After the Precipice any other trail would have been a let down, or would it?? There's another far less traveled trail in the park with similar cliff top climbing that the peregrines also close down every year, and with the birds gone for the season it was the perfect chance to cross this one off the bucket list also, so off to Jordan Pond we went. The Jordan Cliff trail is reputed to be the second toughest trail in the park, but while similar in clifftop walking and scrambling to the Precipice it lacks the extreme exposure and prolonged rung climbs. The Beehive actually has more exposure but seemed less intense to me for some reason. Maybe it was that the area of the Jordan Cliff it traverses is largely forested, so the trail was wet in spots and covered in fallen leaves, which made footing a lot less certain than bare rock. The trail also relied more on wooded construction of various types and natural features like cracks and trees, as opposed to ladders and iron rungs, to help you along, although it had some of both. Whatever it was we started up, with the first half of the mile long trail being typical Acadia woods with evergreens and blueberry bushes in their autumn red decorating the ledges and going quickly, with an occasional view out to Jordan Pond and the bubbles. Then we hit the cliffs and things got interesting again. If the Precipice is a jungle gym, this one is an obstacle course.
Autumn at Jordan Pond
The iconic Bubbles providing the backdrop
Walk this way...
...with caution of course
Lightly used trail by Acadia's standards
The cliffs you'll be climbing glimpsed through the trees
Side view of the Bubbles
There's a short, fun trail up the face of South Bubble
Speaking of fun, lets begin!
You start by traversing the narrow clifftop bands of rock, but as I mentioned before most of the drops were maybe 50 feet or less, and trees grow up that high from below, which lessened the sense of exposure, but strangely I felt much more likely to slip on a few spots here than on the Precipice. Probably just the lack of an iron bar to hold onto and the leaves covering everything. Crossing one clifftop after another we eventually came to a large wall of rock, and after that had an interesting little drop down to the top of another cliff with nothing to aid you but some roots, and just past that we hit the sort of famous little wooden step bridge. This thing looks like it's in need of repair or replacement soon. The supports look a little past their prime, but like the iron ladders and rungs there's nothing to do but trust in the NPS and that they keep things in good working order, despite outward appearances to the contrary. But it held just fine and we made it down without issue.
Views of the Bubbles as the trail opens up
No rungs for you! Just grab a rock, root or whatever feels secure to you
Peter scrambling up
Pretty big rock wall you pass by
Then you drop down and approach the wooden steps/bridge with the aid of some roots
Peter got to be the guinea pic for the bridge section
Odd little thing
Several sections of the trail were somehow built into the mountain side with just logs and dirt. Again you just trust that they are built to last and get over them as quick as you can. The last and largest section of cliff side climbing has a couple sets of iron rung ladders, but involves more natural scrambling up the cracks and clifftops than the other ladder trails in the park. Grab a root here, a tree trunk there, throw in a pointy rock for good measure and march on until you come to a the largest exposed section on the trail and climb up with the help of the largest set of iron works on this trail. Once up there you scramble up a rock gap about a foot wide and ten feet high on the edge of a cliff before traversing the narrow top of one final cliff band without anything to grab but more trees and rocks. Finally you enter the woods and find the trail junction and can relax. Another interesting and heartbeat raising trail, but it didn't quite have the excitement and fun factor the Precipice did. More of just a scrambling challenge for 90% of the way. Once done with that we hiked up to the top of Penobscot Mountain, hoping to catch a sunset. Unfortunately the clouds had rolled in and there was to be no such thing. So we had a snack and headed off to grab some red ink on the route back to the car.
Trails were somehow built onto the side of the mountain when necessary
Plenty of iron on this trail too
But often its just nature they want you to utilize
Approaching the highest ladder of rungs on this trail
Looking back down the rungs with Jordan Pond below
Navigating natures obstacle course
The tree came in handy on these wet ledges
A hand or foot rail on these wouldn't really have bothered me
After the last of the obstacles you can loop back down along the pond or head up the last bit of Penobscot
With one more scramble thrown in just because
The view from atop Jordan Cliff
Life is good!
The last birthday visit to Acadia for the year??
Some red berries and the last of the foliage on the Bubbles
Almost on top
Atop Penobscot at sunset. Only one problem. No sunset.
All year long I've been tracking my miles to try and get to 100 in Acadia for it's centennial year. There's an app I used to track it so I knew exactly how much I needed to get to 100 on this trip. The two more difficult trails we took went much slower than we thought, or more accurately we never thought twice about how long the trails would take, so we ended up breaking out the headlamps after passing the little pond between Penobscot and Sargent Mountains because I still wanted to get in 4 more miles before calling it a day, just in case I don't make it back this year. So, we zigged and zagged around, grabbing some red lines in the dark on the planned route back. Unfortunately, while Mr. Rockefeller nicely allows public use of his personal carriage roads that connect to the park in the daytime, we found the ones we planned to use for connecting to some trails were closed to the public after dark. No big deal really, we just got out the map again and found another way back to the car that would get the necessary mileage to finish my centennial trek, hitting the 100 mile mark on the shore of Jordan Pond with the iconic Bubbles silhouetted in the dark across the pond just before returning to the car and hitting the road.
Passing Sargent Pond around dusk we broke out the headlamps
Cars on Cadillac also broke out the headlamps
Wandering and redlining in the dark
Took longer than I thought, but I finally reached my goal
Filling up on the ride home. If only every trip to Acadia cost this much. Maybe I need to look into a Prius of my own!
So, the second hardest trail in Acadia?? Yeah, I think I'd go with that. Kind of hard to compare it to the trails like Precipice and Beehive which are more vertical climbs, as opposed to this sort of horizontal scramble, although it definitely goes up, just not straight up. So if you're looking for a step up from the Beehive but aren't quite ready to tackle the Precipice this is a good hike in between them. As a bonus it doesn't draw the big crowds the Precipice and Beehive do either. So if you're looking for another challenge in Acadia and like this kind of stuff look no further than this one.