How to See Sunrise at Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain sunrise
Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

The sunrise at Cadillac Mountain’s summit is among the most memorable experiences we have had on our travels. If you are planning a trip to Acadia National Park, you must add this to your itinerary – but don’t wait until you are wandering around quaint Bar Harbor, Maine to make your plans for the sunrise excursion. You will need to plan ahead!

Nestled in the rugged terrain of Maine’s coastline, Cadillac Mountain reaches up to 1,530 feet, making it the tallest peak in the region. This positioning means not only does it have the best views in Acadia National Park, from October to March, this granite summit is actually the first location in the United States where the morning sun graces the land. And you can be there, watching the horizon transition from a hazy shade of blue to a warm canvas of oranges, purples, and reds. It’s truly spectacular.

This view has been gazed upon for thousands of years, as this area is the homeland of the Wabanaki people. European settlement on Mount Desert Island began in the 1600s, and soon after the summit was used for mapping the coastline.

Making a Reservation for Cadillac Mountain

You can imagine that experiencing sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is something on the itinerary of most travelers to Acadia National Park. Because of that, the National Park Service limits the number of vehicles that can be there for sunrise, which is honestly good because the road to the summit provides limited parking. 

You will need two types of passes to be permitted to the Cadillac Mountain summit for sunrise – a vehicle reservation ticket for the date and time you plan to go, as well as a park pass. You can purchase both from the federal government’s website for management of national parks, land management, forest service, etc: You’ll want to create an account if you have not already.

Cadillac Mountain Vehicle Reservation Ticket

If you visit between late May and late October, you’ll need to purchase a vehicle reservation ticket in advance. The ticket, which costs $6.00 per vehicle, becomes available at 10am two days in advance of the reservation date – you can purchase it here. The time slots get claimed very quickly. You’ll want to set an alarm for a few minutes before the window opens and continuously refresh the page until the time slots become available. It wouldn’t hurt to have more than one person doing this. 

NOTE: Trailers and RVs are not allowed to drive up to the summit.

Acadia National Park Pass

In addition to the vehicle reservation ticket, you will need to purchase a park pass as well, which costs $35 and is good for seven days. It will need to be displayed on your vehicle each time you enter the park.

Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain Sunrise

Planning for Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

You should be forewarned – you will need to set your alarm very, very early. Don’t be deterred by this – It is totally worth it. 

There would be nothing worse than to go through all that effort of securing a reservation and then not leave enough time in the morning to get to the summit before sunrise. Our recommendation – arrive an hour before sunrise. You will need to factor in time to get to the park, drive up the summit, find parking, and claim your vantage point at the top of the summit. Yes, it’s early. Yes, you can take a nap later in the day. 

Despite the limited reservation tickets, it will still be crowded. Being there early ensures you can claim a vantage point that puts most of the fellow early risers behind you.

It will be COLD. Definitely wear layers (we recommend gloves as well) and bring a blanket – hot coffee in a thermos wouldn’t be a bad idea either. 

You’ll find yourself walking around – and possibly climbing – the boulders to get the perfect vantage point, so wear sturdy shoes. Additionally, keep in mind that exposed granite sections can be slippery when wet.

This all sounds like an immense amount of effort, and it is, but once the sun begins peeping over the horizon, it makes it all worth it. The quiet, serene nature of the early morning paired with the hues of sunrise truly make for a magical experience. 

Lastly, be present. It is tempting to get that timelapse video, but we can assure you that through a screen is not the best way to see the first morning light. These moments of beauty are fleeting – be still and live in it.

Cadillac Mountain is just one of the several experiences we recommend for Acadia National Park. You can read about other itinerary recommendations in our complete guide to visiting Acadia National Park.

Similar Posts

One Comment

Comments are closed.