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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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Backpacking a Speckled Mountain – Haystack Notch Loop

View of Mt Washington from Speckled Mountain summit.

Most of my backpacking trips this year have turned into guidebook chapters for Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 footers, instead of personal trip reports. But my latest backpacking trip through the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness doesn’t have what it takes to be a guidebook chapter. While scenic and wild, the route passes through some areas of logging activity that are pretty unattractive. There are also sections of trail that are very hard to follow, essentially bushwhacking, that I really wouldn’t want to recommend to the uninitiated. I had fun, but this isn’t the type of backpacking trip most people have in mind when they follow guidebook routes.

This trip started at Brickett Place in Evans Notch, a historic home and landmark, that serves as the Bickford Brook Trail parking area and trailhead. It’s just a few feet north of the Maine/New Hampshire border: this entire trip took place in the Maine portion of the White Mountains.

The first part of my route climbed Speckled Mountain, the site of an old fire tower, which has a great view of Mt Washington and the Maine peaks on a clear day. From there, I followed the Red Rock Ridge Trail east to Miles Notch, then north to the West Pleasant River, and then west back to Rt 113, which is the road that runs through the center of Evans Notch.

Speckled Mountain Haystack Notch Backpacking Loop

Here’s the trail sequence:

  • Bickford Brook Trail – 4.3 miles
  • Red Ridge Trail – 5.6 miles
  • Miles Notch Trail – 2.4 miles
  • Haystack Notch Trail – 5.4 miles
  • Hitch back to Brickett Place – 4ish miles.

It was a cool day as I started hiking up the Bickford Brook Trail, dressed in a wool sweater. Temperatures have already dropped into the 30’s at night. The autumn leaves are just starting to turn in Evans Notch, but they’re still not far along, with some yellow, but still mostly green. After months of weather in the high 90’s, it felt weird to be hiking again in cool and dry weather. I like it, but I do wish we had a few more warm days left before the deep freeze closes in.

The Speckled Mountain Spring looked pretty nasty. I might have drunk it if I had a pump filter, but not through a Sawyer.
The Speckled Mountain Spring looked pretty nasty. I might have drunk it if I had a pump filter, but not through a Sawyer.

I reached Speckled Mountain in about 2.5 hours (4.3 miles) and had a snack, sitting down among the summit rocks to get out of the brisk wind. The sky was a deep blue and I could see the weather towers on Mt Washington, probably 30 or 40 miles away. I’d hoped to top off my water bottles at the spring below the summit, but it was full of nasty looking stagnant water and not running. I still had a liter left and decided to hold off on refilling until the Great Brook Trail, about 2 miles farther along the ridge, which has a stream just below the trail junction.

From Speckled Mountain, I descended the Red Rock Trail which runs for 5.6 miles to Miles Notch. It’s a roller coaster of a hike, up and down, through scrappy woods and across a few open alpine areas. When I arrived at the Great Brook Trail junction, I turned and descended the trail a short way to filter some water.

Famous tree-eating sign
Famous tree-eating sign

That done, I hiked another 3.4 miles to Miles Notch turning north onto the Miles Notch Trail. This trail has two parts, a woods part, and a stroll down a logging road that’s marked with pink flagging tape. It’s in a pretty remote part of the Whites, and this being last September, I was a bit wary about running into a bull moose. The big males get very territorial during mating season So I was singing loudly as I hiked, ditties from the 60’s, in my terrible singing voice.

Just then an enormous bull moose crashed through the trail about 100 yards ahead of me. He had a big rack from what I could see as he crossed the trail, before he disappeared up the hill and into the forest. Well, you better believe I kept singing after that!

I soon met another hiker, Peter, who was also out redlining. He carried a heavy camera and got all excited when I told him about my moose encounter. We chatted for a while and then parted ways. I reminded him that it was moose mating season.

The forested part of the Miles Notch ended and the logging road portion began. It is covered in grass with a barrier of bushes and trees on either side. Not the best place for a while animal encounter, I thought. I kept singing. I followed the flagging, but also knew where I was, since I’d been down this trail before a few years ago.

The logging road section of the Miles Notch Trail follows a grassy logging road
The north section of the Miles Notch Trail follows a grassy logging road.

If you follow the flagging through this portion you’ll be fine. It leads to a big field, also the site of logging activity, and ends at a T junction. There’s normally a sign there pointing to the beginning of the Haystock Notch Trail, but the pole holding it up was broken and the sign was on the ground, pointing in a random direction. I had a fairly good idea of where I was from past experience, but I whipped out my phone and checked my position in Gaia GPSphone app. It’s an easy way to double-check your current position and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

I turned left and continued following the flagging until I was on the Haystack Notch Trail proper. This trail can be a little tricky to follow. The east and west ends are easy to navigate because they run along two streams (so you know exactly where you are), but the middle part is a very lightly blazed and travelled foot trail. The only people I know who hike it regularly are White Mountain Redliners and there still aren’t many of those around.

West Branch Pleasant River
West Branch Pleasant River

I hiked about a mile down the Haystack Notch Trail (headed west) and then set up camp for the night. I could have kept going and finished the route in one day, but I was looking forward to sleeping outside (where I sleep the best.) I set up camp, cooked some dinner and was asleep by 9:00.

I broke camp 12 hours later and started hiking west following the West Pleasant River. The trail became harder to follow the farther west I got, although there were periodic blazes. Those completely disappear as you approach the height of land near Haystack Mountain. The trail follows old logging roads most of its length, but there are many intersecting logging roads and herd paths in places, that make it very confusing to follow. The tread is also very lightly trampled, so following the beaten path is often not possible and ill-advised.

