Difficulty: Moderate. The hike is fairly short — between 1.5 and 2 miles round trip, depending on how far along the ridge you want to explore — but it’s extremely rocky and includes several steep sections.
How to get there: The drive to Little Kineo Mountain can be a bit intimidating for those not used to navigating logging roads. It cannot be accessed during snow season.
Start at the light at the center of Greenville and turn onto Lily Bay Road, traveling along the east side of Moosehead Lake, which will be on your left. Drive approximately 18.5 miles to Kokadjo Trading Post and Camps, you’re last opportunity to purchase supplies and use a restroom.
Reset your odometer. Continue on the main road and turn left where the pavement ends. At 1.5 miles, you’ll meet a fork in the road; turn left. At 1.9 miles, you’ll cross a bridge. Along the way, you’ll notice many side roads. Simply stay straight on the main road. At 3.5 miles, 5.8 miles and 8.9 miles, you’ll come to major roads on the left and right; simply stay straight on the main road.
At 9.9 miles, you will cross a bridge with a great view of Little Spencer Mountain to your right across a Spencer Pond. At 11.8 miles, you’ll see a side road on your left; stay straight on the main road. (You’ll continue to passing side roads.) At 13.7 miles, you’ll cross a narrow bridge. At 15.5 miles, you’ll cross another bridge. And at 15.6 miles, you’ll come to a major intersection where you’ll turn right.
At 15.9 miles, you’ll see a side road on the right with a bridge; stay straight on the main road. At 16.3 miles, you’ll come to a fork in the road; veer left to stay on the main road. At 16.8 miles, you’ll come a side road on your left; veer right to stay on the main road. At 17.4 mile, there will be a side road to your right; keep straight on main road. And at 17.8 miles, you’ll reach the trailhead parking area on your right. It’s marked with a small sign and a kiosk.
Information: Mount Kineo, with its dramatic cliffs, is arguably the most famous mountain in the Moosehead Region. Located on a peninsula at the center of Moosehead Lake, Mount Kineo is topped with a large observation tower, which sees many hikers each season.
Little Kineo Mountain, on the other hand, is seldom talked about. Tucked in the forest northeast of the famous Mount Kineo, Little Kineo Mountain is another great hike to consider adding to your list.
Despite the implications of its name, Little Kineo Mountain, with an elevation of 1,926 feet, is actually taller than Kineo Mountain, which rises just 1,789 feet above sea level. From Little Kineo Mountain’s rocky ridge, hikers are rewarded with great views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The trail to the top of Little Kineo Mountain and along its ridge is about 1 mile long and marked with blue blazes and small rock piles called cairns. Starting out in mixed forest that includes many yellow and paper birch trees, the trail approaches the mountain’s south slope and climbs.
As the trail nears the top of the mountain, it becomes increasingly rocky and steep. I suggest wearing sturdy boots on this trail to avoid turning an ankle or feeling the jagged rocks in the soles of your feet. If you have a dog with you, be sure to check his or her paws from time to time for cuts, and keep medical tape on you, just in case.
The mountain’s peak, on the south end of the ridge, is marked with a large rock cairn on a bare bedrock. From that point, you will have a partial 360-degree view over the tops of evergreen trees that surround the summit.
The trail continues past the summit, traveling north along the mountain’s long ridge to a scenic overlook on an open ledge. From that point, you have an unobstructed view to the west to Moosehead Lake, Mount Kineo and the mountains across the lake such as Big Moose Mountain.
From there, the trail continues on, dipping down into the forest, then climbing up a steep rocky slope to dead-end on the rocky north high point of the ridge, which offers a view to the northeast, which includes Big Spencer and Little Spencer mountains and farther in the distance, Katahdin.
The trail is maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Dogs are permitted. Fires are not permitted. And a sign at the trailhead reminds visitors to carry out what they carry in, leaving the land as they find it.
For information, call the bureau’s western office in Farmington at 778-8231.
Personal note: Under a ceiling of thick white clouds, we drove along quiet logging roads of the Moosehead Region on Sunday, Nov. 15, navigating our way to Little Kineo Mountain. “The weather report called for sunny skies,” I told my husband Derek. “Maybe it will clear up.”
It didn’t. But the clouds remained high enough to allow us partial views from the top of Little Kineo, and as we hiked along the ridge, we excitedly noticed that it was snowing, ever so slightly, the tiniest flakes. The first “snowy” hike of the year is always a special occasion.
For our dog Oreo, it’s all about the ice. Near the summit, we stopped for a break and let Oreo lick the icy surface of a small pool in the bedrock. Then Derek got him all worked up, and before long, Oreo was biting and digging at the ice with gusto, making both of us laugh.
While the weather wasn’t perfect for seeing far into the distance, the views we did get were impressive. I can only imagine how many more peaks we could have seen on a clear day.
As we navigated the trail, I remarked to Derek that it wouldn’t be a good trail for small children because of several steep, rocky sections. The hike requires much attention to footing, but it doesn’t require stamina because it’s relatively short. For that reason, I rated it as moderately difficult.
Half the challenge of the adventure is simply driving there on the web of logging roads east of the lake. We took a wrong turn and soon realized our mistake because the landmarks didn’t match our directions. By consulting a GPS and map, we were able to backtrack and discovered where we went wrong. One of the biggest problems while navigating logging roads is interpreting directions correctly; sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a “side road” and a “main road.” On the way back from the trailhead, I recorded the directions in detail so you might have an easier time of it.
Many more photos from the Little Kineo Mountain hike: