cube, and après at your leisure. Add a lightweight and packable Helinox Camp Chair for a better seat than you’ll find in any restaurant.
  • As you might suspect, the most popular trail on the world’s second-most climbed mountain can be a busy place. Beat the crowds and get an early start by hitting the trail before sunrise with the Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp.

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Tips

  • Before heading up the mountain, stop in the Ranger Station to get the latest on everything from weather to trail conditions.
  • To get excited before your climb, follow the Franklin Pierce University Mount Monadnock webcam.
  • Stay the night at Gilson Pond Campground. With its 35 campsites, plus five remote hike-in sites, why rush home?
  • No dogs are allowed in the park. So, if you were planning on bringing your pooch, you’ll have to make other plans.
  • If you worked up an appetite on the trails, treat yourself to a mountain of ice cream—their portions are best described as “generous”—from Kimball Farm in Jaffrey on your way home.
  • If you’re interested in exploring more of Southwestern New Hampshire, make the short drive to the Peterborough EMS Store and get some local knowledge on Monadnock’s lesser-known trails. Before heading home, stop for a pint at Harlow’s—the unofficial pub of Eastern Mountain Sports.

Current Conditions

Have you climbed Monadnock recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!


The Best Beers After Every Adventure

There are a lot of things to love about being outdoors in the summer. Days are longer, so you have extra time for adventuring. Temperatures are warmer, so you don’t have to worry about how many layers to wear—and how many extra ones to pack. And, even though the après scene is strong in the realm of winter sports, few things are more satisfying than an ice-cold beer at the end of a hot summer day spent in the wild. So, to make this your most refreshing summer yet, begin with these beer and activity recommendations. Just remember to drink and play outdoors responsibly, please. Cheers!

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Beers for Backpacking

Whether you’re the type to save a little space for a can or three in your pack or someone who leaves a six-pack in a cooler in your car, there’s no denying that a strong brew and backpacking go together like peanut butter and Nutella. Pitch-A-Tent Double IPA from Hobbs Tavern & Brewing Co. (8% ABV; 76 IBU) is the perfect way to wind down from a high-mileage day while you wait for your freeze-dried meal to “cook.” And, it’s still just as good if you wait to imbibe until you’re back in the parking lot—or your backyard.

Beers for Mountain Biking

If you’re anything like my husband and his friends, you throw back a beer at the end of a hard ride, because you totally crushed it, bro. If you’re like me, you probably have a few new bruises, so you crack open a cold one in an effort to dull the pain that both your body and ego are suffering. Either way, New Belgium’s Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale (5.2% ABV; 22 IBU) is an ideal choice for your post-ride recovery beverage. As an added bonus, New Belgium is a member of 1% For the Planet, so each Fat Tire you drink also helps support amazing things like bicycle advocacy, clean water, and reforestation.

Beers for Climbing

Nothing soothes tender tips better than an ice-cold beer after a day of cragging. As soon as your rack is stowed away, your rope is coiled, and you’ve traded in your approach shoes for your flippy-floppies, it’s time to treat yourself to a parking lot Monkey Fist from Shipyard Brewing (6% ABV; 50 IBU). This delicious West Coast-style IPA is named after a knot (for sailors, but still), and according to Shipyard, it “starts smooth and finishes with a…subtle bitterness,” which is likely also how your day of climbing progressed. I dare you to find a more appropriate brew to wrap up a day on the rock.

Beers for Trail Running

Hitting the trail for a tough sweat session is one of those things I love as an afterthought but really only tolerate as it’s happening. The post-run beer, however, is not only something I love in the moment, but it’s also often what motivates me to even put those miles under my feet in the first place. And, in this instance, Rock Art Brewery’s Ridge Runner (7.2% ABV; 23 IBU) always hits the spot. Ambiguously classified as a “Bold Vermont Ale,” these strong suds easily help you forget about those lung-burning climbs, quad-killing descents, and all the roots and rocks you nearly face-planted.

Beers for Hiking

Day-hiking is great, because it’s just backpacking for a few hours instead of a few days and doesn’t involve carrying all that stuff. There’s no denying that a day of hiking deserves a beer, but since it’s not quite as demanding, I like to end my treks with one that’s a little less intense. Trail Hopper from Long Trail Brewing Co. (4.75% ABV; 40 IBU) is a slightly fruity, super-refreshing session IPA—and an excellent way to end a hot summer hike.

Beers for Paddling

All of these summer sports are tiring, but spending a day in a kayak or on a paddleboard has a particular knack for wearing you out. I don’t know if it’s because of all the sun, or if it’s just because I always forget how much of a workout paddling actually is, but whenever I head out, I’m totally beat when I get back on solid ground—and super thirsty. Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale (4.9% ABV; 10 IBU) is a mixed bag of styles (Kolsch, Gose, and Berliner Weiss) with some lime and sea salt thrown in. Men’s Health dubbed it “the world’s most thirst-slaying beer,” and overall, it’s a great complement to your aquatic adventures.

Call It a Day

Some summer days are so nice, you end up enjoying more than one activity. Maybe you hit the trail for an easy run in the morning, and then, go to your favorite lake for an afternoon paddle. Or, maybe you head out for a little alpine endeavor, like Henderson Ridge. Whatever your multi-sport adventure of choice may be, there’s one beer that’s perfect for the end of a day spent outdoors: Call It A Day IPA from Moat Mountain Brewing Company (8% ABV; 75 IBU).

 

Now, you tell us: What’s your favorite beer, and which activity does it pair with best? Let us know in the comments!

 

Credit: Lauren Danilek
Credit: Lauren Danilek

How to Choose the Right Sleeping Bag

I was a 19-year-old kid, weeks away from leaving on my first camping trip to Alaska. I’d never slept in the woods before, and I hadn’t spent a single night in a sleeping bag. When it came to purchasing one for myself, I had no idea where to start. I was a total rookie. I drove down to the local Eastern Mountain Sports and picked up the only bag within my budget that was rated to 20F, simply because I knew it wouldn’t get that cold in Southeast Alaska in June.

