Mt. Moosilauke Winter Hike (What to expect)

Winter hiking on Moosilauke or anyplace else is a very different experience from summer trekking, but with the correct equipment and a little practice, it can be both safe and pleasant. The benefits include the fact that when the weather is clear, it is generally extremely clear indeed, with virtually little summer haze. In the winter, there are less people on the mountain, and the scenery may be quite stunning with snow on the ground. However, there are a few factors to think about:

How is it like to hike in the Mt. Moosilauke?

Cold, severe winds, difficulties to travel quickly (particularly with a load in heavy snow), and the shortness of daylight are all things to consider. Difficult circumstances may linger until the end of the year; it’s not uncommon for there to be no snow in Hanover for weeks and yet there to be hip-deep snow on the mountain in shady areas, with awful muck in others.

In the winter, the ease of choosing a route and traveling varies greatly from day to day and location to place. Even in heavy snow years, if it hasn’t snowed in a few weeks and the weather has been nice, the Glencliff and Gorge Brook Trails may be well-packed roads in late February, when snowshoes aren’t required. At the same time, the Ridge Trail, which is by far the most challenging winter path, may be a big muck of seven-foot drifts and spruce traps, with the blazes buried and the route very impossible to follow.

In reality, following a major storm, similar circumstances may occur everywhere on the mountain. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Always pack snowshoes or skis, and make sure they function before leaving town, unless you are assured of the circumstances.
  • If there has been recent snow or you anticipate there will be more than three feet of snow on the ground, don’t tackle a path you are unfamiliar with. Trails on the Moosilauke, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, are inadequately marked for winter usage and might be difficult to follow if you are breaching the rules.
  • Always pack enough stuff to create a makeshift bivouac (sleeping bag, matches, tarp, extra food). Day hikes are detailed, but a broken snowshoe might necessitate an overnight at any moment. Always have a decent flashlight with you, ideally a headlamp, and fresh batteries (batteries don’t last long in the cold).

Crampons aren’t necessary to reach treelined on any route except Beaver Brook, however the final half-mile of Glencliff before Carriage Road may be a challenge. If you want to venture beyond treelined, you should pack crampons and an ice axe that you are familiar with. They aren’t always essential, but when they are, you’ll be glad you have them.

Before you go, always register your trip with a reputable party. If you run into danger, stick to your predetermined path so you can be located. It is highly suggested that you educate yourself on safety measures and winter preparedness via courses given by the Outdoor Programs Office or the DOC before going out in the winter.

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What is the best way to get there?

The Best Way to Get There: To get to the Lodge, use the usual path. Take Route 10 north from Hanover to Orford, then turn right onto Route 25A. (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). Turn left on Route 25/Route 118 as 25A comes to an end in Wentworth. When Route 25 divides from Route 118, drive through Warren and turn right. Drive 5.8 miles along Route 118 before turning left onto Ravine Road. The Ravine Road is gated approximately fifty yards up during the winter.

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Learn about the Less-Traveled Paths

Easy lodge on ravine road winter trek

During the winter, this is the best route to travel to John Rand, or if time allows, up the Ridge Trail. Follow the entrance road after parking on Route 118.

A minimum of two feet of snow is required for this trek, with no crust! Skins will very probably be required for the section above Last Water. If there is six inches or more of snow, an upper-intermediate backcountry skier will enjoy the trip down from Last Water. From John Rand Cabin, take the standard path. Add 3.4 miles and another hour or two to the round-trip length from Route 118. In excellent snow years, playing on the top snow fields is a blast.

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Moderate al Merrill ski loop winter ski

If there is more than two feet of snow on the ground, this is the traditional winter ski from John Rand Cabin, and it is terrific in both directions (between eight inches hard-packed and two feet, try the loop counter-clockwise as far as Mount Braley, and be prepared for stream crossings low down). The path descends slowly from Mount Braley to the Ridge trail, then more gently to the Baker River (see map and Easy Hike above). Backtrack to the cabin by following the Baker back to the bridge that leads to the parking lot; return all the way to the fork and re-climb.

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Moderate hurricane trail

This route needs at least a foot of base snow and enables you to climb pretty high on the mountain while enjoying the Snapper Trail’s switchback descent. Cross the river from the Ravine Lodge and follow the signs to Hurricane Trail, which includes an exhilarating bridge crossing. The track quickly turns into an ancient tote road, which is followed 1.3 miles from the Lodge to Carriage. Carriage is on the right. On a series of switchbacks, climb gently at first, then more sharply.

Snowmobiles should be avoided. Snapper Trail is 3.2 kilometers away from the Lodge. If the weather is nice and you’ve done well thus far, you could consider going for the summit, which is 1.7 miles away; nevertheless, the route narrows and becomes dangerous approximately 0.2 miles beyond Snapper. Otherwise, take a right and enjoy the modest at first, then steady drop. Cross a tributary of Gorge Brook and follow it. Keep an eye out for the last steep descent to Gorge Brook Trail (4.4 miles). Continue down Gorge Brook Trail to Hurricane Trail, which has a sharp final fall.

