Monday, November 17, 2014


The first thing many find hard to believe when visiting the park is that a train once passed through the woods and up a mountain side in  what is now Acadia National Park.  And years after the train stopped running and the tracks were torn up, hikers still sort out the trail, which than became known as the Green Mountain Railroad Trail.
Two commercial business provided transportation up to the summit of Green Mountain (renamed Cadillac Mountain).  One company operated the Toll house Road, where buckboards could pass along to reach the summit - for a fee.  The other business was The Green Mountain Railroad company, which built a railroad line from the edge of Eagle Lake to the summit of Green Mountain. 
The plans for the Railroad company called for tracks to be laid from downtown Bar Harbor  all the way to the summit, but those plans were later cut back because of cost.  To get people to the site where they could board the cog train, they had to first get from downtown Bar Harbor to the edge of Eagle Lake, and this was done by ferrying people out to the lake on large buckboards that some named as large horse drawn barges.


Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The Green Mountain Railroad Trail

Once at Eagle Lake, passengers than boarded the steamboat Wauwinet (named after an old Otter Creek Indian settlement), and were carried across the lake to where the Cog train waited to haul them to the summit of Green Mountain.
Green Mountain Railroad - Acadia National Park

The Tollhouse Road ended up going under which left the business of carrying people to the summit up to the Railroad company alone. 
The business would go on to establish a second company, The Mount Desert Railway company.  They had big plans to build even more railway lines, one up Champlain Mountain, another from Bar Harbor to Somesville, and another from Northeast Harbor to Greenings Island.
But they were not the only company drawing up plans for railway lines on the island, another company wanted to build railroad lines from Northeast Harbor to Hulls Cove, as well as a line from Champlain Mountain to Otter Creek.  Their plans also called for the development of a huge subdivision to be built at one end of Bubbles Pond.  That company went bankrupt before they could even break ground.

The Green Mountain Railroad company also ended up going bankrupt, but not before building a rail line to the summit of Green Mountain and operating it for a time.  The steamship the company used to ferry passengers across Eagle lake was sunk to the bottom of the lake where it still rests.
The railroad tracks were removed after the company went bankrupt, but the railroad spikes had been placed so deep into the granite they could not be removed and still are there today, marking the way up the mountainside for anyone who seeks them out.  It was written that all of the train  rails were also removed, but that is not true, there is one piece of iron rail still there on the mountainside. 
If you are interested in following the same path the cog train took from Eagle Lake to the summit of Green Mountain, I have a couple of videos up on Youtube where I retraced the same route the train took, and it shows the railroad spikes still there along with that one remaining section of rail.  Simply type in a search for The Green Mountain Railroad of Acadia National Park.
Green Mountain Railroad - Acadia National Park

The key to locating the start of the trail is pretty simple, once you come to the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road - drive past it and keep heading toward Bubble Pond and Jordan Pond.  As soon as you pass the summit road begin looking for the first pull over, and continue past it.  At the second pull over is where you want to park, it is small and easy to miss.  If you stand in the center of that pull over and look across the road toward the mountain side, that is where you want to enter the woods.  Once in the woods, just to the left the abandoned trail begins.  Usually there is a small rock pile near a railroad spike.

I have come into new information on the spot where the train tracks began by the lake.  There are two wooden bridges along that side of Eagle Lake, one near the Eagle Lake boat landing, the other on the Bubble Pond end of the lake.  The bridge furthest away from the boat landing is key to knowing exactly where the train tracks began.  Once you cross that bridge, heading toward the boat landing end of the lake, off to the left there is a long thin strip to land that extends out onto the lake, the train tracks began along the long strip of land.
The tracks than crossed where the carriage road is today and made its way up along one side of the nearby brook which runs under the wooden bridge.
At a point just before, but very close to a small waterfall along the brook, the train tracks crossed the brook using a crib system.  Once the train crossed the brook by the waterfall, it continued upward moving along a shallow gully until it reached the present day Park Loop Road.  The tracks continued upward through the woods, and then higher you go the more iron railroad spikes you come upon.    At one point the train trail crosses a nice long section of built up bedding.  About two thirds of the way up you come to the only remaining section of rail left on the mountain side.
Old drawings along with a new piece on the train I found helped locate the exact area the tracks began.  Down by the lake, just before that long stretch of land, there was several buildings, a couple were pretty large, and there was a dock - we discovered a long section of granite cut away where the dock once was.
built up section of rail bed

Just before the tracks went out onto that long thin strip of land, the tracks formed a Y, with a shorter section of track leading into one of the buildings by the waters edge.  But the biggest surprise, for me anyways, was learning that there was not one train, but two that operated along the tracks.  As one train took off with its load of passengers, the second train was being serviced and made ready for its trip up the mountain side.  When the first train returned back to the station, the second train would pull out with its passengers while the first train was serviced and made ready for its next run.
Most drawings that  the route the train took show a perfectly straight line from the lake to the summit, which is not accurate.  I did locate an old map showing the train tracks not running in a straight line, and it is more in line with the actual route I have retraced many times..




