This is a pleasant and ideal family hike. It involves a relatively short distance combined with a few stream crossings and an enjoyable walk through the woods. The overall elevation gain is about 450' with most of the work done in the beginning third of the hike.
Beginning from the parking lot on ME Route 4, the trail crosses the road and enters the forest opposite the parking lot. Be careful crossing the busy highway. On your left, just prior to reaching the Piazza Rock Lean-To, is a 200 yard side trail which leads to the actual Piazza Rock. According to the geological notes about this area "The granite of Saddleback is jointed into huge building blocks. An unusually large one has slid out of its place in the mountain side and, instead of breaking and skating down the slope like the others, has balanced across another block to create one-half of a cantilever bridge, forming Piazza Rock."
Hiking on brings you to the Piazza Rock Lean-To. It boasts a novel privy in that it is a "two-holer" with a cribbage board in between and has the name "Your Move." For the adventurous, you can hike 0.2 miles north of the shelter to the area known as "The Caves." These are boulder caves that were formed by rock fallen from the cliffs above. There are many narrow passages and care is advised when climbing through them.
Do not underestimate the difficulty of hiking the mountains of Western Maine. Be sure to carry equipment and supplies necessary for this undertaking. If you do not have the information or skills, be sure to research and educate yourself in order to have an enjoyable and safe hike. Be very aware of past, present, and predicted weather. Though the preserve is managed only for summer-time uses, winter uses like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping are allowed and popular.
Fires are only allowed in the provided fireplace ring at the Piazza Rock Lean-to. In the state of Maine, it is illegal to build a fire anywhere except within a certified fire ring. Camp stoves are permitted. Camping is not allowed above the tree line (a very delicate and vulnerable area to hike in), please stay on the trail.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) is an all volunteer organization that exists to maintain and protect the 267-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine extending between Katahdin in Baxter State Park and Grafton Notch at ME Route 26. In addition, MATC maintains over 60 miles of side trails as well as a system of regularly spaced shelters and campsites in order that wild, backcountry hiking remains accessible in Maine. MATC publishes The Official Appalachian Trail Guide to Maine, which includes seven maps, please visit their website for information on how to purchase the guide or to learn more about becoming a member of MATC.
Please contact the Bigelow District Overseer by email (email@example.com) to report any trail or shelter conditions that may require maintenance or special attention.
Visit Maine Appalachian Trail Club online for more information or contact:
ME Route 4 crosses the Appalachian Trail in Sandy River Plantation, 30 miles north of Farmington or 9 miles south of Rangeley. Park in the lot situated west of the highway. Carefully cross ME Route 4 to head northbound on the A.T.
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COMMENTS: Began at the Rt. 4 AT trailhead after crossing Rt. 4 from the AT parking area/sign. Trail crosses a small metal bridge over a little man-made granite block gorge, and ascends quickly with switchbacks and stream views. In a little less than a mile, you'll cross a dirt road (Beech). Continue to entry across, a bit to the left (not well marked) another 1.2, then left at AT sign/kiosk to ascend .1 to Piazza Rock, an amazing overhanging feature, with lots of rocks and caves to explore. Microspikes highly recommended this time of year. Shelter and more to explore a bit beyond the Piazza Rock turn off on the AT.
1) Appalachian Trail Parking spot: N 44.88686 x W -070.54057.
2) Dirt road that crosses trail: N 44.89234 x W -070.53520.
3) Caretaker's shed: N 44.90400 x W -070.53119.
4) Piazza Rock: N 44.90488 x W -070.53123.
5) Lean-to Hut: N 44.90413 x W -070.53002.
6) "Your Move" 2 Hole Outhouse: N 44.90425 x W -070.52982.
I listed where the road crosses in case you're not an avid hiker and you want to skip the majority of the climbing. You can park nearby to the crossing and the rest of the hike is fairly flat with very few log walkways over wet ground. If you do this though you'll miss a great brook near route 4 with a little bridge. Very scenic spot but if you just want to see the rock, you'll cut out the steep part and a long section of log walkways (mosquito heaven)!