Mount Kineo (near Rockwood, ME)

View of Mt. Kineo from the dock in Rockwood, Maine
View across Moosehead Lake of Mount Kineo from the dock in Rockwood, Maine

The woods and waters of Maine’s Moosehead Lake region feature a dizzying array of outdoor activities. For those with limited time (say, a weekend) in this area, sorting through the hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and ATV options can be overwhelming. A journey to the summit of Mount Kineo (1,800 ft), with its 700-plus foot rhyolite cliffs, presents a multi-faceted day trip, combining many of the factors that make Moosehead so special.

This trek starts with a 10 minute boat ride to Kineo from the dock in Rockwood (about a half hour drive from downtown Greenville). In peak summer season, the ferry, run by the Mount Kineo Golf Course, leaves from Rockwood every hour on the hour from 8 am to 6 pm ($13 cash for adults, don’t miss the last shuttle back from Kineo, leaving at 6:45 pm).

View of the Carriage Trail, Mt. Kineo, from above
View of the Carriage Trail, Mount Kineo, from above

The friendly, knowledgeable shuttle captain can give you enough information to complete your hike, but to preview the trail map, check out the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. Once ashore at Kineo, the Carriage Road Trail will start to your left. For restrooms, food, water, and free trail maps, go right (watching for golfers teeing off) to the golf clubhouse.

Overlook from the Indian Trail, Mt. Kineo, Moosehead Lake
Overlook from the Indian Trail, Mount Kineo, Moosehead Lake

On this day, I was with two friends, and at the shuttle captain’s suggestion, we hiked up the Indian Trail, then took the Bridle Trail on the descent. This created an approximately 3.2 mile loop hike, which took us a little over two hours, with many breaks to savor the scenery. The Indian Trail is steep, direct, and strenuous, but rewards the hiker with rapidly expanding views of Moosehead Lake and its surroundings.

The Indian Trail then intersects with the more gradual Bridle Trail, which continues to the summit and the fire tower.

View from summit fire tower, Mount Kineo
View from summit fire tower, Mount Kineo
View from summit fire tower, Mt. Kineo
View from summit fire tower, Mount Kineo

The climb up (and down) the fire tower can be challenging for those with vertigo or any fear of heights, but the commanding views on a clear day are incredible. On this day, a sunny Friday in July, there were several other groups of hikers, including a vacationing pair who, after a brief conversation, surprisingly turned out to be readers of this blog. Dogs are allowed (on leash) on the ferry and the trails.

After slowly descending the fire tower steps, a winding downhill walk on the Bridle Trail leads back to the Carriage Trail and the ferry dock. For those looking for a longer day, the easy, flat Carriage Trail extends to the North Trail, which climbs up to the fire tower from the east, encircling the island. According to the shuttle captain, hikers should allow about four and a half hours to complete this longer loop.

Where to go afterwards? Obviously a swim in Moosehead to cool off. Food? Depending on timing, you can grab a beer and/or sandwich at the Mount Kineo golf clubhouse before going back to Rockwood. In Rockwood, the Rockwood Bar and Grill, from which Mount Kineo is visible, has great food and beer, and is a local favorite (the “RBG” stickers you see on cars and ATV’s refer to Rockwood Bar and Grill, not the Supreme Court Justice).

In Greenville, the aptly named Stress Free Moose Pub and Cafe has a friendly waitstaff, a rotating menu of craft beer and pub food, outdoor seating, and frequent live music.

The trek by boat and foot from Rockwood to the fire tower atop Mount Kineo is a special journey, paying off with 360 views of Moosehead Lake and the surrounding Maine woods.

Mount Abraham (Mt. Abram Township, ME)

View down the Fire Warden's Trail, Mount Abram in Kingfield, Maine
View down the Fire Warden’s Trail, Mount Abraham in Kingfield, ME

Sometimes hikes are listed as “Strenuous” simply because of their length or isolation.  Often, it is because of rapid elevation gain, water crossings or the chance of inclement weather at altitude.  Mount Abraham (4,049 ft) in Mt. Abram Twp., one of Maine’s fourteen 4,000 footers, combines all these factors, but still remains an attainable challenge of a day hike, approximately 8.2 miles round-trip out from trailhead to summit and back.  This was about four hours total time on the recent July Saturday I hiked it (I moved quickly because of weather – allow up to six hours or so, based upon your own hiking level), and I used the Maine Mountain Guide and Maine Trailfinder to research the hike.

