Loop Hike Via. Gorge Brook Trail (3.7), Glencliff Trail (AT) (1.1), Moosilauke Carriage Road (2.6), Hurricane Trail (1.0) Total Mileage Approximately 8.4
Mt. Moosilauke is the furthest west of the White Mountain peaks over 4,000 feet. It is the tenth highest of the New Hampshire 48, 4,000 footers at 4,802 feet in elevation and it dominates the landscape between Franconia Notch and the Connecticut River. Many of the trails leading to the bare summit begin at the trailheads behind the Dartmouth Outing Club’s (DOC) Ravine Lodge, and much of the land is owned privately by Dartmouth. Access is permitted to the public, although in winter the road leading to lodge is not plowed. The lodge can be reached by following NH 118 to a signed Lodge Road. Follow this dirt road to a designated hiking parking area, no fee or pass needed. The trails are all located behind the lodge, but there are numerous signs to follow to reach them.
Moosilauke is an interesting large mountain, featuring amazing views in all directions; on clear days you can see the Green Mountains of Vermont to the west and into New York. There are remnants of a former summit hotel once called the Tip Top House still on site, as well as an extensive protected alpine zone. This summit is also very exposed to weather, so plan accordingly. If you find yourself in bad weather there are several trails where you can descend back to tree line quickly.
This is a very popular mountain to climb and ski. So it sees a lot of visitors all year long. It offers many rewards without to much pain. The trailhead behind the Ravine Lodge is located at 2,500 feet so depending on which route you chose you gain 2,302 feet over the course of either 3.7 or 5.1 miles. This makes the ascent very moderate and fun for just about anyone. We chose the more popular and direct summit approach up the Gorge Brook Trail. This trail follows an old logging road across a footbridge and continues left at .2 miles to a junction with the Hurricane Ridge Trail, where the Gorge Brook Trail goes a sharp right up hill and follows the Gorge Brook. There are several water crossings but all have footbridges across at miles .6 and 1.3, respectively. At mile 1.6 there is a memorial plaque for the Ross McKenney Forest, here the trail continues to ascend moderately, passing outlooks to the south and east. Views are available but obscured by trees. Mile 3.3 reaches a shoulder covered in scrub; the summit can be viewed in the distance. This part of the trail is located in the grassy alpine zone, so stay on trail to protect the fragile landscape. A short 50-yard scramble up some rock leads to the summit, marked by a large cairn and signs. There is a large tableland surrounding the summit where people can pause and enjoy the views. Several rock structures still remain as evidence of human presence on the mountain, which has been used for fire towers and tourism in the past.
We chose to make a loop out of the hike and include Mt. Moosilauke’s south summit in the day. Although it is not considered on of the 4,000 footers by itself it does also afford a fine view and only added .2 miles to our day. We turned left from the summit to follow the Glencliff Trail, (Appalachian Trail) .9 miles to South Peak (4,523). This part of the hike was exposed to the elements as we descended through the alpine zone and into a scrub spruce forest. Fooling was excellent and the grade was very easy. The .1 miles up to the South summit were a bit more challenging, the trail was narrow and rocky. However, the views from this shorter sub-peak are superb in their own right. After enjoying we descended back to the junction where the Glencliff trail heads south and west and the Moosilauke Carriage Road heads south back towards the Ravine Lodge. This section was easy to follow and descend. It is a wide multi-use trail that at one time was created for sending supplies and people up to the summit. Descending the grade was moderate but the footing was excellent and 1.2 miles were accomplished quickly. When the junction of the Snapper trail is reached you can either diverge left and follow this ski trail back towards the lodge or continue on the Carriage Road. We chose to continue on the Carriage Road another very easy 1.4 miles to the junction with the Hurricane Trail, a connector trail that links up many of the main trails on Moosilauke. This trail was a very easy 1-mile back to where we started behind the Ravine Lodge.
The total distance for this hike was approximately 8.4 miles, it was very moderate with no open ledges or steep cliffs. Water is available for most of the hike, although it is noted that on Gorge Brook Trail, the last reliable source is located at 3,300 feet and is signed by the DOC. We took less than 4.5 hours to accomplish this hike, although it was very cold at the summit so we did not spend a lot of time up there enjoying it. I would highly recommend to most anyone who wants to hike a big New Hampshire mountain to try Moosilauke. For the size 4,802 it is very easy when compared to other mountains of comparable height in the region. My dogs needed no assistance at any time for this hike and enjoyed their day outside. We did encounter lots of people and several other dogs as well so keep this in mind if bringing yours along. I also out of courtesy kept them leashed while in the alpine zone, at the summit, and at the trailhead. Keep weather in mind as you plan for this is an exposed summit, but get out and hike, it is worth it!