The sleeping bag turned out to be fine for summertime camping in Alaska. But, when I tried to use it a year later on a soggy climb of Mount Shasta, I was downright uncomfortable and freezing. The takeaway? When buying a sleeping bag, you have to look beyond the price and temperature rating. Specifically, take a larger look at the type of camping you’ll be doing, conditions you expect to face, and which features you want to prioritize, in addition to other personal and technical preferences. Below is a guide to help you choose the right sleeping bag for your next adventure.

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Consider How You’ll Be Camping

Are you a backpacker? Mountaineer? Car camper? Before you buy a sleeping bag, stop to think about the outdoor activity for which you’ll be using it the most. When it comes to backpacking and mountaineering, you want to save weight without sacrificing comfort and safety. Every extra ounce you carry on your back equates to energy spent. Car camping, however, is a bit more laid back. You’re not going to carry your sleeping bag around. Instead, your goal should be to maximize comfort and minimize cost, and think less about weight. From here, you can dive into the bag’s more nuanced specs to make your decision.

TK_EMS-Conway-9524

Temperature Rating

The temperature rating is essentially the lowest point at which the bag will keep you warm and comfortable. For example, if a bag is rated to 40F, you shouldn’t get excessively cold in the bag, unless the air temperature drops below that mark. With this rating, it is assumed that you’re using a sleeping pad to create a layer of insulation between you and the ground.

The quality varies quite a bit based on the manufacturer and how frequently it’s used. For this reason, look at the temperature rating as a guideline, rather than a rule. In fact, always buy a bag rated a little bit colder than the actual temperature you expect to experience. You can always ventilate the bag if you’re too warm, but it’s harder to warm up if you’re freezing cold. As a general rule, summer bags run from 35 degrees and up, three-season bags are rated between 10 and 35 degrees, and winter bags run from 10 degrees and lower.

EN Rating

Additionally, many U.S. manufacturers have recently adopted a temperature rating standard called EN13537, or simply the EN rating. Originally developed in Europe, the EN rating is based on a standard laboratory test. This is good news for the buyer. It means that, although sleeping bags are made by different manufacturers, users will be able to compare the temperatures and comfort levels between them.

Based on the assumption that the sleeper is wearing a base layer and hat and is using a sleeping pad, and also assuming that women sleep colder than men, the test determines four temperature ratings:

  • Upper Limit: At this temperature, a standard male can sleep without sweating excessively. This rating assumes that the hood and zippers are open, with the arms and head out of the bag.
  • Comfort: At this temperature, a standard female can expect to have a comfortable sleep, in a relaxed position.
  • Lower Limit: At this temperature, a standard male can sleep, in a curled position, for eight hours without waking.
  • Extreme: This is the minimum temperature at which a standard female can stay for six hours without being at risk for death from hypothermia. Frostbite, however, is still a risk.

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Weight

Again, weight is going to be a determining factor. Most backpackers like to keep their bag lighter than three pounds (using something like the EMS Mountain Light 20), and many lightweight backpackers will strive to go under two pounds. Ultimately, you want a bag that’s going to keep you warm and comfortable at night, but that isn’t too heavy to carry on your back when you’re logging miles on the trail.

A lot of times, this balance boils down to personal preference. Are you willing to carry a little more weight for a bit of added comfort at night? Or, are you willing to chance being a little cold at night in order to reduce energy expenditure? Ask yourself these questions before you buy. The same principle also applies to mountaineering. However, safety—will this bag keep me warm enough if conditions get really, really bad?—needs to be given even greater consideration.

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Insulation

Ah, the age-old debate: Should you choose a down or synthetic sleeping bag? It’s not a question to be taken lightly (pun intended). Specifically, insulation type directly correlates with how much the product weighs, compresses, resists water, keeps you warm, and affects your wallet. All of these factors are going to influence your experience in the outdoors.

Down

Compared to synthetic, down bags provide a greater amount of warmth for their weight. They are highly compressible, and thus pack smaller than synthetic. As well, down is durable and can last for a long time. One of the more notable cons, however, is that if traditional down gets wet, its insulating capabilities greatly decrease. Once wet, it takes a long time to dry and can be difficult to clean. Additionally, down bags are also more expensive than their synthetic counterparts.

If getting wet is a concern, hydrophobic down is a new alternative that has gained popularity in recent years. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a water-resisting chemical, which allows the down to dry much more quickly and resists water for far longer. It also lets the down retain its loft when exposed to dampness. A bag like the Marmot Hydrogen uses Down Defender, a specific brand of water-resistant down. As you shop around, research the bag’s specs to see if the down is hydrophobic.

Synthetic

Synthetic bags, on the other hand, are often favored because they are generally more affordable, are even more water resistant, and continue to keep you warm when they get wet. The trade-off? Synthetic insulation weighs a little more and is bulkier than down. It also provides less warmth for its weight.

There are three basic types of synthetic insulation—cluster-fiber, short-staple, and continuous filament. You’ll also come across a few brand-name options, including Thinsulate, PrimaLoft, and Insotect. Popular in footwear and gloves, Thinsulate has very little bulk. PrimaLoft is another great choice, as it’s highly water resistant, and remarkably breathable and lightweight. Insotect, the type used in the EMS Velocity 35, is a strong bet for those seeking additional comfort. Specifically, it allows for superior body support and retains heat exceptionally well.

Again, the choice boils down to personal preference and how you’ll be using the bag. Consider where you’ll be taking the bag, and the type of weather that you might encounter. You should also think about how much money you want to pay, and the weight you’re willing to carry on your back.

