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.
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.
After the river crossing, the trail split off and began following the Gorge Brook - climbing steadily alongside the brook.
The trail crossed 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.
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.
The trail climbed steeply with more rocks, roots and erosion evident.
Every once in a while some well-placed rock stairs provided a break.
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.
Even more impressive were views to the north. The sharp Franconia Range peaks were visible in the center of the picture below.
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.
The trail continued up rocky switchbacks as trees grew shorter and the forest less dense.
I reached the scrubby false summit with only one other person in sight.
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.
Emerging from the treeline and entering the alpine zone with the summit directly ahead.
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.
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.
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.'
There were a handful of people out in the open on the summit.
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.
I found a few isolated rocks, got out of the wind and ate a quick lunch.
I descended from the summit following the same Gorge Brook trail as I had used to ascend Mt Moosilauke.
Once off the summit it was easier to take pictures and enjoy the outstanding views.
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.
Soon enough I was out of the wind and back on the tree-lined trail leading to the false summit.
For me, navigating a rocky trail is always harder on the way down.
A short selfie break when the trail reached the Gorge Brook bridge crossing.
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.
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!
Hike Distance: 10.0 miles
Duration: 5.8 hours
Average Pace: 35 min/mile