On a recent trip to Portland’s Industrial Way, I stopped in to Battery Steele Brewing, one of the many new small breweries to open in Maine this year. Working through their beer offerings, I was tickled to see the beer names seemed to take inspiration from the Maine landscape. Among the taps and cans were familiar names like Flume, Knox, Telos and Avalon, all names familiar to me from my Gazetteer.

But I was particularly struck by Kineo, one of Battery Steele’s IPAs. It wasn’t just because the beer was great – though it was – but because it reminded me of one of my favorite hikes in Maine. Mount Kineo, situated on a peninsula on the eastern shores of Moosehead Lake, rises to an elevation of nearly 1,800 feet on the largest body of water in Maine. The peak, formed by a glacier that trundled across northern Maine thousands of years ago, has a steep southeast face – basically, sheer cliffs dropping 800 feet to the shore. It’s a dramatic sight that would look more at home on the Bold Coast in Downeast Maine than on an interior lake.

There’s a great deal of history to be found at Kineo. Before the earliest European colonists arrived, native folks prized Kineo for its rich makeup of rhyolite, a type of volcanic rock. The stone was used in tools and weapons discovered throughout New England, which suggests people traveled from far and wide to get this “Kineo Flint.” In the middle of the 19th century, the first resorts were developed on Kineo, and around the same time Henry David Thoreau traveled through Maine and visited the mountain. Later, Kineo was a destination for Teddy Roosevelt. One of the oldest golf courses in New England, the Mount Kineo Golf Course was built in 1893 and is still used.

Luckily for visitors and conservationists, Land for Maine’s Future funded the purchase of a portion of the Mount Kineo property in 1990, assisted by both the Nature Conservancy and Department of Conservation. Now Mount Kineo State Park, the public lands are managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands as part of the Moosehead Lake Reserve. Four hiking trails make up a six-mile network on Kineo, and there’s a handful of rustic campsites on the northern point of the Kineo Peninsula.

Kineo is one of the few Maine State Parks that can only be reached by the water, with the most direct route being a launch from Rockwood. If you lack your own waterborne transportation, the best way to reach the Kineo trailhead is via the boat shuttle, which operates seasonally. Through October, the shuttle leaves the Rockwood Public Landing every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The return trip leaves Kineo hourly from 9:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. It’s a $12 cash-only round-trip fare.

After getting dropped at the trailhead, you’ll see the Mount Kineo Golf Course to your east. You’ll want to head west, up the old Kineo carriage road – the Carriage Trail. After about a mile the trail splits – the Carriage Trail continues along the peninsula’s western shore while the Indian Trail climbs dramatically along the edge of Kineo’s cliff.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my love of steep trails that cover lots of ground quickly and the Indian Trail fits that bill, climbing quickly to the summit.

Farther up the carriage road is the Brindle Trail, which was the original trail to the summit used by the fire warden. It trades the speed and views of the Indian Trail for an easier climb, and is also a good choice for your descent if you ascended via Indian.

For the longest hike at Kineo, you can just stick to the Carriage Trail. It runs along the peninsula’s western shore all the way to the northern Hardscrabble Point – home of that handful of camping sites in the State Park. From the Point you can double back on the North Trail, which meanders along the eastern shore for a bit more than a mile before climbing to the summit from the east.

At the summit, a former fire tower converted into a viewing platform a few decades ago provides a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Depending on your approach, you can make a short or long round-trip from the trailhead to the summit and back; plan on as little as 90 minutes via Indian, a three-mile round trip or a half-day if you circumnavigate the peninsula.

From the Portland area, it’s about a three-hour drive to the Rockwood Public Landing. It’s certainly doable as a day trip, but the abundance of lodging options in the Moosehead region make it more reasonable as a weekend getaway. Greenville, about a half-hour south of Rockwood, houses hotels, motels and campgrounds.

There’s also nearby Lily Bay State Park on Moosehead’s eastern shore. The 925-acre park has nearly 100 campsites along with a beach, boat launches and lakeside walking trail.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at:

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