Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous. The loop hike to the top of Quaggy Jo is approximately 3 miles. Steep sections of trail, loose rock and slippery dead leaves make the hike a challenge.
How to get there: Quaggy Jo Mountain lies in Aroostook State Park, which has an entrance at 87 State Park Road in Presque Isle. For those without GPS, start in the town of Presque Isle and drive south on Route 1 for approximately 3 miles, then turn right onto Spragueville Road, which is marked by a park sign. Drive 1.5 miles and take a left turn onto State Park Road. Drive about 1 mile to the park main entrance. Start at the main trailhead off the parking area. The trailhead is marked with a kiosk and a sign that reads: “Snowshoe Trails.” Quaggy Jo Mountain can be hiked year round. Maps are available at the trailhead. Each intersection in the network is marked with a sign and usually a map.
Information: The twin-peaked Quaggy Jo Mountain offers a challenging climb rewarded by stunning views of the potato fields, forests and lakes of northern Maine. The North Peak provides the best views, though there is a great outlook from the ridge (in between the two peaks) and another great outlook located at the end of a short side trail near the South Peak.
Aroostook State Park is Maine’s first state park, established in 1939 as a 100-acre parcel. Today, the park totals nearly 800 acres thanks to land donations and purchases. In addition to Quaggy Jo, the park encompases Echo Lake.
Quaggy Jo is an alteration of the native word for the mountain, “Qua Qua Jo,” which translates to “twin-peaked,” according to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
For a loop hike to both peaks of the mountain, start at the trailhead off the parking lot marked with a sign that reads “Snowshoe Trails.” Climb up the steps and you will come to signs pointing left to the south peak. You should climb to the south peak first because the 0.75-mile South Peak Trail is steep and rocky and requires some technical hiking (using hands and feet). To reach the South Peak Trail, walk along the wide trail and cross a campsite.
At the South Peak, check out the short side trail that starts at the summit sign. It leads to a great outlook. Then take the Ridge Trail (a right turn at the end of the South Ridge Trail). The 1-mile Ridge Trail travels between the two peaks, dipping down in the middle and meandering a bit. It will lead you to a lean-to and picnic table — a perfect place for a break — then to the North Peak.
Enjoy the views of the North Peak, then turn around (the trail is a dead end) and backtrack to the North Peak Trail (if coming from the North Peak, this will be on your left). Signs and a map marks this intersection. The 1.25-mile North Peak Trail will bring you back down to the trailhead and parking lot to complete the loop.
Visitors are asked to follow a few rules while visiting the park, which is open year round. Pets are allowed but must be kept on leashes and pets are not allowed on the ski trails in the winter. Campsites must be reserved in advance at www.campwithme.com. Admission to the park varies depending on age and residency from free to $3. For a complete list of park rules, visit www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl.
In addition to many trails for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing, the park features a campground, picnic area, playground, showers and trailered boat launch.
Personal note: I hiked Quaggy Jo Mountain for the first time on May 1, before the trees had budded in northern Maine. Most of the hiking trails ran through deciduous (leafy) forest, so I imagine the forest would be even more beautiful in the summer and fall, when the leaves are on the trees. And I also imagine the trails are enjoyable to snowshoe.
On my hike of the mountain, I saw many robbins and noisy crows. It was a sunny, clear and unseasonably warm day, so the views from both peaks were spectacular. Though the hike was fairly short, it proved challenging because of the steep grade of the trails nearing the ridge. I hiked up to the North Peak first, so I had to descend the steep South Peak Trail. I do not advise this. It’s much safer to hike up the steepest trail.