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Shape and Size

Sleeping bags come in a number of different shapes, including rectangular, like the EMS Bantam 30, semi-rectangular, and mummy-style. Mummy is preferable for backpacking and mountaineering, because it allows for greater heat retention and protection from the cold while also saving weight. Rectangular bags, on the other hand, are more suited to car and warm-weather camping.

Sleeping bags also typically come in two standard lengths for men and women: regular and long. Although these sizes vary, depending on the manufacturer, regular men’s sleeping bags generally fit those up to 6 feet in height, and long fits up to 6 feet, 6 inches. For women, a regular is typically up to 5 feet 6 inches, with long being just over six feet.

When choosing a size, make sure the bag fits snugly, but not so much that you’re uncomfortable. The less air space there is around your body, the warmer you will be. However, for those who frequently change positions in their sleep, a little extra wiggle room around the shoulders and feet may be preferable.

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Other Considerations

For the detail oriented, here are a few final things to consider before purchasing your sleeping bag.

Zipper

Zippers come on either the right- or left-hand side. A left-handed zipper will be to your left, assuming you’re lying in the bag facing up, and vice-versa.

Stash Pocket

Most sleeping bags come with a small stash pocket to store things like your wallet, headlamp, and other useful items, to keep them handy at night. If you’re a stomach sleeper, make sure the pocket is not in an intrusive spot.

Sleeve and Hood

Some sleeping bags, like the Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15, have sleeves built into the bottom, allowing for a sleeping pad to fit inside. This means that you don’t have to worry about rolling off your sleeping pad during the night. Mummy bags, like the EMS Women’s Mountain Light 20, have a hood with a drawstring to help retain heat. A lot of heat is lost through your head at night, so for cold-weather camping, this is really important. The hood essentially functions in the same manner that the hood on a jacket does, and the drawstring allows you to cinch it tightly to retain even more heat.

Compression and Storage Sacks

For storing your bag, it’s important to have both a compression sack and a storage sack. The former helps you pack your bag down as small as possible for camping and backpacking purposes. When you’re not using your sleeping bag, keep it in the storage sack to preserve the bag’s insulation and extend its lifespan.

 

Equipped with this knowledge, you should be able to make an informed decision to purchase the sleeping bag that’s right for you. Unlike 19-year-old me, take some time to consider how and where you’ll be camping, weight and comfort, and especially personal preferences in order to get a good night’s rest. Once you have the right bag, the only thing left to do is get out there and enjoy sleeping in the outdoors!

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Newsflash: New York State Wants to Get More Families Camping

Trying a new outdoor activity for the first time can be an exciting and potentially life-changing experience. It can also be intimidating, especially with camping. Typically, it requires a couple days’ commitment, sleeping someplace other than your bed, and using possibly unfamiliar gear. To counter that, New York State started its First-Time Camper program in 2017. Created through a partnership between the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the program helps out families who have never before slept under the stars.

Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The program gives participants everything needed for an authentic camping experience, eliminating the need to invest in any equipment upfront. Families receive a tent, sleeping bags and pads, chairs, a lantern, and even firewood. As a bonus, they can keep it all, so they can continue camping on their own.

The program also sets participants up with a Camping Ambassador. With environmental education backgrounds, they are members of the Excelsior Conservation Corps and are on-site to help set up camp and answer questions. Each adventure takes place over two nights, and during, the experts assist with various activities, including paddling, fishing, birdwatching, and hiking.

“I can’t begin to explain the incredible experience my family had.”

The program will run seven weekends during July and August at 13 camping locations spread across the state. This allows more families to participate. Potential campers can submit an application from May 10 through May 13 and may specify their campground and date preferences. The organizations will then select 65 families at random. In total, each of the 13 participating campgrounds will host five families.

Ideally, the First-Time Camper program will reach underserved populations, including those who can’t financially risk “buying before trying” or have little exposure to a wilderness environment. The experience then offers the opportunity to form life-long memories in a nurturing atmosphere. Campers surveyed from the 2017 program indicated they were “very satisfied,” and 90 percent stated that they are “extremely likely to go camping again.”

Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Courtesy: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

“I can’t begin to explain the incredible experience my family had,” said one camper. “Our camp ambassadors were awesome—so friendly, so smart, and so patient with sharing all of their knowledge. We learned so much. We are so excited to be able to start going as a family and explore the parks and experience all that we can.”


In Defense of the Backyard

We woke up early. Grudgingly. Even the worst of sleeping bags and hardest of ground feel warm and inviting at 5 a.m. Slowly, we stirred and dragged ourselves out of the tents. The fire had died and needed relighting, but a short while later, we were gorging ourselves on pancakes, eggs, and bacon, laughing, hollering, and enjoying a morning outside to the fullest. Stories were shared, most of them well-rehearsed classics and a few untried. We were a rowdy bunch, no doubt, but who would complain? No one could hear us but the birds and squirrels and maybe a few larger creatures.

The earliest rays of light began to cut through the trees, nagging and prodding us to be on our way. We packed up only what was needed and set off, leaving the bulk of the load behind and carrying only some water, a few snacks, and maybe a light jacket. We weren’t going far. Our gear would forgive us for this brief time apart.

The going is slow, as are most things before the sun rises. We trudge along without saying much—just listening. But, just as the trek begins to feel strenuous, it ends.

Our destination isn’t new. We’ve all been here at least a dozen times. It’s a summertime favorite: a small cascade that some go so far as to call a waterfall. At the bottom, the water is just deep enough to take a dip. There’s hardly enough room to truly swim but plenty to submerge and refresh—our shower for the day. We spend a few hours, kicking back and enjoying the scenery and good company. Eventually, one of us is forced to check the time, confirming what we all feared. We grab our things and head back to our camp.

We broke down camp while cursing our office obligations. Bags are packed poorly, carried the stones-throw distance back to cars, and tossed in with loving neglect. Our retreat, grand as it may have been, had an expiration date, which we surely exceeded by a healthy margin. Everyone heads off in their own direction, to work or other commitments. It’s nearly 9 o’clock, Wednesday morning, and we’re all late for work.

