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Red Rock Cliff Loop: Great Hikes in the White Mountains

The Red Rock Trail is in the northeastern corner of the White Mountain National Forest, in Maine. It’s a ridgeline trail that begins at Speckled Mountain and runs east over several lesser peaks named Butters Mountain and Red Rock Mountain, all the way to Miles Notch. It provides access to an outstanding cliff-top view of the hills and lakes east of Evans Notch, in an area where few White Mountain Hikers venture.

The viewpoint is nearly opposite the summit of Red Rock Mountain and down a short spur path. The best way to access it is to hike a 10 mile loop up to the Red Rock Trail up the Miles Notch Trail and down the Great Brook Trail. This is a moderately strenuous hike with 2800′ of elevation gain and roughly the equivalent of climbing a 4000 footer.

You can also backpack this loop if you feel like a short overnight trip, camping along Great Brook (the stream) after its descent from the ridge. There aren’t any designated campsites in the woods, but White Mountain National Forest Backcountry Camping Regulations permit low impact camping here.

Red Rock Cliff Loop Map

Trail Sequence

  1. Miles Notch Trail – 3.2 miles
  2. Red Rock Trail – 3.4 miles
  3. Great Brook Trail – 3.7 miles

Directions

  • Miles Notch Trailhead: From ME Rt. 5 in N. Lovell, follow West Stoneham Rd. for 1.8 miles. Turn right onto Hut Rd. and continue 1.5 miles to southern trailhead.
  • Great Brook Trailhead: It is 100 yds. beyond the Miles Notch Trailhead on Hut Rd.

The Miles Notch Trail climbs 1800′ up to the junction along through open forest and along old logging roads. A Notch in White Mountain’s parlance is a mountain pass, or a low point along a ridge, separating one watershed from another. Many of the more famous notches in the White Mountains like Franconia Notch or Crawford Notch have roads going through them, but you can find dozens of wild ones, with and without trails, by looking at a good map of the region.

Climbing up the Miles Notch Trail
Climbing up the Miles Notch Trail

The Miles Notch Trail enters the woods immediately across from the trailhead parking lot and begins climbing through open woods. The bottom part of the trail is blazed in yellow, but the blazes become less prevalent farther on and care much be taken to follow the trail, particularly in autumn when leaves can obscure it. This entire area of the White Mountains, which includes the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness area is less travelled than other areas in the Whites, so you do need to put on your navigation cap at times to avoid following animal paths that look like they’re part of the main trail.

The trail starts climbing as soon as you leave the trailhead, moderating and dropping at points, but climbing relentlessly 1800′ through open forest up to the Red Rock Trail.  As you approach Miles Notch, you’ll begin to see impressive rock cliffs through the trees on your left (west). You’ll come to the Red Rock Trail junction shortly after passing the boundary sign for the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness.

Enter the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness Area
Enter the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness Area

Turn left (west) here onto the Red Rock Trail and begin climbing again, up another 300′, to follow the ridgeline trail. After 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the summit of Red Rock Mountain 2141′). There is a partially obscured, south-facing viewpoint shortly before the Red Rock summit, as well as an obscure side path a few yards east of it, leading to an open cliff. Descend this side path to reach a prow-like cliff with wide open views of Kezar Lake, Miles Knob, and the Great Brook drainage. The view here is particularly spectacular in autumn, when the surrounding hills are ablaze in color. The cliff face is quite high however, so be sure to keep pets and children away from the edge, because a fall would be lethal.

The ledge below the Red Rock summit is quite large
The ledge below the Red Rock summit is quite large.

Return to the Red Rock Trail and continue west climbing Butters Mountains, before turning on Great Brook Trail. The trail sign looks like its being eaten by the tree that it’s nailed to. There is a stream about 100 yards below the trail junction that’s a good place to filer more water if you need it. After that, the trail drops very steeply over the next mile, paralleling the Great Brook stream for most of its length.

Great Brook Tail Junction - Tree Eating Sign
Great Brook Tail Junction – Tree Eating Sign

The bottom of the half of the trail follows old logging roads, but is lightly blazed. In the absence of blazes or the occasional wooden arrow nailed to a tree, if you hike within earshot of the stream, you’ll find the gate leading back to Hut Road. Carrying a GPS or phone app such as Gaia GPS can also be reassuring, provided you’ve downloaded maps in advance for offline use, since this area does not have cell phone network access.

Gate at end of Logging Road
Gate at end of Logging Road

When you reach the gate at the end of the trail, continue following the gravel road for 0.8 miles back to the Miles Notch Trailhead.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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Great Hikes in the Whites: Moat Mountain Traverse

The Moat Mountain Traverse is a classic White Mountains hiking route that can be hiked year-round. It’s a good early spring hike to do when the high peaks are still snow-covered but the lower elevation trails are starting to clear. But my favorite time to hike this route is in the fall, when the trees in the Mt Washington River Valley and surrounding peaks are ablaze in autumn color. The views from the ridge are exceptional and you can easily see Mt Washington, Mt Chocorua, and the Green Hills on the other side of the Saco River Valley.

