Cedar Swamp Mountain is a wonderful hike that offers open views of Mount Desert Island, the ocean and beyond.
A sign points to the summit of Cedar Swamp Mountain on Dec. 20, in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Cadillac Mountain. Sand Beach. Thunder Hole. Jordan Pond. The list of famous places in Acadia National Park goes on and on. But have you ever heard of Cedar Swamp Mountain?

If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone. It’s one of the least-known peaks in the park.

Nevertheless, Cedar Swamp Mountain is a wonderful hike that offers open views of Mount Desert Island, the ocean and beyond. It’s also a great winter destination, if you’re looking for a moderately challenging hike that leads through an enchanting, snowy forest and past a gorgeous, icy waterfall. At least, that was my experience.

I was first introduced to this inconspicuous mountain this past summer while completing the “Six Summits” loop with my friend Julianne. The 6-mile route includes Cedar Swamp Mountain, plus the surrounding summits of Penobscot Mountain, Sargent Mountain, Gilmore Peak, Parkman Mountain and Bald Peak.

Of those six peaks, Cedar Swamp Mountain is the shortest, topping off at 942 feet above sea level. So, one reason parkgoers may overlook Cedar Swamp is simply that its closest neighbors are taller.

However, if you look at the other mountains in the park, Cedar Swamp isn’t exactly short. In fact, it’s the park’s 11th highest peak — on a list of 26. Popular destinations including North Bubble and South Bubble, Beehive, Gorham and Beech mountains are all shorter.

So why don’t more people know about Cedar Swamp? I can make a good guess.

Snow dusts the trees and ledges around Hadlock Falls (left). Julianne Rosset (top right) hikes through a snowy forest on the way to Cedar Swamp Mountain. Clouds (bottom right) hang low over Mount Desert Island on Dec. 20. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

First of all, there aren’t any trailhead parking areas named after it. There is no Cedar Swamp Mountain Trailhead or Cedar Swamp Mountain Trail. And throughout the vast Acadia National Park trail network, very few signs actually read “Cedar Swamp Mountain.” The peak is located on the Sargent South Ridge Trail, which extends from the peak of Sargent Mountain south, 2.7 miles, traveling up and over Cedar Swamp Mountain along the way.

Julianne and I decided to hike the mountain during the solstice. It was the perfect way to embrace the beauty of the snow, which melted away in a rainstorm a couple of days later.

We began our hike at the parking lot for Parkman and Norumbega mountains on Route 3, just north of Upper Hadlock Pond. From there, we crossed the road to reach the cedar sign that marked the trailhead for Parkman Mountain. Using a trail map, we then navigated a network of intersecting hiking trails to reach the summit of Cedar Swamp Mountain in about 1.6 miles.

The first part of the hike was peppered with wintergreen, which grows low to the ground and has waxy leaves that remain green throughout the winter. The plant produces bright red berries, too. Years ago, when I first smelled the plant, I said, “This smells just like wintergreen gum.” Well, duh.

Snow coats a viewpoint on Cedar Swamp Mountain on Dec. 20 in Acadia National Park.
Snow coats a viewpoint on Cedar Swamp Mountain on Dec. 20 in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Wintergreen is so abundant in Maine forests the Legislature named it the state herb in 1999. It’s used to flavor gum, candy, toothpaste and more. But it also has been used medicinally in tea to relieve sore throats and upset stomachs.

The hike involved several trail intersections, and at each one, we had to decide which trail to take. This required us to reference a detailed trail map. We also used a hiking trail app on our phones, but due to poor reception, it sometimes lagged. So at the end of the day, the paper map was quite valuable.

At the beginning of our hike, the snow cover was spotty. But as we gained elevation, the snow deepened into a thick blanket that weighed down branches, cloaked the ground and dusted tree trunks. We slowed our pace, marveling at the beauty of the winterscape.

Following Hadlock Brook uphill, we reached Waterfall Bridge, which is one of the 16 stone bridges financed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. The bridge was completed in 1925, and it sits just below the 40-foot Hadlock Falls.

From there, we crossed a carriage road and continued on Hadlock Brook Trail to Birch Spring Trail, which we then followed to Birch Spring. From there, we climbed a tenth of a mile up a steep, rocky slope to the top of Cedar Swamp. And it was only then that we found a sign that read “Cedar Swamp Mountain,” directing us to the nearby summit.

From the top, I was awed by how the panoramic view changed as I spun around. To the north was a world of white and deep green — snow and evergreen trees. While to the south, dark islands dotted a gray-blue ocean. At the horizon, sunlight pooled into a yellow band that stretched between water and clouds, giving the illusion of a sunset or sunrise when it was actually midday.

Snow coats a viewpoint on Cedar Swamp Mountain on Dec. 20 in Acadia National Park.
Snow coats a viewpoint on Cedar Swamp Mountain on Dec. 20 in Acadia National Park. The islands seen are the Cranberry Isles. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Feeling ambitious, we decided to make our adventure into a loop hike by descending the mountain on the Sargent South Ridge Trail. It was a gradual descent of about 1.4 miles, with a few nice views along the way.

At the end of the trail, we turned right onto a carriage road. And after walking 2 miles on that, we were happy to return to a traditional hiking trail. There’s something about walking on a straight, smooth road that can be more tiring than navigating roots and rocks.

Overall, the loop was approximately 6 miles long. We were happy to have spent all that time outdoors. However, from that same trailhead, we could have hiked to the summit and back in just 3.2 miles. Or we could have started our hike at the Brown Mountain Gatehouse and hiked up and down on the Sargent South Ridge Trail for a similarly short hike (a little more than 3 miles). Using a map, you can decide what’s the best route for you.

Acadia is filled with options, even in the winter when much of the Park Loop Road is closed. It just takes a little research and planning to find the perfect adventure.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...