Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. The 1.5-mile trail to the summit starts out gradual and becomes steep. When there is no snow on the ground, this is a 3-mile hike, but during the winter, hikers will have to walk in to the trailhead on two unplowed roads, which lengthens the hike by approximately 5 miles (2.5 miles of road, there and back), making it a strenuous 8-mile hike.
How to get there: From Greenville’s town center, drive north on Lily Bay Road for approximately 17 miles. Turn right onto Frenchtown Road, a wide dirt road marked by a row of mailboxes. Drive on Frenchtown Road for 2.3 miles and take a right onto Lagoon Brook Drive (which is marked by a sign). In the winter, this road will be unplowed, and your hike will start here. Travel (on foot or in your vehicle) 1.4 miles on Lagoon Brook Drive and turn left onto another dirt road, Meadow Brook Road. Travel 1 mile (Number Four Mountain will loom ahead), and the trailhead, marked by a sign, will be to the left side of the road. There is no designated parking area. Hikers usually park in a clearing just before the trailhead, according to www.moosehead.net.
Important note: Do NOT follow ATV signs reading “To #4″ that point down a road to the left, approximately 0.5 mile down Meadow Brook Road. This directs ATV riders down a road that leads up the east ridge of Number Four Mountain, and not to the hiking trail or the summit.
Information: Number Four Mountain rises 2,890 feet above sea level near Kokadjo, in Township A Range 13, on Plum Creek Timber lands. Though an impressive sight, Number Four Mountain stands beside two taller mountains, Lily Bay (3,228 feet in elevation) and Baker (3,520 feet in elevation). Altogether, the three mountains are often referred to as the Lily Bay Mountains.
In 1925, a 48-foot fire tower was constructed on the summit of Number Four Mountain, and was manned by a warden, who lived in a cabin halfway down the mountain. The tower was deactivated about 40 years later, along with many other fire towers throughout the state, but the trail the warden used to reach the tower remains for hikers to enjoy. And as of March 22, 2013, the metal tower, along with a ladder to its top, remained on the summit, though the fire tower’s cab had long since blown away. Nothing is left of the warden’s cabin.
The 1.5-mile trail to the summit starts out gradual and becomes quite steep. The trail is not blazed but it is wide and fairly easy to follow. If in doubt, look for orange tape, which someone has tied around trees and branches along the way. And what may look like side trails are actually paths created by moose, according to www.moosehead.net. They lead nowhere.
The first half of the trail travels through a recently cut forest and several clearings. It then enters a beautiful old growth forest of mixed evergreens and birch. Views of surrounding mountains and Moosehead Lake improve throughout the climb. The long ridge of Big Spencer Mountain, rising more than 3,000 feet above sea level to the north, can be seen for much of the hike. The trail levels back out just before the the abandoned fire tower.
From the top of the fire tower, Katahdin, Moosehead Lake, and several other nearby landmarks can be seen on a clear day, according to www.moosehead.net.
Personal note: On March 15, I set out to hike Number Four Mountain alone. After doing some research on the mountain, it looked like the trailhead would be easy to find. Clearly, I should have done a little more research, because after walking around for miles on unplowed roads and ATV trails, I returned to Fred the Forester (my Subaru) defeated, and drove back home without stepping foot on a hiking trail. For a video and description of this, visit http://actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com/2013/03/21/one-minute-hikes/hike-fail-2-stumped-by-mooseheads-number-four-mountain/.
Sometimes frustration is a good motivator. Back home, I pulled out the Delorme Maine Atlas, compared it to a map of the trail on www.moosehead.net, and eventually pinpointed where I went wrong. While walking down Meadow Brook Road, I followed an ATV sign pointing left to Number Four Mountain, instead of continuing straight to the traihead. I missed the trailhead by a few hundred yards and wandered for miles.
More determined than ever to hike Number Four Mountain and see if a fire tower remained on the summit, I returned to the Moosehead region on March 22, with my frequent hiking buddy Derek Runnells. A snowstorm a few days earlier made it necessary to wear snowshoes to walk 2.4 miles on unplowed roads to the trailhead, which we actually found — thank goodness.
The trail was wide and fairly easy to follow, though the footing was rough in some places near the bottom, and our snowshoes kept plunging into little holes. Moose prints (as well as moose poop and hair) led us along the final portion of the trail, which traveled through tall, straight evergreens. The moose had continued all on the trail all the way to the mountaintop, where the old fire tower stood. The top offers some great views, even if you don’t want to risk climbing the metal ladder of the fire tower. On that day, we enjoyed views of nearby mountains, but the mountains farther in the distance, such as Katahdin, were masked by clouds.
We ate lunch while sitting on the metal bars around the base of the tower, then headed back down. The hike was about 8 miles total, including the trek along the unplowed roads.