Difficulty: Moderate. The loop hike is 3.8 miles long, according to the tenth edition of the Appalachian Mountain Club “Maine Mountain Guide,” but the hike is longer during the winter because hikers must walk into the trailhead on unplowed roads.
How to get there: At the blinking light at the center of Greenville, drive north on Route 15/6 to Moose Mountain Inn. From the inn, drive 2.1 miles and turn left on North Road, a gravel road that is usually not plowed in the winter.
(The North Road will be plowed during the winter of 2013 for logging operations. People may drive on the road to access trails, but they must park off to the side of the road, leaving enough room for large trucks to pass. A four-wheel drive will be needed to drive up this road in the winter.)
On the North Road, drive (or walk) 1.6 mile and turn left onto Mountain Road, which is not plowed during the winter. Drive (or walk) 1 mile to the trailhead to Big Moose and Little Moose ponds loop.
Information:The loop trail to Big Moose and Little Moose ponds is well-traveled and easy to follow, though some of the blue blazes guiding the way may be faded. Leaving Mountain Road, the trail descends gradually to cross Moose Brook at .25 mile. Soon after, you will reach a fork in the trail, marked by signs. If you take the trail to the right, you will soon reach a campground on the north shore of Big Moose Pond at about 0.4 mile. If you veer left at the fork, you will continue on the loop trail, walking for a distance along the north shore of Big Moose Pond.
According to the AMC “Maine Mountain Guide,” the trail reaches a junction at 0.8 mile. Here you can turn right or left because it is the beginning of a loop. To the left, you’ll hike along the north shore of Little Moose Pond (where there are two campsites) and reach a junction with a trail that leads to the eastern ridge of Little Moose Mountain. If instead you turn right at the junction, you will hike along the east shore of Big Moose Pond and travel away from Little Moose Pond to reach a junction with the trail to Little Notch and Big Notch ponds, which are about 2.5 miles away by trail.
After hiking the loop (clockwise or counterclockwise), head back to the trailhead on Mountain Road.
Personal note:Because of logging operations, the North Road was plowed when I attempted to hike the ponds loop on Dec. 28, 2012. Normally, the North Road is not plowed and is open to snowmobilers, skiers and snowshoers. The Mountain Road was not plowed, so I had to snowshoe a mile on the road to reach the trailhead. Because I started out late (11 a.m.) and had to snowshoe the road (adding two miles to the hike), I only had time to make it to Big Moose Pond. I was also breaking trail through at least a foot of powder left by the state’s first Nor’easter of the season, which was fun but tiring. Therefore, I referred to AMC’s “Maine Mountain Guide” for much of the information I provide here about the loop trail. This hike is much easier to access in the summer.