Difficulty: Strenuous. This adventure requires a total of 4 miles of hiking and 3 to 4 miles of paddling. The hiking trail leading up Lobster Mountain is steep and rocky in some areas, but it does not require any hand over foot climbing and does not feature any ladders, rungs or ropes.
How to get there: Just a warning: This adventure is far from any towns. Plan on driving on well-maintained logging roads for several miles. To navigate, it’s best to use an up-to-date Delorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer. I advise against trusting a GPS device for this trip.
From the traffic light in downtown Greenville, take Lily Bay Road and drive along the east side of Moosehead Lake. In 18.5 miles, you’ll reach Kokadjo village, where you’ll find Kokadjo Trading Post and Convenience Store. Reset your odometer. Continue past the store and in 0.3 mile, right after the road turns from pavement to gravel, veer left at the fork onto Sias Hill Road. The idea is to stay on Sias Hill Road all the way to the Golden Road. Along the way, ignore small side roads shooting off in every direction. Sias Hill Road is the main road and noticeably wider and better maintained. About 4.3 miles from the store, you’ll reach a major fork in the road; veer right to remain on Sias Hill Road. And at 6.8 miles, you’ll reach another major intersection; veer right to remain on Sias Hill Road. At 8.1 mile, Bear Brook Road will branch off on your left; ignore it. And at 14.6 miles, you’ll meet the Golden Road; turn left.
Reset your odometer and drive on the wide, gravel Golden Road, passing Caribou Lake on your right. At 6.2 miles, you’ll come to Caribou Checkpoint, where you’ll need to pay a fee of $10 per person to pass through the gate and spend the day. About 9 miles from the gate, turn left onto Lobster Trip Road and drive 3.5 miles, cross a bridge over Lobster Stream, and turn left into the boat launch parking lot.
Information: Lobster Mountain, rising 2,318 feet above sea level by the scenic Lobster Lake, is a hiking destination for the truly adventurous. Reachable only by boat, the hiking trail that leads up Lobster Mountain is about 2 miles long, ending at a scenic outdoor near the mountain’s wooded summit.
Just getting to the trailhead for the hike is a challenge that requires navigating miles of logging roads and paddling up Lobster Stream and across the northern part of Lobster Lake. The stream, lake and mountain are all on state-owned land as a part of the Penobscot River Corridor, which is also a section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a historic 740-mile water trail through New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine.
Starting at the public boat launch on Lobster Stream, you’ll paddle upstream (south) a little over 1 mile to Lobster Lake. The stream is an easy paddle, with slow-moving water. Spruce trees line the shore, and near the mouth of the stream, you’ll pass by a beaver lodge and wetlands that moose and other wildlife frequent.
Once at Lobster Lake, the quickest way to the trailhead is by striking southeast, toward the tip of Ogden Point. However, if the water is choppy, the may want to veer right (south) and trace the shore for a longer but safer paddle. Along the way you’ll pass by a sandy beach, and as you paddle out and around Ogden Point, you’ll see several campsites, which are open to the public, first come, first serve.
Paddling around Ogden Point, you’ll enter a small cove. The trailhead is across the cove, at its south end, and is marked with a brown sign that reads “Lobster Mtn. 2 miles.” From the water, you’ll probably first spy the picnic table of Jackson Cove Campsite, which is just east of the trailhead (for you, it should be to the left of the trailhead). At the trailhead is a grassy clearing where you can pull your boat out of the water to leave while you’re hiking.
Starting out with a gradual incline through a pretty mixed forest, the trail is clearly marked with blue blazes. As you climb, notice how the forest changes from mostly deciduous to dense conifers. This is characteristic of most Maine mountains.
For challenges, expect a few steep sections of trail, as well as some rocky areas where footing can be tricky. Also, there’s a stretch of the trail that has been eroded by flowing water (or washed out) and can be difficult to navigate.
A bench, constructed by a Boy Scout group from Connecticut, sit at the overlook at the end of the trail. From that spot, you can look out over Lobster Lake and the large island in the middle of the lake, Leadbetter Island.