Fire Warden's Trail, Mount Abram, Kingfield, ME
Fire Warden’s Trail, Mount Abraham, Kingfield, Maine

The mountain itself is in the Mt. Abraham Public Reserved Lands Unit, and contains the second-largest (to Katahdin) alpine zone in Maine.  As of July 2019, the roads were passable all the way to the trailhead, which is at the T-intersection at approximately latitude 44.96817, longitude -70.26049.

From Kingfield, head north from “downtown,” and take a left on West Kingfield Road from Route 27.  Continue straight about six miles (road turns to dirt, and becomes Rapid Stream Road enroute), and take a left at the fork.  After crossing two bridges, take the right fork for about a mile.  At the T-intersection, the trail will be slightly to your right (trailhead sign is set slightly back in the woods), and parking will be by a sign to your left.

Mountain stream, Mount Abram, Kingfield, ME
Mountain stream, Mount Abraham, Kingfield, Maine

The path, marked with blue blazes, showed signs of recent trail work (thanks, trail crew), and had been re-routed out of lower-lying areas.  Recent moose tracks and droppings were frequent, but I did not see the elusive animal on this day.

The Fire Warden’s Trail is pleasantly rugged, a steady, grinding uphill climb across a number of mountain streams, requiring a quick dance across wet, mossy rocks in some spots.  The deciduous forest was thick and humid, an almost jungle-like green tunnel, dense with mosquitoes.  The forest thinned out gradually with elevation, and evergreens substituted in for leafy greenery during the ascent, with a campsite and privy available at about 2.6 miles.

Flowers in the alpine zone, Mount Abram, Kingfield, ME
Flowers in the alpine zone, Mount Abraham, Kingfield, Maine

The breezes and open air of the alpine zone were a brief reprieve from the muggy forest before the steep, rocky climb to the top.  On the summer day I hiked past the cairns lining the ascent, I was racing afternoon thunderstorms, and could see dark clouds rapidly moving, so did not waste time in the mostly unprotected half-mile between the treeline and the summit.

Narrow path in the alpine area of Mount Abram.
Narrow path in the alpine area of Mount Abraham.

I did, however, enjoy the smaller evergreens crowding the narrow trail, the flowering alpine plants across the ridge, and the views of the surrounding mountains and the Carrabassett Valley. The fire tower and shelter at the summit were knocked over and caved in, and a line of cairns marked the connector trail to the Appalachian Trail.

Summit cairn, Mount Abram, Kingfield, ME
Summit cairn, Mount Abraham, Kingfield, Maine

After a quick snack and an obligatory change of socks at the windswept summit, I headed downhill, for a much easier descent back to the trailhead.  The trail was lightly traveled- I saw nobody else on the way up, and only six to eight hikers headed up while I was on my way down (pleasantly light for a sunny Saturday in July).

Where to eat in Kingfield?  In addition to beating the storms, my early-morning start allowed me to lunch at the incomparable Rolling Fatties.  I opted for the delicious Falafel Fatty Bowl, packed with fresh greens and crispy falafel, enjoying it with a Maine Beer Company Woods and Waters IPA at an outdoor table in the sunlight.

Mount Abraham is a pleasantly demanding hike, close to the attractions of the Carrabassett Valley, and paying off with commanding views from Maine’s tenth-highest Mountain.

Libby Hill Forest Trails (Gray, ME)

Libby Hill Trails Trailhead in Gray, ME
Libby Hill Trails Trailhead in Gray, Maine

The Libby Hill Forest in Gray, Maine, maintained by the Friends of Libby Hill, contains nine miles of multi-use trails, spanning properties owned by the Town of Gray, Mathew Morrill Trust, SAD 15, and the Gray Community Endowment (GCE).  The parking area is not far off the Maine Turnpike and Route 26, located at 50 Libby Hill Road in Gray, and the trailhead is behind Gray-New Gloucester Middle School (see trail maps here).  These trails are open year-round, and are designated differently based on width, terrain, and season for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoe travel.

Moose Odyssey Trail, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine
Moose Odyssey Trail, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine

On the July day we visited, we took the 3.1 mile Moose Odyssey Trail (white blazes), which loops through the center of the trail complex.  This broad, winding path is carpeted by grass and pine needles, and wide enough in most places for two people to walk abreast, making it more of a social trail.  The margins of the gently rolling trail are covered with wild blueberry and sweet fern.

