In the weeks leading up to our Mount Desert Island (“MDI”) weekend, we stumbled upon this list of the best bike ride in each of the 50 states, according to Bicycling Magazine. Coincidentally the ride in Maine is the Cadillac Challenge Loop, which covers all of MDI, including Cadillac Mountain. The description on the site reads: “Pedal these 98 winding miles through Acadia National Park and you’ll pass rocky cliffs, secluded coves, and lighthouses—and climb up 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the park’s high point and the first spot in the United States to catch rays from the rising sun.” Sounds great, right? It did to us, so we planned to tackle the challenge on Saturday, but with a slightly modified route so that we could start/end at our campsite and ride up Cadillac Mountain at the beginning to see the sunrise.
Sunrise was at approximately 6:45a, so our alarm went off at 4:15a and we planned to leave camp by 5a to get us on the road in time so we wouldn’t be rushed or chance missing the sunrise. Preparations (including oatmeal for breakfast) took longer than expected and we were off only slightly before 5:30a, which left little time to spare for riding 12 miles with a 1,500′ climb. I will blame our slow start on the temperature of 32F that morning. Fortunately there were no flat tires or other mishaps once we started riding, and we made it to the summit in time, amongst a parade of cars who no doubt had the heat blasting and likely had hot coffees in hand. The traffic could have been an annoyance but at the time it was all going up so the cars gave us plenty of room despite the narrow 2 lane road. The climb was gradual and very enjoyable. Around one corner the road leveled off, with a beautiful view over Bar Harbor and the Mt. Desert Narrows. Surprisingly, there was a giant cruise ship floating along in the Bay, lit up like a Christmas tree against the dark water.
We joined the crowd upon the summit, and soaked up the first rays of the day as the sun crested over the horizon. If someone had offered us coffees, the experience would have been a 10 rather than a 9.9, but there is always next time! Despite the astonishing number of people we shared it with, I’m happy we made the extra effort to ride up for the sunrise, it was totally worth it.
The sun felt too good to leave immediately afterwards, so we hung around for a while – slightly dreading the frigid descent ahead. Eventually we decided it was time, though, and re-mounted. The ride down was certainly cold, but still a lot of fun. We stopped mid-way for Rachel to warm up her hands under her sweatshirt:
At the bottom we pedaled along and gradually warmed up, slowly shedding layers as the day progressed. In Bar Harbor we rewarded ourselves with coffee and bagels at The Independent Cafe. Before and after Bar Harbor were segments through Acadia which exceeded our expectations. The winding roads through the forest and along the shore were breathtaking, and the two lane, one-way Park Loop Road made for nice biking although it probably gets crowded during peak season. Everything we experienced we absolutely loved, but we also can’t wait to come back to ride the ~50 miles of carriage roads and/or hike the numerous trails.
Outside of Acadia, we continued to take in the spectacular foliage, beautiful homes, and natural scenery of the forest and shoreline along the narrow back roads. We took a lunch break at the Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor and afterwards settled in for the final stretch. The second half of the route on the West side of the island was still fantastic cycling with some great scenery, but we were most impressed with the sections East of Somes Sound.
It was tempting, but at the end we decided not to go on for another 5.6 miles in order to make this a true century ride, but for the sake of the blog we are rounding up and tagging it that way 🙂