Our retreat, grand as it may have been, had an expiration date, which we surely exceeded by a healthy margin.

We hadn’t gone very far. We didn’t reach a 4,000-, 3,000-, or even 2,000-foot peak—or any summit, for that matter. None of us were more than 20 minutes from home. Some of us were biking- or even walking-distance from our own back doors. Zero out of 10 doctors recommend the amount of sleep we got, and caffeine was necessary to get through work the next day. Regardless, that night and the following morning became one of my favorite adventures. It was small, without much planning and nearly no investment, but served its purpose. The work week seemed a little less daunting, and the weekend not so far away. Our only cost was breakfast, the total hike was a mile at most, the travel time measured in minutes, and no time was taken off from work.

This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with traveling: You should every chance you get. There isn’t anything wrong with week-long trips, either: That’s the perfect length in my mind. Finally, this isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with peak bagging. In fact, I race to the Adirondacks and White Mountains every chance I get.

A bed of pine needles may not cradle you like your memory foam mattress, but the night-sky promises better dreams than your ceiling.

But, in the age of social media, it can be easy to think that you need to tour a national park to enjoy the outdoors. Your Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with photos of expensive trips in far-off places. That friend you haven’t talked to since high school now lives on the slopes of the Rockies. Your uncle takes his old RV across the country each summer. A coworker runs up a mountain before work and comes in with a fresh kale smoothie. That girl you met that one time that seems to know everybody is somewhere new every single month, and we’re all wondering how she can afford it.

You don’t need to travel far to get outside, or weeks off at a time to do so. You don’t need to be a superhuman, or to be rich to catch a sunrise. From what I hear, it’s the same sun no matter where you go.

Credit: Luke Brown

Just get out. There are plenty of incredible places only a short drive from home. How many sites do you drive by twice a day, reminding yourself to check it out some time? You’ve lived in the same town for years: How many of its mundane trails or public park loops have you roamed? If you only have a few hours, take a quick walk in the woods. It’ll do you more good than a few hours in front of a screen. A bed of pine needles may not cradle you like your memory foam mattress, but the night-sky promises better dreams than your ceiling. If you can’t walk very far, who says you need to go for miles? If you work all day, buy a headlamp, and own the night. Not every day needs to feature a life-list objective, if your life is already filled with everyday objectives.


Rules are Meant to Be Broken: Why Cotton Will Always Have a Spot on My Gear List

With the development of synthetic materials that boast lighter weights, odor resistance, and moisture-wicking capabilities, cotton has been curb-stomped as a viable option for an active lifestyle. The phrase “cotton kills” is almost as trendy as #vanlife, but it might actually be an unwarranted blanket statement that causes us to second-guess its inclusion in our trip planning. Sure, synthetics are still king. They keep you dry and warm–a key factor when any hike turns into a survival situation. But, what if cotton still has a place in your gear closet?

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1. Sweat and Temperature Management

We are all humans, and we all sweat. Living in the Northeast, we are graced with humid, sunny days, which contribute to frequent perspiration in even moderately active pursuits. That means sweat dripping off the tip of your nose and clammy creases behind the knees. Trying to wipe sweat off my face with a polyester shirt is like trying to mop up a drink spill with plastic wrap. Thus, for the built-in hand and face towel aspect, I prefer to wear a cotton shirt on a hot day at the crag or on a sunny, short hike. It may make my shirt a little heavier, but the sweat becomes a cooling agent on those dog days of summer.

Cotton does cool down your core temperature, especially when wet—perfect for a sweltering day. But, if you’re working up a sweat, and surrounding temperatures drop, a soggy shirt or pair of sweats will take your body heat down with it. If you’ll be doing moderate to high activity in temperatures below 55 degrees, synthetic or merino wool layers are important, as they do not absorb nearly as much moisture. When rain is in the forecast, hot or cold, opt for a water-resistant or waterproof shell instead of a hoodie. And, always think of the worst-case scenario. Even if it’s hot during the day, if a surprise storm rolls in, or if you end up stranded overnight, cotton certainly can kill.

2. Ease of Care

I like the care of my clothing to be as simple as possible. Cotton can be washed in water at any temperature and spin speed. You don’t have to worry about losing a few sizes in the drying stage, as most cotton is pre-shrunk these days. Likewise, you don’t need to worry about melting the material in the dryer.

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3. Campfire Staple

We’ve all been there: hovering around a fire trying to stay warm on a cold night when you’re camping, or you’ve gotten a little too close trying to roast the perfect marshmallow or arrange the optimum log-stacking situation. Out of the belly of the fire, a tiny ember jumps and lands on your favorite puffy, melting a hole in the outer shell. I hope you brought your gear tape.

Next time, wear a flannel shirt. They don’t just look cool when you’re hanging around a fire. They’re also rather favorable when flames come into play. Their cotton cellulose composition withstands exposure to embers and higher heats, when compared to the thermoplastic materials making up your puffy or fleece shirt.

My insulated jackets (yes, I have a variety) keep me warm, happy, and playing outside through all four seasons. But, save those prized investments for when heat sources are not available, when you have to retain all of the remaining body heat you have left, or when weight is a factor, like when you’re summiting a 4,000-footer in late fall or when you’re sleeping in subzero temps. Car camping and bonfire building on a cool summer night? Play it safe with durability.

4. Budget-Friendly

Cotton is a great option for every budget. And, chances are you already have a few T-shirts lying around your room from giveaways at the last ski movie premier. Compared to the other activewear fibers, such as wool and polyester, cotton is the least likely to break the bank and most likely to leave you with an extra $5 or $10 to buy a pizza after your hike.

