Acadia National Park in Maine isn’t known for its climbing, but rather for its stunning views of traditional New England coast. It offers an atmosphere that separates itself from other national parks, yet tucked in the iconic inlets and coves, are rock features that will fancy any climber’s skill level.
It was eight years ago that I was last in Acadia. At the time, I didn’t climb; it didn’t appeal to me. Years later that all changed. Now climbing has become a major part of my life that I know will never leave. The past month has been filled with restless travel. I quit my job and will be moving to Colorado at the end of June, but first I needed to do some things. From exploring Iceland for two weeks, checking out sites across Nova Scotia to revisiting Acadia National Park, it has been a nonstop trip of ups and downs.
Iceland lacked in the area of good rock and the weather in Nova Scotia was anything but enjoyable. Pulling into Acadia I prayed for nothing but sun. After setting up camp for the night, I woke at 6 am to nothing but a blue sky. Just 15 minutes south of Bar Harbor, off of the loop road is Otter Cliffs. Hundreds of feet long and ranging from 40-80 feet high, the cliffs are reached via trail across from the Otter Cliffs parking lot. The approach to the cliffs is maybe 45 seconds to a few minutes, depending on where you want to head.
Immediately we were drawn to the Wonderwall and Sea Stack area, which holds roughly 30-40 climbs ranging from 5.5 to 5.11. There were a few people and guides with clients climbing, but nothing that created a wait. We rapped in to climb Wonderwall Right, a 5.7 with beautiful views towards Sand Beach, after we headed towards the Sea Stack, a separated stack 50-60 feet tall that creates a chimney two to four feet wide and provides routes around the outside of the stack. We teamed up with some visiting climbers and rapped in. Deep Blue Sea, another 5.7 requires some nice stemming moves as well as a lot of trust in your back and you wedge your way higher and higher.
This was my first time on sea cliffs, the sound of the crashing waves, the lobster boats picking traps, and the breeze, it was definitely something different and amazing. If you’re visiting Acadia, make sure you bring your gear. Otter Cliffs is one of the most accessible areas I have ever been to, The Prescipice is a short hike and many boulders can be found around the loop road.
- If you are heading to Otter Cliffs I suggest taking at least a 15-20ft cordelette as there are some fixed anchors, a basic rack will be needed to rig the remaining routes.
- Check out the local tide table, the bottom portion of many routes at Otter Cliffs are submerged during high tide.
- Sea water will do a number on cams and exposed metal, make sure you wash it off after, even ocean spray will start corrosion.
- Cracks and deep holds will remain wet long after tides go down, just to keep in mind.
- Many routes can be lead, just keep in mind they are short, it may just be better to top rope.
- The classic guide book for climbing Acadia is no longer in print. Mountain Project has a good listing of routes and photos. If you would like a more detailed topo, Cadillac Mountain Sports in downtown Bar Harbor has a hard copy of the book on file for you to look at and will make in store copies of pages if you ask.
Acadia has a lot to offer and it is quite accessible even with the heavy flow of summer tourists. Take your rack, take your rope and explore Acadia.