NH48: Mount Moosilauke
Hiked: Sunday, June 20, 2021 (Father’s Day!)
Growing up on Long Island (yes, that’s ON Long Island, not IN Long Island), I’ve known some pretty funky town names, such as Hauppauge, Massapequa, Ronkonkoma, which can be tricky to pronounce. While I’ve somewhat mastered the names of my hometown, my ability inability to correctly pronounce most other things in life is being challenged greatly by the mountains of the northeast. I have been known to incorrectly pronunciate* ‘Diablo Lake’ in Washington (one of my favorite places) and will probably never say ‘geyser’ correctly (is a boiling spring that periodically erupts, or an odd old man??).
Deciding to hike Mount Moosilauke in the White Mountains had me wanting to keep my plans secret… mostly because I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce the name. Does it rhyme with “walkie talkie” or “lock”?! I thought someone would eventually correct me, so I kept switching which way I say it. I have discovered, however, this is an age-old debate with no clear resolution. The Native American name Moosilauke means “a bald place”… and does not intend to reference any antlered animals whatsoever. Just like there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to say Moosilauke! You can choose your own adventure: rhyme with rock or rocky! (I choose to keep remixing and switching it up for fun.)
With the Saturday weather being very rainy/thunderstormy (plus the intense need for rest & relaxation after a tough week of work), my new hiking pal and I hiked Mount Moosilauke on Sunday, June 20th via the Gorge Brook Trail! Nichole and I met on Instagram (social media can be pretty neat sometimes) and this was our first meetup. Little did I know how perfectly the views and our conversations would match each other – inspiring and limitless! The 360-degree views at the top of Moosilauke + our conversations about goals and dreams had me really pondering the limitless potential we have as humans to achieve all we desire.
Alright, alright. Enough of the sappy stuff (just kidding, you know I love it lol), here’s number FOUR/48 and the Western-most 4,000 footer – Mount Moosilauke!
Distance: 7.5 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: ~2,500 feet total
Highest Elevation: Mount Moosilauke summit (4,802 feet)
Route: Out and back via Gorge Brook Trail (most direct route to the summit)
Drive from Boston: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Parking/TH: Trailhead is located off Ravine Road via NH-118, starting near the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge (Note: do NOT park in the culdesac). No WMNF parking pass is required when the road is open, but required when the gate is closed in winter months & parking along a plowed NH-118.
Weather/Conditions: Started out hazy, but clouds lifted by the time we were at the summit. Perfectly sunny & clear, with bugs that were just annoying and not trying to bite.
Highlights: 360-DEGREE views! WOAH! Very exposed summit, so be wary in inclement weather. First meetup with Nichole (her blog HERE!!)! We realized more people need to remember “Leave No Trace” principles when we found SO MUCH GLASS at the summit. *SMH*
Before we get into the hike, I want to refresh on some super duper important principles when spending time in nature: LEAVE NO TRACE. I think we can lose sight of our impact on the world at times. The mindset of “conquering” mountains has always irked me and I think this is why – it does not present as a mutual respect for the land & nature. I am the kind of person who picks up wrappers when I see them, reminds people of Leave No Trace principles, and is always mindful of where my feet are stepping. How to be mindful and show respect:
(1) Plan ahead and prepare; (2) Travel and camp on durable surfaces; (3) Dispose of waste properly; (4) Leave what you find; (5) Minimize campfire impacts; (6) Respect wildlife; (7) Be considerate of other visitors.
When Nichole and I were hangin at the summit of Moosilauke, we found an INSANE amount of broken glass. We were perplexed – who broke bottles at the top and did not clean it?? We also found old nails, which we contemplated could have been part of older structures at the summit of the mountain. I’m not entirely sure that’s possible, once I discovered the below history (reference):
In 1860 the Prospect House, a stone hotel patterned after the Mt Washington Summit House was opened on the summit of Moosilauke. It went through many changes over the years, and it’s name was changed to the Tip-Top House. The hotel and a circular tract of land on the summit was given to Dartmouth in 1920 and students ran the place during the summer months like an AMC hut. It burned in 1942, and the stone foundation can still be seen. Just below the summit is the concrete foundation of the summit cabin/emergency shelter which was removed in 1978. An attempt was made the following year to remove the concrete foundation with a portable jack-hammer, but it proved too difficult a task.