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5. Post-Adventure Attire

I’m all about comfort at this stage in the adventure cycle. Maybe you went kayaking and took a spill, or kicked up a ton of mud biking through the forest after a rainstorm. Perhaps you’re like me and just sweat a lot when you ski. Nothing feels better than peeling off nasty technical clothes to throw on a dry pair of sweats, especially if you’re looking at a lengthy drive home.

For better or worse, no miracle material suits every adventure. As with any piece of gear, there’s a time and a place for cotton, and sometimes, it merely whittles down to personal preference. While it’s important not to forget the safety value of synthetics, it’s maybe time we remember cotton’s redeeming factors and how it can be a useful staple in everyone’s gear bin.


7 Tips for Handling All Backwoods Emergencies

When you’re hiking in the Northeast, sometimes the only thing you can truly count on is the unexpected. Whether that’s for a sudden change in the weather on top of a peak, wildlife around the corner of a switchback, or just the batteries dying on your camera, it’s good to be prepared. But, sometimes the unexpected can be far more serious: Someone falls and hits their head, rolls an ankle on a steep descent, or is slurring their words and seems confused. Even the most advanced hikers experience these situations, and if they happen to you, knowing what to do can literally be a matter of life and death. So, what are the best things to do in any backcountry emergency?

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1. Don’t panic

Assess the situation with a level head. Are you dealing with an injury? Hypothermia? A missing person? Take a moment to breathe: Take your pack off, drink some water, sit down, and let your heart rate slow to prevent adrenaline from playing into your decision-making process.

2. Take note of your surroundings

After the initial adrenaline rush, take a look around and ask yourself a few basic questions. Do you know where you are? How close are you to a trailhead or campsite with a caretaker? Are you safe where you are—specifically, are you below treeline and sheltered from any inclement weather?

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3. Stay put or get out

How do you decide when to call for help? In a few instances, the decision is made for you: When someone is unconscious or cannot walk on their own, it is time to call for assistance. However, the line between search-and-rescue and self-rescue isn’t always clear. Think back to step two: If you know where you are, you can estimate how long it will take you to get out on your own or for someone to get to you. If you’re on the fence about calling, don’t hesitate. Make the call, and talk through the situation with them. It is better to call and not need assistance than to call when it’s too late.

4. Delegate

This will depend on the number of people in your group, but it’s important to delegate roles during an emergency. Potential roles would be calling for help, going to find help (two people, if possible), boiling water for warm drinks or food, making sure everyone is properly dressed, hydrated, and fed, or setting up a tent. These jobs serve a dual purpose of handling the situation and distracting members from panic that could set in when there is nothing specific to concentrate on. Of all the roles, the person in charge of decision making is the most important.

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5. Make a plan

At this point, the group leader has made the decision to call for assistance, or perform a self-rescue. If you’ve called search-and-rescue, or designated someone to find help, do not move, unless you communicate that with SAR or the person finding assistance. If you’ve decided to make your way out without help, use the safest and most efficient route. During an emergency in the mountains, a route with two miles of steep, dangerous terrain is likely less ideal than a relatively easy, four-mile path.

6. Continue to monitor and reassess the situation

Keep an eye on the person in trouble, the weather, and other factors. If you’re waiting for assistance, be aware that hypothermia becomes a very real risk when you stop moving after expending a lot of energy. Instead, make sure to regulate body temperature for all parties, and to stay properly fueled and hydrated. Also, notice the minor changes around you, and adapt to them. For instance, an injury that seemed somewhat harmless can rapidly become worse, and the weather in the mountains is notorious for dangerous shifts. Be prepared to change the plan, if necessary.

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7. Have and use the essentials

You should bring along a few key items on every hike, regardless of whether it’s a day hike or a week-long backpacking trip: a first aid kit, headlamp, down or synthetic jacket, extra snacks, a bandana to apply pressure to a wound or to cut off blood flow, and an extra pair of socks to warm feet or hands. And, know how to quickly deploy and use each essential in the event of an emergency.


Gifts for Girls Who are "One of the Guys"

Whenever I do anything outdoors, I’m almost always the only girl in the group. This means I’ve had plenty of time over the years to figure out the best gear to help me either keep up or kick butt. So, if you’re shopping for a girl who often finds herself in the same situation, here’s a list of things I use to make hanging out with a bunch of dudes easier and more fun.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Climbing: Petzl Elia Climbing Helmet

I was tired of a helmet that only sat on my head properly if my ponytail was in just the right spot. The boys were also tired of waiting for me to fix my hair before or after each climb. A few years ago, I received the Petzl Elia as a gift, and this problem hasn’t been an issue since! Other companies “girl-ify” helmets by simply making them in prettier colors, but taking it a step further, Petzl developed a headband that actually accommodates a ponytail in multiple positions. It also weighs just 10 ounces and adjusts to fit any head perfectly. So, your climber girl will probably forget she’s even wearing it and will have an extra-safe hike back to the car after a day of cragging.

Hiking and Camping: GoGirl Female Urination Device

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever wished I was, um, “built like a man.” But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of how much easier it is for my male hiking partners to heed nature’s call when we’re out on the trail. If the lady hiker on your list has ever complained about popping a squat in the woods, treat her to a GoGirl this holiday! Not only does it have a fun name (if you ignore the medieval-sounding “Female Urination Device” part of it), but it also helps level the pee-playing field and virtually eliminates the risk of getting poison ivy in unfortunate places.

Courtesy: Ashley Peck
Courtesy: Ashley Peck

Biking: CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E. Hydration Pack

It might just be that my husband and his friends are crazy people, but they hate taking breaks during a bike ride. If I start to get hangry while we’re mountain biking, they’ll cave and let me take a quick food break. However, I wouldn’t stand a chance of staying properly hydrated without my Camelbak Women’s L.U.X.E Hydration Pack. If the biker chick on your list has to keep up with the boys, or if she’s the ambitious one who doesn’t like to stop, make sure she stays sufficiently watered out on the trail with this super-comfy pack that holds enough fluid to ride for hours on end.

