McGaffey Mountain

A Trail to summit of McGaffey Mountain.

McGaffey Mountain (1,288 ft), named for 19th century Mount Vernon resident Charles McGaffey, is the highest point in Kennebec County, and the trail to its wooded summit shares a Kennebec Highlands parking area in Rome with the trail to Round Top Mountain. The “A” Trail, a multi-use trail, diverges from the trail to Round Top a little less than a quarter mile in, in an unsigned left turn (Round Top Trail, however, is marked). It was quiet on the early July morning I visited, and I only saw two others, who were riding mountain bikes.

Flora along the A Trail, McGaffey Mountain, Rome, ME

I navigated using AllTrails, but a printable trail map is available from the 7 Lakes Alliance, which maintains the trails. A map is also inside the Maine Mountain Guide. AllTrails listed this hike as “Hard,” which relates to the distance (9.6 miles) and time, rather than the elevation. The A Trail is mostly unmarked, but provides a clear path, shared by mountain bikes. Like any mixed-used trail, it is graded relatively flat, and made to move quickly. At just under a mile, the trail crosses a logging road or ATV trail, and at about 1.3 miles, another old logging road, and passes over a moss-covered brook.

Viewpoint from A Trail, McGaffey Mountain, Rome, ME

The series of switchbacks heading up the mountain coincided with the beginning of hermit thrush songs. At about 3.3 miles, there is an open overlook looking east over Long Pond. The trail proceeds over rolling terrain, including sunlit boulders and blueberries, until reaching the summit, marked by the wooden handle of a tool protruding from a rock cairn.

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Round Top Mountain (Rome, ME)

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. This trailhead also allows access through the A Trail to McGaffey Mountain.

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.

Morning light on the Round Top Trail, Rome, Maine

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.

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.

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.

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