Mount Kineo is a highly recognizable mountain. It’s 700-foot granite cliffs tower over the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake. In warm weather, the only way to reach Mount Kineo is by boat. In the winter, when the lake is frozen over, you can hike or snowmobile to the base of this amazing mountain.
Native Americans traveled to Mount Kineo to collect rhyolite for arrowheads, hatchets, and other useful implements. In fact, tools made from “Kineo Flint” (as the rhyolite is called) have been found all over New England.
The peninsula has been home to three renditions of the Mt. Kineo House, a resort for rusticators and early visitors to the Moosehead region. The hotel burned down twice, once in 1868 and again in 1884. In 1911, the property was purchased by the Maine Central Railroad. With 500 guestrooms, it became the largest inland waterfront hotel in America. That grand hotel no longer exists. It, too, burned to the ground.
What does remain in the hotel’s wake is the 9-hole golf course. Built in 1893, the course claims to be the second oldest golf course in New England. The Mount Kineo Golf Course runs the shuttle between the peninsula and the Rockwood Public Landing.
How to Get There
Take Route 15 into the center of Greenville, then hang a left onto Pritham Avenue. Veer right at Depot Street, following Route 15 around the lake. The Greenville Public Boat Landing will be on your right. Follow the road to Rockwood. There will be a sign for the Public Landing on the right.
The shuttle runs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. It’s $13 cash for a round trip ticket. In May and June, the shuttle runs every 2 hours, on the hour, between 9 am and 3 pm. During July and August, the shuttle runs every hour, on the hour, from 8 am to 6 pm. In September and October, the shuttle runs on the hour, every hour, from 9 am to 4 pm.
Mount Kineo had been on my bucket list for years. A hike that you could only reach by boat? Yes, please! The peninsula is actually a State Park, and there are a few first-come-first-served rustic campsites on the back end of the mountain. I made a mental note to check those out in the summertime.
When my friend Shannon and I arrived by boat, we decided it would be a great idea to hit the restrooms before we started our trek. We walked over to the golf course and clubhouse to use the only facilities on the island. The trailhead is just left of the dock, and we were both excited to get started.
It was a windy, fall day, and the breeze off the lake was strong. It had rained the night before, and both of us were wearing multiple layers and sturdy hiking shoes. We needed them.
All trails start from the Carriage Trail, which follows the west shore of the peninsula. We planned to take the Indian Trail (.9 miles) to the Bridle Trail to the summit, then head back down on the Bridle Trail to the boat. We estimated it would take us about 2.5 hours to hike the loop.
The first half-mile on the Indian Trail is up. Straight up. It’s hailed as an easy/moderate hike…but with the wet conditions, it was slippery and precocious. Once we were in the trees, the wind wasn’t as strong, and it didn’t take me long to start shedding layers.
While the trail was challenging, the views made it all worth it. Shannon and I had planned this hike to coincide with peak foliage in the Greenville area. We were close! The only other hikers we saw were a couple from Berlin, Germany, who were visiting Maine for the same reason. We learned that in Europe, they don’t have red hues in their fall foliage…so that’s what this couple was hoping to see. I was glad Mother Nature was putting on a show for them!
There is a fire tower at the summit of Mount Kineo that is open to climbers. I battled my inner acrophobia and slowly and carefully climbed to the top. And I was so glad that I did. Sweeping views of glistening Moosehead Lake greeted me with open arms. High over the treetops, we could see thousands of acres of golden leaves, flickering in the wind. The fire tower was used until 1960 by the Maine Forest Service. From that height, you can see Big and Little Spencer Mountains, Big Moose Mountain, Little Kineo, and many more.
We found a dry spot with a sweeping view of the Mount Kineo Golf Course where we could sit and eat our Dagwood’s from Jamo’s. If you’re looking for a hearty sandwich to take hiking…stop at their downtown Greenville deli and load up. We followed the Bridal Trail down, which wasn’t as steep and led you through a beautiful forested canopy. It was so serene and beautiful that we barely realized that it had started sprinkling.
Back on the Carriage Trail, we realized we had some time before the next shuttle was departing. We headed to the Mount Kineo Golf Course clubhouse for a couple of cups of piping hot chocolate to warm up before the short boat ride home.
Year Round Exploration
With the sweeping views and halting cliffs, Mount Kineo is one of the more picturesque hikes in the Moosehead region. If you’re planning a fall hike, make sure you watch the Maine Foliage Report on when the leaves are at peak in that part of Maine.
If you’re feeling adventurous, pack an overnight bag and take advantage of the camping spots on the peninsula! I can imagine that the sunset over the western part of Moosehead Lake is awe-inspiring.
Love winter hiking? Head to Kineo! Because you can reach the trails once the lake freezes over, it’s a great spot for winter hiking. Bring your snowshoes and hike the entire perimeter of the peninsula on the Carriage Trail and North Trail.
Mount Kineo is one of the six peaks that make up the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. Once you bag all six peaks, you earn a snazzy patch from Destination Moosehead Lake. Be sure you note the date of your Kineo summit to include on your application.
Story and Photos by Melanie Brooks