9.7 Miles from Passaconaway Road Trailhead to West Side Road Trailhead for Diana’s Baths 3,250 feet elevation gain in all
Moat Mountain is located just outside of North and Center Conway New Hampshire. It is not a tall mountain by White Mountain standards but it does have incredible views in all directions from all three of its summits, and offers several different approaches from various trailheads not far from town. Since it is centrally located within the White Mountain Range the views from the top include the greater portion of Washington Valley to the east and south, Crawford Notch to the North and the Pemigiwegasset to the west, as well as nearby Mount Chocoura, and the Sisters. It is on a clear day one of the best views I have seen in the Conway Region.
When planning which of the ways to summit Moat Mountain, we took into consideration, length of the hike and the number of visitors at the trailheads. We chose to ascend from Passaconaway Road, follow the entire ridgeline of the mountain and head down to West Side Road. This involved leaving a car at both trailheads. There is a nice loop hike over the summit of North Moat that can be completed from the West Side Road Trailhead if you do not want to coordinate cars or are doing the hike solo. This is also the trailhead for Diana’s Baths and is very popular on warm summer days in peak hiking season. The baths are located .6 miles from the parking area, so expect a lot of people on this section of the trail.
The trailhead for Moat Mountain Trail located on Passaconway Road is marked by a sign and is situated on the beginning of a logging road. The trail begins past the gate and to the left, marked by recent clear-cutting; there is a small cairn. This area is actively logged so be aware that you may run into people and equipment here. The first two miles of trail is considerable easy, with a gentle grade passing through Beech and Birch forests. Approaching the South Moat mountain summit, the trail becomes steeper with poorer footing but only for a short distance. At this time the trail becomes ledgy and views of Mt. Chocoura open up. The Summit of South Moat is reached at 2.7 miles from the parking area. It is a fine summit in good weather but in bad weather is exposed to the elements. Technically the South summit is part of the middle summit because it is only 30 feet shorter, but it is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relatively easy to get to view. This could be a short day hike if you wanted to turn around after the first summit, it would not be in vain because by itself it is a gorgeous mountain hike.
We continued north on the trail, toward the middle summit, first descending into a small, forested area that would offer some protection in weather before ascending the ledgy trail to Middle Moat. The distance between these summits is .6 miles and it is relatively easy ridgeline. Views in all directions open up on the exposed summit trail to Middle Moat, you can see a fantastic section of the White Mountain National Forest, Presidential Range, and the Sandwich Range.
Descending the Middle Moat summit cone into a more protected area on the ridgeline, there are small trees and easy grades, at mile 4.2 there is a junction with the Red Ridge Trail, this could be taken down but you would miss the views from North Moat. From the trail junction it is another 1.1 miles to the summit of North Moat. Most of the way the footing is decent, and the trail moderate. Near the top, there are some large ledges that need to be scrambled over, but are not overly daunting for a seasoned hiker. There were a few places where I had to assist my large dog in scrambling, but no more than to make sure his back half made it up the rock face he was climbing. At mile 5.3 the summit of North Moat is reached, a bare cone with views in all directions. A large cairn marks the top. This is a very enjoyable mountain to spend time on top of enjoying the views.
Once, ready to descend the views continue as you loose elevation rapidly down a steep, potentially slippery, rocky descent. The junction with the Attitash Trail is reached at 7.2 miles; at this time you have lost most of the elevation you need to and the last few miles out are very gentle, and easy. The lower junction of the Red Ridge Trail is reached at 8.5 miles, and soon after the Diana’s Baths are reached. These are a collection of cascades and pools, which are pretty to look at, and play in. From the baths the last .6 miles is at a wheelchair grade, there are benches, picnic tables and the potential to see a lot of other people. The West Side Road is reached at 9.7 miles.
Aside from being a longer hike this was a very easy and enjoyable mountain to climb. There were no obstacles or tricky places where either the dogs or I had any major difficulties negotiating. The trail in most places is very easy to follow, well graded and has good footing. In bad weather the ridgeline could pose an issue for exposure, but as with all climbs that is up to the good judgment of the hiker to decide when the risks outweigh the rewards. Water availability on the trail is scarce once you reach the upper sections of the ridge, so bring extra, on warm days you will be thankful you have it.
Distance in miles from Passaconaway Road:
South Moat Summit: 2.7
Middle Moat Summit: 3.3
Red Ridge Trail: 4.2
North Moat Summit: 5.3
Attitash Trail: 7.2
Red Ridge Trail: 8.5
West Side Road: 9.7