The Cranberry Isles are seen from a viewpoint on the Perpendicular Trail on Mansell Mountain on Monday in Acadia National Park. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

On the steep eastern side of Mansell Mountain is an impressive talus slope, a jumble of angular granite rocks baking under the sun. Adorned with faint blooms of white and green lichen, the rocks vary greatly in size and shape. Some of the hunks of granite are no larger than a book, while others are true boulders, exceeding the height of the hikers who labor past.

It would be a tricky area to traverse if not for the stone staircase that strikes right through its center. Such is the magic of Acadia National Park.

The Perpendicular Trail on Mansell Mountain features more than 300 cut granite steps. My legs have burned as I’ve followed them up the mountain.

The trail, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, is steep and fantastical, its many steps forming a clear path through the wilderness. Yet it almost seems a part of the landscape. The CCC crew covered the uneven blocks of granite with moss and planted ferns to help them blend in, according to the National Park Service website.

In Acadia, stone steps are far from unusual. Many trails feature them. Some trails — such as the Perpendicular Trail — have more steps than others. The Ladder Trail up Dorr Mountain is famous for its stone staircases. And the Beachcroft Path up Champlain Mountain is another great example of this style of trail building.

While many of these stones were laid long ago, stair-building is still being done throughout the park in an effort to improve trails. For example, between 2016 and 2020, the Valley Cove Trail was closed for rehabilitation, and in the process, a trail crew added 384 stone steps to the route — as well as 1,700 feet of retaining walls and 200 feet of bog walks.

It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into maintaining the park’s 150-plus miles of trails.

Each trail has its own special characteristics, making it impossible for me to choose a favorite in Acadia. In addition to having whimsical staircases, the Perpendicular Trail is wonderful because it’s rarely crowded. Located on the quieter side of Acadia, it has a small trailhead parking area and — compared with the other trails in the park — it doesn’t receive much fanfare.

As hinted by its name, the trail is steep, climbing more than 800 feet in less than a mile. It includes a short section of metal rungs, which makes it unsuitable for dogs. In fact, it’s one of the few trails in the park that are closed to pets.

The hike begins at the south end of Long Pond at a small parking area and boat ramp. There, looking out over the water, Mansell Mountain rises to your left. To your right is Beech Mountain, which can also be hiked from this parking area.

Follow Long Pond Trail along the west shore of the pond, and you’ll reach the start of the Perpendicular Trail in about 0.2 miles. It’s marked with a sign and will be on your left, traveling away from the water and uphill.

Much of the Perpendicular Trail is in a shady forest, where it travels around rock ledges and up steep slopes. Wild blueberries are abundant throughout the forest and in more open areas of the mountain.

Near the top of the mountain, 0.7 miles up the Perpendicular Trail, you’ll reach a stretch of sloping bedrock with open views of the Cranberry Isles. Closer at hand, you’ll see the southern end of Long Pond and the parking area from which you started.

From that overlook is a side trail leading to a second overlook with views across Long Pond to Beech Mountain. Look closely and you can spot the observation tower on the mountain’s top.

Returning to the first overlook, signs direct you to the forested top of Mansell Mountain in 0.2 miles. The summit, at 949 feet above sea level, is marked with a classic wooden sign bolstered by a rock pile.

From there, you can return the way you came, but many people choose to make a loop hike of it. To do this, you continue past the summit sign and you’ll soon reach an intersection with the Mansell Mountain Trail. You can descend that trail, then turn back toward the pond on the Cold Brook Trail for a 2.4-mile loop hike. Or you can descend the nearby Razorback Trail and Cold Brook Trail for a 2.5-mile loop hike.

Although intersections are well-marked in Acadia, the many intersecting trails can be challenging to navigate. I suggest carrying a detailed trail map. That way you can easily alter your plans.

While recently hiking the trail, I was excited to find blueberries in bloom, their little, white and pink, bell-shaped flowers hanging low to the ground. I also spotted a number of songbirds, including a black-throated green warbler and an ovenbird. The former was singing quite enthusiastically.

A mourning cloak butterfly appeared on the trail, waving its dark wings in the sunshine. And down on Long Pond, a loon swam close to the shore, diving for fish.

A park pass is required to enter Acadia National Park. It can be purchased online or at park visitor centers and entrance stations. A standard pass for a private vehicle is $35 and valid for seven days, and an annual pass is $70. For more information, visit

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...