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Mansell Mountain, Maine

This climb is excerpted from An Outdoor Family Guide to Acadia National Park, by Lisa Gollin Evans, published by The Mountaineers, Seattle. ©1997 by Lisa Gollin Evans. All rights reserved.

The Perpendicular Trail ascending Mansell Mountain is a most unusual trail. Where else can hikers climb a mountain via a granite spiral staircase composed of hundreds of moss-covered stairs? The trail's elaborateness verges on the absurd, but its very eccentricity carries a certain beauty. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the trail has aged well, and the stonecutters' passion now seems an integral part of Acadia's landscape. Best of all, the trail is wonderfully underused in this busy park, so lace up your boots (this trail is steep!), pack a lunch, and enjoy the marvelous views and well–earned solitude.

Strenuous3.3–mile loop
Spring, Summer, FallLow
Starting ElevationType
70 feetHiking Trail
High Point
949 feet

From Southwest Harbor, drive north on Route 102 about 0.7 mile to Seal Cove Road; from Somesville, drive south on Route 102 about 4.5 miles to Seal Cove Road. From either direction, turn west on Seal Cove Road and proceed 0.6 mile to Long Pond Road. Turn right and drive 1.2 miles to the road's end at the pumping station and parking lot at the south end of Long Pond. Park and find the trialhead just left (west) of the pumping station.

Follow the trail southwest along the pond's edge-the Great (Long) Pond Trail—meet immediately a trail to the left signed for Mansell Mountain. Stay right. After 0.2 mile along the pond's edge, arrive at the junction with the Perpendicular Trail. Head left and begin your ascent up the carefully laid granite stairs. Rise under deliciously fragrant cedar and spruce, with dashes of maple that create bursts of color in the fall.

"Master a particularly steep section with the help of three iron rungs and a short ladder...."

Switchback through forest, then ascend a rock slide on more artfully placed stairs. Good views of the pond soon appear. Master a particularly steep section with the help of three iron rungs and a short ladder. Rise just a bit further to gain perfectly gorgeous views to the south and east. Consider this spot for a sunrise picnic to watch the color appear over Southwest Harbor.

The mood of the trail changes as you follow it through forest. Cross a small stream and follow cairns, blazes, and blue metal flags. Climb a steep and eroded slope and look for a rock outcropping to the right of the trail. Carefully climb atop the outcropping for fabulous views west across the pond to Beech Mountain (spot the fire tower) and south to the Eastern Way and offshore islands. Then follow the trail as it swings to the left (west) into a thick stand of spruce, and descend to a moist, green garden of moss and grasses. The path then climbs to reach the viewless summit of Mansell at 949 feet, 1.2 miles from the trailhead.

From the summit head briefly north, following cairns and blue flags on a well–defined, gently descending trail. At 0.1 mile from the summit, arrive at an intersection with the Mansell Mountain Trail to the left. Stay to the right (west). The post indicates you are heading toward Knight Nubble and Bernard Mountain.

"Then rise up a rocky knoll to meet the intersection with the Razorback Trail, just 0.2 mile from the Mansell summit...."

Immediately gain good views to the west, but watch your step as the trail drops extremely steeply. Then rise up a rocky knoll to meet the intersection with the Razorback Trail, just 0.2 mile from the Mansell summit. Turn left (south) to descend the Razorback Trail, immediately gaining fine views to the south and west. Follow cairns and watch for one steep drop where youngsters may need assistance.

Enjoy terrific but fleeting views as the trail quickly loses altitude. Soon the steep trail plunges into a shady forest. After 1.2 miles on Razorback, arrive at its intersection with the Cold Brook Trail. Turn left on Cold Brook, cross a bridge, and in 0.2 mile meet a parking lot at Gilley Field. Pick up the Cold Brook Trail on the other side of the lot and proceed northeast another 0.4 mile to Long Pond on the shady, root-strewn trail.

At the edge of Long Pond, arrive at an intersection with the Great (long) Pond Trail. Turn right and walk just 0.1 mile to the pumping station and parking lot where the hike began.

Lisa Gollin Evans received her B.A. from Cornell University, then obtained a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law. Between books Evans works in the field of environmental law, most recently for the Massachusetts Department of Coastal Zone Management.
Evans believes that the best way to create tomorrow's environmentalists is to expose children to the wonders, beauty, and excitement of nature. Her books include Rocky Mountain National Park: A Family Guide, Lake Tahoe: A Family Guide, and An Outdoor Family Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. She has also written a nonfiction book for children, An Elephant Never Forgets Its Snorkel, which was named an "Outstanding Science Book for Children" in 1992 by the National Association of Science Teachers and the Children's Book Council. Evans lives with her husband and three daughters in Marblehead, Massachusetts.