*Important update: A few days after this story appeared in the BDN print edition, the owner of the Quarry Trail property on Mount Waldo contacted me on Monday, Nov. 19, to inform me that the trail and the property is currently off limits to hikers. While in past, the owner has not objected people hiking or biking on the property, the property has recently been designated off limits to the public because of a dispute over a renewable energy project between the owners and the Frankfort review board. The owners have informed the town officials that they intend to open their property to the public again for traditional uses when the town either revokes the ordinance blocking their renewable energy project or modifies the ordinance’s scope.
In the meantime, the owners intend to post new “No Trespassing” signs around their property to avoid any confusion. (When I visited the property, I assumed I was allowed to enter because the sign read: “No Trespassing between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.” and I was starting my hike at 11 a.m.) There will be no trespassing at any time until this issue is resolved and the owners announce that the property is open again and take down the signs.
I will post a link a story from the Bangor Daily News about this current issue when it has been written.
When the trail is back up and running, here is the information:
Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on the trail you take and the time of year. In the winter, the trails can be icy. They can also be difficult to follow closer to the summit of the mountain, where they are marked by cairns instead of blazes on trees.
How to get there: Three trails reach the summit of Mount Waldo. These trails start at three different trailheads. To reach all three, start at the junction of Route 1A and Loggin Road (Route 139) in Frankfort, drive 0.3 mile south on Route 1A. Turn right onto Old Belfast Road.
One trail is found at the end of Tyler Road, (Google Maps: Tyler Lane) first road on the right. The second trail is found at the end of Mt. Waldo Road, which actually intersects Old Belfast Road. Make sure to turn right onto Waldo Road if coming from the north. The third trail is found at the end of Murray Lane, the fifth road on the right, after Laffin Road.
Information: Mount Waldo rises 1,064 feet above sea level in the small town of Frankfort, making it a major landmark in a relatively flat area of the Maine. The mountain was once the location of Mount Waldo Granite Works, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The quarry officially opened in 1853, but it wasn’t until 1880 that the business Mount Waldo Granite Works as incorporated, according to the exhibit “Waldo County Through Eastern’s Eye” created by several historians and historical societies of Waldo County for the Penobscot Marine Museum of Searsport.
“[Mount Waldo Granite Works’] specialty was cutting paving stones. Oxen were the first means of hauling granite from the quarry to the wharf on the Penobscot River, and they were eventually replaced by railway,” stated the exhibit.
The granite blocks were carried to a wharf on the South Branch of Marsh Stream at the present site of the boat launch, according to the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition. Fort Knox in Prospect was built with stone from this quarry.
According to the Penobscot Marine Museum exhibit, in the spring of 1916, Mount Waldo Granite Works filed for bankruptcy, and in 1923, a fire destroyed the buildings and cutting sheds. In 1930, the property was purchased by an Italian immigrant, Bruno Grenci, and his partner Thomas Ellis. A new railway was laid, and the plant employed close to 100 men. During WWII, the company was forced to close due to lack of steep for saws, and the buildings were dismantled and shipped to South Portland for the war effort. New buildings were built in 1945, and the business continued until 1966.
Mount Waldo is now a popular hiking destination, and the summit is the site of communications towers and equipment.
Quarry Trail: This trail is about 1.8 miles from the start to the summit of Mount Waldo. Where Mount Waldo Road is gated off, park to the side of the road and walk through the gate, which reads “No trespassing from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. The hike follows the old railroad bed half a mile to the old quarry.
Caution should be taken on the cliffs around the quarry pond. Do not jump or dive into the pond. Several deaths and injuries have occurred over the years from diving into unseen boulders.
There’s a bit of disconnect between the road and the woodland trail. The safest route is to veer left right before reaching the old quarry (with pond). A wide trail clearly leaves the road. This trail will turn sharply to the right and climb to a viewpoint of the quarry before turning towards Mount Waldo. (I reached a fork not long after turning away from the quarry and took the right path, which looked slightly more worn. It was correct).
The wide trail (perhaps an old woods road), marked with the occasional orange blaze or pink tape, soon connects with the Quarry Trail, which is maintained and easier to follow. The trail makes a gradual ascent over bare ledges and through beautiful evergreen forest. Total elevation gain is 950 feet, according to the coalition.
South Trail: This hike varies in length (1-1.9 miles from start to summit), depending on how far you want to drive down the rough Murray Lane. At 1.3 miles on Murray Lane is a small parking space on the right, where the trail starts. If you don’t make it that far, park to the side of the road. At first, the trail is a steep climb through woods filled with boulders, according to the coalition. Near the top, the trail travels through blueberry barrens to the exposed summit. Total elevation gain is about 800 feet, according to the coalition.
North Trail: This is the shortest trail, and sometimes vehicles will drive up it. On Tyler Road, turn left at a 90-degree corner onto a dirt road. If the road gets too rough, park off to the side and walk. Two miles in on the left, the trail up the mountain is a wide path of smooth granite. From there, it is about 0.8 mile to the top. Total elevation gain is about 550 feet, according to the coalition.
Personal note: From talking to friends and family, it sounds like the South Trail is the most popular route to the summit of Mount Waldo, and it may be a wiser choice, especially if you don’t want to wander around too much trying to locate the Quarry Trail at the end of Mount Waldo Road.