Difficulty: Moderate. The trails that lead to the summit of Mount Kineo offer a good workout for any hiker. Footing can be tricky in places where the trail travels over jagged rocks. How to get there: From the blinking traffic light in the center of Greenville, travel north on ME 15/6 for 19.6 miles to the village of Rockwood. Turn right onto a road leading to the Rockwood Public Landing. Located on a peninsula (almost an island) jutting out from the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake, Mt. Kineo is best accessed by boat. Hikers typically take a ferry that leaves from Rockwood. The ferry operates from late May through mid-October and charges $10 per person round-trip. During mid-summer, the ferry crosses hourly; but during the cooler months, the ferry crosses less frequently. For schedule information, call the Kineo Shuttle at 534-9012. Not far from the boat landing on the Kineo peninsula, a kiosk and sign marks the beginning of an old carriage road, which leads to the trails that climb to the summit of the mountain.
Information: Mt. Kineo rises dramatically above Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine. The mountain (reaching 1,789 feet above sea level) is an impressive sight, with an almost sheer cliff that rises more than 700 feet above the lake’s surface. Native Americans once traveled great distances to Mt. Kineo for its flint-like rhyolite to make stone tools. The mountain was also made famous through the writing naturalist Henry David Thoreau. While paddling Moosehead Lake with a Native American guide during July 1857, he wrote, “While we were crossing this bay, where Mount Kineo rose dark before us, within two or three miles, the Indian repeated the tradition respecting this mountain’s having anciently been a cow moose, — how a mighty Indian hunter, whose name I forget, succeeding in killing this queen of the moose tribe with great difficulty, while her calf was killed somewhere among the islands in Penobscot Bay, and, to his eyes, this mountain had still the form of the moose in a reclining posture, its precipitous side presenting the outline of her head.” An account of Thoreau’s full journey can be read in his “Allegash & East Branch” section of “The Maine Woods.”
The first building on the Kineo peninsula was a tavern constructed in 1844. Not long after, a large hotel called the Mt. Kineo House was built, to Moosehead Historical Society. The hotel and 1,200 acres were sold in 1856 and became a hunting and fishing lodge. By 1911, the Mt. Kineo House could accommodate more than 500 guests and was considered one of the finest facilities in the country. After the Maine Central Railroad eliminated its Kineo branch in 1933, the hotel was sold and demolished. Today, a few cottages and the Mount Kineo Golf Course (build in the 1880s alongside the Mt. Kineo House) remain on the peninsula. Recognizing the importance this landmark holds for the people of Maine, the Land for Maine’s Future Program provided funding for its acquisition in 1990. The purchase from a longtime owner, a Greenville resident, was negotiated with help from The Nature Conservancy and Department of Conservation. The Bureau of Parks and Lands now manages Mt. Kineo State Park, which offers 3.5 miles of lake frontage, a primitive campsite and a network of hiking trails. Peregrine falcons and an assemblage of rare plants rely on Kineo’s cliffs and steep talus slopes.
From the boat landing, the Carriage Road leads to all three routes to the summit. At 0.8 mile, the Carriage Road meets the Indian Trail, which is the shortest route to the summit (1.6 miles from the dock to the summit). At 1.1 mile, the Carriage Road meets the Bridle Trail, the second shortest route to the summit (2 miles from the dock to the summit). And the North Trail is by far the longest route to the summit (4.1 miles from the dock to the summit). The North Trail includes the entire length of the Carriage Road and follows the shore of Moosehead Lake all the way to Hardscrabble Point.
Personal note:The hike up Mt. Kineo is well worth the effort of taking a boat to the trailhead. The fire tower offers spectacular view of the Moosehead region. The Indian Trail offers the nicest views on the way to the summit, but it can also get a bit scary because it sometimes travels along the edge of the cliffs.