The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit
A GRAND HIKING CHALLENGE IN THE MOOSEHEAD LAKE REGION OF MAINE.
From my airy perch on Mt. Kineo, feeling the intense exposure of the dramatic 700-foot cliff face of granite below me, I enjoyed one of the finest vistas anywhere in Maine’s North Woods. The misty gray afternoon skies served only to enhance the wildness that characterizes the magnificent view across the vast waters of Moosehead Lake to a veritable sea of mountains north, east and south.
It’s little wonder then, I thought, that Mt. Kineo is one of the mountains featured in the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit, which challenges hikers to scale six high peaks around Maine’s largest lake. Each summit provides a unique vantage point for appreciating the immense natural beauty and unspoiled quality of the Moosehead Lake region, much of which enjoys conservation protection.
“The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit was developed as another avenue to drive nature-based tourism to our region,” said Angela Arno, Executive Director of the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Arno collaborated with Dan Rinard, Operations and Facilities Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, which is involved in its own eco-tourism effort through its Maine Woods Initiative project on its 70,000 acres of conservation and recreation land in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness. Arno and Rinard sorted through the region’s extensive inventory of mountaintops, finally settling on six peaks with maintained foot trails that were accessible by road year-round.
The Maine Center for GIS (the folks that brought you the Maine Trail Finder) created the maps, while the Chamber had a colorful trails guide produced and a website established. For each mountain, hikers get driving directions, round-trip trail mileage, elevation gain and trail profiles, everything you need to hit the trail. You need only lace up your hiking boots, shoulder a day pack and go: to Mt. Kineo, Number Four Mountain, White Cap Mountain, Eagle Rock, Big Moose Mountain and Borestone Mountain.
Enjoy an extraordinary vista from the summit ledges and steel rungs of the old fire tower atop Number Four Mountain (2,890 feet), which looms over the wild landscape just south of First Roach Pond and includes the rugged slopes of Lily Bay and Baker mountains. For many years, the only trail to the top was the steep and eroded fire warden’s trail, but the path has been recently rehabilitated by a Maine Conservation Corps trail crew under the direction of the Bureau of Parks and Lands. A series of well-designed switchbacks now make the hike a little easier and much more enjoyable.
The most remote of the six peaks is White Cap Mountain (3,644 feet), which requires a 31-mile drive to reach its base, nearly half of that on gravel roads. The mountain is also the most strenuous, with an elevation gain of 1,909 feet over the course of the 3.3-mile climb to the alpine summit. The ascent follows the white blazes of the renowned Appalachian Trail on part of its 2,189-mile route from Georgia to Maine. Anytime from about midsummer on, you’re likely to cross paths with a grizzled thru-hiker, now less than 100 miles from the big prize at journey’s end, Katahdin, in clear view from the rocks above the treeline high on White Cap.
From the pinnacle of Eagle Rock (2,290 feet), you’re rewarded with an exhilarating top-of-the-world view that captures everything from the upper Kennebec River valley and Moosehead Lake to the vast forestlands and mountain peaks as far north as Baxter State Park. An informal trail has existed for years on the north side of Eagle Rock, but thanks to the handiwork of the Maine Conservation Corps, a new route has been opened from the south, a meandering path with a healthy dose of ups and downs. Raven Ledge part way along offers a nice preview of what lies ahead at trail’s end.
Big Moose Mountain (3,196 feet) is the crown jewel among the 13,500 acres of the Little Moose Public Reserved Land, rising prominently above the thick woods, jumbled hills and sparkling ponds. Site of the first fire tower in the United States in 1905, the steel tower erected in 1919 to replace the original wooden structure was carefully removed in 2011. The restored tower now adorns the lawn outside the Moosehead Chamber of Commerce office on Route 15 on the way into Greenville. Revel in the marvelous views of the region from the narrow summit ridge, including a look at the slopes of the revitalized Squaw Mountain Ski Area.
Amid 1,600 acres owned by Maine Audubon, the craggy twin peaks of Borestone Mountain (1,981 feet) feature spectacular views over Onawa Lake to the rough, undulating terrain of the Barren-Chairback Range and beyond into the famed 100-Mile Wilderness. On the eastern summit are the iron bolts of the former fire tower and a map and compass display that helps you to identify every mountain in a complete 360-degree arc. Halfway up the mountain is Sunrise Pond and the Robert T. Moore Visitor Center, where interpretive displays detail the fascinating human and natural history of the area.
Hikers who tackle the entire Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit are eligible for a patch, sticker and certificate noting the accomplishment, all for the price of an application form and small fee. There’s no time limit on the Pursuit, so you’ve got all summer and fall. Up the adventure ante by pursuing the Ultra, Winter and Winter Ultra challenge options. Get started at www.mooseheadpinnaclepursuit.com.