In my current quest to find as many excellent hiking trails near Boston as I can, I recently made the two-hour drive up to New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke via the Ravine Lodge route. Mount Moosilauke is the westernmost of New Hampshire’s 4000ft peaks. I reached the summit and came back down as a single day hike, though there is a shelter up near the summit and enough trails in the area that a two-day camping trip could be possible.
Though its peak reaches 4800ft, Mount Moosilauke is known locally as the “gentle giant” because of its long sloping shoulders and mild ascents. The name Moosilauke comes from the Native American Algonquin language and most likely translates to “Bald Place.” The summit is rocky and above the tree line, offering incredible views of New Hampshire, Vermont, and on a clear day, New York in the distance.
I hiked Moosilauke with my mom, after much research into family appropriate hikes. I wanted something that would be a fun challenge, without too much extremely technical hiking. I briefly considered planning a trip up to Acadia for some family-friendly hiking, but in the end we couldn’t find the time. Then, I discovered Mount Moosilauke.
The History of Mount Moosilauke
Given that its name is of Native American origin, this mountain has clearly held significance for the local people of the area for many years. The mountain stands slightly alone, a short distance from the nearby ridges, stark and imposing in its prominence.
In the late 19th century, the Woolworth family acquired the mountain and constructed a structure on top, known as the Summit House. They also built a road to access the summit, known as the Carriage Road. This road is still in existence today as a hiking trail.
The Summit House operated as a hotel for many years, offering urbanites from Boston and New York the chance to take in the air from on high. Old photos show people from the early 20th century enjoying skiing and mountaineering across the peak of Moosilauke.
However, as with other regions of the White Mountains, conditions on the peak of Moosilauke are unreliable and dangerous, especially in the winter. Despite their best efforts to maintain the structure, it was eventually destroyed and never rebuilt.
In the mid-20th century, Dartmouth College acquired a large portion of the land on Mount Moosilauke, including the summit and southwestern side of the mountain. They constructed the Ravine Lodge at the base, originally intending it to be a ski area. That plan fell through but Dartmouth continues to run and maintain the trails on Mount Moosilauke today.
How to Get to Mount Moosilauke from Boston
Mount Moosilauke is entirely possible as a day hike from Boston. Head north on I-93 until you reach Lincoln, NH. Take exit 32 towards NH – 112 and Woodstock. Follow 112 west until the junction with Route 118. Take the left onto 118 and continue until you see Ravine Lodge Road on your right. Drive uphill and find parking before the lodge.
On a quiet day, it should be possible to park near the lodge. The Ravine Lodge is run by Dartmouth College and offers dorms, meals, snacks, and a clean place to go to the bathroom or fill up a water bottle.
Hilariously, on the day my mom and I headed up to hike Mount Moosilauke, Dartmouth was having an inaugural party after finishing recent renovations on the lodge, so we had to park a mile down the road, adding two rather less scenic miles to our hike.
Hiking Mount Moosilauke via the Gorges Brook Trail
Although there are several trails that ascend Mount Moosilauke, we chose to ascend via the Gorges Brook trail (or “George’s Brook Trail” as my mom kept calling it) and descend via the Carriage Road and Snapper Trail. It was a long yet gentle day of hiking that included nearly everything I love about hiking in New Hampshire: sweet-smelling pine forests, rocky scrambles, and stunning views.
From the Ravine Lodge, follow the signs pointing to “All Trails”. The road dips downhill to a wooden bridge crossing a small brook. From there, the trail turns uphill and begins a slow and steady ascent towards the summit of Mount Moosilauke.
Less than a mile into the hike, the trail forks, splitting into the Gorges Brook Trail on the right and the Snapper Trail on the left. We chose to hike up the Gorges Brook Trail. From the split, there is a short steep ascent to a ridgeline, then a slow, meandering walk through the pines. In several places, trees have been cut down to offer views of the sloping hillsides and mountains in the distance.
Because the Ravine Lodge is already located halfway up the mountain, at about 2500ft, almost the entire hike is through the aromatic pine forests of New England’s Appalachian Mountains. Your hike will be distinguished by soft, muffled sounds; sweet, festive smells; and dappled sunlight.
Shortly before the summit, the trail opens up onto an exposed piece of rock. This is a false summit but in a few feet, the trail crests a hill and the true summit rises up before you. A short walk through some small pines and a gentle climb across an alpine meadow and you arrive at the top.
When I was there, the summit was bright, sunny, and windy. Bring a second layer! I would’ve been cold without my fleece jacket.
We had views of Franconia Notch and the Presidential Range to the east, as well as the Green Mountains in the west. Apparently, on a truly clear and crisp day, it’s possible to see all the way to the Adirondacks in New York.
Descending Mount Moosilauke via the Carriage Road
At the summit, the trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail. Following the Carriage Road down, you’ll head across the wide open summit and down along a ridge. This area is apparently popular as a backcountry ski route during the winters. It’s not super steep but just narrow enough to be a challenge.
After a short while, the Appalachian Trail veers southwest towards the South peak and the Carriage Road continues down the mountain back towards the Ravine Lodge. The trail was fairly smooth for a New Hampshire hike: no scrambles or steps descents. I found it to be one of the easiest hikes on my knees that I’ve ever done in New England.
Back amongst the pines, the Carriage Road comes to an end and the Snapper Trail brings you back to the Gorges Brook Trail, and all the way back to the Ravine Lodge.
Including our lunch break and our two-mile walk to our car, it took my mom and I about 5.5 hours to finish this 8-mile loop. It was a gorgeous day of beautiful New England hiking and I highly recommend heading up to Mount Moosilauke if you’re looking for a new and different day hike from Boston.
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