The bottom line? Please leave things the way you find it. Would you show up to your mother’s house and leave your poo in the toilet without flushing? (I mean on purpose.) Would you rearrange things at your friend’s house? Would you break something and leave it on the floor? Probably not. Soooo… Don’t leave dog poop on the trail. If YOU are going to pee and wipe, carry out the dirty TP with you. If you’re gonna poo (hey, we all gotta go number two), dig a little hole for it. Pick up your cans and your mess. Don’t have somewhere to put it? Find somewhere, please!
*End necessary rant/conversation we need to all be having*
Back to Moosilauke.
When descending, I heard someone giving the ultimate sales pitch for this mountain. “It’s the best bang for your buck!” With this being my fourth summit in the White Mountains, I definitely have to agree so far. I know I have a lot more learning to do, but if I had never hiked before and this was my FIRST summit, I’d be pretty hooked on climbing these mountains. I think the work/reward balance is pretty even. Considering the amount of work to get to the top of Tecumseh and the reward (limited views), this trail/summit combo would definitely appeal to a less-seasoned hiker. Apparently, the Beaver Brook Trail from NH 112 is a more adventurous path to the summit. It climbs 3,050 feet in 3.8 miles and features rock steps, wooden steps, and hand rungs in many areas with steep drop-offs. I’d love to explore this trail next!!
The Gorge Brook Trail was relatively easy, with wonderful views along the way. It starts with a gradual climb through a beautiful forest after crossing the Baker River to the left/west of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Once crossing the river via footbridge, the trail soon after bears right, opening to the Dartmouth Class of ’97 Swimhole. ‘Last sure water’ is found at 3,300 feet (1.4 miles). The Gorge Brook Trail meets up with Snapper Trail, but diverges right, and follows an easy grade along the Gorge Brook (which you crossed twice via bridges).
The outlooks and mountain views become more apparent at about 2.5 miles, with a clear outlook to the south. At 3.5 miles, the treeline lowers and the summit becomes visible! Once above treeline, the landscape transitions into a Sound of Music “the hills are alive” scenery, with rolling hills. The large cairns along the way had a Stonehenge-like feel, having the vibe of England/Austria/Ireland all in one. It was beautiful. There is definitely a false summit here, btw. Keep your eyes ahead though, as you only have about 0.5 miles once you reach this false summit!
At the summit, we were rewarded with crystal clear skies. One day, I hope to have better bearings to understand all the mountains in the surrounding areas. Per 4000footers.com, I was feasting my eyes upon: the Franconia Ridge and the Kinsmans to the North, Jobildunc Ravine to the Southeast, and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the West. What a treat!
Being that there are many trails to the summit of Mount Moosilauke, paying attention to directions on the descent is important! I can imagine on a less stellar day, it could become confusing to navigate. To return via the Gorge Brook Trail, we descended eastward down the rocks, then southeast along the grassy, European, rolling hills. An alternate for the descent would be to make a loop by traveling the Carriage Road to Snapper Trail (total loop is about 7.5 miles) back to the TH at Ravine Lodge. We stayed at the summit for about an hour (left the car @8:15am, summit @10am) where it got just a little windy, but we were able to enjoy our snacks & pick up some trash together. We returned to the cars at 1pm, making our total time ~4 hours.
Nichole and I were definitely blessed with a perfect hiking day at Mount Moosilauke. She offered me incredible wisdom and excitement for adventures in the White Mountains and the East Coast. Since she’s already knocked off all 48 of NH’s 4,000 footers (all her blog entries HERE!), I was really grateful she took the time to enjoy Moosilauke with me! We connected on the ideas of building community, sustainable/minimalist lifestyles, supporting smaller companies (OMG I AM SO SAD TO FIND OUT NUUN JUST GOT BOUGHT BY NESTLE… I need to find new electrolyte tabs!!!), and living a life with passion and enthusiasm. I could not have picked a better day or person to explore another part of the Whites with! I think I’ll probably be back to Moosilauke before I finish all the 4,000-footers because I’m super curious about the other trails and loops.
Here’s to staying forever curious, fighting for our dreams, and this adventurous life!
Read all my trip reports for the NH 4,000 footers here!
What’s one way you like to practice Leave No Trace in the mountains?
*P.S. Apparently pronunciate isn’t even a word. In addition to not pronouncing words correctly, YES, I also make up my own words time to time. It’s creative expression in the English language. It’s allowed… right? (: