My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. I crawl out of bed and into my clothes. The day ahead is just starting but the anticipation keeps me headed for the door. Twenty minutes later we arrive at Otter Cliff with the sound of the bell buoy near “spindle rock”. It is known for hitting ships centuries ago know and has become the ominous sound of Otter Cliff. At the bottom of wonder-wall I look out over the sea as the sun starts to peak over the horizon. I chalk up my hands and start to climb, the salt air fills my lungs and I relax. Acadia National Park arguably has some of the best climbing in the Northeast. The geology of the area has made some amazing places to climb. The quality of the rock superb; from ocean cliffs to steep crack climbs. Acadia National Park spans 49,000 acres of southern Maine on Mount Desert Island, the sixth largest island in the contiguous United States. The guidebook, Rock Climbs of Acadia by Grant Simmons, can be found in the local shop Cadillac Mountain Sports.
There are about 7 different climbing areas on the island all offering different types of climbing. From beautiful grant cracks to some ocean climbing. It really has it all. Here’s some of the more popular areas and a quick overview of the popular routes.
Probably the most visited climbing area in the state of Maine. It has over 70 routes with a relatively short 60’ cliff which provides climbers with an extraordinary view of Sand Beach, the Atlantic Ocean and Great Head. The standard climbing here has steep face routes with horizontal cracks that break up the cliff. The routes are close together and allow the user to create there own adventure over the sea.
Located about a mile inland, this cliff has it all. From 200’ multi-pitch crack climbs to top rope slab routes. It has some of the most classic climbing in New England. With high quality granite rock that has dihedrals and aeries, crack and sharp crips. The perfect time to visit this cliff is September and October where the friction is best and you’re not baking on the wall. Amazing climbing and even more spectacular views of the surrounding ocean and mountains.
Like Otter this cliff offers ocean views and even more wildlife viewing. I once saw a whale off the coast as we climbed the classic Full Sail (5.7). The crowds tend not to be as prevalent as Otter and the quality of rock climbing is higher. Known for the islands hardest climbs and for epic adventures above the crashing swells below. Check it out if your interested in beating the crowds but expect to be challenged on this interesting rock face.
This used to be a more adventures hiking trail that cut the cliff in half. Some of the old rebar and mettle are still stuck in the rock face. The climbing is mostly slab climbing with little holds and less gear. That being said, there are some really fun multi pitch climbs here such as Morviana and Gargoyle. Hard to find parking late in the day but is a gorgeous climbing destination in peak fall season. Cap the climb off with tea and a popover at the Jordan Pond House with a great view of your climb.
There are a two other crags I should mention here. Eagle Crag, with the classic Statocastor and Canada Cliffs with some hard sport climbing. Both of these places are low on the crowds and provide the adventurous folks to find something to their taste. Over all the climbing in Acadia National Park has grown as the climbing community has. With more folks getting into the sport it has grown with it. Climbing in Acadia has It all and is one of the most beautiful places to climb in North America. The quality of rock is far from none and is a must hit for any budding climber. About the Authors
John and Noah run a small guiding service in Camden called Equinox Guiding Service. Collectively, the company has climbed and skied all over the world, and continues to search for the next place to share with its clients.