Camping out in the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness
Camping out in the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness

There were times when I know I lost the footpath and had to bushwhack through hobblebush, but I found it again soon enough. You just have to pay close attention to the topo map and your compass to follow the trail, although a GPS app can come in handy too. I have a feeling hiking the Haystack Notch Trail west to east is a lot easier to navigate, something that’s been confirmed by other Redliners. This is the second time I’ve hiked it in a westerly direction. Maybe next time, I’ll hike my loop counterclockwise.

Once past Haystack Mountain, the trail becomes trivial to follow. It’s well marked and much more heavily used. I reached the unnamed stream at the west end and it was a short walk to the road. I stuck out my thumb and the first vehicle to pass me stopped and gave me a ride.

That’s how I spent my Autumn equinox 2018.

Total distance: 18 miles w/ 4300 feet of elevation gain.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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The Maine Mountain Guide – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

The Maine Mountain Guide is the hiker’s bible for the mountains and hiking trails of Maine. It provides detailed descriptions of more than 625 trails, on 300 mountains, totaling close to 1500 trail miles in length, ranging from easy woodland strolls to strenuous mountain traverses. Now in its 11 edition, it’s been 6 years since the guide was last updated and reflects the trail expansion boom that’s come to Maine in the intervening period. With 450 updates to existing trails, and 175 new trails on 50 new mountains, the guide provides a wide variety of hiking opportunities for every interest and fitness level.

The Maine Mountain Guide (MMG) splits Maine’s hiking trails into 12 separate regions, providing a vast range of hiking opportunities no matter where you’re in the state, along the coast, near the lakes of central Maine, or along the border with Canada or New Hampshire.

  1. Baxter State Park and Mt Katahdin
  2. 100 Mile Wilderness and Moosehead Lake
  3. Kennebec and Moose River Valleys
  4. Western Lakes and Mountains
  5. Mahoosuc Range and Grafton Notch
  6. White Mountain National Forest and Evans Notch
  7. Oxford Hills
  8. Southwestern Maine
  9. Midcoast
  10. Acadia National Park
  11. Downeast
  12. Aroostock County

Planning Information and Maps

The MMG includes a list of suggested hikes for each region, sorted by effort level, with easy to read icons that help you find ones that are dog-friendly, are kid-friendly, have waterfalls, firetowers, whether they’re good cross-country ski trails, and so on. Each trail is then described in turn-by-turn detail, including its length, elevation gain, and the distance to each major trail junction or landmark along its length.

While this information is very helpful for selection a trail and planning hikes, it’s unlikely that you’ll to carry the entire book in your backpack when you go hiking. When hiking, it’s best to carry a map, so you can check landmarks as you pass them to verify your position. The MMG  includes two of these, but they’re made of paper, which is far less durable than waterproof maps made of Tyvek, which can survive hundreds of uses. Frequent hikers will probably want to upgrade to the waterproof versions of these maps: Maine Mountains Trail Map 1-2 and Maine Mountains Trail Map 3-6.

Detailed Driving Directions

While all of the Mountain Guides published by the Appalachian Mountain Club include detailed driving directions to each of the trail heads they cover, no where is this more important than in Maine, since so many of the roads are unpaved and only open seasonally. Forget trying to find them using Google Maps or your car’s GPS system. Updated and verified, these “analog” style directions are one of the most valuable sources of information in the MMG and something you’d be hard-pressed to replicate on your own.

About the Editor

The current edition of the Maine Mountain Guide was compiled and edited by Carey Kish, a retired newspaperman, and lifelong hiker who’s hiked the Appalachian Trail twice, once in 1977 and again in 2015. A longtime Maine resident, he’s a friendly and rambunctious character, who’s highly accessible on social media, is an active trail maintainer for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, and guest speaker who makes frequent guest appearances around the state.

Recommendation

If you love Maine hiking and want to expand your horizons or love the adventure of exploring Maine’s wilderness areas, be sure to pick up a copy of the new Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Mountain Guide and its associated waterproof maps. Rich in detail and painstakingly edited, it provides an invaluable launch pad for exploring what the great State of Maine has to offer for hikers and backpackers, alike.

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Last updated: 2018-07-26 14:31:00

The author received a free copy of this book for review, but would have gladly purchased this exhaustive trail reference for his New England hiking guide and map collection.

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Redlining the White Mountain Guide: Challenges, Strategies, Tips, and Tricks

Peakbagging lists like the AMC 4000 Footers, the 52 with a View, the Grid (48 x 12), the Trailwright’s 72, and the Terrible 25 have always been a popular way to embrace and experience the grandeur of hiking in the White Mountains. Spanning New Hampshire and Maine, the White Mountain National Forest is home to hundreds of mountains with a well-developed network of connected hiking trails to explore.

While much of the White Mountains hiking scene is focused on peakbagging, a growing subset of hikers and backpackers are focused on hiking all of the trails listed in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide, now in its 30th edition. Called “Redlining,” the goal is to hike all 623 of the trails listed in the guide, totaling 1454.1 miles in length.

This includes every trail, up every mountain, to every viewpoint and destination, subsuming most of the region’s hiking lists, which are good stepping-stones toward the goal of finishing the entire redlining trail list. Since it takes most hikers years to finish redlining all of the trail in the White Mountain Guide, these peakbagging lists form an important source of motivation, community, and gratification along the way.

