Diane enjoying the views from Gilmore Peak (photo by Mark Malnati)

Canada Mayflower (photo by Webmaster)

White form of the pink lady's slipper (photo by Webmaster)

Parkman Mtn., Gilmore Peak, Sargent Mtn.,
Cedar Swamp Mtn., Hadlock Brook Waterfall

Destinations:  Parkman Mtn. (941'), Gilmore Peak (1036'), Sargent Mtn. (1373'), Cedar Swamp Mtn. (942'), Hadlock Brook Waterfall (500')
Trails:  Parkman Mountain Trail, Grandgent Trail, Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail, Birch Spring Trail, Hadlock Brook Trail, carriage roads
Region:  ME - Central Southeast  
Acadia National Park, Eastern Region
Location:  Mount Desert, ME
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, rock scrambles, brooks, waterfall, ledges, loop hike
Distance:  5.7 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1500 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 3:45  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 7:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  06/07/2008 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  07/18/2009  
Weather:  65 degrees, overcast, breezy
Author:  Webmaster
Companions:  SDHers: Dennis M., Kristin, Mark M., Deb, Diane, Tom, Donna, Dennis (another), Mariette, Faye, Mark S.

View from Gilmore Peak (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This loop hike summits Parkman Mountain, Gilmore Peak, Sargent Mountain, and Cedar Swamp Mountain. All but Cedar Swamp Mountain have totally bald summits with magnificent views. Cedar Swamp Mountain, although not totally open, also offers views. This hike also visits Hadlock Brook Waterfall at Waterfall Bridge on a carriage road.

Most of the trek follows footpaths but the hike starts and ends on carriage roads which are smooth, wide roads open to pedestrians, bicyclists, and horses; but not automobiles. The carriage road junctions are marked by numbered signs which will be referenced in the description below. The footpaths are marked by blue paint blazes and cairns.

Dennis ascending the ledgy Parkman Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster) To Parkman Mountain:
  • From the back of the Parkman Mountain parking area, walk past the toilets for several yards which will bring you to a carriage trail.
  • Turn right and less than 0.1 mile from the parking area, you will reach junction #13.
  • Turn left and follow the carriage road for 0.2 mile, then look for a footpath on the left.
  • Turn left onto Parkman Mountain Trail which we will take all the way up to Parker Mountain.
  • After less than 0.1 mile, you will encounter another carriage road; cross the road and continue on the Parker Mountain footpath on the other side.
  • After climbing for 1.0 mile from the last carriage road, you will reach a junction with Bald Peak Trail on the right. Keep going straight on Parker Mountain Trail.
  • Just another 0.1 mile will bring you to the summit of Parker Mountain where there are outstanding 360-degree views.

To Gilmore Peak:
  • Leave both Parkman Mountain and Parkman Mountain Trail to take a connector trail to the east (Parkman Mountain Trail crosses the summit in a north-south direction).
  • Descend for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a junction with Giant Slide Trail which goes left and right, and Grandgent Trail which goes straight ahead. Go straight to follow Grandgent Trail.
  • Climb for a bit more than 0.2 mile to reach the summit of Gilmore Peak with excellent 360-degree views.

To Sargent Mountain:
  • Continue on the trail across Gilmore's peak, still on Grandgent Trail, and initially descend to the north.
  • After 0.1 mile you will reach a junction with Maple Spring Trail which goes to the right and also straight. Turn left here to stay on Grandgent Trail which will lead us all the way up to Sargent Mountain.
  • Hike for another 0.5 mile, mostly uphill, to reach the summit of Sargent Mountain with incredible 360-degree views.