The story of the Great Cave begins with the building of the Precipice Trail, designed and built by Rudolph Brunnow, a man who was famous for constructing difficult and challenging trails.  When faced with the prospect of constructing a trail up the side of the Precipice, he was faced with a real challenge, but one he readily took on.
But once the precipice was constructed, Rudolph Brunnow was faced with perhaps as big of a challenge as the building of the trail itself - how does one attract people to a trail that was on a less popular area of the Park?  The task now facing him was coming up with a way to do just that, and his plan involved building a series of trails in the area of the Precipice.
Other supporting trails he built was the Orange and Black Trail, The Beehive trail, the Murry Lane Path, and the red Trail, today renamed the Schooner Head Trail.  But he still needed a main attraction, and thus he sought  permission and got it to construct a loop trail up to the Great Cave.  The Great Cave loop began around the same area where the Orange and black trail connect to the Precipice Trail today.  It follows a boulder field upward toward the woods, and just inside the woods the well worn Trail continues up to the entrance of the Great Cave.
Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The great Cave
Off to one side of the cave, and you do have to look for it, is a hidden stairway leading up above the cave, where it comes to cliffs.  There is a metal bridge and iron hand rails to help you along the narrow cliffs, and the loop ends at the base of where the Ladders begin up the official precipice Trail.
It was David Schortmann who went out and located and documented the Great Cave, he had found half of the missing Great Cave Loop, and I wrote how we now need some one to locate the other half of the loop.  Not long after I was contacted by Nick Thorndike, who had discovered the nearly hidden stairway and send me a photo of it.  So we now had the complete Great Cave Trail documented.  The finishing touch came when I got an email from Zhanna Galas who went up and got us the GPS numbers for the site.
  As you can see, like minded adventurers play a key role in uncovering some of these abandoned trails, and for them we are very thankful, because without their efforts some of these trails would remain lost to this day.  Not in this book nor on the website do we name everyone because for various reasons some do not want their name made public, so rather we know their names or not, we own them a big thank you.
Rudolph Brunnow was a master trail builder, as anyone who has climbed or walked his trails will attest to.  But he never could of seen the day coming, long after his death, that the Park Service would take aggressive moves and close down some of his greatest works.  The Great Cave Loop trail was abandoned, as was a nearby other trail he constructed.  Nearly half the Orange and black trail was also abandoned and the Schooner Head road red trail was also abandoned.  Rudolph Brunnow had plans to extend the red Trail from Schooner head up to the area of sand beach, to connect it to the Ocean shore path - for whatever reason those plans never came to be.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - old map of Great Cave
In an old book at the COA I came across a piece on the Great cave, way back when I first began to search for its location.  It stated the Great cave was one of the worlds great wonders, and that the mouth of the cave was 100 feet high and 100 feet wide, and ran about 100 feet back into the mountain side.  The piece went on to say the cave was so large one could fit a plane inside it, which if true would really make for a really Great cave.  Perhaps one could fit a plane inside the Great cave, providing one carried it up there in pieces.  Not to say that the cave isn't great, because everyone who has been to it agree, it is indeed a Great cave and worth the hike.
It is worth noting that even though the Great cave no longer appears on trail maps, it is still very much there.  As trails are abandoned, the park service asks map makers to remove them from future maps, thus todays maps do not show abandoned sites like the Great Cave, Anemone Cave, The Bear's Den, the Hanging Steps, the Gurnee trail and other abandoned sites.

GPS for The Great Cave
Talus Slope along Precipice Trail
44.349697 - 68.189670
Split with Official Precipice Trail
44.349656 - 68.189792
First Sign of Trail in woods
44.349473 - 68.190019
Stone Steps to Cave
44.349164 - 68.190296
The great Cave
44.349101 - 68.190362
(supplied by Zhanna Galas)


Stone Steps - Great Cave Trail - Acadia National Park - photo submitted by Nick Thorndike

George B. Dorr, in honor of the work crew that helped build the Precipice Trail, built a miniature version of the Precipice trail by Glen Mary Park in downtown Bar Harbor.  It was on a cliff with ladders, metal bridges  and iron rings so people could go there and practice before attempting to hike the real thing.  There are no signs of this mini Precipice today.