Redliners

Hikers who are actively working on the Redlining trail list are called redliners. Many have years of experience hiking in the White Mountains, often starting with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 4000 footers list and branching out from there to hike to more and more destinations. Few start out with the intention of redlining all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide, but fall into it, when they run out of other lists to pursue.

The Redlining Patch
The Redlining Patch

There comes a point when every nascent redliner tallies up the trails they’ve hiked and the parts of the trails that they’ve missed (short sections, called “chads”) using the Redlining Spreadsheet, which is a list of all the trails in the current edition of the White Mountain Guide. This spreadsheet is freely available for download from NETrailconditions.com. 

The Redlining Spreadsheet is broken into the 12 regions covered in the White Mountain Guide, listing each trail, its mileage, with space for you to record how much you have left to complete and notes for future reference. While most of the trails on the spreadsheet are in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine, many are not. The mere mention of a trail in the White Mountain Guide is justification for its inclusion in the Redlining Spreadsheet. In some cases, you’ll need to venture as far north as the New Hampshire/Canadian Border and as far west as the Vermont/New Hampshire state line to hike those trails.

Summary Page of the Red Lining Spreadsheet
Summary Page of the Red Lining Spreadsheet

Filling out the spreadsheet for the first time can be a sobering experience. When I filled it out for the first time, I found that I’d only hiked 50% of the trails and had dozens of unfinished trail segments that I had to go back and complete. This was even after eight years of intensive White Mountains peakbagging and backpacking. The Redlining spreadsheet soon became my focus of attention and completing it became a passion and obsession over the following two years.

There are two important numbers on listed on the summary page of the Redlining Spreadsheet:

  • percentage of trails completed
  • percentage of trail miles hiked

In my experience, I’ve found that the first metric, the percentage of trails completed, to be a better indicator of progress than the percentage of miles completed. Getting to the trails to hike them is the most difficult part of redlining; hiking the miles is easy after that.

A look at a spreadsheet page
A look at a redlining spreadsheet page

Rules of the Game

The Rules for Redlining the White Mountain Guide are easy to understand and follow. The following list is adapted from the unofficial White Mountains Redlining web page.

  • To become a White Mountains Redlining Finisher you must hike all of the trails in an edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide. Most people redlining today are working on the 29th or 30th (current) edition of the guide. While the 30th edition has about a dozen more trails than the 29th, it’s a closer reflection of the current trail system, which is always changing due to trail closings, trail reconstruction, timber harvesting, and so on.
  • You are expected to make an honest effort to hike all the trails in the guide. This includes visiting campsites, shelters, and scenic viewpoints that may not be listed in the spreadsheet. For example, there are a few springs and ledges mentioned in the guide that are not listed on the Redlining Spreadsheet, but many red-liners feel compelled to visit.
  • Trails can be redlined in the winter. But when the snow is deep, it is easy to get off trail and you might not be able to see the trail or know that you’re still following it. As long as you’ve made a good faith effort to stay on the trail, you can give yourself credit for that section of trail.
  • All segments or pieces of a trail must be hiked, walked, run, skied, snowshoed, on foot, at least once, without the aid of any sort of transportation with wheels. The mode of transportation used to get to each particular segment or section of trail is not an issue.

When you’ve finished the Redlining Spreadsheet and hiked 100% of the trails, you can submit an application to get the Redlining patch and have your name listed with the other people who’ve finished the Spreadsheet. To date, there have been 44 finishers since 1991 (click for the complete list).

Maps

As a redliner, you’ll quickly discover that many of the trails in the AMC’s White Mountain Guide are not drawn on the AMC’s White Mountain maps. If you’ve been using a red sharpie to highlight the trails that you’ve hiked so far on hiking maps, you’ll want to switch to the Redlining Spreadsheet to keep an accurate record going forward.

Here’s a partial selection of maps that I’ve found helpful for finding the trails you need to redline:

That said, many redliners are map collectors and you’re likely to accumulate an increasing number of maps as you work through the Redlining Spreadsheet.

You’ll probably also want to increase your skill set and become adept at using a GPS receiver or Smartphone Navigations Apps like GaiaGPS or Guthook’s NE Hiker App which provide GPS information for many of the obscure trails in the White Mountain Guide. A sizable number of the trails on the Redlining list can be difficult to find and difficult to follow because they’re hiked infrequently, sparsely blazed, or poorly maintained. While maps are essential to carry, having a GPS track of the trail in your backpack can be quite handy if you’re having difficulty following it by sight alone. It’s also a useful aid in helping you find your car on the way out.

Redlining Challenges

Motivation: The sheer number of trails on the Redlining Spreadsheet can be daunting. One way to stay motivated is to work on shorter-term peakbagging lists like the Terrifying 25, the Randolph Mountain Club 100, or the Trailwright’s 72 that require a lot of trail hiking to complete. It’s also easier to find friends who are willing to work on these lists with you, unlike many of the more esoteric trails on the Redlining Spreadsheet. For example, if you can hike 25% of the trails per year, you’re doing very well and moving through the spreadsheet at a fast pace.  Most people take much longer though.

Winter: Most of the trails on the Redlining Spreadsheet are not accessible in winter because the seasonal roads leading to them are closed and gated  or because they’re not “broken out” enough to make them possible to hike without a large group of fellow snowshoers. Winter typically lasts from mid-November through April in the Whites. The only trails that are broken out enough in winter are trails leading to peaks on the AMC 4000 footer list, which will slow down the pace of your redlining efforts. See NETrailConditions.com for up to date trail condition information.