To Cedar Swamp Mountain:
  • Leave Sargent Mountain in a southerly direction on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail which we will follow all the way to Cedar Swamp Mountain. There are four trails that converge on Sargent's summit, bascially each at a different compass point, so take care pick the one heading south across the open ridgeline.
  • After 0.3 mile you will reach a junction with Maple Spring Trail on the right; keep going straight on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail.
  • Cairns on Sargent Mountain (photo by Webmaster)
  • A junction with Hadlock Brook Trail will be encountered on the right after 0.2 mile; keep going straight on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail.
  • After another 0.2 mile, you will reach a junction with Sargent Pond Trail on the left; keep going straight on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail. Or, if you wish to take a detour, turn left and follow Sargent Pond Trail for about 100 yards which will bring you to the southern shore of pretty Sargent Mountain Pond. There is also a trail to the left of the pond that skirts the western shoreline to arrive at the northern end. To return to the main route from this detour, go west on Sargent Pond Trail and then left onto Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail.
  • Descending another 0.5 mile on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail will bring you to a 4-way junction with Birch Spring Trail going to the right and Amphitheater Trail going to the left; keep going straight on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail.
  • Climb up some steep ledges, and then contour around the outer flank of the mountain which will bring you to an outlook on the left after just 0.1 mile. The viewpoint is just southeast of Cedar Swamp Mountain's summit; no trails lead to its actual peak. The views from this spot are good yet far inferior to what the other summits on this trek have offered. Also, instead of a roomy summit, the open space is rather small. However there are other spots along this small section of trail where you may enjoy your own unofficial outlook spots.

Mark below Waterfall Bridge on Hadlock Brook Trail (photo by Deb Hann)

  • Retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the 4-way intersection (be sure to head northeast and not south when leaving Cedar Swamp Mountain's outlook area).
  • Turn left onto Birch Spring Trail and follow it for 0.3 mile until it ends at a T-junction with Hadlock Brook Trail.
  • Turn left on Hadlock Brook Trail and descend for 0.3 mile which will bring you out to a carriage road at Waterfall Bridge. Look upstream to view the 40-foot waterfall.
  • From Hadlock Brook Trail, turn right onto the carriage road to follow it in its northwesterly (without crossing Waterfall Bridge), rather than southerly, direction.
  • Stroll along the carriage road for almost 0.6 mile which will bring you to junction #12.
  • Bear left and continue on the carriage road for 0.3 mile which will return you to junction #13, where we were near the very start of the hike.
  • Turn right and walk for less then 0.1 mile, then turn left into the access road that quickly leads back to the Parkman Mountain parking area from which this trek began.

Place         Split
Parkman Mountain parking lot (340') 0.0 0.0
Parkman Mtn. (941') 1.5 1.5
Gilmore Peak (1036') 0.4 1.9
Sargent Mtn. (1373') 0.6 2.5
Cedar Swamp Mtn. (942') 1.5 4.0
Hadlock Brook Waterfall (500') 0.7 4.7
Parkman Mountain parking lot (340') 1.0 5.7

Signs and junction marker on the carriage roads (photo by Mark Malnati)

Pink lady's slippers (photo by Mark Malnati)


Bunchberry growing on a boulder (photo by Webmaster)

Mountain cranberry flower–greatly enlarged (photo by Webmaster)

Birch Spring Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Faye and Tom on a carriage road (photo by Webmaster)

Kristin on Parkman Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Sharon hiking up one of the mountains (photo by Webmaster)

Trail map of hike route to Sargent Mtn., Parkman Mtn., Gilmore Peak, and Cedar Swamp Mtn. in Acadia National Park (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

If you want a hike that really packs a punch, then this is the one for you. During its 5.7-mile circuit, it summits four peaks, three of which have totally bald, open ledges with magnificent 360-degree views of mountains, ocean, islands, lakes and ponds. The approaches to most of the peaks also offer ample view opportunities. The trail is rugged with lots of ups and downs and rock scrambles; but the scenery is so unrelentingly beautiful, the effort is hardly noticed. SDH on some ledges (photo by Deb Hann)

The rating for this hike is Moderate/Difficult due to the many rock scrambles and steep segments; however much of the route is on the easy side. If you're not sure if you're up to the challenge, pack plenty of food and water and just head out on the trail and check it out; you can always turn back or do a shorter loop.

