The sun’s rays strike the rocky coast of Acadia National Park, Maine. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty, AP)
Acadia National Park has many claims to fame. It was the first national park east of the Mississippi. It’s the second most visited east of the Mississippi (more than 2.4 million visitors last year). And it’s the only one to boast miles of carriage trails fit for — and built by — a Rockefeller (John D. Jr.)
But possibly the best reason to visit Acadia, on the wild and rocky coast of Maine, is the sight of sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard.
The view, however, is not always what gets people up two hours before dawn for the drive to the mountain’s summit.
Many visitors believe the 1,532-foot peak on Mount Desert Island offers the first sight of sunrise in the continental United States. They’re right — some of the time.
For half the year — roughly from the second week in October through the first week of March — Cadillac’s height and coastal perch make it the first place in the easternmost state where the sun appears.
For most of the rest of the year, Cadillac’s sunrise is not the first. That honor goes, from late March through mid-September, to Mars Hill (a 1,748-foot mountain) near the Canadian border. That’s because in winter, the sun rises farther to the south. Sunrise moves north along the horizon during the warmer months.
So check the calendar; the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain isn’t even open in winter.
The park was founded by Rockefeller and others in 1919, when it was called Lafayette National Park. He personally donated about 11,000 acres. David Rockefeller Sr., the sole surviving son of John D. Jr., still has a summer home on Mount Desert Island.
Acadia’s landscape features the elements that have made Maine’s coastline world famous, including rocky shores, secluded coves, roaring surf and tree-topped peaks.
Among the park’s highlights:
The 20-mile Park Loop Road starts near the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, runs along ridges overlooking the tourist town of Bar Harbor, drops down to the rocky coast, passes several coves and loops back inland along Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake. It also takes motorists to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
The 57 miles of carriage roads, built about 100 years ago, were Rockefeller’s response to what he regarded as the automobile’s unfortunate invasion of Mount Desert Island. Today, the roads are used by pedestrians, runners, equestrians and carriages.
Bass Harbor Head Light, built in 1858 to mark the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay, is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the Maine coast.
To see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, visitors are urged to arrive at the summit about a half-hour early to allow an appreciation of the colors of the predawn sky. In mid-June, the sun rises at about 5; temperatures can dip to near 40. If the weather is clear, 100 to 200 people are usually there. Another favorite spot is on Ocean Drive, where visitors say the pink granite glows beautifully at first light.
About the park
Size: 47,453 acres
Visitors: 2,431,052 in 2012
History: The park was the brainchild of landscape architect Charles Elliot, and its creation was strongly supported by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., who had a 100-room mansion in the local town of Seal Harbor. President Wilson first established the park as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 under the administration of the National Park Service. Three years later, it became Lafayette National Park in honor of the Revolutionary War hero. The park’s name was changed to Acadia National Park in 1929.
When visiting: The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is on Mount Desert Island, Maine, near the community of Bar Harbor.
Visitor info: (207) 288-3338.
Of note: It was the first national park created east of the Mississippi River.
Courtesy : http://www.usatoday.com