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Summer Dayhikes

Moosilauke has, in the estimation of many, a view rivaled in the White Mountains only by Carrigain in the central Pemigewasset, and Mount Washington itself. Without moving from the summit ledge, the view ranges from Mount Washington to the northeast, the Green Mountains in Maine, Wachuset in Massachusetts, Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, Mount Adams in the Massachusetts Berkshires, the entire state of Vermont from Stratton to Jay Peak, Mount Marcy and others in the Adirondacks of New York, and Owl’s Head in Quebec. This view encompasses nearly twenty-five thousand square miles of the Northeast.

Weather conditions allowing for this view, however, are relatively rare — not more than one or two days a month. Storms and fog are a frequent problem. The trouble in the summer is haze resulting from atmospheric moisture combined with pollution such as auto exhaust. Even so, the mountain is always worth the trip. The standard formula of 3° F temperature drop per thousand feet, combined with mountain wind means that the summit is almost always at least 15° F cooler than Hanover, and even in fog there is plenty to explore on the summit itself. On the summit, however, the plant life, though rugged to weather, is not so resistant to boots, especially in winter and mud seasons. Stay on marked trails or rocks.

Conditions in early summer vary. In years of heavy snow there may be deep snow and serious mud on the trails until the end of May. This can often be the case long after the snow has left Hanover.

As for late summer weather conditions on the mountain, keep in mind that it has snowed on the summit every month of the year and all trails to the summit, especially Benton, have considerable stretches above treeline that are exposed to the full force of the weather. The Lodge staff can give you a good idea of current conditions and necessary preparation. Also, be sure to consult the introductory chapter of this book.

All hiking times are based on the AMC’s book time, one-half hour for each mile traveled plus one-half hour for every thousand feet of elevation ascended. See the Hiking page for hiking tips.

Along the Baker River

EASY 3 mile hike (1.5 hours)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

Walk back up to the turnaround, continue past the chain and follow the main road straight ahead, taking neither of the obvious forks. After 0.4 miles cross the Baker and join the Ridge Trail. Continue on this 1943 logging road (the Ridge Trail) as far as you like, eventually reaching the last crossing of the Baker 1.5 miles from the start. Turn around here. There are several possible swimming holes along this stretch if you look carefully on your way back. Just before crossing the Baker on the return trip, bear right on the Ridge Trail. Follow this through more mature woods (note the difference from the heavily cleared sections along the river road), cross Hatch Brook on a bridge, and shortly you’ll reach the main trail bridge below the Lodge. Cross this and follow signs back to parking or head up to the Lodge.

Gorge Brook Trail to First Views

EASY 4.6 mile hike (3 hours)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

Walk back up to the turnaround, continue past the chain and turn left to head down to the Baker River. Cross over the Baker and follow signs for Gorge Brook Trail. Briefly follow the Baker River, then gain an old logging road (turn of the century vintage). Follow it briefly, then turn sharply right onto Gorge Brook Trail proper. The lower 1.3 miles of Gorge Brook Trail were part of the famed Hell’s Highway ski trail, built in 1933 as the second modern ski run in the northeast. A careful look at some sections of rock ledge about 0.1 miles above the first Gorge Brook crossing reveals marks of the blasting done for this trail, and for earlier logging operations.

Cross Gorge Brook and pass the Snapper Trail junction, 0.6 miles from the Lodge, and continue along Gorge Brook, crossing it again. About 1.6 miles from the Lodge, reach Last Water and the Ross McKenney plaque. Bear right, and begin a steady climb, traversing the East Peak. At about 2.1 miles reach a logging road and follow it. At 2.3 miles, reach the view, cleared to the right. Mount Carr is prominent in the foreground — to the right is Cardigan and left, Kearsarge. The Lodge access road is visible below left, the Lodge itself is just out of sight, to the left.

Return by the same route.

