Hiking: Penobscot Mountain via the Jordan Cliffs Trail | Acadia National Park, ME | 11/5/09

Hiking in Acadia in November is a treat. The trailheads are practically empty and on most of the trails, you will not run into anyone else hiking. I think hiking all day we only saw one other person and he was on the next mountain over from us when we saw him.

The Jordan Cliffs trail up Penobscot Mountain starts at the Jordan Pond trailhead. When we arrived we were the only car there. In the summer months, it can be practically impossible to find a spot there, so that was a nice treat.

The weather wasn't perfect when we arrived. It was sort of a mixture of snow showers and drizzle from time to time. Though everything seemed dry enough so we weren't too worried that the trail would be slick when it was on open rock areas. The forecast was for the worst of the weather to stay off until the late afternoon and when we first took off there were some breaks of sunshine so we felt pretty secure in going.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

The trail drops down to Jordan Pond and then crosses the outlet. From here you follow the carriage roads a bit to where the trail leaves the road and starts climbing up a ridge. It splits with the Penobscot South Ridge Trail and then crosses another carriage road (these carriage roads are open to horses, bikes and walking, but not vehicles) and really starts to make its way up the ridge.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

The ridge comes up along the flank of Penobscot Mountain beneath a line of cliffs. The trail makes its way through the talus slope with views down to Jordan Pond below. Eventually the trail makes its way onto and through the cliffs.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

The vast majority of this section doesn't really contain any technical climbing or anything that is all that difficult for that matter. Some of the areas are a bit exposed and steep, but there are steel hand holds and ladders built into the cliffs to help. There are only maybe one or two short sections that are very exposed and could be considered somewhat difficult, especially if you don't like heights and/or exposure. Thankfully for us the storms had pretty much stayed away so the rocks were mostly dry and the hardest of the sections, a quick scamper across an open rock slanted towards the edge and the cliff below without any handholds was easy enough to do, though not without some fear.



Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
After that section, the trail turns up the cliff and climbs fairly steeply over a wrought iron ladder before turning back down, going across a small "bridge" and then making its way to the trail junction with the trail that runs up to the top of Penobscot Mountain.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

The trail to the top of Penobscot Mountain is pretty tame compared to the Jordan Cliffs Trail and quickly reaches the summit in about a half of a mile. The top of Penobscot is much like other mountains in Acadia. Wide open, rounded and offering pretty much 360 degree views of the area.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

From the summit we dropped down to Sargent Mountain Pond. A small glacial pond sitting in the notch between Sargent Mountain to the north and Penobscot Mountain.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

From the pond we followed the Sargent South Ridge Trail down to its intersection with the Amphitheater Trail. This trail dropped off the ridge and down through the "amphitheater" which I thought was gonna to be something of a rock gorge. The trail didn't turn out to be as impressive as I thought, but continuing on the Ridge Trail would have brought us out on the carriage roads significantly east of where we wanted to be. Instead we followed the Amphitheater Trail down to its intersection with the higher Carriage Road.

Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09
Jordan Cliffs/Penobscot Mountain Hike 11/5/09

As we made our way down and especially once we got on the carriage road, the weather took a turn for the worse. Alternating between heavy rain and snow, the hike back about a mile on the carriage road to where it first crossed the Jordan Cliffs Trail was quite a slog. There were some views and the walk was easy, but the weather just wasn't making it much fun. Once we reached the intersection with the Cliffs Trail, we dropped back down to Jordan Pond and then up to the trailhead to warm up in the truck.


Guidebooks, Maps and Hiking Information for Acadia National Park


If you are looking for a good guidebook (with maps) for hikes throughout Acadia National Park, we have been using Tom St. Germain's A Walk in the Park and found it to be a great resource.  The Maine Mountain Guide from the Appalachian Mountain Club also includes trail descriptions and maps for Acadia.  A good introduction to Acadia National Park is available online here.

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