Nowadays we thrive on taking challenges and getting rewarded for our accomplishments. Isn’t that why we get hooked on smartphone games that reward us with coins and gems and stars? There are a number of hiking challenges popping up around the world for climbing certain peaks within a set amount of time. Maine’s Moosehead Lake has something similar with its Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. Maine’s hiking challenge is to peak six mountains in the region and get a certificate and bragging rights. Wisely, you aren’t required to peak all six within a certain time period, giving travelers to Maine a reason to come back.
Maine’s hiking options are endless, ranging from easy to difficult, mountain to coastline, and the residents of Maine are eager to suggest their favorite hiking trails. I am a sucker for a challenge, and hiking is one of my favorite outdoor pastimes, so I was fired up to head to Maine, during peak fall foliage no less, and see how many of the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit peaks I could conquer on a long weekend getaway to Maine’s Moosehead Lake region for outdoor adventure.
I knew peaking all six mountains with three days in Moosehead Lake would not be possible as we were also planning on experiencing some of the other things to do in Moosehead Lake, like taking a moose safari, but the minimum was two peaks, and I was hoping for three. However, with Maine’s amazing fall colors also comes the possibility of rain and wind, and both were in the forecast for two of our three days. Just in case, I asked everyone we came across which of the six mountains they preferred, and it seemed like Mount Kineo, Borestone Mountain, and Big Moose Mountain were the favorites.
Mount Kineo is the most northwestern of the six mountains that make up the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. Just getting to the mountain is an adventure. The easiest way to get to Mount Kineo is to drive to Rockwood, on the west bank, and then catch the Kineo Shuttle for a 10-minute boat trip across Moosehead Lake. However, the Kineo Shuttle only runs Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. Otherwise, it is a much longer drive along the east side of the lake and includes a long stretch of unpaved road.
This was to be our first mountain peak, but it became my first mountain peak when the siren call of Mount Kineo Golf Course became too much for Rome to resist.
The hike to the peak is 3.8 miles roundtrip, but there are a number of trails on the little peninsula that can be mixed and matched. The Indian Trail and Bridle Trail both lead up to the peak, but there is also the Carriage Trail that follows the circumference of the mountain base along the water’s edge.
The Bridle Trail is the easiest, and somewhat longer, of the two trails that lead to Mount Kineo’s peak. However, the more challenging Indian Trail, with its steep inclines and rocky scrambles, provides the intoxicating views as it follows the edge of the 763-foot sheer ledge of the mountain which drops straight down to the golf course below.
The peak itself doesn’t have much of a view because of all the trees, but climbing up the tall, metal fire tower opens up a 360-degree view of Moosehead Lake and, in the fall, endless stretches of blazing orange and red trees.
If you’re afraid of heights, the fire tower can be rather nerve-wracking, and not looking down is pretty much impossible because the stairs are metal grates, but the solid wood platform at the top and the views will make all fears disappear.
Since I’d taken the Indian Trail up, I took the easier Bridle Trail down in order to avoid the steep rocky descent which was now also dampened by the arrival of rain. The Bridle Trail is completely covered by a canopy of foliage.
My second hiking challenge of the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit, and Rome’s first, would need to wait until the next day, which luckily had a weather forecast of clear skies all day. The plan was to do two hikes in one day, so we started early and headed south of Moosehead Lake to Borestone Mountain.
Borestone Mountain is a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike. The first half of the hike is along the Base Trail that travels up through the forest to a pond and the Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary visitor center.
From there is another hike, mostly of stone and tree root stairs, up the Summit Trail.
The top of the trail is a false peak, as you must continue farther along the trail to the true peak, a large rock mass that requires quite a bit of scrambling with the help of some metal footholds and railings.
The views from the top are nothing short of spectacular, though a gusty wind can make the top a little scary.
Back down at the visitor center, we were told about another trail, the Peregrine Ridge Trail, which only adds on another half-hour, is fairly easy, and also offers amazing views, this time over the three ponds creatively named Sunrise Pond, Midday Pond, and Sunset Pond. Taking the extra time for this short hike is absolutely worthwhile.
Instead of hiking back to our car along the Base Trail, we followed the slightly longer but easier access road that leads from the parking area to the visitor center. This is still a pretty steep road.
Big Moose Mountain
While not mentioned as many times as Mount Kineo and Borestone Mountain, Big Moose Mountain was suggested a few times to us for its stunning views. We peaked this mountain on the same day as Borestone Mountain, which turned out to be quite a test.
The four-mile roundtrip hike started easily enough with pretty mild elevation gain through a shady, wooded area. The only real challenge at the beginning was the somewhat muddy trail.
However, about halfway, after passing the derelict old fire warden’s cabin, the trail’s incline increased rapidly and we were all of a sudden hiking up a steep rock staircase for almost a mile. Rome kept telling me there was no shame in stopping and turning around. Does he really know me at all? There’s no giving up in a challenge!
At long last, we reached the mountain peak, which used to be the site of a fire tower that is now found at the Moosehead Lake Region Visitors’ Center. The tales of the view were not exaggerated. Big Moose Mountain provides uninterrupted panoramic views of Moosehead Lake.
Fun fact, Big Moose Mountain used to be called Big Squaw Mountain, and nearby Little Moose Mountain used to be Little Squaw Mountain. The name changes occurred in 2000 to be more politically correct.
Number Four Mountain, Whitecap Mountain, and Eagle Rock
The three remaining peaks of the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit are Number Four Mountain, Whitecap Mountain, and Eagle Rock. Reaching these peaks will have to wait for another time.
The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit Challenge
The Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit Challenge is to finish all six hikes at any time to become a registered member of the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. That means I can still finish the challenge if we get to return to Maine. Once completed, an application and entry fee can be submitted, listing the date of each climb and summit times, to the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce. Successful hikers receive a confirmation letter, an official MPP patch, a sticker, and inclusion on the official online registry of MPP hikers.
October 9, 2017
October 10, 2017
Big Moose Mountain
October 10, 2017
Number Four Mountain
However, there are some even more challenging options for the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. The Ultra challenge requires that all six summits are reached within a continuous 48 hours. The Winter challenge requires all six summits are reached between January 1 and April 15 of the same year. And the Winter Ultra challenge requires all six summits be reached within a continuous 48 hours between January 1 and April 15.
Where to Stay When Hiking Maine’s Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit
All of the mountain peaks that make up Maine’s Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit surround Moosehead Lake, Maine’s largest lake at 40 miles long and 20 miles wide. The largest town in this region is Greenville, Maine, located on the southern tip of the lake.