Little Tunnel Ravine Views

EASY 2.2 mile hike (1.5 hours)

How to Get There: From Hanover, take I-91 North to Exit 17 (Route 302, Wells River). Follow Route 302 through Wells River and Woodsville (follow signs carefully as it zigs and zags), turn left at the Route 10 junction, and continue east toward Littleton. About two miles from the Route 10 junction, just after Route 302 goes over a big hill, turn right on Route 112 and follow it up the Wild Ammonoosuc River, past a junction where Route 116 comes in from the right, and, in about another mile, departs to the left. From the second 116 junction, continue 0.5 miles on 112 to the well-signed Tunnel Brook Road on the right. In winter this road is often unplowed after the first 0.7 mile, but not gated. Follow the main stem of this road, avoiding several minor forks. About 1.5 miles from Route 112, cross Tunnel Brook and bear left. In winter the road is generally gated at this point, so park here to avoid getting locked in, even if the road is open. Continue along this road to about 3.0 miles from Route 112 to a wide parking area on the left with a signboard for the Benton Trail. The road continues another 0.7 miles to a turnaround and the north end of the Tunnel Brook Trail.

Follow the Benton Trail (a former bridle path) across Tunnel Brook, then climb moderately 1.1 miles to a spur leading left with excellent views of Little Tunnel Ravine and its cascades. Return to the road by the same route.

Beaver Brook Cascades

EASY 2 mile hike (1 hour)

How to Get There: From Hanover, take I-91 North to Exit 17 (Route 302, Wells River). Follow Route 302 through Wells River and Woodsville (follow signs carefully as it zigs and zags), turn left at the Route 10 junction, and continue east toward Littleton. About two miles from the Route 10 junction, just after Route 302 goes over a big hill, turn right on Route 112 and follow it up the Wild Ammonoosuc River, past a junction where Route 116 comes in from the right, and, in about another mile, departs to the left. From the second Route 116 junction, continue on Route 112 up the winding, scenic climb into Kinsman Notch. Just before the height of land, pass a pond on the right — just past the pond, you will see signs for the Appalachian Trail. Park here (WMNF parking fee required). Follow signs for Beaver Brook Trail.

Alternatively, take Route 10 to Orford, Route 25A to Wentworth, Route 118 past the Lodge, then turn left on Route 112 and look for the Beaver Brook Trail parking area on the left — takes a little longer, but it’s easier to follow.

Climb first moderately, then steeply along the cascade, over wooden steps bolted to the rock, passing several fine cascades and outlooks northeast. Use care on the ledges. Return by the same route. Not recommended in below-freezing or wet weather as it is a slippery trail.

John Rand Cabin Historical Tour

EASY 0.8 mile hike (30 minutes to 1 hour)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

Walk back up to the turnaround and continue past the chain. Immediately past the gate (at the Al Merrill kiosk) you will notice a somewhat open area leading uphill to the right. This was the tow line of the old ski area, operational from 1949 to 1953.

Continue straight ahead at the main trail junction, following the road laid out in 1943 by crews under Sherman Adams ’20: DOC president, logging operator, governor of New Hampshire, and assistant to President Eisenhower. Adams’ crews were part of a wartime pulpwood salvage operation, gleaning the region left devastated by the 1938 hurricane. This road continues with branches leading far up the valley.

Soon you’ll reach a fork. An old road from the Lodge lawn joins from the left and leaves as a more modern road to the right. This road played many roles in the history of the mountain. It was laid out by the Champlain Realty Company logging operation in the second decade of this century to reach the then-substantial spruce stands on the Blue Ridge (to your right). The logging operation folded in 1924, but the road survived, and a logging stable built in conjunction with this road on the flat below the present-day Lodge was refurbished as Dartmouth’s base for skiing on Moosilauke in 1933. This road then became an easy ski trail called the Go-back Trail. The logging camp burned in 1935. The main impetus for rebuilding the Lodge as it stands was the discovery by Ross McKenney and J. Willcox Brown ’37, then manager of the DOC, of a large stand of virgin spruce along this road. In the winter of 1938, less than a year before the ’38 hurricane wiped out practically all of the remaining tall trees on this side of the mountain, construction of the new building began with these trees, which were cut and hauled down this road to the flat below the Lodge.

Continue straight at the fork and travel gradually toward the Baker River. Note several log bridges still supporting the roadway (from 1943). Further, note the vigorous growth of young fir, opportunistic first colonizers of the opening left by the road.

Reach the Baker at a bridge built in 1980 by students in the Cabin and Trail Division of the DOC to replace a truck bridge that once stood here.

Just before the Bridge, bear right on a faint trail. Climb steeply fifty feet, then hook a sharp right on an old logging skid road. Begin climbing moderately.