Community: Most of your old hiking and peakbagging partners will probably abandon you when you start redlining and you’ll need to hike solo or surround yourself with the handful of people who are actively redlining. The best place to find kindred spirits is in the White Mountains Red-lining Group on Facebook, which is very supportive and convivial. Join it today, if you’re already redlining or want to get started.

Redlining Strategies

Here are a few tried and true redlining strategies that can help you motor through the trail list and reduce the number of repeat hikes you need to do over the same trails.

Hiking Partner: Redline with a friend, if you can, so you can bring two cars on hikes to avoid having to re-hike the same trail back to your car. Finding a hiking partner who is also redlining can be tricky though, unless you start at the same time and hike the list together, since most redliners avoid re-hiking trails they hiked before, even to help a friend.

Loop Hikes: Try to plan loop hikes in order to avoid hiking the same trails twice. This in often inevitable, especially on individual trails that end at scenic destinations and don’t have any connecting trails. But loop hikes can be a very efficient way to hike a lot of trails.

Backpacking: Backpacking trips over a period of one, two, or three days can give you the opportunity to hike many trails and cover many miles in one hike. In some cases, they’re the only efficient way to get to remote trails in the Mahoosuc Range or the Wild River Wilderness, deep in the Pemigewaset Wilderness, or along the western New Hampshire portion of the Appalachian Trail. Staying at the RMC’s low-cost huts or shelters is also a good way to knock off a large number of above-treeline trails in the Presidential Range in one trip.

Bike Drops: If you have to hike a trail that is near a road, you can drop a bike at the far end and ride it back to your car. This can be a big time saver.

Avoid Creating New Chads: Try not to leave portions of trails un-hiked, because they force you to come back and hike them.

Don’t Let Existing Chads Pile Up: Don’t let un-hiked portions of trails pile up because they can be a frustrating distraction later, when you’re trying to finish the redlining list.

Beware of Seasonal Closures: Hike the trails that are dependent on warm weather or dry days when conditions permit, rather than leaving them for shoulder seasons or winter, when seasonal conditions or road closures can make them impossible to reach.

Concentrate on Trails not Miles: While there are many difficult and challenging trails to hike in the Redlining Spreadsheet, the hardest part of redlining is getting to the trails, not completing them. You’re not done until you finish all the trails, so focus on them instead of accumulating more miles.

Tips and Tricks

Lodging: If you don’t live near the White Mountains, you should find a nearby place to stay a few days a week while you’re working on the Redlining Spreadsheet. Staying in motels or hostels gets expensive quickly. Car camping is an option and often free, although it can be a hassle. Another good alternative is to join a Ski Club, which is a group house, shared by many other skiers and hikers for a reasonable annual fee. If you like a quiet place to sleep, use the ski house on weekdays and in the warmer months and avoid it on winter weekends when the partiers arrive to go skiing.

Transportation: I’d recommend getting a higher clearance, 4 wheel drive vehicle for driving down the many unpaved forest service and logging roads required to find more remote trailheads. You might also want to pack a small hydraulic jack to make it easier to change wheels if you get a flat. You need to be very self-sufficient when redlining, because you’re going to be off-the-grid when hiking more remote trails.

Planning Tools: It helps to master a navigation planning tool like Caltopo.com or Garmin Basecamp when planning your routes, to help you visualize new loops, and import/export them to a GPS or Smartphone navigation app.

GPS Route Tracking: Once you’ve found the trail you plan to hike, consider tracking yourself on a GPS or Smartphone Navigation App so you can easily reverse your route if necessary. Less frequented trails are often overgrown and may be disturbed by logging, so having a reliable way of retracing your steps can be a real benefit.

Wrap Up

Redlining can be a joyous and fun way to experience the best of New England Hiking in the White Mountain National Forest and beyond. If you like to explore new places and hike new trails, it’s a great way to expand your horizons and increase your skill set as a hiker and backpacker. But redlining is a long term quest that can take years to complete. In order to stay motivated and engaged, try to work on some other peakbagging lists at the same time as you redline, hiking new trails that you’ve never hiked before to get to the destinations. This will help you keep your existing hiking friends around, while you pursue the longer term redlining goal.

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.

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AT Section Hike: The Mahoosucs and Old Speck Mountain

“Pull on my ankles!”, I shouted to Ken, from under a house-sized rock in Mahoosuc Notch. I’d dropped a water bottle as I scrambled between the giant boulders in what is often referred to as “the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail” and didn’t want to leave it behind. Situated in a deep chasm, this one mile section of the Mahoosuc Notch “Trail” is a jumble of broken slabs that have fallen from the cliffs above. They make a fun, but slow and formidable scramble, bookended by a steep climb and descent at the ends. Laughing, Ken pulled me out of the hole and we continued on our merry way.

Bridging the White Mountains and Southern Maine, The Mahoosuc Trail is part of a 31 mile section of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Gorham, NH to  Grafton Notch in Maine. This section of the trail is quite rugged hiking, even more strenuous than the Presidential Range in the White Mountains to the south. My buddy Ken and I hiked it from north to south in two and a half days this July, during a pleasant stretch of cool sunny weather. Ken’s a professional mountaineering guide who’s hiked and climbed all over the world. He works out of North Conway, NH and is one of my frequent hiking and fishing companions.

The biggest difference between hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Mahoosucs and the White Mountains is the amount of slab that you need to climb up and down on trails. What’s slab? It’s less-than-vertical rock face that requires a lot of friction and balance moves to ascend and descend. While it’s short of rock climbing, it’s often slower than normal hiking and more strenuous because it requires a lot of big leg muscle moves and hand holds. Slab hiking also puts much more pressure on your heels, since your feet and ankles are cocked up for extended periods of time when climbing slanted rock. This can lead to painful hotspots or blisters, even if you’re a seasoned hiker and have tough feet.

