Hike Mt Moosilauke: Oct 2020

Updated: Jan 31

Hike Distance: 10.0 miles (extra 1.7 miles because the gate to the trailhead was locked)

Elevation Gain: 2,774 feet

Prominence: 2,932 feet


Click here for a review of prominence and its role in mountain topography.


I wanted to knock off another '4000 footer' hike before the end of Daylight Saving and the onset of colder and snowier weather. I set my eyes on Mt Moosilauke, but unfortunately I had to hike it alone since Dave was still nursing a sore foot.


At 4,802 feet, Mount Moosilauke, often referred to as the 'Gentle Giant', is the 10th highest summit of New Hampshire. Locate in the Kinsman Range, it is the westernmost of New Hampshire's 48 peaks over 4000 feet. It is the 11th highest of all 4000 footers and ranks 9th on the New England Fifty Finest peaks, a list of summits with the highest topographic prominence.


Because of the COVID pandemic, the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge was close and road access limited so I had to park 1.7 miles from the trailhead.

Once I arrived at the lodge, I could see today's destination. Mt Moosilauke is the peak located right of center just above the trees. From the angle the South Peak (left of center) looks taller but it's actually 279 feet shorter than Mt Moosilauke.

South Peak on the left is 279 feet shorter than Mt Moosilauke on the right. NH 4000 footer

For the hike, I chose the out and back Gorge Brook Trail. It offered a moderate climb

to the summit with reportedly great views of the Franconia Ridge along the way. From the trailhead, I descends past a few buildings and huts to a bridge over the Baker River. There wasn't much flow for this time of the year.

The start of Gorge Brook Trail to the summit of Mt Moosilauke followed the Baker River.

After the river crossing, the trail split off and began following the Gorge Brook - climbing steadily alongside the brook.

The Gorge Brook trail steadily climbing as it followed the Gorge Brook

The trail crossed the Gorge Brook on several rudimentary bridges.

The Gorge Brook trail cross the Gorge Brook on several rudimentary bridges

I loved the sound of water falling over the debris and rocks; it's peaceful and calming. Especially since I couldn't see anyone else on the trail.

Water flowing over rock in the Gorge Brook on the trail to Mt Moosilauke summit in NH . NH 4000 footer

The section of trail after the bridge was rerouted in the 90s after it sustained severe damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene. At this next trail junction I continued following Gorge Brook.

Trail marker for Gorge Brook Trail or Snapper Trail both lead to Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

The trail climbed steeply with more rocks, roots and erosion evident.

Rocks and roots lined the trail with signs of erosion
Rocks and roots lined the trail with signs of erosion

Every once in a while some well-placed rock stairs provided a break.

Rock stairs along the Gorge Brook trail leading to the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

Along the way, there were a few opening in the forest that offered scenic views of the surrounding mountains. This might be Mt Cushman or Mt Carr but I can't confirm the identity.

Mt Cushman or Mt Carr from the Gorge Brook trail leading to the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

Even more impressive were views to the north. The sharp Franconia Range peaks were visible in the center of the picture below.

The sharp Franconia Range peaks were visible from the Gorge Brook trail leading to the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

The closest set of mountains are the Kinsman Range, with the Franconia Range behind them and finally the Presidential Range furthest away. Better views await at the summit.

Kinsman Range, with the Franconia Range behind them and finally the Presidential Range furthest away on the Gorge Trail to Mt Moosilauke summit. NH 4000 footer
 Franconia Range and the Presidential Range furthest away on the Gorge Trail to Mt Moosilauke summit. NH 4000 footer

The trail continued up rocky switchbacks as trees grew shorter and the forest less dense.

Gorge Brook trail continued up rocky switchbacks as trees grew shorter. Mt Moosilauke in NH. NH 4000 footer
Gorge Brook trail continued up rocky switchbacks as trees grew shorter. Mt Moosilauke in NH. NH 4000 footer

I reached the scrubby false summit with only one other person in sight.

False summit on Gorge Brook trail leading to the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

For another half mile the trail flirted with the treeline but in the distance there was an opening and some views of the bare summit.

Gorge Brook trail flirting with treeline.  Mt Moosilauke summit visible in the distance.

Emerging from the treeline and entering the alpine zone with the summit directly ahead.

Entering the alpine zone approaching the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

Once out in the open, the temperature easily dropped 10-20°. Rarely do I get cold hiking but at this point I had to add a long sleeve jersey and a second insulated top to stay warm.

Rocky trail along the alpine zone approaching the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

Just a short climb to the broad treeless summit but each step brought more powerful wind gusts. As the most western high peak in the Whites, Moosilauke catches winds from the west head on.

Rocky trail along the alpine zone approaching the Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

The wind at the summit was blowing so hard that I had to brace myself between rocks to take this picture. Lesson learned, always research and prepare for a hike. Don't just familiarize yourself with the trails, but alsao read reviews by other hikers/bloggers you trust. In my case, I had read several reviews that stated, 'The summit is very exposed, often windy so prepare for rapid weather changes and drops in temperature. These 360-degree views come with a risk of exposure.'

Mt Moosilauke summit sign in NH. NH 4000 footer

There were a handful of people out in the open on the summit.

Rocky, barren and windy Mt Moosilauke summit in NH. NH 4000 footer

Most people were sheltering from the wind in what's left of the 19th century summit buildings. In 1860 the Prospect House, a stone hotel opened on the summit of Moosilauke. It went through many changes over the years, including an appropriate name change to the 'Tip-Top House'. In the 1942, the hotel that had withstood hurricane force winds fell victim to fire. Here is what's left of the stone buildings foundations.

Taking shelter behind rock wall on the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

I found a few isolated rocks, got out of the wind and ate a quick lunch.

Taking shelter behind rock wall on the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

I descended from the summit following the same Gorge Brook trail as I had used to ascend Mt Moosilauke.

Gorge Brook Trail leading to the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

Once off the summit it was easier to take pictures and enjoy the outstanding views.

Gorge Brook Trail leading to the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

Many consider this one of the finest mountain vistas in all the Whites. I could zoom in on the Franconia Range (left of center) with the tall Mt Washington peak visible in the top far right.

Franconia Range on the left and Mt Washington peak visible in the top far right. Summit of Mt

Soon enough I was out of the wind and back on the tree-lined trail leading to the false summit.

Gorge Brook trail continued up rocky switchbacks as trees grew shorter. Mt Moosilauke in NH. NH 4000 footer

For me, navigating a rocky trail is always harder on the way down.

Rocky and wet section of Gorge Brook Trail leading to the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer
Moss covered rocks on Gorge Brook Trail leading to summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

A short selfie break when the trail reached the Gorge Brook bridge crossing.

Gorge Brook on trail leading to summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer
Gorge Brook flowing over rocky section of stream

At the Baker River bridge and almost at the trailhead, but there was another 2 mile hike on the access road to reach my car.

Not much flow in the Baker River on the trail leading to the summit of Mt Moosilauke in NH.  NH 4000 footer

At the Ravine Lodge with one final look at Mt Moosilauke. It's the 6th 4000 footer mountain we've climbed to date. Only 61 more to go!

View of Mt Moosilauke from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge in NH.  NH 4000 footer
  • Hike Distance: 10.0 miles

  • Duration: 5.8 hours

  • Average Pace: 35 min/mile


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