This guide to rock climbing in Acadia National Park was written by John Sidik and Noah Kleiner, who are both professional climbing guides with deep local knowledge of rock climbing in Maine. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to them via this contact form.
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 bell buoy near Spindle Rock sounding in the distance. Marking a rock known for centuries as a shipwrecker, the bell has become the ominous soundtrack of Otter Cliff. At the bottom of Wonder Wall I look out over the sea as the sun starts to peek 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 rock climbing in the Northeast. The geology of the area has made some amazing places to climb. The quality of the rock is 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. If you’re looking for a complete guide check out, Rock Climbs of Acadia by Grant Simmons, which can be found in the local shop Cadillac Mountain Sports. In the meantime, this article will get you started.
There are about 7 different climbing areas on the island all offering different types of climbing. From beautiful granite cracks to incredible ocean climbing, Acadia 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 extraordinary views of Sand Beach, the Atlantic Ocean and Great Head. The typical 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 their own adventure above the crashing sea.
Located about a mile inland, this cliff has great variety, 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 crimps. 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 island’s hardest climbs and for epic adventures above the crashing swells below. Check it out if you’re interested in beating the crowds, but expect to be challenged on this interesting rock face.
This used to be a more adventurous hiking trail that cut the cliff in half. Some of the old rebar and metal 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. It can be hard to find parking late in the day, but it’s 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 Stratocaster(5.10c) and others, and Canada Cliffs, with some hard sport climbing. Both of these spots are low on the crowds and can provide the adventurous folks with something to suit their taste.
The Bottom Line on Rock Climbing in Acadia
The climbing opportunities in Acadia National Park have grown as the climbing community has expanded. With more folks getting into the sport, it has become a popular activity at the park. There’s enough variety to suit a huge range of skill levels, and it’s one of the most beautiful places to climb in North America. The overall quality of rock is excellent, and it’s a must hit for any budding climber.
About the Authors
John and Noah run a small guiding service in Camden, ME called Equinox Guiding Service. Collectively, they have climbed and skied all over the world, and continue to search for the next place to share with their clients.
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