Climbing Old Speck Mountain (left)
Climbing Old Speck Mountain (left)

Day One: Grafton Notch to Full Goose Shelter

We dropped a car at the Rattle River trailhead off Rt 2 in Gorham, NH and drove north to Grafton Notch State Park in Maine to start our hike southward. While you can hike this route in both directions, going north-to-south gets the hardest parts over sooner while you have fresh legs. We packed three days of food and planned to hike about 10-12 miles per day, which is a fairly aggressive pace for this terrain.

On day one, we started off by climbing Old Speck Mountain, the massive 4000 footer on the south side of Grafton Notch. It’s a steep climb, gaining 2850′ feet in 3.8 miles. While it was sunny, the wind was blowing hard and cold, and I wished I’d brought gloves for the climb. We set a good pace though and were soon at the fire tower on the summit.

Speck Pond
Speck Pond

Next, we hiked down to Speck Pond. The 900′ descent down to the pond is all slab and we were thankful that we had dry conditions for it. Speck Pond (3400′), according to the AMC’s Maine Mountain Guide, is one of the highest elevation ponds in the State of Maine. We visited the new AT shelter, which had been built since my last visit to the pond in 2017.

Mahoosuc Notch runs along the base of these cliffs. Mahoosuc Arm is the rounded peak on the right towering above it.
The Mahoosuc Notch Trail runs along the base of these cliffs. Mahoosuc Arm is the rounded peak on the right towering above it.

From Speck Pond we climbed up the North side of a mountain called Mahoosuc Arm, before descending steeply down its north face to the north end of Mahoosuc Notch, considered the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail. Most northbound AT thru-hikers have to climb Mahoosuc Arm after they hike through Mahoosuc Notch. While the Notch has a fearsome reputation, thru-hikers are more frightened of the Arm than the Notch. Well they should be, because it’s a steep 1500′ climb up steep slab, that is probably even tougher in wet weather. Ken and I hiked down the Arm headed south, so we were spared this climb, although we had a grueling 1000′ climb after the Notch up to Fulling Mill Mountain.

Once we were down at the base of the Arm, we hiked to the south end of Mahoosuc Notch. The route through the boulders is not as heavily blazed as the rest of the Appalachian Trail, but the steep side walls of the chasm prevent you from wandering off the route. While this section of trail is a long 0.9 mile scramble from rock to rock, under giant boulders and through lemon squeezers, it’s not insurmountable by most hikers. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for dogs, people with very large backpacks, or doing it in the rain, when the rocks are slippery. Some of the transitions are high consequence if you fall the wrong way.

Scrambling through Mahoosuc Notch
Scrambling through Mahoosuc Notch

Ken and I made it through the Notch is about 90 minutes, but we were starting to seriously tire and we still had to climb another 1000′ of elevation up Fulling Mountain though to make it to our next water source and the Full Goose Shelter. Once there, we set up camp, ate, and went to sleep. We’d had a big day, but we’d also put the hardest part of the route behind us.

It's not uncommon to find ice in Mahoosuc Notch, as late as July
It’s not uncommon to find ice in Mahoosuc Notch, as late as July

Day Two: Full Goose Shelter to Dream Lake

While the temperature had gone down to 40 degrees during the night, the sun shone brightly the next morning without a cloud in the sky, perfect conditions for the long stretch of above-treeline hiking we had to do that day. While Mahoosuc Notch gets all the fame along this section of the Appalachian Trail, the open summits south of it are my favorites, including the Goose Eye Mountains, Mount Carlo, and Mount Success, with their miles of sub-alpine boardwalk. We counted our blessings since we were hiking in a clear 3 day weather-window, without rain or thunderstorms to hamper our progress. The last time I’d hiked this stretch of the AT in 2009, I’d been scared witless here by thunder and lightning

Our goal for the day was to hike another 10 miles to the Gentian Pond Shelter and campsite, or time-permitting, past it to a dispersed campsite in the vicinity of Dream Lake. After breakfast, we climbed out of the col where the Full Goose shelter is situated before hiking over slab and boardwalk to the north peak of Goose Eye Mountain, near the head of the Wright Trail, a lovely side trail that leads down toward the Sunday River ski area.

Approaching the Goose Eyes above treeline
Approaching the Goose Eyes above treeline

The views were tremendous on this clear day and we could pick out many mountains over 50 miles away that we’d both climbed before including the Percy Peaks, Cabot, The Horn and the Bulge, Saddleback, Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and Clay. After summiting the Goose Eyes, we travelled over Mt Carlo, and hiked down to the Carlo Col AT Shelter, just off the main trail to resupply our water.

While the water sources along the Mahoosuc Trail are known to run low in the summer, we had to use every trick in the book to get water out of the shallow and tepid brook. While I carry a pot to cook my dinners, it sure does come in handy when you need to scoop up water from shallow pools along slow creek beds.

New Hampshire - Maine State Line
New Hampshire – Maine State Line

We returned to the main trail and continued south toward Mt Success, crossing the New Hampshire/Maine state line. After passing an AMC trail crew, digging ditches and hoisting rocks to make water bars, we arrived at the Gentian Trail Shelter and Campsite by about 4:00 pm. The shelter had been taken over by a youth camp which had taken all the tent platforms, dispersed campsites, and the shelter, so we decided to press on to Dream Lake instead rather than deal with them.