Reach John Rand Cabin. Please respect the privacy of people who may have rented the cabin. The cabin was built by Cabin and Trail in 1983 to replace a DOC cabin near the Lodge and to honor John Rand ’38, who served the DOC in various capacities over a forty-one year period. In the open area above the cabin and in the nearby woods, note several large, ancient stumps. These are the stumps of the logs used to build the Ravine Lodge. Ironically, as of 1983, forty-five years after the hurricane, spruce was still in such short supply that the cabin materials had to be sought elsewhere. Indeed, except for the doorstep and a few log chinks, none of the materials are native to the site — the logs were hauled 100 miles from the Second College Grant, the lumber and other building materials from various lumberyards.

From the porch, there is a good view across the Baker River valley into the Gorge Brook Ravine, where the scars of the landslides of 1927 are apparent. While on the porch, note a few construction details of the cabin. Unlike most log cabins, but similar to the Ravine Lodge, the logs do not overlap at notched corners but instead run into vertical cornerposts. This design prevents rot from entering at the notches and is far easier to build than conventional notched designs.

Follow the path uphill, bear right over rocks, and soon reach a road. This is the Go-back trail you met earlier (it continues to the left as the 1982 Al Merrill Ski Loop, switchbacking to the crest of Blue Ridge and then descending to the Ridge Trail). Follow this downhill.

In about three hundred yards you will see a faint clearing on your left. This was the base of the Dipper ski trail, built in 1939, and later served by the rope tow mentioned earlier. It too fell into disuse in the ’50s. Continue on and return to the junction, then back to the Ravine Lodge turnaround.

Al Merrill Ski Loop

EASY 5 mile hike (3 hours)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

From the turnaround, follow the main logging road straight. After about 100 yards, bear right on the Al Merrill Ski Loop. Follow this trail/old logging road past John Rand Cabin; soon switchback right and continue on a moderate climb. About 1.2 miles from the start, turn left at an obvious fork (don’t take the wider road which goes steeply uphill straight ahead). Continue on the Merrill Loop, switchbacking twice more, then heading generally north along and a little below the crest of the ridge. About 0.7 miles beyond the final turn, look for a wide viewpoint cut on the left. This view takes in the entire main ridge of Moosilauke, from the South peak, over the East Ridge and main summit (Gorge Brook Trail visible on the East Ridge), and finally the great gulf of Jobildunc Ravine, with Mount Blue beyond.

Return to the Lodge by the same route.

Summit via Gorge Brook–Carriage Road Loop

MODERATE 7.2 mile hike (4.5 hours)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

Walk back up to the turnaround, continue past the chain and turn left to head down to the Baker River. Cross over the Baker and follow signs for Gorge Brook Trail. Briefly follow the Baker River, then gain an old logging road (turn of the century vintage). Follow it briefly, then turn sharply right onto Gorge Brook Trail proper. The lower 1.3 miles of Gorge Brook Trail were part of the famed Hell’s Highway ski trail, built in 1933 as the second modern ski run in the northeast. A careful look at some sections of rock ledge about 0.1 miles above the first Gorge Brook crossing reveals marks of the blasting done for this trail, and for earlier logging operations.

Cross Gorge Brook and pass the Snapper Trail junction, 0.6 miles from the Lodge, and continue along Gorge Brook, crossing it again. About 1.6 miles from the Lodge, reach Last Water and the Ross McKenney plaque. Bear right, and begin a steady climb, traversing the East Peak. At about 2.1 miles reach a logging road and follow it. At 2.3 miles, reach the view, cleared to the right. Mount Carr is prominent in the foreground — to the right is Cardigan and left, Kearsarge. The Lodge access road is visible below left, the Lodge itself is just out of sight, to the left.

Just above the view, the trail bends sharply to the left and begins following Moosilauke’s east ridge, switchbacking up steadily steeper terrain and passing two fine views at 2.9 miles. About 0.15 miles further, the trail bends left at a massive rock staircase and commences the “Balcony” section, a sweeping traverse just below treeline with spectacular views southeast and southwest. This section of trail is visible from the Lodge and from Route 118 just west of the height of land, particularly in winter. The trail soon gains the east shoulder, and follows it in and out of trees to the rocky summit cone, where it turns left and gains the peak, 3.6 miles from the Lodge.