A Moat Mountain Traverse is usually hiked from south to north, following the Moat Mountain Trail for 9.7 miles, beginning at the South Moat Mountain Trailhead and ending at the Diana’s Baths Trailhead on West Side Road, near Cathedral Ledge.

  • South Moat Mountain (2,770 ft) is reached in 2.7 miles
  • Middle Moat Mountain (2,800 ft.) is reached in 3.3 miles
  • North Moat Mountain (3,196 ft.) in 5.3 miles

The expected duration of the hike is 6.5 hours. You will need to carry all of the water or fluids you need for the entire hike because there are no reliable water sources available until near the end of the route. A substantial portion of the route is above-treeline and fully exposed to the weather, particularly between the summits of South Moat Mountain and North Moat mountain. Depending on the season, be sure to bring a warm clothes and rain gear if bad weather threatens.

Moat Mountain Traverse Map

Recommended Waterproof Map

Distance and Difficulty Rating

  • 9.7 miles with 3250′ of elevation gain
  • Moderately strenuous

Trailhead Directions

The Moat Mountain Traverse requires two vehicles, with one at the end to give you a ride back to the start of the route. There is no public transportation available for this purpose.

  • To the South Trailhead: From Conway village, drive north on Washington Street and left on Passaconaway Road (which turns into Dugway Rd.). The parking lot and trailhead are on the right side of Dugway Rd. The GPS lat/lon of your destination is 43.99562208, -71.17545359. There is no parking fee.
  • To the North Trailhead: The trail head is located on the Upper West Side Road about two and on half miles from North Conway Village. The GPS lat/lon of your destination is44.074656,-71.163048. There is a parking fee. This trailhead can be very crowded on weekends, so plan to arrive early. Illegally parked cars are towed.

On the Trail

Mt Chocorua is visible as you approach the ledges leading up to South Moat Mountains.
Mt Chocorua is visible as you approach the ledges leading up to South Moat Mountains.

The Moat Mountain Trail leaves the left hand side of the parking lot and soon starts climbing through pleasant forest. At 1.3 miles it reaches a viewpoint where you can see the rocky prow-like summit Mt Chocorua on a clear day. Begin climbing the open rock ledges ahead. The path may be difficult to distinguish at times so keep your eye out for blazes. Water seeps down the ledges and they may be slippery, so take care with your footing.

Climb across open ledges as you approach the South Moat Summit
Climb across open ledges as you approach the South Moat Summit

The open South Moat summit is reached at 2.7 miles and provides a welcome wind break on blustery days. Most people take a break here and sit on the rocks to admire the view. The entire Mt Washington Valley can be seen to the west, including North Conway. The mountains on the other side of the valley are called the Green Hills and are home to many fine hiking trails. You should also be able to see Middle Moat and North Moat, to the north, further along the ridge.

Sit on the South Moat Ledges to admire the valley view and have a snack.
Sit on the South Moat Ledges to admire the valley view and have a snack.

Continue heading north along the ridge, following the blazes and rock cairns which mark the route. The trail descends into a patch of trees before ascending to the ledgy summit area of Middle Moat Mountain at 3.3 miles.

Continue along the ridge hiking over exposed rock ledges.
Continue along the ridge hiking over exposed rock ledges.

Take a moment to gaze back at the pyramid-like cone of South Moat, with its classic profile. The trail ahead descends steeply to the largest col on the ridge. The term “col” is the lowest peak on a mountain ridge between two peaks and is a word you’ll hear frequently used by hikers in the White Mountains.

The pyramid-like profile of South Moat is visible from the middle of the ridge.
The pyramid-like profile of South Moat is visible from the middle of the ridge.

At 4.2 miles, pass the Red Ridge Trail junction. This trail rivals the Moat Mountain Trail in scenic beauty and is well worth a return visit to hike. See Great Hikes in the Whites: The Red Ridge Loop for a complete trip description.

North Moat Mountain Summit Cairn
North Moat Mountain Summit Cairn

Climb steeply now up the cone of North Mount Mountain which is the highest of the Moat summits, passing an open shoulder with a fine view. The final ascent to the summit requires a few ledgey scrambles before you reach the large summit cairn.

View of Mt Washington and Crawford Notch from North Moat Mountain.
View of Mt Washington and Carter Notch from North Moat Mountain.

Mt Washington, the Southern Presidential Ridge and Carter Notch are all visible from the summit of North Moat. Pull out your map and see what other summits you can identify from the 360 views spread before you.

Continuing, descend steeply down the northeast face of North Moat crossing open ledges and passing through scrub. This area can be very slippery in cold weather and requires extra traction for safety. Descend through spruce forest to Lucy Brook and follow the trail beside it, crossing many small creeks and streams over log bridges. The surrounding level area is prone to spring flooding, so follow the trail carefully early in the season before the trail crews can tidy up.

Pass Diana’s baths, a popular waterfall and swimming area (unless you’re ready for a swim or frolic) and continue along a universally accessible trail to the parking lot at the northern terminus of the Moat Mountain Trail.