Skiing: DryGuy Green HEAT 2-in-1 Heater

Just because the weather gets cold that doesn’t mean the outdoors-woman will stop adventuring. It does, however, mean she might need some extra help staying warm. Whenever I’m skiing, snowboarding, or winter hiking with the boys, it always seems like I’m the only one whose hands are freezing, no matter how nice my gloves or mittens are. Hand-warmer packs help a little, but the DryGuy GreenHEAT 2-in-1 Heater is the BEST. It’ll warm your snow sister’s hands instantly, recharge her phone (or headlamp), and help the planet by reducing hand-warmer waste—making it a win-win-win.

Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear
Courtesy: MTI Adventurewear

Paddling: MTI Moxie PFD

Don’t let your water woman settle for any ol’ life jacket. She may have to wait a few months to use it, but when she unwraps a made-for-her PFD like the MTI Moxie this holiday, she’ll be happier than a seagull with a french fry. What makes the Moxie so comfy is its Adjust-a-Bust fit System—certainly giggle-worthy every time she and her guy friends get on the water. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Courtesy: Mountainsmith
Courtesy: Mountainsmith

All of the Above: Mountainsmith Sixer

If all else fails, the Mountainsmith Sixer is always a safe bet. For a girl who’s one of the guys, you can be sure of one thing: Beers are a staple of every adventure. And, if the mountain maven you’re shopping for is the one who supplies the cold brews at the end of the day, she’ll always be the boys’ favorite bro.


'The 46ers' Doc Goes to the Small Screen: A Q&A with Director Blake Cortright

Prior to 2012, when he spent a weekend backpacking, 18-year-old Blake Cortright knew next to nothing about the Adirondack 46ers—the mountains and the people. But, if the peaks are good at anything, it’s inspiring those who journey into them. Before long, Blake became fixated and hiked them constantly, hoping to craft his exploration of the 46 High Peaks and the group of hikers that share their name into a documentary. Today, that film (sponsored in part by Eastern Mountain Sports) is headed to the big-time, scheduled to air on PBS stations across the country, including WCNY on Monday, November 13. We sat down to talk with Blake about his progression from novice to storyteller and the things he picked up along the way.

goEast: How were you first connected to the Adirondack High Peaks, and how did that develop into wanting to create this film?

Blake: I hiked my first High Peak in 2008 with my Boy Scout troop. We summited Giant Mountain on a perfect autumn day, and that was my first “awe” moment in the Adirondack High Peaks. It wasn’t until a 2012 camping trip with my dad and my brother that I really got inspired to film in the High Peaks. We set out over three days to summit Marcy, Tabletop, Phelps, Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright. We left with Marcy, Tabletop, and Wright and felt a new sense of reverence for the mountains.

During this trip, I got a little side of Mount Marcy all to myself and took in the sweeping views of lakes, rivers, mountains, and wilderness. That’s where the vision for the film ultimately came from—sitting atop Mt. Marcy on a beautiful summer day, looking out at the wild places as far as the eye could see. Shortly after returning from this camping trip, the wheels started to turn and the core question which drove the project began to take shape: “What transforms ordinary men and women into the legendary 46ers?”

Blake directing hikers on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake directing hikers on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You must have done a ton of hiking while making this film!

Blake: We summited 14 High Peaks and several smaller mountains during production.

goEast: Do you have any memorable experiences from all of that?

Blake: Each trip held its own challenges and rewards, and I have fond memories from every day of filming. One of most memorable hiking experience was summiting Cascade around 5 a.m. We had set out to capture a crew finishing their 46th on Cascade with a beautiful sunrise. We carried a camera crane and counter weights for the crane to the summit along with all of our camera gear and our normal hiking gear. Unfortunately, shortly after we summited, we were wrapped up in clouds. The crew came up, and we filmed them with the crane, climbing up the rocky summit in thick clouds with a lot of wind.

It was a cold, dark morning, and we were thinking of calling it a day, but then, Adirondack photography legend Carl Heilman hiked up to us almost out of the clouds. I had been in touch with Carl and had invited him to this trip, which he said he might make depending on his schedule. His presence lifted our spirits, and he was optimistic that we might get a change in the weather. He was right. The clouds began to part and reveal an incredible undercast scene: a sea of clouds below us, stretching to the horizon, and the High Peaks rising up above those clouds, like islands in the sea. We all dashed around to get our gear ready and got tons of amazing shots that day. I’m very thankful for my patient crew, who waited out the weather with me on that day!

Blake and the team using a boom to film on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake and the team using a boom to film on Whiteface. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You did a lot of hiking, but you also talked to a lot of people, some of whom are somewhat revered in local hiking circles. What did you get from that process?

Blake: What struck me early on in the interview process was how humble the 46ers are. I had set out to talk about “legendary hikers,” and most of them found that term amusing. They saw folks like the Marshall Brothers and Herbert Clark (the first 46ers) as the true legends. Their reverence extended not just to the people who literally blazed the trail, but also to the mountains themselves. I discovered a group of people who were not just thrill-seekers or checking off a list, but people who truly cared about the mountains and worked to conserve them. They all spoke of LNT principles, as well as safety and emergency preparedness. As an Eagle Scout, I knew many of the principles and safety precautions, but I learned even more from the amazing people I interviewed.

I was also inspired to learn of the Summit Steward Program and how multiple Adirondack organizations, including the 46ers, came together to address the erosion of the summits and the dangers to the rare alpine vegetation that lives there. The journey of the 46ers stretches far beyond adventure and into conservation and stewardship. It has been a privilege to learn from these folks and see them give back to a place that has given so much to them.

Blake interviewing one of the film's subjects. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake interviewing one of the film’s subjects. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: Fun question: In all the hiking you did for the film, was there one piece of gear that you would say was critical? 

