Difficulty: Easy. The wide trail leading to Daggett Rock is 0.3 mile long and travels gradually uphill most of the way. Overall you’ll climb about 230 feet. The hike, out and back, is about 0.6 miles long.
Information: Daggett Rock is thought to be Maine’s largest “glacial erratic,” which is simply a fragment of rock that a glacier plucked from an outcropping in one location and deposited in another. The makeup of an erratic is usually different from the underlying bedrock that it rests on.
Located on a wooded hill in Phillips, a small town in western Maine, Daggett Rock is thought to have originated from the nearby Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley. It’s approximately 80 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet high, and it may weigh as much as 8,000 tons, according to the Maine Geological Survey.
The rock has broken into three pieces since coming to rest in Phillips. The gap between two of these pieces is so large that you can walk right through it, with rock walls stretching high overhead on both sides.
A morbid legend exists that explains why the boulder split apart. The tale takes us back several generations, when a woodsman named Daggett came upon the rock during a thunderstorm. Inebriated and upset, Daggett climbed up onto the rock and made a show of cursing and claiming that he could not be struck down. Just then, a gigantic lightning bolt struck Daggett, killing him instantly. The impact cracked the rock into three pieces.
This story is included in an educational piece published by the Maine Geological Survey about Daggett Rock. Available online, this resource also includes details about the rock’s composition.
A 0.3-mile trail, owned and maintained by the Phillips Historical Society, leads to Daggett Rock. Starting at Wheeler Hill Road, it travels through a mixed forest filled with birch and beech trees, as well as the occasional towering white pine and hemlock tree.
Vegetation has been cleared around the rock so people can walk all the way around it on a grassy surface. And by the base of the rock is a bench made of brick.
For information, you can contact the Phillips Historical Society at phillipshistoricalsocietymuseum.org.
Personal note: As I slogged uphill, a chickadee called out, its song echoing through the frozen woods. I knew it was just a short hike to Daggett Rock, so I’d left my snowshoes behind in the car. As my boots sunk down in the crusty snow, I started to question my judgment. Snowshoes would have made the trek a lot easier.
Too stubborn to turn back, I forged ahead and soon came across a number of distinct wildlife tracks, including the wild turkey tracks. I never realized how big the bird’s feet were. Their fork-like footprints were about as big as my hand.
Just a bit farther down trail, I stumbled upon a peculiar scene — a hemlock tree almost entirely denuded of branches. At the base of the tree, the branches were scattered in the snow, and the needles on them were still green. My first thought? This was the work of a porcupine.
Curious if I was right, I played “animal detective.” Crawling around in the snow, I located several bean-shaped poops. It resembled the scat I’d seen piled at the entrance of porcupine dens. So now I’m only further convinced that my hypothesis was correct. And it makes sense. Porcupines are known to eat mainly conifer needles and bark in the winter.
I thought I was done playing with animal feces that day, but as I continued to Daggett Rock, I was compelled to stop once more to inspect a small, round, light-colored piece of scat that I believe belonged to a snowshoe hare. I’m no expert, but I’m learning the more time I spend outside. It’s fun to find evidence of wildlife, to get a feel for what lives in the area I’m exploring.
Daggett Rock was just as impressive as I imagined. I gave it a hug and walked through one of its cracks. I circled around it and photographed it from every angle. And in the process I mistakenly found a geocache, which is a container that holds a logbook and is usually found using GPS coordinates. You can learn more about the outdoor game at geocaching.com.
The entire hike took me about 1 hour. The hike in felt longer than the 0.2 mile marked on the trailhead sign, so on the way out, I measured the trail using a mobile app called AllTrails. According to the app, the trail is closer to 0.3 miles, and it’s a much easier walk on the way out, when it’s all downhill.
How to get there: From the Phillips Public Library on Main Street (Route 149) in Phillips, drive north about 1.5 mile, then turn right onto Wheeler Hill Road. (In that 1.5 mile stretch, Main Street becomes Park Street and then Salem Road, and at about 1.2 mile, it crosses Sandy River on a bridge.) Drive 2.3 miles and the parking area for Daggett Rock Trail will be on your right. The trail is across the road from the parking area, marked with a wooden sign affixed to a tree trunk. Near the trail and parking area are several private property signs. Be sure to stay on trail and respect landowner privacy. The parking area is plowed in the winter.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.