From the summit, follow the Carriage Road south (toward South Peak). The trail follows the well worn road trench at first, then leaves it at a large cairn, crosses it, and rejoins it on the flat below. (Caution: this section can be hard to follow in bad weather. Follow cairns and blazes carefully in fog and, if the weather is bad, return by Gorge Brook Trail.) Climb briefly to the middle peak, then descend, passing a fine outlook on the left, to the Glencliff trail junction, 0.9 miles from the summit.

Bear left, and begin a gradual, steady descent on the old road. The trail soon widens — the result of a massive federally-funded 1994 reconstruction of the terribly eroded former trail. The Snapper Trail is reached 2.2 miles from the summit on the left. Completely re-routed in 1995 from the old ski trail route, the Snapper descends first moderately then gradually to a Gorge Brook tributary, then to Gorge Brook itself, returning to the Gorge Brook Trail 3.3 miles from the summit. Return via the Gorge Brook Trail

Summit via Ridge Trail–Gorge Brook Loop

MODERATE 9.6 mile hike (5.5 hours)

How to Get There: Take the standard route to get to the Lodge. From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then turn right onto Route 118 when it splits from Route 25. Drive up Route 118 5.8 miles then turn left on Ravine Road. Drive all the way up to the turnaround, reverse direction, and find a parking place back down on the road. Do not park in the turnaround!

Walk back up to the turnaround then follow the main road straight ahead, taking neither of the obvious forks. After 0.4 miles, cross the Baker and join the Ridge Trail. Follow the old logging road, then at 1.3 miles turn right, cross the Baker River, and begin climbing. Turn left at 2.0 miles at the junction of the Al Merrill Ski Loop. Continue climbing gradually then moderately, bypassing Mount Waternomee, swing left on switchbacks then continue up switchbacks to the summit of Mount Jim (4,172 feet, but no views). Descend gradually through several large areas of blowdown fir, and at 4.1miles reach the white-blazed Beaver Brook Trail (Appalachian Trail). Bear left onto this trail. At 4.7 miles the trail turns abruptly right then left, and climbs moderately, slabbing the south side of Mount Blue with fine views. The trail drops slightly, then gains a ridge above marshy Deer Lake with good views north to Franconia, then east. The trail drops again, then climbs steadily, reaching the Benton Trail at 5.6 miles. Turn left here and continue climbing, pass through treeline, and gain the grand but exposed summit ridge, reaching the summit 6.0 miles from the Lodge.

Descend via the Gorge Brook Trail (or Carriage and Snapper).

West Side Loop

DIFFICULT 12.6 mile hike (10 hours)

How to Get There: From Hanover, drive north on Route 10 to Orford and turn right on Route 25A (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). When 25A ends in Wentworth, turn left on Route 25/Route 118. Drive through Warren, then continue straight when Route 118 splits off to the right. In Glencliff, turn right onto Sanitarium Road (look for a sign for the New Hampshire Home for the Elderly). Pass the left turn for the North & South Road, then park on the right in the parking area (WMNF parking fee required).

Walk back to the North & South Road, then follow it to where the Tunnel Brook Trail leaves right (0.2 miles). The trail leads past a cabin, crosses several brooks, then follows Slide Brook, passing a reservoir at 1.0 miles. The trail continues climbing gradually, passes over a height of land and reaches the southernmost Mud Pond at 2.4 miles. Note the fine views of Slide Ravine and the west slope of Moosilauke. The trail continues with some wet stretches past numerous beaver ponds, crossing and recrossing Tunnel Brook, and then descends through fine hardwoods to the end of the Tunnel Brook Road at 4.4 miles. Follow this road to the Benton trailhead, at 5.1 miles. Climb Moosilauke via the Benton Trail, passing a fine outlook at 6.2 miles, reaching the Beaver Brook Trail (Appalachian Trail) at 8.3 miles, and treeline at 8.4 miles. The trail follows the exposed and spectacular ridge to the summit (8.7 miles). Descend south along the Carriage road (follow cairns carefully), reaching the Glencliff junction at 9.6 miles, and then begin the first steep, then moderate descent of the Glencliff Trail. During mid to late autumn, the lower parts of this trail make this one of the finer sunset walks in the mountains. Pass Great Bear Cabin and the Hurricane Trail at 12.4 miles and end back at parking.

Last Updated: 4/16/13