Moose Odyssey Trail, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine
Moose Odyssey Trail, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine

The Libby Hill website contains a variety of maps on its Trail Maps page, including a digital smart phone map, Longest Day 5K race course map, individual trail descriptions and history, orienteering tour, Libby Farmstead tour, and a Tree ID Sign map, perfect for a 17-point scavenger hunt from American Beech (#3, #7) to Yellow Birch (#8).  The forest abounds with birds, and we saw an Eastern Towhee close to the trail.

Harold Libbey Memorial, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine
Harold Libbey Memorial, Libby Hill Forest, Gray, Maine

Once you are on the trail network, navigation is self-correcting, with laminated maps at each intersection.  To the south, the Harold Libbey and Outback trails, accessible from the Moose Odyssey Trail near the Harold Libbey Memorial, continue over wetlands, and contain areas to look for wildlife, including beaver activity (according to the Libby Hill website, Harold’s father changed the spelling from Libby to Libbey to avoid being confused with two others with the same initials and last name).  A note of caution – ticks can abound in the grassy areas, so be sure to take the appropriate precautions, and check yourself after the hike.

For pre- and post-hike snacks, there is a Hannaford at the end of Libby Hill Road, which according to the Libby Hill website, is the former site of William Libby’s Revolutionary War-era farm.  For more outdoor activities, Libby Hill Forest is also in close proximity to the Maine Wildlife Park and Gillespie Farm (Pick Your Own).

Round Top Mountain (Rome, ME)

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View from the Kennebec Highlands Trail, Round Top Mountain, Rome, Maine

Round Top Mountain (1,133 ft) in Rome overlooks Belgrade Lakes and the Kennebec Highlands Public Reserved Lands. The route I chose on a sunny June day was an easy to moderate 4.7 mile counterclockwise loop using the Round Top Trail to the Kennebec Highlands Trail, the Round Top Spur, and then back down the Round Top Trail. I used the great guidebooks Maine Mountain Guide and Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path for trail maps and hike descriptions. Visit the 7 Lakes Alliance website for a downloadable pdf map.

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Trailhead and Round Top Trail in Rome, Maine

From the trailhead parking lot, this is a pleasant rolling path over a bristling cushion of oak and beech leaves and pine needles to the junction with the Kennebec Highlands Trail. On the early summer day I was there, the air was filled with aggressive mosquitoes, but a combination of Deet and constant movement neutralized their effect.

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Morning light on the Round Top Trail, Rome, Maine
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Wildflowers on Round Top Mountain in Rome, Maine

Thanks to recent rains, the open areas to the margins of the Round Top Trail and of the wider woods road of the Kennebec Highlands were full of a variety of Maine wildflowers, with lady slippers dotting the sides of the more wooded areas.

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Rolling terrain on the Round Top Trail, Rome, Maine

From the left turn off the Kennebec Highlands Path, the ascent to the spur trail to the summit is a climb around switchbacks past blueberries and boulders, with views over the surrounding land.

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View from summit spur trail, Round Top Mountain, Rome, Maine

The (counterclockwise loop) descent down the Round Top Trail is more gradual than that of the Kennebec Highlands Trail, with fewer overlooks. The wooded path winds through the mixed forest, with large boulders lining the hillside like the spine of a dinosaur. The total loop took me about an hour and fifty minutes at a steady but leisurely pace.

This well-maintained trail network creates a unique family-friendly climb in an area of central Maine that is rich in lakes, but lacks the higher elevations of the highlands to the west. This does, however, create many options for a post-hike swim to cool off. For insight regarding things to do and places to stay in the Belgrade Lakes area, check out this great Downeast magazine article.

Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck (Scarborough, Maine)

Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck, Scarborough, Maine
Cliff Walk at Prouts Neck, Scarborough, Maine

If you like dramatic cliffs, ocean views, rocky beaches and stunning homes, this may be your walk! The residents at Prouts Neck in Scarborough, Maine harbor a secret gem in their gated community – but fret not – while the entrances are hidden and parking is complicated, it is still possible (and legal) to walk that same 1-mile route that Winslow Homer did, even if you are not an “insider.”

This is definitely categorized as a Sunday stroll-type of walk, a walk with a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while or a lone walk with a camera or sketch book. The uneven terrain and sometimes narrow path demand a leisurely pace. The smell of rugosa roses, the salty ocean breeze and the lobster boats are center stage and require frequent pauses. The views are unbeatable. The only problem is logistics.