Diana's Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail
Diana’s Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the north end of the Moat Mountain Trail

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Great Hikes in the Whites: The Red Ridge Loop

The Red Ridge Loop is a 10 mile loop hike located just outside North Conway, New Hampshire that climbs the steep and rocky summit of North Moat Mountain before descending the Red Ridge Trail down a series of open ledges with awesome views of Mt Washington and the lesser summits of the Mt Washington River Valley. With close to 3000 feet of elevation gain, this is a moderately strenuous hike, but well worth the climb for the views. Hikers finish near Diana’s Baths, a famous White Mountains waterfall and swimming hole, that’s perfect for a refreshing dip at the end of the hike.

Red Ridge Loop Hike North Conway, NH

Recommended Waterproof Map

Distance and Difficulty Rating

  • 10 miles with 3000′ of elevation gain
  • Moderately strenuous

Trailhead Directions

  • The Diana Bath’s trail head is on the Upper West Side Road about two and on half miles from North Conway Village. A daytime parking fee or White Mountain season parking sticker is required. Illegally parked cars are towed. Click for USFS trailhead information and GPS coordinates.
  • This is a very popular trailhead, so get there early in the day to get a parking space.

Season

  • April – mid November
  • Bring plenty of water on sunny days, when the open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail radiate heat

Printable Trip Plan Map and GPX File

Trail Sequence

  • Follow the Moat Mountain Trail for 4.2 miles to open summit of North Moat Mountain
  • Continue on the Moat Mountain Trail for 1.1 miles to the Red Ridge Trail Junction
  • Turn left onto the Red Ridge Trail and follow it for 2.1 miles descending across open rock ledges
  • Dropping below treeline, continue on the Red Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles until you reach the Moat Mountain Trail
  • Turn right onto the Moat Mountain Trail and follow it for 1.1 back to the trailhead parking lot

On the Trail

This hike runs counter-clockwise along the route shown above, climbing North Moat Mountain first, before descending along the Red Ridge Trail.

Follow the Moat Mountain Trail from the Trailhead, passing through a developed recreation areas that leads to by Diana’s Baths, a popular waterfall and summertime swimming hole on your left. This is a great place to stop at the end of the hike for a refreshing dip on a hot day.

Diana's Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail
Diana’s Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail

Continue along the Moat Mountain Trail which runs along Lucy Brook. At 1.2 miles, you’ll pass the southern end of the Red Ridge Trail Junction where it crosses a brook and rejoins the Moat Mountain Trail. Continue past the junction and stay on the Moat Mountain Trail which crosses several small brooks.

At 2.4 miles, you’ll arrive at a trail junction with the Attitash Trail. Veer left here, following the Moat Mountain Trail and begin to climb, passing through mixed scrub, which gradually gives way to open ledges as you climb toward the summit of North Moat Mountain. This is the steepest section of the hike, so set a comfortable pace as you climb.

You'll pass through open areas with partial views as you climb toward the open summit of North Moat Mountain
You’ll pass through open areas with views of North Kearsarge Mountain as you climb toward the open summit of North Moat.

At 4.2 miles, you’ll reach the open summit of North Moat Mountain (3196′) which has 360 degrees views that include Mt Washington and Mt Chocorua. There many good places to sit at the summit, which is a fine place to take a break and admire the views.

If you look to the southeast, you can also make out the open ledges of the Red Ridge Trail as they descend to the valley below.

The open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail are visible from the summit of North Moat Mountain.
The open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail are visible from the summit of North Moat Mountain.

Leaving North Moat, continue southeast along the Moat Mountain Trail, dropping down a series of ledges that require a bit of scrambling. After passing another open viewpoint, you’ll enter a wooded stretch, climbing again towards the junction with the Red Ridge Trail at 5.3 miles, turning left to follow it.  There’s a good chance you’ll encounter wood grouse guarding their nests at the top of the trail who may screech an alarm as you approach. There’s no need to fear them. They’ll run away as you approach, although they may be agitated.

North Moat Mountain
North Moat Mountain

As you descend, take a moment to admire the profile of North Moat Mountain over your right shoulder.

Descent the terraced ledges of the Red Ridge Trail
Descent the terraced ledges of the Red Ridge Trail

Follow the cairns that mark the Red Ridge Trail carefully, while admiring the grand views that of the Mt Washington Valley that open up before you. Hikers in the White Mountains yearn for these grand expanses of open ledge and the vistas that they offer.

Pay close attention to the cairns and painted blazes that mark the trails route
Pay close attention to the cairns and painted blazes that mark the trail’s route

After approximately a mile, the trail drops down below treeline again, descending steeply down open ledges that require careful footwork. After passing once again through forest, it rejoins the Moat Mountain Trail at 8.9 miles after a brook crossing, which is often rock hoppable in low water. Turn righ tonto the Moat Mountain Trail at this junction (which you passed early in the route) and continue for 1.1 miles, once again passing Diana’s Baths on the way to the trailhead parking lot.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

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