Lobster Mountain was simply named after Lobster Lake, According to the book “Mountains of Maine: Intriguing Stories Behind Their Names” by Steve Pinkham. And Lobster Lake received its name from lumberman and trappers working in the region, but why they named it after a sea creature is debated. Some say that it’s because the lake is roughly the shape of a lobster claw. Others claim the name stems from the many lobster-like crayfish that live in the lake.
For more information, call 207-529-1153 (April through November) or 207-941-4014 (December through March) or visit maine.gov/penobscotrivercorridor, where a printable brochure and trail map is available on the right side of the page, under “maps.”
Personal note: The first time I tried to hike Lobster Mountain was a few weeks ago, and I ended up popping a tire and wrecking a rim on my Subaru Forester after stubbornly trying to drive through an impressive washout on the gravel road leading to the boat launch Lobster Stream.
If first you don’t succeed, pay $400 to get your car fixed, then try again. The very next weekend, we headed up to the Moosehead Lake Region again. Worried the washout might not be fixed, we planned for a weekend on the other side of the lake, the east side, and drove to the boat launch on Lobster Stream from that direction. Along the way, the lady manning the Caribou Checkpoint told us that the washout had indeed been fixed.
As Derek fitted a doggy lifejacket on Oreo, I moved our hiking packs around the canoe and placed a few towels down between our seats. It would be Oreo’s second time canoeing, and his first experience had been just a short paddle.
“This may be overly ambitious,” I said as Derek lifted Oreo into the canoe and held him in place as I shoved the boat off from shore.
Steering into the center of the stream, we worked our way toward Lobster Lake on July 15. Oreo whined nervously behind me as I paddled in the bow. Derek steered in the stern, keeping us as far from land as possible. If we got too close, Oreo would likely make a dash for it.
As we worked up the calm stream, a growl and gurgling sound startled me. I turned to find Oreo leaned over the side of the canoe, biting at the water and getting great quantities of it up his nose. I couldn’t help but laugh, but we knew his game couldn’t last. He was close to upsetting our boat. So we calmed him down and convinced him to lay down. It didn’t last long. We were battling with his antics the entire paddle, especially out on the lake, where the small waves and open water made him even more nervous. He kept trying to climb into my lap, and I’m sure his whining was loud enough to annoy the campers along the shore.
Once in the lake, I referred to the map we carried several times, trying to identify landmarks and judge distances. I was able to identify Ogden Point, which we canoed around, noticing several tents, tarps and boats stationed at campsites along the shore.
Once around the point, we paddled to the south side of the cove and I scanned the shore until I saw a gap in the woods. We headed in that direction, and as we got closer, I excitedly pointed out a trail sign set back from the shore. We’d found the trailhead to Lobster Mountain.
As you can imagine, Oreo was overjoyed to be on dry land. We let him sprint back and forth on the trail as we made our way up the mountain. It started to drizzle, but the dense canopy of the forest protected us and we made it to the outlook atop the mountain just as the clouds were starting to thicken. I took photos of the hazy view, then watched as Lobster Lake disappeared beneath a wall of white.
Then it began to pour. Wrapping my camera in my rain jacket, I tucked it in my backpack and we hurried down the mountain. The canopy could no longer protect us. Water poured into my eyes, blurring my vision as I navigated down slippery rocks and tree roots. I wished I’d thought to bring a baseball cap. Derek chuckled when he turned around to see me holding a large leaf over my eyes, pressed to my forehead as a makeshift visor. It actually helped.
Bright yellow mushrooms, piles of moose droppings, giant maple trees and a loon fishing in the lake — these were highlights of our adventure, but what really made Lobster Mountain such a memorable hike were the challenges we faced and overcame to get there. As we paddled back, the clouds moved off to the east and the late afternoon sun shone through the spruce trees lining Lobster Stream. We drifted, letting the lazy current carry us for a while as we watched a belted kingfisher dart over the water.