Via: The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and The Monroe Loop Trail 7.3 mile Round Trip
Mt. Monroe is the tallest of the Southern Presidential Peaks and the fourth highest mountain in New Hampshire. At 5,372 feet, it rises as a sharp pyramid from the flat area surrounding the Lakes of the Clouds. The summit is completely above treeline and in good weather has views to Mt. Washington, the Lakes of the Clouds and the Oakes Gulf. The land between Mt. Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds support some rare alpine plants, making it a very vulnerable habitat in the White Mountains. Much of this area is closed to hikers, due to damage from prior admirers, the plants can survive the weather but not foot traffic. So be aware of closed areas and keep your dog on leash and on trail.
The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail provides a quick and fairly moderate ascent to the Lakes of the Clouds hut (5,012 feet). From the Ammonoosuc parking area (restrooms, AMC shuttle service, picnic area and day use fee $3 per day) located on the Base Rd. it is only 3.1 miles to the hut, and from there it connects to the Crawford Path and Mount Monroe Loop Trail. The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail follows the headwaters of the Ammonoosuc River and has many waterfalls, cascades and pools. There is ample water for dogs along the trail and it is pleasant to have views along the way. There are several water crossings, which may be difficult in periods of high water or after rainstorms, but there are solid rock footings in most places and the dogs had no trouble getting across any of them. Grades are moderate along the ascent, until Gem Pool a large pool at the foot of a cascade named for its colors is reached at 2.1 miles from the parking area. From here the trail gets rough and steep, but has some spectacular views along the way. It can be slippery under wet conditions so take care. At mile 2.5 the trail crosses the main brook over some ledges at the top of the highest waterfall there is a beautiful view down the ravine. These ledges can be dangerous but be careful and they can be climbed with moderate effort. At 3.0 miles the trail opens up out of the scrub and follows some cairns up some slabs, where it reaches the Crawford Path, south of Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
Lakes of the Clouds hut was original built in 1915 as a stone structure and has been enlarged since then. Pets are not permitted in the hut, so keep your dog outside. There are some benches around the hut that provide a nice place to take a break before making a bid for the summit.
From Crawford Path the junction with Mount Monroe Loop is located just beyond the hut (.1 mile). The Mount Monroe Loop is a short trail that runs parallel to the Crawford Path and crosses the summit of Mt. Monroe and Little Monroe. There are great views but the summits are very exposed to weather. Keep an eye on the conditions, as they can change very quickly in the mountains. The hike up to the summit is marked by rock cairns and is easy to follow and navigate. There are no major obstacles for dogs and their humans to be aware of. A cairn and the remains of a USGS marker mark the Mt. Monroe summit. It is exposed but the views are worth it on a good day. From the summit the Monroe Loop trail loops around back to Crawford Path after 1.1 miles round trip over both summits.
We then chose to descend the way we came back down the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail. The trail can be wet and slippery, descending is slow but it is always better to be safe than sorry. The first mile down from the hut is slow going, with stream crossings and wet conditions. Once Gem Pool is reached the going gets easier. It is only 3 miles down from the hut to the parking lot and it took us about 1:45 to get down.
Overall a moderate climb for one of New Hampshire’s highest. The grade is moderate to start and then steep and rough for the last push to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. There is one ladder on the trail but neither dog had any trouble bypassing it on the way up or down. There are some special considerations to take into account when attempting this hike: 1, there are a lot of people out there; this is a heavily used trail, 2. Dogs are not permitted in the hut, 3. Alpine zone rules are in effect; do not let dogs go off trail in the sensitive areas above the hut. The overall mileage for the hike is 7.3 miles but do not underestimate the grade of the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail above Emerald pool. A beautiful hike for a good day but it could prove treacherous in the wrong weather conditions.
Parking Area Base Rd. (2,500’)
Gem Pool (3,450’) 2.1 mile
Lakes of the Clouds Hut (5,012’) 3.1 miles
Mt. Monroe Summit (5,372’) 3.5 miles
North Junction Crawford Path (5,075’) 4.2 miles