This trek summits Parkman Mountain, Gilmore Peak, Sargent Mountain, and Cedar Swamp Mountain and it visits the 40-foot drop of Hadlock Brook Waterfall. Eleven of us headed out together, with one hiker who was recovering from an injury meeting us later at our last peak via a gentler route.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

To Parkman Mountain    |    To Gilmore Peak    |    To Sargent Mountain
To Cedar Swamp Mountain    |    Return

Dennis, Donna, and Tom climbing up one of the four mountain peaks (photo by Mark Malnati)

To Parkman Mountain   

After only about a quarter-mile walk on carriage roads, we turned onto a footpath to begin our climb to the first objective of the day: Parkman Mountain. Much of the hike to Parkman, and throughout this trek, was on ledge; many times with views and other times winding through conifer forests or bordered by black huckleberry shrubs (Gaylussacia baccata), also known as high-bush blackberry. There were a few pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acaule) but the blooms where white; something I've never seen before. These were simply the white form of pink lady's slippers – not to be confused with the species of small white lady's slipper (Cypripedium candidum) where the bloom is normally white.

We gained elevation quickly as we worked our way up and through ledges and rock scrambles. The scrambles were easy and a lot of fun and it seems like a less strenuous way to climb as opposed to hiking up a steep, steady slope. As we approached the summit, the trees became fewer and shorter, and we were presented with a mosaic of ledge, low groundcover, and small cairns.

From the top of Parkman Mountain, even with the overcast sky, we were treated to quite a sight. To the west and southwest were Somes Sound, Norumbega Mountain, and Acadia Mountain. Looking south we could see Upper and Lower Hadlock Ponds. Bald Peak and Gilmore Peak were very close by.

Steep descent from Parkman Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

To Gilmore Peak   

After enjoying a break, we descended steeply to the east into a valley that was really just as fascinating as the summit. The footing was precarious and required both hands and feet as we quickly dropped down the trail. SDH checking out the views (photo by Mark Malnati) Once at the bottom, I looked back up to the route we had just descended and the footway was barely discernible – it just looked like a jumble of rocks.

To one side were high cliffs partially cloaked in lichen and moss, and the base of the valley was peppered with moss-covered boulders. Conifers and ferns added to the rich greens of this section. There was an old spruce growing right out of the ledge near the top with a thick root snaking its way down the side of the precipice. Another tree had fungi running all up and down its trunk. Although this segment was only 0.1 mile long, I would have been content to spend hours hanging out here.

But alas, we had other mountains to conquer so we climbed out of the valley and soon encountered semi-open ledges and then the summit of Gilmore Peak. The views here were also very impressive. The westerly views encompassed Somes Sound, Echo Lake, and Long Pond. And the other three peaks in our loop were all visible. Then the fog rolled in from the south, obscuring the scenery. I could see where the summit dropped off and it seemed to mark the end of the world with only thick gray skies existing beyond that point.

Ledge and boulder-strewn valley below Parkman Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

To Sargent Mountain   

Leaving Gilmore Peak, we headed towards Sargent Mountain which is the second highest summit in Acadia National Park. We descended into the col between the two mountains where there was a still-looking, shallow stream which we crossed on a narrow, but railed (one side) footbridge. Then there was some easy hiking on a soft path through woods. But that gentleness was not to last; we soon had to hike up through a section of woods with many round rocks covering the path making the footing tedious.

And then, you can probably guess, we were once again walking on a ledge footway with the views opening up as we gained elevation. Along the way the pretty deep pink blooms of rhodora (Rhododendron roseum) brightened the path. Interspersed with the rhodora shrubs was mountain cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) with its tiny, thick leaves and tiny pink bell-shaped blossoms. Lichen, moss, and flowering blueberry shrubs also held our interest.

Mark, Deb, Donna, and Tom crossing a bridge between Gilmore Peak and Sargent Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)

Soon enough we reached the very large summit of Sargent Mountain with a huge cairn marking the peak. The wide-open ledges, partially cloaked with low-growing plants reminded me of tundra regions. Sargent Mountain was my favorite on this hike both for its extensive summit ledges as well as the incredible vistas it offered (the best on this hike).

Looking down about 400 feet lower to Gilmore Peak, Bald Peak, and Parkman Mountain was really neat; the bare summits poked out from their dark green tree-covered flanks. Looking farther down on the opposite side of the mountain, were some islands. A couple of them had their own individual clouds; small clouds almost the exact shape of the land hovered low, almost touching the treetops – an unusual sight.

We hung out here for quite a while and enjoyed lunch. The scenery changed depending on the shifting clouds. Even the ledges were interesting; smooth in places and intercepted by cracks in others where plant life struggled to assert itself. There were neat boulders scatted across the terrain.

