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..




For many years the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park held a secret that some did not ever want to see the light of day.  The secret the Cliffs of Champlain Mountain held was a huge cave, which many years ago the Park Service abandoned.  By abandoned, it simply means the name Great Cave no longer showed up on hiking maps, signs directing hikers to the cave were removed, and the trail was no longer maintained.  But abandoned does not mean you can no longer hike it, in fact the park service has said that hikers may seek out and hike any abandoned trail in the park.
Abandoned Trails of Acadia - The great Cave

Rudolph Brunnow - the man who build sections of the Precipice trail, was looking for a way to get more hikers to climb the Precipice trail.  His plan, build a connecting loop from one section of the Precipice trail and have it lead to The Great Cave, and the loop would continue on to a second section of the Precipice trail.  His plan was to make the Great Cave on the side of Champlain Mountain as the gem that would get hikers coming to the much larger Precipice trail.  The VIA felt the new trail loop from the Precipice trail to Great Cave wold attract even more hikers to the trail as well, and gave Brunnow the go ahead for the trails construction.

Abandoned Trails of Acadia - old map of Great Cave

  Brunnow constructed a trail that included stone steps and at one spot a rock and metal bridge. 


I recently heard from Nick Thorndike who brought us very good news, he has discovered the other half of the Great Cave Loop.  Not only has Nice discovered it, he has also sent in a photo of the stone steps leading upward above the cave - this is a huge find because I know a lot of you have contacted me asking if anyone has discovered that half of the trail yet.
So once at the Great Cave, When facing the cave begin to walk around the left side and being looking on you're right for the steps , .(see photo below sent by by Nick) which run about the whole way up except for where you pass through a blueberry patch on the right.  The trail finally comes to a footbridge which leads you to the official upper section of the Precipice Trail.
Stone Steps - Great Cave Trail - Acadia National Park - photo submitted by Nick Thorndike

So we now have documented the entire Great Cave Loop, along with photos - a big thank you goes out to all who helped make this possible.
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.


UPDATE -  I just learned that what we had found in that area most likely was a retaining wall that may of come down, which would explain the rubble.  And we did search but were unable to locate and signs of the Little Precipice Dorr had built along that cliff, so most likely it was taken down many years ago.
If you plan on hiking to Great Cave, be prepared for a treat, because people who have been to it say it is an amazing site, with an opening of 100 feet high and a cave that runs about 100 feet into the mountain side.  Flashlights are a must.  You can also go online to Youtube where there is at least one video that was done of the Great Cave, check it out at the link below...


The map  shows the location of Great Cave, and the boulder field is shortly after climbing past the first section of the Precipice trail that has a few iron rungs that help you over a large boulder.  This boulder has a story in itself.  Some say the trail passed over that huge boulder to encourage some hikers to turn back, and the park service even has a name for that section - the turn around.


If you need a larger copy of the map, google LOST AND ABANDONED TRAILS OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK - I have many maps on that site.
The following GPS numbers were sent in by  Zhanna Galas and we are very grateful for those.