Despite our fatigue, the trail got much easier to hike after we passed Mt Success, resembling trail conditions in the White Mountains proper, with far less slab. Still we were gassed when we arrived at Dream Lake and found a nice dispersed campsite. I ate the Ritter Bar I’d been saving for desert before dinner, to give me enough energy to make dinner, before hitting the hay.

Sunset on Dream Lake - Mt Washington in the far distance
Sunset on Dream Lake – Mt Washington in the far distance

Day Three: Dream Lake to Rattle River (Gorham, NH)

While the leg from Dream Lake to Rattle River was the easiest on our north-to-south Mahoosuc Traverse, our legs were still pretty smoked when we broke camp the next morning. But we only needed to hike 9 more miles and climb about 1000 feet total to get over Cascade Mountain and Mt Hayes, nothing like the elevation gains of previous two days.

We popped into the Trident Col campsite after two hours to get water and the stream was also running pathetically low. So low, that I started warning the thru-hikers we met on the trail about the lack of water at the shelters. The ascent up Cascade wasn’t bad, but the water source in the col between Cascade and Mt Hayes was a muddy puddle and the thought of drinking the water, even filtered, was off-putting. It was hot enough though that we both resupplied, since it was the last sure water source before Gorham.

The climb up Mt Hayes was fairly benign and we soon made it to the Centennial Trail Junction, which leads downhill to North Road, the Androscoggin River Damn, and the Rattle River Trail junction just down the road. After a quick descent, we shuttled back up to my car in Grafton Notch and were soon sipping beers at the Sunday River Brewery, planning our next adventure.

While many parts of this trip were quite strenuous, it was good to hike the Mahoosucs again and re-experience this portion of the Appalachian Trail. While I remembered many parts, I’d forgotten several parts of the trail and scenery after such a long hiatus. There was a time that I would never have considered re-hiking trails that I’ve hiked before, but my attitude about that has changed in the past few years. It was good refresh my memory of the portions I’d forgotten and to do it with a friend.

Total Mileage: 31 miles with 10,650 feet of elevation gain.

Recommended Trail Guides

Route Map

Grafton Notch to Rattle River - Appalachian Trail USGS
Grafton Notch to Rattle River GeoPDF – Appalachian Trail – Click for Download (Scale 1:100,000)

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Ultralight Backpack Updates – 2018

Taking in the view from the Sachem Peak Ledges, Acteon Ridge, New Hampshire.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks are popular with thru-hikers and backpackers because they’re light weight, streamlined, and durable. Their 2400 Southwest backpack (40L) is my personal favorite and the pack I’ve been using for most of my backpacking trips, day hikes, and bushwhacks for the past 3 years.

While my HMG Southwest 2400 is buttery-soft and sweat-stained from use, it’s lasted far longer than any other ultralight backpack I’ve owned because it’s made with Dyneema Composite Fabric and it doesn’t have any external mesh pockets (which rip quickly). While the HMG Southwest 2400 isn’t the lightest 40L backpack you can buy, I’m willing to take the small weight penalty for a durable pack that I can count on when I have to bash through dense spruce or scramble up avalanche slides.

But the first generation Southwest 2400 wasn’t perfect because it had very small hip belt pockets that were difficult to use for much more than carrying a pair of Aquamira bottles or a small bottle of bug dope. I eventually trained myself not to depend on them as external storage, even though I do like packs with big hip belt pockets.

Hyperlite's backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs
Hyperlite’s new backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs

But HMG recently upgraded their backpacks by increasing the volume of their hip belt pockets by about 20%. That might not sound like much, but the pockets are now substantially deeper so you can store larger objects in them and get your fingers in and out without the risk of amputation. For example, you can now store a point-and-shoot camera, a cell phone, or an inReach Explorer+, which is a big improvement.

Hyperlite doesn’t offer an pocket upgrade for packs made with the smaller pockets though, at least not yet.

Pre-bent aluminum stays

Hyperlite has also started shipping pre-bent aluminum stays, instead of flat stays. Backpack frame stays prevent a backpack from collapsing on itself when you load it up and help transfer your gear weight to the hip belt.  The advantage of aluminum stays over a frame is that you can bend them to fit your exact body shape and personalize the fit like a custom backpack. But learning how to bend aluminum stays can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with them (See How to Bend Backpack Frame Stays) and the new pre-bent stays included with Hyperlite’s packs often fit without any adjustment needed.

Strap and hip belt fabric

Hyperlite has also switched from covering the inside of their shoulder straps and hip belts from spacer mesh to a softer, more densely woven fabric that’s the consistency of softshell. There’s no noticeable change in how the new fabric grips you or wicks sweat, but it’s much softer to the touch.

Wrap Up

Those are the biggest changes I’ve noticed in this latest generation of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Backpacks. None of them are huge modifications to the form and function of the packs, just incremental refinements that make them more comfortable and easier to use. While innovation is good, I shy away from backpack companies that are always changing the design or look of their backpacks from year to year. I take some comfort in knowing that I can probably replace my HMG Southwest 2400, if I ever wear it out, with a backpack that’s nearly identical to the original. Change is inevitable, but for the moment, my Southwest 2400 is dialed-in and I like it that way.

Compare 1 Prices

Last updated: 2018-07-13 02:15:24

Hyperlite Mountan Gear has provided the author with several backpacks.