Blake: While hiking, we always needed good boots, wool socks, backpacks, various jackets and layers, gloves, hats, etc. One that was easy to forget, but thankfully we didn’t, was a headlamp and extra batteries! Many of our hikes started or ended in the dark. So, having a headlamp was essential. Also, for me personally, after a few knee injuries in the High Peaks Wilderness, I finally bought a pair of trekking poles, and now, I never hike without them. We also made use of MICROspikes and snowshoes in our winter shoots. Depending upon the trail conditions, we would use one or the other, but we usually carried both.

goEast: You’re well on your way to becoming an Adirondack 46er from your time making the film alone. Do you want to finish it?

Blake: The 46ers film was a three-year process for me, from the initial idea to our finished product. And now, two years later, it’s about to be shown to an ever-growing audience, thanks to WCNY partnering with us to take the film further than we could on our own. At the outset of the journey, I thought I would likely finish my 46 while making the movie, but in hindsight, I’m thankful I didn’t. I learned so much from the 46ers I interviewed, from being out in the mountains and from putting the movie together. I will become a 46er down the road, but now, I know it will be a longer journey, and I’m okay with that.

One thing I learned from my interviews is that whether you hike them in a few weeks or over decades, the mountains will wait for you. I would say making the movie broadened my perspective about hiking and helped me to value the journey as much as the destination.

Blake with his crew and guests on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Blake with his crew and guests on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

goEast: You mentioned WCNY and other PBS stations picking the film up. Was that something you had in mind making it? Did you have an “end goal”?

Blake: When I had the initial inspiration for the project in 2012, I wanted it to be seen by a wide audience. We did a series of limited screenings in 2015 when we finalized the movie, and it was very well received by those audiences. I’m excited for the upcoming television release of The 46ers, as it will expand that audience far and wide around the U.S. There was something surreal about seeing a film I had made projected on the big screen and experiencing it with an audience. I’m very happy with how well the documentary has done and continues to do, and I’m hopeful that it will inspire more people to not only experience the outdoors, but also to take care to preserve and steward the wildernesses where they adventure.

goEast: It’s going to be seen now by a lot of people who don’t live in the Northeast, don’t know what the 46ers are, and may not even be familiar with the Adirondacks. What do you think they’re going to get from the film?

Blake: I think 46ers who see the film will take a trip down memory lane and hopefully feel joy watching the movie. I think those who love the Adirondacks will be awed by the beautiful cinematography my team captured, showcasing the mountains in a new and visually stunning way. I think those who are unfamiliar with the 46ers and the Adirondacks will be intrigued, inspired, and moved by the film. I hope the deep love for the wilderness comes across on screen and folks seeing this place for the first time will be better equipped to adventure in it after hearing not only the exciting stories, but also safety and LNT principles, which are so deeply connected to the culture of the Adirondacks and the 46ers.

Filming the remainder of the undercast on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright
Filming the remainder of the undercast on Cascade Mountain. | Courtesy: Blake Cortright

Alpha Guide: Cadillac Mountain's South Ridge Trail

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Go way east and take in one of Maine’s rugged coastal peaks during this staple Acadia hike. 

At 1,530 feet, Cadillac is the tallest mountain on the United States’ Atlantic coastline, offering incredible views of Maine’s rugged seashore from the top. If you want to be among the first people in the continental United States to see the sunrise, there is no better place to view it than from Cadillac’s summit, and as a must-do trip for every visitor to Acadia National Park, a 7.1-mile roundtrip hike via the South Ridge Trail gets you there.

Quick Facts

Distance: 7.1 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: 1 day
Difficulty: ★★
Scenery:★★★★


Season: Year-round. Best from May through October
Fees/Permits: $25 park entrance fee per vehicle (May through October)
Contact: https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm

Download

Turn-By-Turn

Depending on traffic, getting to the South Ridge Trail from downtown Bar Harbor is a breeze. Simply take Route 3 for a little over five miles before making a left onto Blackwoods Road. Then, look for the trail sign, which is visible from the road. Still lost? Blackwoods Campground is nearly adjacent to the trailhead.

The one tricky part about getting here is parking, since there is no dedicated lot for the South Ridge Trail. Instead, just park alongside the road near the trailhead.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Into the Woods

Hiking Cadillac Mountain is a fairly straightforward trip. The 3.5-mile stretch is well marked with blue blazes and cairns, and features very few connecting trails, thus minimizing the opportunity for wrong turns. Adding to the ease of navigation, approximately two-thirds of the trail is above treeline, enabling hikers on a clear day to see the route sprawl out ahead of them.

After parking across from Blackwoods Campground, hikers dip into the woods and follow the blue blazes as the trail gently ascends through the beautiful Maine forest. On the whole, the South Ridge Trail gains roughly 1,500 feet from the car to the summit, and although the change is gentle, hikers should not be lulled into thinking this trek is easy. The initial section is notoriously rocky and rough with roots, before giving way to slabby granite ledges.

Eagle Crag Cutoff

After roughly a mile, hikers are poised to encounter the first landmark of the day: the sign for the Eagle Crag cutoff (44.324177, -68.219193). Just 0.3 miles from here, the Crag features a long granite ledge that provides an excellent vantage point to take in views of the surrounding area. However, the 0.3-mile diversion leaves and then reconnects with the South Ridge, so, to give yourself the best chance at summiting, consider saving Eagle Crag for the return trip.

From the Eagle Crag cutoff, continue following the blue blazes as you climb out of the forest and into a blend of slabby rock and scrubby trees. As you get a little higher on the South Ridge Trail, the forest gives way to a rocky ridge, and there’s a chance you’ll get off the trail. Although this transition is well-marked, pay close attention to the cairns and blazes; otherwise, the well-traveled “footpaths” here lead you nowhere as you come out of the forest.