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Based on previous reviews online, I noticed that there are a lot of complaints about accessibility. This is real. At the end of Black Point Road, where it becomes Winslow Homer Road, you will be stopped by a gate and a keypad, signaling a private road (And likely a member of the Scarborough Police Department just idling in his or her car). Winslow Homer’s old studio (owned by Portland Museum of Art and open to the public with a ticket purchased in advance) is in this development, as well as a myriad of super wealthy people who don’t want the riff-raff.

Just before that gate on your right, you will see a driveway and about twenty feet down the driveway on your left is a crooked sign that says “Cliff Walk” with an overgrown-looking trail. While this is one entrance, this does you almost no good because you can’t park here. In fact, there is no parking at all around here. This is some of the most prestigious real estate in Maine – they certainly don’t want more cars. I had a cop follow me nearly the entire way down the road until I got to the gate. 

 

My best advice is to have lunch at the Black Point Inn, which is on Black Point Road and they will let you park in their lot if you are a guest of the hotel. Once you are done with lunch, ask them where the entrance to the cliff walk is (you have to walk towards the back of the Black Point Inn property), change into some walking shoes and get going. The Black Point Inn restaurant closes after the summer, so keep that in mind.

Second best advice is to get an uber. Lastly, perhaps you make nice with that co-worker of yours who says her in-laws have a place on Prouts Neck.

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If you are not deterred by the parking issue, press on to marvel at the splendor that is the Maine coast. The trail is not marked by signs along the way but there is only one trail and you will know soon enough if you have strayed from it – you will either be on someone’s back porch or in the ocean (If you do end up in someone’s back yard by accident, get back on the trail. It must be really annoying having tourists wander on your property and on a gorgeous Saturday, you do see this, unfortunately).

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There are opportunities to walk out along the jutting cliffs and take in the crashing Atlantic waves and there are a couple of small, rocky beaches where you can sit and admire the squawking sea birds and perhaps even see a seal while listening to the hypnotic sounds of water receding over stones.

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This may not be the best walk for a small child who likes to run, as this is a cliff walk with no barriers. This is also not appropriate for your relative who walks with a cane, as there are exposed roots and  rocks on the path.  But if you can make it on the trail, you are in for a mile of coastal Maine beauty.

For families, different options are available for different interests – young children who want to splash in shallow water and collect hermit crabs, beachwalkers, beach loungers as well as those antsy people who can’t sit on a beach for more than ten minutes. First step is to check the tide chart. Find out when low tide is for Ferry Beach. Go at low tide!  Then, pack your car with as many people as you can and head to Ferry Beach, which is a gorgeous beach in Scarborough. It costs $15/day to park there (yeah, yeah, I know. That is why I told you to bring a car full of people. Trust me though – this beach will not disappoint). Park at Ferry Beach (bathrooms, showers) and then figure out who is going to walk and who is going to hang out at the beach (tough choices).

If you are a walker, make your way to the Cliff Walk. Proceed from the parking lot to the beach, hang a left on the beach. Follow the beach all the way to the end (beach curves to the left drastically). When you have reached the end of the beach, look left on the grassy hill and there are steps that will take you up to Black Point Road. At this point, let’s say you have a fellow adult walker who is already complaining and you are thinking about how this is going to take way too long and be unpleasant with said person. Straight ahead of you at this point is the Black Point Inn. Suggest that they have a seat on the porch of the Black Point Inn and order a cocktail and you will pick them up later. Wave goodbye.

For the rest of you, take a right on Black Point Road, paying attention as you walk on the road which has a narrow shoulder. Follow it until you get to the Winslow Homer House/No Trespassing sign. Just before this barricaded road, you will see a path on the right, as described above. Go 50 feet down this path and you will see the overgrown Cliff Walk entrance on your left. Begin your walk. Please stop asking locals for directions. They are simply not thrilled to have you walking in their manicured backyards. Just follow the directions.

 

In June, you will see Rugosa roses, honeysuckle, and beautiful magenta beach peas.  The difference between this route and the one I wrote about before is that after about an hour or so of walking, instead of going to the Black Point Inn, you will see a lovely beach with a private club and blue umbrellas and this is Scarborough Beach.

Scarborough Beach, Maine
Scarborough Beach, Maine

If you are here at high tide, you might feel like you are trespassing, because there is no beach and you have to walk on the seawall next to the private club. It’s doable, yes, but not as pleasant. Walk down the slope on your right to the beach and follow the beach for ten minutes until you get to the official entrance to Scarborough Beach – lots of people, lifeguard, path to the parking lot. Follow the path off the beach and take a left onto the main road. This is Black Point Road. Follow until you get to Ferry Road on the right. This is the road you took to get to that expensive beach parking lot. This route will take about two hours.