The "yellow-brick road" on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail (photo by Webmaster)

To Cedar Swamp Mountain   

We next set out on Sargent's long South Ridge towards Cedar Swamp Mountain. The walk along the open ridge was incredible and it descended very gently. It felt like we were strolling along the yellow-brick road the way the smooth, bare ledge meandered through wide expanses of low plant cover.

Moss-covered boulders between Parkman Mountain and Gilmore Peak (photo by Webmaster) After a while, the trail dipped down into the trees a little. There were blueberry bushes in flower and bunchberry plants showing off their white blooms. The path wound through an interesting combination of sparse conifers and abundant shrubs.

We walked along easily for a bit over a mile and then reached a sag at Birch Spring and Little Harbor Brook where there was a 4-way trail intersection. We went straight ahead to check out Cedar Swamp Mountain which entailed a steep scramble up through wooded ledges, requiring once again the use of both hands and feet.

The ascent was short and then we were out in the open with the bulk of the lightly treed Cedar Swamp Mountain to our right and outlooks to the left. There's not a trail to the summit proper, but just 0.1 mile from Birch Spring is an easterly viewpoint out to Penobscot Mountain and The Amphitheater. Since the viewing area was smaller and less spectacular than our other summits, we didn't linger too long.

Hadlock Brook (photo by Webmaster)


We retraced our steps down the steep ledges to Birch Spring and then turned left onto Birch Spring Trail. Some narrow boardwalks led us through a muddy section. Then we were descending through light woods and soon reached the junction with Hadlock Brook Trail.

Turning left we passed by some hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) sporting white flower clusters and then encountered Hadlock Brook. At first the stream was made up of more rocks than water, then it passed through a pretty area bordered by clusters of large interrupted ferns (Osmunda claytoniana). A soft woods path ran alongside the stream as the water squeezed through a small low-walled mini-gorge.

And then the path exited out onto a carriage road with a great viewpoint of the 40-foot Hadlock Brook Waterfall – the tallest waterfall at Acadia. This being June, only thin streams of water flowed down the rocky cliffs, but it was still picturesque.

SDH at Waterfall Bridge on Hadlock Brook (photo by Mark Malnati)

Speaking of pretty, the gray stone bride on the carriage road from which we viewed the falls was quite beautiful. Actually the carriage road bridges are made of steel-reinforced concrete but are faced in granite. There was a neat semi-circle balcony bulging out from the side of the bridge and the stonework was impeccable. We had interesting viewpoints both upstream and downstream and could see where Hadlock Brook Trail continued beneath the bridge. A tiered path led down to the waterway on the upstream side of the bridge. Looking down on the downstream side, we could see a wide, but railingless footbridge crossing the brook.

The final leg of our trek consisted of a mile of carriage roads. These wide roads (not for cars) are smooth with finely crushed stone underfoot. We strolled along on almost level ground with woods on either side and crossed some more stone bridges. At one point we saw some pink lady's slipper blooms that were actually pink. And before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot, completing our wonderfully satisfying hike.
View from Parkman Mountain Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Donna, Tom, and Dennis peering over the edge of a cliff (photo by Mark Malnati)

Deb on Gilmore Peak (photo by Webmaster)

Donna and Tom on Gilmore Peak (photo by Webmaster)

Stream on Grandgent Trail (photo by Webmaster)

SDH on Grandgent Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Diane and Mark at the summit cairn on Sargent Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Ledges at Birch Spring on Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail (photo by Webmaster)

View of Gilmore Peak, Parkman Mtn., and Bald Peak from Sargent Mtn. (photo by Webmaster)


ME - Central Southeast

Sargent Mountain South Ridge Trail (photo by Webmaster)
  Driving Directions   

This hike starts from the Parkman Mountain parking lot, located within Acadia National Park in Mount Desert, Maine. It is in the eastern half of Mount Desert Island.

From Bar Harbor:
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 233 in Bar Harbor, drive west on Rt. 233 for 5.8 miles until reaching the junction with Routes 3 and 198.
  • Turn left onto the combined Routes 3 and 198 and drive south for 2.5 miles.
  • Turn left into the Parkman Mountain parking lot, indicated by a small "Parkman" sign.

