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Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Rip & Go: Big Moose Mountain - Maine Public Reserved Lands Little Moose Unit, ME

Hike to an historic fire tower and camp beside secluded ponds.

by: Chris Keene

Big Moose Lake (Tim Seaver)
Big Moose Lake (Tim Seaver)
ExOfficio's Buzz Off Baja shirt (Courtesy Photo)
ExOfficio's Buzz Off Baja shirt (Courtesy Photo)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.
Do It
See what makes the Moosehead Lake region the gem of Maine’s North Woods on this three-day, 21-mile lollipop. Start at the Greenwood trailhead (1), five minutes west of Greenville, and after a few perpetually muddy spots, rise through fir and spruce to an overlook (2) of Moosehead Lake’s west cove. At just over one mile (3), you’ll see Big Moose Mountain’s stony, 3,196-foot summit (where you’ll stand the next day). Crest Little Moose’s ridge at 1.6 miles and weave your way through stunted spruce to the top (4). From here, descend .8 mile to Papoose Pond (5) and then .4 mile to the Loop Trail (6).

Turn left onto the loamy path, and take it .9 mile to the Notch Ponds Trail (7); track along a hardwood ridge 2.2 miles to a sharp drop over loose rocks. Continue .1 mile to a campsite at Big Notch Pond (8), a remote bog teeming with underwater vegetation like coon’s grass—perfect for moose-spotting. On day two, return to the Loop Trail and go downhill to reach the Mountain Road Trail. Cross over an old dam (9) and ascend slate stairs to the Mountain Road trailhead (10). Turn right and follow a dirt road 1.2 miles to reach the Firewarden’s Trail to Big Moose Mountain (11). The blue-blazed path meanders gently through maple and beech, but after passing the dilapidated warden’s cabin in 1.2 miles, it spikes—gaining 900 feet in .6 mile to an overlook (12) of Moosehead’s many islands.

From here, it’s .5 mile to Big Moose and a sprawling North Woods vista stretching from Moosehead (Maine’s largest lake at 37 miles long and 18 miles wide), to 5,267-foot Katahdin, the state’s tallest peak. Head 3.6 miles back to Little Moose’s trailhead and, 1.1 miles later (staying left at a junction), Little Moose Pond’s campsite (13); listen for loons in this serene enclave. On the final day, head 3.5 miles back to the Greenwood trailhead.

Trip Planner
Driving From Bangor, take ME 15 north 70 miles to the (only) light in Greenville. Turn left, and drive another 2.9 miles to Moose Mountain Inn. The trailhead is in the left corner of the parking lot.

Gear Up
Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville: (866) 223-1380,

Map USGS quad Big Squaw Pond ($8,

No permits are required, but camp only in designated sites. Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands: (207) 287-382,

Map Send a topo, photos, and route info to your cell by texting “imap 555483” to 32075 or download the trip at

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Reader Rating: -


Nathan L
Sep 07, 2010

Did this Labor Day wknd 2010. Some comments: the descent into the Notch Ponds is quite difficult with packs on, and in general there is a lot of slow terrain on these trails. We made it from trailhead to Little Notch in 6.5 hours.

The 11-mile day is totally doable, but we woke up at 8am, and had to cut it short without bagging the peak. Recommend getting up early on Day 2, and also ditching heavy packs at Big/Little Moose Pond trailsplit.

Labor Day Weekend in Maine, and we were the *only* overnighters; only saw 2 other dayhikers in three days. What an amazing trip. The lakes at night were unbelievably beautiful.

No moose sightings, though- but lots and lots of moose poop.


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