Via: The Rattle River Trail (AT) and Kenduskeag Trail 11.2 mile round trip
Shelburne Moriah is located in the Carter-Moriah Range in Coos County, New Hampshire. This range runs across the valley from the Presidential Range forming Pinkham Notch. Although Shelburne Moriah is far from the tallest mountain in this range, it has some of the most spectacular views. There are several bare knobs of rock leading to the summit and each of these offers views in all directions. These have lead it to be ranked #5 on New Hampshire’s 52 with a view list. All of the approaches to this peak are remote and most are long, making it less frequently visited than other mountains in the area. The Appalachian Trail (Rattle River Trail) cuts across and down the side of Shelburne Moriah as it crosses NH Rte. 2 on its way north across the Androscoggin River and in to Mahoosac Range. This section of the trail may be more traveled due to the popularity of the Appalachian Trail in recent years, especially late in the season with thru hikers finishing in the North.
We chose to hike up the Rattle River Trail from NH2 just outside of Gorham, New Hampshire. This trailhead is located right off the road and is signed with a small brown Appalachian Trail hikers sign. There are no facilities located here and no fee is charged to park. We chose this approach because it was late fall and we assumed following the AT would be easier than the other trails. The other trails leading to the summit of Shelburne Moriah are located in wilderness areas and not as clearly blazed. We hiked the 4.3 miles to the junction with the Kenduskeag Trail and another approximately 1.3 miles to the summit of Shelburne Moriah. This is a long hike with quite a bit of elevation gain. Starting at the trailhead for the Rattle River Trail you are beginning at approximately 760 feet above sea level climbing up to the summit at 3,735 ft. while this is spread over 5.6 miles, most of the elevation gain is after the final brook crossing at mile 3.2.
The Rattle River Trail begins at an easy grade with wide trails and little difficulty. It is well marked with white AT blazes and follows an old logging road on the side of a stream. At the beginning there are several divergent trails used for snowmobiling, so take care not to accidentally take one of these. Rattle River shelter is reached at mile 1.6; it is an Appalachian Trail thru hiker’s shelter and not for day use hikers. There are several crossings of the Rattle River that may be challenging at high water, the first right after passing the shelter and then at miles 3.2 and 3.7. Up until mile 3.2 the trail is very, very easy. Past this point you gain a lot of elevation as you follow the trail steeply up to the ridge. The footing is good but could be more difficult in bad weather or ice. The junction with the Kenduskeag Trail is reached at mile 4.3.
This trail is named for an Abenaki word meaning “pleasant walk.” The trail is moderate as it climbs over and down several knobs and ledges. There are some wet, boggy areas, most of which are covered by boardwalks. There are views in all directions from this very exposed section of trail. In bad weather this would not be a place you would want to be. On good days the view is spectacular, you can see in all directions including, the Presidential Range, the Wild River Wilderness, and the western Maine Mountains. The trail is aptly named for it is a very pleasant walk and not overly difficult. There are several false summits on Shelburne Moriah, the true summit is marked by a large cairn.
We simply retraced our footsteps to descend the way we approached the summit. Following the Kenduskeag Trail back about 1.3 miles while appreciating fine views as we descended back to the junction with the Rattle River Trail. Descending the steep section of trail between mile 4.3 and 3.2 was slower going, as the footing on the way down is a bit slippery. We took our time going down this part and after the first crossing of the brook enjoyed a quicker pace once the trail moderated.
Overall this is a fairly moderate hike. There are some sections that are challenging but for the pain of the steep parts it is worth the views from the top. For dogs there is ample water along the Rattle River Trail, as it follows a brook back into the valley. Keep in mind that this approach is a long hike 11.2 miles in total and know your ability. The exposed summit that affords amazing views is also potentially a place of caution in bad weather. If you find yourself at the Kenduskeag Trail junction in bad weather, you can also climb Mt. Moriah this section has more cover than the Shelburne Moriah route. Or simply turn back and enjoy the views on a day when you can appreciate them.