The Bates Cairn. | Credit: Tim Peck
The Bates Cairn. | Credit: Tim Peck

It’s also here that hikers will encounter something unique to Acadia National Park: the Bates Cairn. Named after Waldron Bates, a trail builder in Acadia during the early 1900s, the Bates Cairn features two large base stones that support a mantel stone with a pointer stone on top. Tampering in recent years has resulted in signs requesting visitors to both leave the existing cairns alone, including not adding rocks to them, and to refrain from building additional cairns. Help protect this special place by leaving the trail as you found it!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Featherbed

Nearly a mile up the trail from the Eagle Crag cutoff, hikers will encounter the trip’s second major landmark: a small glacial pond called The Featherbed. It is one of three in the park, with the others being The Bowl, located behind The Beehive, and Sargent Mountain Pond, between Penobscot and Sargent Mountains. Depending on the weather, sit for a moment to enjoy the uniqueness of its stunning scenery.

Shortly after departing The Featherbed, the South Ridge intersects with the Canon Brook Trail (44.338486, -68.219193). Here, take a quick look at the sign, make sure you’re pointed in the right direction, and continue following the blue blazes and rocky ridge toward the summit.

From here on out, the trail is largely unprotected by trees, exposing hikers to everything from intense sunlight to fierce winds. Consider keeping a sun shirt, wind shirt, or lightweight rain jacket accessible for this section, as you never know what type of weather you’ll encounter. And, if conditions are too fierce, don’t hesitate to call it a day and turn around.

From here, the South Ridge Trail ascends the park’s notorious pink granite steps and slabs for 0.7 miles to its intersection with the West Face Trail (44.346916, -68.229324). Well marked with a large sign, the intersection is a relief for hikers, indicating the summit isn’t too far off.

The South Ridge. | Credit: Tim Peck
The South Ridge. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Final Push

Hiking from the intersection with the West Face Trail, you’ll realize the impending encounter with civilization. Until this moment, hikers are immersed in nature, enveloped by the quiet of the forest and lost in the stunning views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. In the final push, however, the South Ridge Trail bumps up against the auto road and sees an increase in traffic, as people who have driven to the top explore the trails around the mountain’s summit. Strangely, it’s here that the trail might be the most challenging, as it features a few short-yet-steep sections that involve using iron rungs.

Looking down on Bar Harbor from the summit. | Credit: Tim Peck
Looking down on Bar Harbor from the summit. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit

Once you’re on top, look for the true summit, which is located along the gravel path and marked by two survey benchmarks established by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (44.35127,-68.22649).

After locating the two survey markers and tagging the true summit, head up past the gift shop (44.351997, -68.225945) and skirt along the parking lot to take in views not afforded by the South Ridge Trail. Looking down below, you’ll see the village of Bar Harbor and islands off the coast.

After you’ve had your fill of views, take a walk around the short loop path at the summit. Make sure to check out the interpretive signs about the history of Acadia National Park. Once you’re done, simply return the way you came, and follow the South Ridge Trail back to your car.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Sunrise Bonus Points

While it’s commonly assumed that Cadillac Mountain’s summit is the first place to see the sunrise on the East Coast, it’s only true for part of the year. Even if your trip doesn’t align with the first-to-see-sunrise dates—October 7 through March 6—a pre-sunrise hike is still a great way to experience a must-do Acadia activity, earns you extra cred from the people who drove up the auto road, and gives you an excuse to order a double stack of blueberry pancakes for breakfast when you get back to town. Want more info on sunrise ascents? Check out our guide to “Beating the Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain.”


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • A large percentage of the South Ridge Trail’s long, gradual ascent and descent occurs on exposed rock, minimizing the need for waterproofing and maximizing the need for traction. Trail runners like the Brooks Cascadia 12 or hiking shoes such as the Oboz Sawtooth Low are perfect for the terrain.
  • Because so much of the trail consists of an exposed rocky ridge next to the coast, a wind shirt like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite is a borderline necessity for blocking the ocean breeze.
  • Pick up the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Acadia National Park Map before you go to get psyched, and bring it along on your hike just in case.
  • Hikers unaccustomed to Maine’s rocky trails will appreciate a good pair of trekking poles, like the Black Diamond Trail Backs, for added stability and confidence in unfamiliar terrain.
  • If the sunrise is on the agenda, consider adding a belay coat like the Outdoor Research Perch or a lightweight sleeping bag like the EMS Velocity 35 to your pack. Standing on a mountaintop in the dark next to the ocean can be pretty cold, even in mid-summer.
  • Another sunrise must-have is a headlamp, like the Black Diamond Revolt, as you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time hiking in the dark.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Bring your wallet, and treat yourself to a cold drink, ice cream, or a whoopie pie at the summit’s gift shop.
  • One of the best things about hiking to Cadillac’s summit for the sunrise is the excuse to eat a big breakfast. Jordan’s Restaurant is a Bar Harbor institution. Enjoy a stack of their wild blueberry pancakes—you’ve earned it!
  • If you started later in the day and prefer your carbohydrates in liquid form, Bar Harbor Beerworks is right on the main drag and delivers outdoor seating options, while Finback Alehouse offers a more subdued setting.
  • Planning on camping during your trip to Acadia? Sites book well in advance for popular summer and fall weekends, so make your reservations early. Don’t count on finding an open site when you get there.
  • If camping isn’t your thing, book a small cottage with a kitchen just outside of town. They’re affordable and keep you from having to trek into town every time you want a meal. We’ve had luck staying at Hanscom’s over the years.
  • Is there someone you would like to share the summit with but don’t think they’ll be able to make the hike? Arrange for them to drive up the road and meet you at the top! The drive up the auto road is free, provided you have paid the park’s entry fee.
  • If you’re looking for other things to do while in Acadia, our “First-Timer’s Guide to Acadia National Park” has you covered. Make sure to check out the tide pools, the Beehive Trail, and Otter Cliffs.

Current Conditions

Have you climbed Cadillac recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!