In short: Left on Ferry Beach to a right on Black Point to a right before private road to a quick left to entrance of Cliff Walk. Walk for an hour. Right onto Scarborough Beach, left back to Black Point and right on Ferry. A gorgeous circle.

Rumford Whitecap (Rumford, ME)

View west from the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap
View west from the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap

Rumford Whitecap Mountain (2,214 ft) in Rumford is accessible through trails maintained by the Mahoosuc Land Trust (MLT), for a 4.9 mile out/back to the summit (slightly longer than five miles due to a trail diversion), or a longer traverse over Black Mountain via the Black/White Trail (requires spotting a car).  MLT’s website advertises Rumford Whitecap as a four-season destination for hiking, snowshoeing, and back country skiing, with blueberries in the summer.  I ascended via the Connector to the Starr Trail (marked with yellow blazes and flagging tape), and returned via the Red/Orange Trail.  I used the guidebooks Maine Mountain Guide and Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path for detailed trail maps and descriptions.  You can also find a map on the AllTrails app or Maine Trailfinder (link at the MLT website above).

Spring waterfalls on the Connector between the Starr and Red/Orange Trails, Rumford Whitecap
Spring waterfalls on the Connector between the Starr and Red/Orange Trails, Rumford Whitecap

Both trails, divided by a pleasantly running brook in a valley between them, were muddy, but well-maintained.  The Connector crossed the brook, with spring runoff created small waterfalls along the way.  Recent rains created a morning fog, but had also spurred the growth of a variety of wildflowers from the trailhead to the summit.

Spring wildflowers, Rumford Whitecap, Rumford, Maine
Spring wildflowers, Rumford Whitecap, Rumford, Maine

The Starr Trail transitioned from a grassy woods road to a winding climb, becoming more strenuous as the deciduous forest changed to a more sparse, rocky pine forest, and opened up on ledges with spectacular views of the Mahoosucs and White Mountains.

Descent out of the woods into the clouds on the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap
Descent out of the woods into the clouds on the Starr Trail, Rumford Whitecap

After the junction with the Red/Orange Trail, the summit was only about another .5 miles, hopping over small cool rivulets of water running down the exposed rock face.  Close to the summit, there was what appeared to be a large deposit of bear poop, but a quick look around didn’t disclose any prints.  The summit itself is open in all directions, and a great spot for a picnic.

The long summit ridge of Rumford Whitecap
The long summit ridge of Rumford Whitecap

After a brief rest at the summit to enjoy the view and chew on some jerky, I headed down the Red/Orange Trail.  The trail ran like a creek in places, with the spring rains, and was diverted for a section.  The hike took about two and a half hours, with plenty of stops to listen to birdsong, inspect wildflowers, watch bumblebees at work, and pick up and inspect pieces of quartz.

Sawyer Mountain (Limerick, ME)

Town of Limington Scenic Overlook, Sawyer Mountain, Maine
Town of Limington Scenic Overlook, Sawyer Mountain, Maine

Sawyer Mountain (1,213 feet) is part of the Sawyer Mountain Highlands, 1400 acres of which is owned by the Francis Small Heritage Trust (see map here), which describes the Highlands as the single largest block of undeveloped land in York and Cumberland Counties.  This summit can be reached from trailheads in Limerick or Limington.  On the spring day we hiked it, we chose the Sawyer Mountain Trail from the Route 117 trailhead in Limington.  The trail is well-marked, with signs and red turtle blazes, and maps were available at a kiosk at the trailhead.

Sawyer Mountain Summit, Maine
Sawyer Mountain Summit, Maine

The Sawyer Mountain Road sections were rocky and covered in mud and running water, particular on the long uphill stretch preceding the last .3 mile push to the summit.  Black flies increased in number as we moved, but were never more than a minor nuisance.  Points of interest including the bright green spring vegetation surrounding streams and several cemeteries and burying grounds along the trail.

Cemeteries and burying grounds along the Sawyer Mountain Road Trail
Cemeteries and burying grounds along the Sawyer Mountain Road Trail

The summit offers views facing south, and another town of Limington scenic viewpoint is not far away along the trail, offering a more open view of southern York County.  The lollipop-shaped route (about 3.6 miles, an hour and forty-five minutes at an easy pace) we took was easier on the return, as the trail descending along the New Skidway Road was less muddy than Sawyer Mountain Road.  As previously mentioned, the summit can also be accessed from the west trailhead via a shorter route on the Smith Trail.