Pond Loop (Little Lyford Ponds, KI/Jo-Mary)

Little Lyford Upper Pond from the Pond Loop Trail
Little Lyford Upper Pond from the Pond Loop Trail

The Pond Loop Trail, a 1.9 mile hike around Little Lyford Ponds near the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins, is a pleasant, easy walk with abundant wildlife.  The ponds straddle the townships of Bowdoin College Grant West and Bowdoin College Grant East, close to Moosehead Lake.  For detailed description, check out the AMC Maine Mountain Guide or the online maps available from AMC.  We hiked this short loop the morning after a longer Gulf Hagas hike.  We had camped overnight at a KI/Jo-Mary campsite on the Pleasant River, but a closer stay would be at the AMC Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins, with access to many nearby trails.  As with the rest of the KI/Jo-Mary Multiple Use Management Forest, there is a use fee ($10 per adult Maine Resident per day, $15 non-resident, under 18/over 70 free), payable at one of three checkpoints, the closest of which is the Hedgehog Gate on Greenville Road.  If approaching from the south on Upper Valley Road, the parking area for the Pond Loop Trail is past the sign for the AMC lodge and cabins, on the left-hand side, just before the spur trail marked, “Little Lyford Pond #2 Boat Launch.”

Pond Loop Trail, marked with blue signs
Pond Loop Trail, marked with blue signs

On this sunny Sunday morning in August, we saw no other hikers for the entirety of the loop.  The Pond Loop is known as a good place to see moose, but we were likely up too late in the morning to have a great chance.  Nevertheless, the woods and ponds were alive with smaller animals birds, and butterflies, and the tracks and droppings of moose were evident throughout the hike.  The trail is aptly named, skirting the edges of upper and lower Little Lyford Ponds.

Gerry's Gazebo, Pond Loop Trail
Gerry’s Gazebo, Pond Loop Trail

As suggested by the Maine Mountain Guide, we walked the loop counter-clockwise.  Our circuit took a fortuitous detour (we missed the hard left to go back on the east side of the upper pond), bringing us onto the Pleasant River Trail all the way to the AMC Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins.  Fun fact for dog-lovers: this is the only AMC Lodge that is dog-friendly.

View to the southeast of the Barren-Chairback Range from Little Lyford Lower Pond, along Pleasant River Trail
View to the southeast of the Barren-Chairback Range from Little Lyford Lower Pond, along Pleasant River Trail

This added about 0.4 miles each way, but allowed us to view the cabins, the swimming hole, a beaver dam, and a viewpoint on the lower pond towards the Barren-Chairback Range.  For those staying at the lodge and cabins, this would be a part of the Pond Loop.

Upper Pond outlet, Little Lyford Ponds, from Kendall's Crossing
Upper Pond outlet, Little Lyford Ponds, from Kendall’s Crossing

From the viewpoint at Kendall’s Crossing, we saw loons, ducks, and a heron plying the waters of the upper pond for food.  After a brief walk through a blueberry-lined path through the pines, across log bridges, and a short climb back to Upper Valley Road, we were back at the parking area.

The Pond Loop is a great morning nature hike, a mostly shaded hour on relatively flat terrain, suitable for most ages and abilities.  Be quiet on the trail, listen, and slow down near the viewpoints on the Little Lyford Ponds to take a long look.  You never know what you might see.

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