Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. The trail network in the Little Moose Public Reserved Land Unit totals about 9 miles, but these interconnecting trails can be accessed by three trailheads, making the trail network easy to explore a few miles at a time. Little Moose Mountain has several peaks, the tallest of which reach just over 2,000 feet above sea level. The trails exploring the mountain’s long ridge can be steep and rocky in some areas, and many of the trails include long stretches of gradual but continuous climbing (or descending). The trails do not include rungs or ladders and should be suitable for most dogs.
How to get there: There are three parking lots for hiking trails on and around Little Moose Mountain.
The easternmost trailhead, which is accessible by vehicle in the winter, is used to hike along the mountain’s ridge starting from the northeast. To get there from the major intersection of Route 15 and Lily Bay Road in downtown Greenville, turn west on Route 15/6 (Pritham Avenue) and drive 2.9 miles, around the west side of Moosehead Lake, then turn left into the parking lot of Moose Mountain Inn. The trailhead kiosk and trailhead parking is located on the east side of the inn’s parking lot.
The Big and Little Moose Ponds Trailhead provides a starting point for a nice loop hike to the shore of both ponds and up to viewpoints along the ridge of Little Moose Mountain. To get there from Moose Mountain Inn, continue north on Route 15 about 2 miles and turn left onto North Road. Drive 1.6 miles, then veer left at the intersection. Drive about a mile and the trailhead will be on your left.
The Notch Pond trailhead is the westernmost trailhead in the unit and is located by the boat launch at Big Indian Pond. This trailhead is used to hike into campsites at Big Notch and Little Notch Ponds, where the trail then climbs steeply up to the ridge of Little Moose Mountain and connects over to the other trails in the network. To get there from the intersection of North Road and Route 15, drive on North Road 6.3 miles, then turn left. In 0.3 mile, veer right and drive another half mile and the trailhead will be on your right.
Information: Rising just over 2,000 feet above sea level near the southwest shore of Moosehead Lake, Little Moose Mountain forms a long ridge that towers above scenic ponds, then arcs slightly north as if reaching toward its sister mountain, Big Moose. Located in the state-owned 1,500-acre Little Moose Public Reserved Land Unit, moderately difficult hiking trails explore the ridge of Little Moose Mountain as well as the nearby ponds, where backcountry campsites are located. Altogether, these interconnecting trails total about 9 miles and offer a variety of day hikes and overnight adventures.
Other trails in the unit explore the nearby Big Moose Mountain.
Marked with blue blazes painted on tree trunks and rocks, the hiking trails on Little Moose Mountain trace its long ridgeline from east to west, visiting several scenic viewpoints along the way. Also, from east to west, these trails visit the ponds Papoose, Little Moose, Big Moose, Big Notch, Little Notch and Big Indian. Near the shore of several of these ponds are backcountry campsites, all of which are marked on the land unit trail map.
Little Moose Mountain and Big Moose Mountain were previously called Little Squaw Mountain and Big Squaw Mountain. The State of Maine changed the name, which was offensive to members of the Native American population. However, many locals still refer to the mountains by their old names.
Because Little Moose Mountain has a long ridge with multiple wooded peaks, hiking it may be confusing or a bit anticlimactic. There is no summit sign posted on any of the peaks, but there are many outlooks located along the mountain’s ledges that offer stunning views of the Moosehead area, including views of Moosehead Lake, the town of Greenville, and the nearby Big Moose Mountain. Dramatic cliffs, moss- and fern-covered boulders and quiet evergreen stands also add to the beauty of the hike.
Keep in mind that people use the property for many different types of outdoor recreation. Hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, ATVing and snowmobiling are permitted in certain areas. Access is free. Dogs are permitted but must be kept under control at all times, and they must be kept on leash at campsites. And as always, visitors are expected to pick up their trash and leave the landscape as they find it.
For more information about Little Moose Public Reserved Land, visit maine.gov/littlemoose or call 778-8231.
Personal note: The ground was bare as we drove out of Bangor on Route 15 on Sunday, Dec. 4, but by the time we reached the top of Charleston Hill, a thin layer of snow covered the landscape, and as we continued west, the snow grew noticeably deeper. By the time we (my husband and I) reached the hill overlooking Moosehead Lake in Greenville, we were in a winter wonderland.
Driving around the southwest edge of the mighty lake, we easily found the easternmost trailhead for Little Moose Mountain at Moose Mountain Inn, then got to work filling our packs with chicken sandwiches, water, extra hats and mittens and two extra coats for our dog, Oreo. We also had a first aid kit, emergency blanket, headlamps other survival supplies. In my pocket, I carried a SPOT satellite tracker and a Garmin GPS device, both of which would be helpful in emergencies. Though just off Route 15, the Little Moose Mountain trails head into remote territory that has very spotty cellphone reception.
The temperature was cold for early December. It fluctuated in the 20s, with the sun and a blue sky peaking through the shifting clouds. Fresh snow covered everything, but it wasn’t quite deep enough to warrant snowshoes.
That day, we hiked just over 4 miles, climbing Little Moose Mountain steadily to one of its highest points at just over 2,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, we came to more than 10 outlooks that rewarded us with stunning (and different) views of the Moosehead Region. From these outlooks, we gazed upon the nearby Big Moose Mountain, dusted in snow, and we gained an interesting perspective of Moosehead Lake.
Throughout the hike, we dipped down a few times, so that by the end, we had climbed over 2,000 feet (though our starting point was above 1,000 feet), according to my GPS. As was expected, snow cover deepened as we climbed. By the time we reached the top of the ridge, snow and ice had formed a thick coat on the evergreens. It felt magical to be alone in the silent, snowy forest, without any tracks on the trail ahead of us but the tracks of snowshoe hares and squirrels.
We didn’t come across one other person in the woods that day, but we did encounter some wildlife. We spooked several grouse, which make an alarming racket with their wings as they take flight. And we also stirred an owl from a tree and just stood in awe as the large, light brown bird soared silently ahead of us and disappeared. Derek nearly stepped on a chipmunk as it scurried through the snow beside the trail, and on the drive to Greenville, I spotted bald eagle perched on a tree beside the road; we parked and I popped out of the sunroof to take a photo of the stately raptor.
One of my favorite things about this trail is that there are so many outlooks along the way, starting with a picnic table set at a location with a view of Moosehead Lake just 0.1 mile from the trailhead at approximately 1,300 feet above sea level. Another feature of the hike I especially enjoyed was the dramatic cliffs about 2 miles from the trailhead, just before the final climb to the peak. On Dec. 4, these cliffs were covered with giant icicles that glittered in the afternoon sun. The effect was breathtaking.