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A Moriah Loop Trip Plan: Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers Guidebook

The Moriah Loop is a 2-3 day, 24 mile backpacking route that climbs Mount Moriah and its graceful sister peak, Shelburne Moriah, before dropping down to the Wild River. From there, the route loops back through the heart of the Wild River Wilderness on the Moriah Brook Trail, passing countless cascades and pools that make for great backcountry swimming. Seldom visited by day hikers, this wilderness area is remote and lightly blazed, requiring good map-reading skills and navigation experience.

Moriah Loop

  • Overview GeoPDF Map (Download) [1:62,500]
  • GPX File (Download) – Trails only

Rating/Difficulty

****/5 out of 5

Distance/Elevation Gain

24 miles w/5800′ of cumulative elevation gain

White Mountain 4000 Footers

  • Moriah

Recommended Duration

2-3 days

Season

June thru October

Permits Required

None.

Regulations

Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

Most this route passes through the Wild River Wilderness Area. Please observe all wilderness area restrictions. 

New to the White Mountains? Read this Quick and Dirty Guide to Backpacking in the White Mountains for information about camping regulations, road access, trail shuttles, lodging, dangerous wildlife, weather, etc.

Trailhead Directions

  • Stony Brook Trailhead
  • Carter Moriah Trailhead (very limited parking – see parking recommendation below)

This trip starts the Carter Moriah Trailhead and ends nearby at the Stony Brook Trailhead. These are separated by a 1.3 mile road walk, all downhill, that takes about 20-25 minutes. If you only have one car, I’d recommend leaving it at the Stony Brook lot and getting the road walk out of the way up front. Turn left from the Stony Brook parking lot onto Rt 16 and walk 1.3 mile, turning right into the Libby Pool parking lot on Mill Street. Leave the parking lot on Mill Street and turn right onto a bridge in 0.2 miles. Cross the bridge and take a right onto Bangor Street, which quickly leads to the Carter Moriah Trailhead. You can also park at the Libby Pool lot (the sand covered part) if you have two cars, instead of trying to park at the Carter Moriah Trailhead, which has very limited parking.

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the AMC White Mountains Trail Maps 5-6: Carter-Range-Evans Notch North Country-Mahoosuc (2017 ed), which is the best waterproof map available for this region, although I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set (2017 ed) rather than one map at a time, because it’s less expensive that way. Detailed trail descriptions can also be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the relevant pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes. Getting the 2017 editions is important because there have been changes to the trail system.

  • Carter Moriah Trail – 4.5 miles
  • Kenduskeag Trail – 5.1 miles
  • Shelburne Tr – 3.4 miles
  • Highwater Tr – 1.7 miles
  • Moriah Brook Trail – 5.5 miles
  • Stony Brook Trail – 3.6 miles

Scenic Highlights

The following list provides cumulative distances on the route to each view or landmark.

  • Mt Surprise Summit – 2.0 miles
  • Carter Moriah Summit – 4.5 miles
  • Shelburne Moriah Summit – 7.2 miles
  • Wild River – 11.6 miles
  • Moria Brook Gorge – 13.9 miles
  • Moriah Brook Cascades – 15.4 miles

Camping and Shelter Options

  • Imp Lean-to and Tent Platforms ($)
  • Wild River Campground ($) – Closed for 2018 for renovation and repair.
  • There are limited options for backcountry camping on this route given the terrain. Your best bet for finding a campsite is along the Shelburne Trail (below 1800′), the Highwater Trail, or the lower half of the Moriah Brook Trail. Please observe all White Mountains backcountry camping rules and wilderness regulations and leave no trace.

Water

There’s no water on the first 9 miles of this route, until near the top of the Shelburne Trail, so carry extra. Three liters should do it. Water is abundant, thereafter.

Natural water sources are plentiful in the White Mountains although you may need to descend to them from ridgelines along side trails if you run short. In any case, carry a detailed topographic map with you and don’t rely on the overview map provided with this trip description to find water sources.

I also recommend purchasing the WMNF Wild River Map in Guthook Guide’s New England Hiker Smartphone App (IOS, Android) which is a GPS guide to all of the trails, trailhead, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. I use it all the time and it is much more complete and current than using the maps bundled with the Gaia Smartphone App.

On the Trail

Carter Moriah Trailhead
Carter Moriah Trailhead

Begin climbing the Carter Moriah Trail which climbs 3250′ feet over 4.5 miles to the summit of Mount Moriah. The trail is easy to follow, but this is a significant climb so take your time in ascending. Water is also scarce, as noted above, so pack extra.

Rock ledge on Mt Surprise
Rock ledge on Mt Surprise

At 2.0 miles you’ll come to a rock ledge known as Mt Surprise which has a good view of Pine Mountain on the other side of Rt 16. From this point onward, the trail to Moriah switches from forest duff to rock ledge, gaining elevation steeply in places.

Mt Moriah Summit Sign
Mt Moriah Summit Sign

Continue climbing until you come to a spur trail on your right to the Moriah Summit. There are very fine views of Mt Washington and the northern Presidentials from the summit. If you turn and look to the north, you can see the summit ledges on your next destination, Shelburne Moriah Mountain. Once you summit that peak, you’ll follow the ridge on its righthand side down to the Wild River Valley.

Shelburne Moriah Mountain
Shelburne Moriah Mountain

Return to the Carter Moriah Trail and turn right. In a few steps, you’ll come to a rock chimney that you need to down-climb. The best way I’ve found to descend these is to go down backwards, like climbing down a ladder, grabbing hand and footholds as you climb down.

