Kineo's western face rises abruptly 700 feet above the lake surface.

Magnificent Mount Kineo: Climb a Moosehead Lake Icon

Text & Photography By Tom Richardson

If you’re exploring Maine’s Moosehead Lake region, you’ll want to add the 800-acre Mount Kineo State Park on your itinerary. Mount Kineo, which rises 700 feet from a peninsula in the middle of Moosehead, makes an easy hike that’s suitable for young children. Dogs are also welcome on the trails.

 

The trails are well-marked and -maintained.

Getting there requires a water shuttle ride (see schedule and rates below) from the town of Rockwood, a trip of about 10 minutes. Arriving by water has long been the preferred method of visiting the Kineo peninsula, former home of the magnificent Mount Kineo House, which existed, in various forms, from 1848 to 1938. Guests would arrive by steamboat and often spend the entire summer at play on and around the mountain. While the hotel is long gone, a victim of fire, several restored Victorian-era summer homes can be seen along the eastern shore just south of the dock.

The tower at the top of the mountain offers spectacular views.

But back the mountain. After disembarking from the ferry, the trails leading to Kineo’s summit are accessed by following the Carriage Trail, which skirts the peninsula’s western shoreline. A half-mile amble along the flat, gravel path brings you to the start of the Indian Trail. The approximately mile-long trail is steep and rocky (be careful in wet conditions), but offers several scenic overlooks.

 

Trails lead through dense hardwood and pine forest.

A second, easier option is to continue along the Carriage Trail to the Bridle Trail, which is slightly longer (1.1 miles) than the Indian Trail, but considerably less steep.

 

A third trail—the North Trail—starts from the public camping site at the northern tip of the peninsula, a spot called Hardscrabble Point. The North Trail extends 1.9 miles along the northeast slope of the mountain, and makes for a longer hike.

 

At the summit of the mountain is a tall, steel-framed lookout tower once used for spotting forest fires. The panoramic views from the tower are spectacular, and allow you to take in the entire lake and surrounding mountains, including Katahdin, 60 miles east.

The lookout tower at the summit of Kineo.

Long before people starting vacationing at Kineo, the mountain served as a source of ryolite—an igneous rock that can be flaked into sharp edges to make tools and weapons—for the native Abenaki people, who traded the material with other tribes throughout New England and beyond. The mountain itself, said to resemble a reclining moose in profile, was considered sacred.

 

While most Kineo visitors take the water shuttle, recreational boaters can tie up at the ferry dock at no charge while they hike the mountain or play a round at the nine-hole Mount Kineo Golf Course. The course features a pro shop, bathrooms, and small café that sells sandwiches, snacks, and drinks.

 

Note that it is not advisable to kayak or canoe to Kineo, as the route takes you across open water, which can become very rough and dangerous if strong winds arise.

 

The water shuttle between Rockland and Kineo runs from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend. The hours are:

  • Every two hours, on the hour, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during May and June.
  • Every hour, on the hour, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during July and August.
  • Every hour, on the hour, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during September and October.

 

The shuttle driver will come back for you if the boat is too full and you are not able to get in on the first trip. The hours of service are fixed.

 

Shuttle fees (2019)

  • $10 round-trip for ages 11 and up
  • $5 round-trip for kids age 5 to 11
  • Free for children under age 5