Acadia National Park is not known for waterfalls, but in the spring there are several worth seeking out. They begin running as soon as the snow starts melting and are mostly dry by summer. With the snow gone from all but the shady spots this week, now is the time to go waterfall hunting.
At about 40 feet, Hadlock Falls is the highest in the park. Hadlock Brook drops down an exposed granite face, then tumbles beneath the Waterfall Bridge on the carriage trail. The afternoon light filtering through towering pines makes a faint rainbow in the spray.
To get there, follow the Hadlock Brook Trail from Route 198 — the trail starts across the street from the parking area for the Goat Trail up Norumbega Mountain. It is just under a mile to the waterfall. The trail cuts across a low, wet area, then climbs alongside the brook, then it goes under the Waterfall Bridge and climbs up next to the waterfall to the carriage trail. You can also get there by walking on the carriage trail from the Parkman Mountain parking area off Route 198, but it’s much more satisfying to hike alongside the brook to reach the falls.
Within sight of the Waterfall Bridge, to the west with Bald Peak in the background, is the Hemlock Bridge over another branch of Hadlock Brook. Just upstream from this bridge, the brook emerges from a narrow canyon with many small waterfalls. The Maple Spring Trail goes up the canyon, hugging the side, then crossing and recrossing the brook on stones. This stream runs strong all summer; it’s fed by Maple Spring high on the shoulder of Sargent Mountain.
By following Maple Spring Trail downstream from the carriage trail you can make your hike a loop. This brook drops more quickly with more small waterfalls. There is also a long set of bog boards near where the Maple Spring Trail joins the Hadlock Brook Trail that children love.
Across the park, Canon Brook Trail runs from Route 3 around the south flank of Dorr Mountain and up the south ridge of Cadillac Mountain. Along its 2-mile length are several waterfalls. The first is just past the Dorr Mountain South Ridge Trail. Above the trail is a small pond that typically dries up during the summer. A small stream runs from the pond over a granite wall and drops onto the trail amid large cedar trees. Beyond this picturesque falls can be heard larger water: Otter Stream cascading down a long, gently sloping expanse of granite. The water sheets across the rock, dropping into a deep pool, then does it again. The sunny rocks are a good place to sit and enjoy the day.
Above the cascade the A. Murray Young Trail — following Otter Creek up into the notch between Cadillac and Dorr Mountains — splits from Canon Brook Trail. From this spot Canon Brook Trail begins climbing the south ridge of Cadillac Mountain alongside Canon Brook. In the spring the brook follows several channels — including the trail in places — that crash over boulders and burble among smaller stones. The lower flanks of the ridge seem like a large rock pile forested by beech, oak and maple.
Eventually, the trail climbs onto bare bedrock where the brook crashes through a dark cleft in the granite. At the head of this short canyon is a 30 foot waterfall. In the spring the water runs down the exposed rock and down the sides of the canyon as well as through its bottom. Higher on the ridge is another waterfall that drops into a deep pool; the water seems to change color as it deepens from yellow near the pool’s edge, then green, to purple at its deepest.
High on Cadillac Mountain are several small, temporary ponds that feed Canon Brook. Fed by snow they begin to dry up early, and by summer the Canon Brook Trail above Otter Stream is entirely dry.