1-minute hike: Norumbega Mountain on Mount Desert Island

Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. The loop trail on Norumbega Mountain is a little more than 3 miles. The Goat Trail is steep and rocky; and the Hadlock Ponds Trail is tricky because of the many large roots crossing the trial. All trails are well marked, signed and maintained.

How to get there: Drive to Mount Desert Island on Route 3, and after crossing the causeway, stay to the right and follow Route 102. At the stoplight, turn left onto Route 198 and drive toward Northeast Harbor. The Goat Trail parking lot to Norumbega Mountain is north of Upper Hadlock Pond off Route 198. You will pass the Parkman Mountain parking area just before you see the Goat Trail parking area, which is fairly small and on the right. The trailhead is at the north end of the parking area.

Information: Norumbega Mountain rises 852 feet above sea level on Mount Desert Island, in Acadia National Park near the town of Northeast Harbor.

“In the early centuries of exploration, it was the unspoken goal of the English, French and Spanish to find Norumbega, a fabled city of gold that was thought to be somewhere around the forty-fifth parallel in the region of Maine,” Steve Pinkham writes in the book “Mountains of Maine: Intriguing Stories Behind Their Names.”

The present day Norumbega Mountain was originally named Brown’s Mountain after John Brown, who owned a large plot of land to the north, according to Pinkham. George Dorr (1855-1944), known as the father of Acadia National Park, changed the name to honor the mythological city. Dorr spend most of his adult life bringing the park into being and expanding it.

To complete a loop hike of Norumbega Mountain, start by ascending the steep and rocky Goat Trail, which is approximately 1 mile to the summit. At the summit, the Goat Trail meets the Norumbega Mountain Trail, which gradually descends the mountain along a ridge that offers some views of the nearby Somes Sound. Stay on the Norumbega Mountain Trail until it ends at Lower Hadlock Pond. (The Golf Course Trail, which spurs from Norumbega Mountain Trail, is simply an extra loop in the trail network.)

Lower Hadlock Pond and Upper Hadlock Pond, located on the southeastern side of Norumbega Mountain, are named after Samuel Hadlock, who moved his family to Northeast Harbor in 1785, and built a sawmill at the outlet of Lower Hadlock Pond, according to Pinkham.

“His venture was short-lived, for in 1789, he got into a fight with a drunken visitor named Eliab Littlefield Gott,” writes Pinkham. “It appears that he may only have been defending himself against the younger and stronger man, but newspapers of the day indicate that he was indicted, tried, convicted, and hanged for killing Gott. Hadlock’s son Samuel, Jr., continued to run the lumber business until the mill burned. He then removed to Little Cranberry Island and bought a ship, filled it with dried fish he caught in Labrador, and began a successful new business.”

To complete the loop hike of Norumbega Mountain, take a sharp left at the end of Norumbega Mountain Trail. This will put you on Hadlock Ponds Trail, which runs along the edge of the pond. (Note that Lower Hadlock Pond is a public reservoir and is not for swimming.) The trail crosses a wooden bridge at a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall where Hadlock Brook pours into the north end of Lower Hadlock Pond.

After the bridge is a trail juncture. Stay on Hadlock Ponds Trail by veering left (not Lower Hadlock Pond Trail, which veers right and crosses a bridge with hand rails).

From there, Hadlock Ponds Trail plunges into an enchanting forest full of moss. Beware of the many roots crossing the trail. For a while, the trail follows Hadlock Brook. At the next trail juncture, leave Hadlock Ponds Trail for the connector trail to the Goat Trail parking area. The sign reads “Goat Trail Parking” in 0.9 mile.

The loop hike is just more than 3 miles. Dogs are permitted if on a leash. May through October, all trail users must pay Acadia National Park admission. Learn about park passes at www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm. For information, visit www.nps.gov, call 288-3338 or e-mail acadia_information@nps.gov.

Personal note: Norumbega Mountain was my first snow-free hike of 2013. H.B. (hiking buddy Derek Runnells) and I started up the Goat Trail on the morning of April 26, ready for the challenging ascent up granite ledges. As the trail neared the top of the mountain, we both commented on the stunted evergreen trees, which remarkably grew on the granite in a very thin layer of soil.

As we walked along the mountain ridge, I pointed out the many Bates cairns (rock piles) marking the trail. The Bates cairn was designed by Waldron Bates in the early 1900s to mark some of the original trails on MDI. The design is two large rocks holding up a long flat rock, on top of which sits a single pointer rock.

The loop hike of Norumbega Mountain brought us through a variety of habitats, including a beautiful evergreen forest and a forest that Derek described at “mossome” (especially mossy) and “rooterrific” (having a lot of tree roots).

While descending the mountain via Norumbega Mountain Trail, Derek almost stepped on a garter snake basking in the sun, as it looked so much like the many roots crossing the trail. Ans at Lower Hadlock Pond, we sat on a rock and watched two loons preen and fish at the other end of the pond by using the lens of my camera.

I would absolutely suggest this hike to anyone looking for a bit of a challenge. The terrain is beautiful and constantly changing. Be sure to bring a map and directions, as there are several trail junctures.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.