From Northeast Harbor:
  • From the junction of the separate Routes 3 and 198 in Northeast Harbor, travel north for 1.8 miles on the combined Routes 3 and 198.
  • Turn right into the Parkman Mountain parking lot, indicated by a small "Parkman" sign. Note that this is the second parking area after Upper Hadlock Pond on the right.

Winter: The roads leading to the trailhead are all open in the winter and I believe the parking lot is plowed.

View (photo by Mark Malnati)


Toilets at the parking lot.

Other Notes   

A fee is required to enter Acadia National Park between May 1st and October 31st.

For more information on entrance fees please refer to the Acadia National Park website.

  • $20 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the regular season (June 23rd–Early October)
  • $10 for a week-long pass for one vehicle during the off-season (May 1st–June 22nd and Early October–October 31st)
  • $40 for a year-long pass for one vehicle
  • $5 for a week-long pass for one pedestrian

Mountain cranberry (photo by Webmaster)

About Acadia National Park   

Acadia National Park, covering about 48,000 acres, is located on Mount Desert Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the "Downeast" region of the state of Maine. The park spans several villages including Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor. Acadia includes miles of ocean shoreline, many freshwater ponds, a couple lakes, waterfalls, bare ledgy mountaintops, and deciduous and softwood forests. There are two sections of the park that are not on Mount Desert Island: Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut.

Acadia National Park offers a unique hiking experience in New England. From the many bare summits, not only can you see other mountains, but also gorgeous vistas of the sea along with islands, promontories, coves, and boats. The hiking is rugged with many easy rock scrambles, yet the elevations are low, making the ledgy peaks accessible to most people. The incredible network of trails allows you to tailor hiking distances to your wishes – you can devise a route that will keep you going all day; or simply choose a short jaunt to give you great vistas without a lot of effort. There are a couple dozen peaks and well over 100 miles of hiking trails.

View from Pemetic Mtn. at Acadia National Park (photo by Webmaster)

There is an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities at Acadia. Spend some time sunbathing at Sand Beach, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Atlantic shoreline, bicycle or ride a horse on the 57 miles of carriage roads, paddle in the many ponds, swim at Echo Lake, take a boat tour on the sea or to an island, stay overnight at the park's campgrounds, and of course you can hike up mountains, through forests, and around ponds. The winter season provides great terrain for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

If your taste runs to less physical activity, then you can drive up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – Acadia's highest peak at 1,532 feet elevation – in fact the highest point on the United States' Atlantic seaboard. From Cadillac's bare summit are views in every direction – you can watch the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening. The forest service offers many ranger-led programs from mid-May through mid-October to introduce you to the nature and wildlife of the park. You can drive on Park Loop Road for a tour of the park with many picnic areas and pullout spots offering scenic vistas available. Or stop in at Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea. Shopping, restaurants, and lodging are available in Bar Harbor as well as the other villages within or next to the park. Whale watching and bird watching are other popular activates.

Rhodora bloom (photo by Webmaster)

The varied natural habitat of Acadia National Park – from ocean to mountains – offers a plethora of plants and wildlife – both marine and land-bound. It is home to about 50 species of mammals, 325 bird species, and 1,000 species of flowering plants. Both bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest on the island. Mammals include deer, porcupine, and beaver. Whales and harbor seals are common marine animals.

The park was established in 1916 under a different name and became Acadia National Park in 1929. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated about one-third of the park's acreage and was responsible for creating the gorgeous carriage roads that wind through forests, around ponds, past waterfalls, and over beautiful granite bridges.

An entrance fee is required to enter the park. See the forest service's Fees and Reservations page for more information.

The park is open all year, although services are reduced and many roads closed during the winter season.

Acadia National Park
P.O. Box 177
Bar Harbor, ME 04609

Bunchberry with a rhodora petal on one of its leaves (photo by Webmaster)

Trail descending from Parkman Mountain (photo by Webmaster)

Waterfall Bridge (photo by Webmaster)

Hadlock Brook Waterfall (photo by Webmaster)

Carriage road (photo by Webmaster)

View from Parkman Mountain (photo by Webmaster)


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