At the bottom, turn left onto the Kennduskeag Trail where you’ll encounter numerous boardwalks on the way to Shelburne Moriah Mountain. This first section of the Kenduskeag Trail coincides with the Appalachian Trail and you’re like to to encounter thru-hikers or section hikers until the AT turns off at the Rattle River Trail Junction, 1.4 miles distant.

This portion of the trail coincides with the Appalachian Trail
This portion of the trail coincides with the Appalachian Trail

Continue on the Kenduskeag Trail past the Rattle River Trail junction, walking on more bog bridges until you pop out above treeline near Shelburne Moriah Mountain. The views from the top of this 52-with-a view peak (3735′) are probably the best in the Carter Moriah Range. There’s a fine view looking back at Mt Moriah and Middle Moriah to its right. In clear weather, you can also see Mts Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Turning north, you can see the entire Mahoosuc Range, which is also on the Appalachian Trail, and the Androscoggin River below it.

Head east from the Shelburne Moriah Summit, descending steeply to the Shelburne Trail Junction. Until now, the route has skirted the Wild River Wilderness, following its northwestern boundary. When you reach the junction, turn right, where you’ll be greeted by the Wild River Wilderness boundary sign. Hang gliders are not permitted in the wilderness area, so leave yours at the boundary.

Bog bridges lead to Shelburne Moriah Mountain
Bog bridges lead to Shelburne Moriah Mountain

If you’re low on water, there is a small stream at 2300′ and another larger one at 1800′. If you’re beat for the day and ready to camp, there are lots of locations on either side of the trail to camp in the open woods. The next major stream crossing at 1400′ is also a good area to find a backcountry site.

At 1400′ you’ll pass outside the designated wilderness area. Continue to the Highwater/Shelburne Trail junction where Bull Brook meets the Wild River. This junction can be a little confusing because the sign you need to follow is hard to see as you come down the trail.  When you see the sign announcing a Forest Protection Area on your right, turn right and look for sign that says “Highwater Trail, Moriah Brook 1.4.”

This sign is to the right of the first Forest Protection Area sign you come across.
This sign is to the right of the first Forest Protection Area sign you come across.

From here, there are two small stream crossings separated by a small island. Chances are you’ll need to bushwhack to the left around the island and back around the other side because dead trees from the annual spring floods get hung up on it, blocking the trail. Look for a small wooden sign, nailed to a tree, on the other side of the second stream crossing to find the continuation of the Highwater trail.

The Highwater Trail runs along the west bank of the Wild River for 1.4 miles, occasionally climbing above the river, before it turns onto the Moriah Brook Trail. While the Forest Service tries valiantly to keep this trail open year after year, the Wild River erodes the river bank each spring or after heavy rain events. So don’t be surprised if the riverside sections of trail disappear for short stretches because it’s been washed away. If you keep the Wild River to your left, bushwhack these areas, until you find the trail on the other side of the washout. You can’t overshoot the Moriah Brook Trail junction, as long as you stay in sight of the Wild River.

Sign to the non-existent Wild River Suspension Bridge
Sign to the non-existent Wild River Suspension Bridge

Shortly before you come to the Moriah Brook trail junction, you’ll pass a sign pointing to the Wild River Campground. This is the site of a former suspension bridge, which was closed in 2016 and has since been washed away. But the sign is a good indicator that you’re still on the right track.

The Highwater trail is intact from this point on, until you turn right onto the Moriah Brook Trail in 0.3 miles. Moriah Brook is a rocky mountain stream that runs up a narrow river valley for 5.5 miles. The place has a lost world feel to it, with countless cascades and pools that make for excellent swimming and relaxing. Few people venture down the Moriah Brook Trail, although it is a local favorite among backpackers.

After a mile, you’ll come to the Moriah Brook Gorge, a small canyon that drops 300 feet to the Wild River below. The top pool below the water crossing is a great place to take a dip and cool off. The rest of the gorge is accessible, but requires considerable effort to explore.

Top of the Moriah Brook Gorge
Top of the Moriah Brook Gorge

Cross the river at the top of the river and hike upstream through open forest. Like the Wild River, portions of the Moriah Brook Trail are periodically washed out by seasonal flooding, so don’t be surprised if sections are obscured by blowdowns or flood debris. If you lose the trail, just remember that it runs alongside the brook.

Moriah Brook Swimming Holes
Moriah Brook Swimming Holes

While the trail leads to many attractive swimming holes, there are portions of Moriah Brook that you can only get to if you’re willing to hike off-trail to access them. If you have the time and inclination, it’s well worth spending an extra day along the Moriah Brook to investigate them. There is also a sparse trout population in the stream, making it a fun place to Tenkara fish if you have the patience.

As you hike higher along the Brook, the valley begins to narrow and the trail starts to weave back and forth across the stream. Some of these stream crossings are obscure, so pay close attention to your map to avoid getting pulled off trail by a herd paths to pre-existing campsites.  The valley narrows as you approach the southern cliffs of Mt Moriah. This section can be muddy, but you soon climb out of it reaching the Carter Moriah Trail.

Southern Ledges of Mt Moriah overlooking the Moriah Brook Stream Valley
Southern Ledges of Mt Moriah overlooking the Moriah Brook Stream Valley

Take a left at the Carter Moriah Trail and follow the boardwalk 20 yards to the Stony Brook Trail junction. Take a right onto the Stony Brook Trail which descends steeply at first but then moderates. Follow it for 3.6 miles, past a gorgeous stream, with numerous swimming holes, until you reach the trailhead parking lot at the end of this route.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide. 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. 

Published 2018.

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The post A Moriah Loop Trip Plan: Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers Guidebook appeared first on Section Hikers Backpacking Blog.