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Mount Jim Ridge trail

The last climb to Jim will need the use of skins. If you wander a little, Jim has some good views through the woods. Switchbacks provide for a nice descent. Add 3.4 miles and another hour or two to the round-trip length from Route 118.

This may be done as an out-and-back or by catching a ride from one end to the other. The road stretch at the north end is a great introduction to skiing, and the route itself would be no difficulty for an intermediate skier in ideal conditions, save for some hard stream crossings, especially towards the south end.

To get there, travel I-91 north to Exit 17 in Hanover (Route 302, Wells River). Follow Route 302 through Wells River and Woodsville (pay attention to the signage as the road zigzags), then turn left at the Route 10 intersection and go east toward Littleton. Turn right on Route 112 approximately two miles from the Route 10 intersection, shortly after Route 302 passes over a large hill, and continue it up the Wild Ammoniac River, through a junction where Route 116 enters from the right and exits to the left after about another mile. Continue 0.5 mile on 112 from the second 116 intersection to the well-signed Tunnel Brook Road on the right.

This road is often unplowed beyond the first 0.7 mile in the winter, however it is not fenced. Avoid multiple small forks by sticking to the main stem of this route. Cross Tunnel Brook and bear left about 1.5 miles from Route 112. Even though the road is open, the road is usually gated at this time in the winter, so park here to prevent being trapped in. Continue on this road for about 3.0 miles from Route 112 to a large parking space on the left with a Benton Trail signboard. The road continues for another 0.7 miles to the north end of the Tunnel Brook Trail and a turnaround.

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Ascend the Tunnel Brook Trail

Ascend the Tunnel Brook Trail through the hardwoods to get back to your vehicle, which is approximately 0.7 miles away. The route then begins crossing and re-crossing Tunnel Brook, passing multiple beaver ponds until arriving at Mud Pond at 2.7 miles, with some excellent views of Slide Ravine and Moosilauke’s west slope. The route ascends to a ridge before gently descending to a reservoir at 4.1 kilometers. At 5.1 miles, the route follows Slide Brook, traverses numerous smaller brooks, and emerges onto the North & South Road. Continue 0.2 miles out to Sanitarium Road if you’ve left a second vehicle at the Glencliff Trail parking lot or want to hitch back, otherwise return by the same route.

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Glencliff Trail

Take Route 10 north from Hanover to Orford, then turn right onto Route 25A. (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). Turn left on Route 25/Route 118 as 25A comes to an end in Wentworth. When Route 118 breaks off to the right, continue straight into Warren. Turn right into Sanitarium Road in Glencliff (look for a sign for the New Hampshire Home for the Elderly). Pass the North & South Road on the left, then park on the right in the parking space (WMNF parking fee required).

Hurricane Trail

Take Route 10 north from Hanover to Orford, then turn right onto Route 25A. (alternatively, take I-91 North to Exit 15, then cross back into New Hampshire to pick up 25A). Turn left on Route 25/Route 118 as 25A comes to an end in Wentworth. When Route 118 breaks off to the right, continue straight into Warren. Turn right into Sanitarium Road in Glencliff (look for a sign for the New Hampshire Home for the Elderly). Pass the North & South Road on the left, then park on the right in the parking space (WMNF parking fee required).

Follow Hurricane Trail from Great Bear. The Carriage Road is 2.9 miles away, while the Ravine Lodge is 4.5 miles away. Upper intermediate backcountry, with skins necessary for a short bit west of the height of land (1.5 miles from Great Bear).

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Beaver Brook Trail

Because of the ice in the cascades, which is practically hard to avoid in certain portions, this approach will almost certainly need crampons or snowshoes with instep crampons. Snowshoes are required for the top parts, which are the hardest paths to follow in the winter.

To get there, travel I-91 north to Exit 17 in Hanover (Route 302, Wells River). Follow Route 302 through Wells River and Woodsville (pay attention to the signage as the road zigzags), then turn left at the Route 10 intersection and go east toward Littleton.

Turn right on Route 112 approximately two miles from the Route 10 intersection, shortly after Route 302 passes over a large hill, and continue it up the Wild Ammonoosuc River, through a junction where Route 116 enters from the right and exits to the left after about another mile. Continue on Route 112 up the steep, picturesque ascent into Kinsman Notch from the second Route 116 intersection. Pass a pond on the right immediately before the height of land; just beyond the pond, you’ll notice signs for the Appalachian Trail. This is where you should park (WMNF parking fee required). Follow the Beaver Brook Trail signage.

Final words

Now you know how to spend your winter hike at the Mt Moosilauke. Make sure that you plan your visit accordingly before you go. Then you can get the best possible experiences during the time that you are going to spend in here.

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