Ski Area Profile: Ragged Mountain, NH

New Hampshire’s reputation for skiing is growing—North Conway was recently named “Best Ski Town in North America” by USA Today. The ski areas in the Mount Washington Valley may steal the spotlight, but there are plenty of other great, lesser-known places to schuss in the Granite State. Lacking the size and the notoriety of the state’s big-name resorts, these smaller ski areas are unrivaled when it comes to stoke and community. One such gem is Danbury’s Ragged Mountain.

Whether it’s the terrain, welcoming atmosphere, proximity to southern New England, affordability, or epic views, there are a lot of reasons to love Ragged Mountain.

The Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Ragged: The Terrain

Ragged isn’t a “big” mountain, but it isn’t small either and it has plenty of terrain for every type of skier on its two peaks, Ragged Mountain and Spear Mountain. Ragged’s 57 trails are spread evenly across skill levels and its 1,250 feet of vertical is just enough that even seasoned skiers “feel the burn” toward the end of a run.

Beginner trails like Blueberry Patch, Lower Easy Winder, and Cardigan are mellow, wide, and always well-groomed, making them the perfect place for newer skiers and riders to build the confidence needed to tackle more challenging terrain. Intermediate runs like Exhibition and Flying Yankee are favorites of both seasoned and less-experienced skiers alike, thanks to their initial steep pitch and mellow runouts. Those looking for the steep stuff will love expert runs such as Sweepstakes and Showboat.

For a moderately sized mountain, Ragged is big on glades—it has 17. Skiers new to playing in the woods will love the widely spaced Reggae Glades and the lower-angle trees of Moose Alley. Options abound for skiers all about getting feisty in the forest—favorites include Rags to Riches and Pel’s Pass, both of which take advantage of the gladed terrain between the two peaks. There’s even a handful of double-black-diamond glades like Not Too Shabby, which delivers plenty of pitch and face-smackingly tight trees.

The Summit Six Express. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Welcoming Atmosphere

Ragged Mountain is easy to navigate—its trails are well marked and all of them lead to a shared base area that allows easy access to both peaks. This lets families or groups of disparate abilities break up to ski different trails and explore different terrain, then easily regroup between runs or at pre-arranged intervals. There is rarely a long wait for either of the mountain’s two primary lifts—the Summit Six and Spear Mountain Express—and both lifts provide a speedy ride to the top.

In non-COVID times, Ragged’s base lodge is a hub of activity. The lower level of the Elmwood Lodge (or Red Barn) is home to the Harvest Café and has an abundance of room for families to spread out. On the second level, visitors will find the Stone Hearth Bar and more open space for getting ready for, or kicking back after, a long day on the slopes. (If you do visit the bar, don’t forget to grab an aptly named Rags To Riches IPA.) Skiers looking for something more substantial than a hot chocolate from the café or a pint from the pub can find sit-down dining in the Birches Mountain Restaurant.

For those interested in chilling outside, there are a number of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs scattered across a stone patio in front of the Elmwood Lodge along with a fire pit for warming up frozen digits. With the current restrictions in the lodge due to COVID-19, Ragged has had a robust parking lot scene this year, with set-ups ranging from simple camp chairs and coolers to more involved arrangements with grills, portable heaters, and awnings.

Blueberry Patch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Proximity to Southern New England

Ragged is a pretty easy day trip from southern New England, especially when compared to ski destinations like North Conway. It is about an hour from New Hampshire’s two largest cities (Manchester and Nashua) and a little under two hours from Boston, which makes it a reasonable day trip for many. Good thing, too—there are limited lodging and food options near the mountain. Tilton (a little over 30 minutes away) is the closest town to offer a variety of hotel and dining options. Many love stopping at the Tilt’n Diner on the way home.

Although Ragged isn’t that far from southern New England, it does have a bit of a “can’t get there from here” vibe, as there are a bunch of ways to get to the mountain, but none of them are particularly direct. It is near both I-93 and I-89, but plan on driving between 20 and 30 minutes on backroads no matter which way you come.

Mount Cardigan from the Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

It’s Affordable

Another perk of avoiding New Hampshire’s bigger-name mountains is avoiding their big-ticket prices. Ragged Mountain’s “Mission Affordable” season pass is one of the best deals going—it’s under $500 if you buy it early enough. If you’re interested in visiting Ragged this winter, find yourself a season ticket holder; They get four buddy tickets with their season pass, which are valid for a $49 lift ticket with no blackout dates.

Going deep on Flying Yankee. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Views

The views are big at this mid-sized mountain. From the summit of Ragged Mountain, visitors are treated to a fantastic perspective of the White Mountains, including the peaks of Franconia Ridge, the Bonds, and the often snow-capped Presidentials. From the top of Spear Mountain, skiers are treated to an excellent perspective of Mount Cardigan.

If you want the terrain and soul of one of New Hampshire’s big-name ski resorts, but are looking to get off the beaten path, put Ragged Mountain on your must-visit list this winter.

Joshua Huntington: A Winter on Mount Washington

To stand on Mount Washington’s summit in winter is to know the sheer cruelty of nature. The frozen landscape, biting cold, and ferocious wind all serve as a reminder that this is not a place for habitation. Yet, in the winter of 1870 and 1871, an expedition party of six—led by geologists Charles Hitchcock (New Hampshire’s state geologist) and Joshua Huntington (Huntington Ravine’s namesake)—spent the season here. In the process, they established the first high-mountain weather observatory in the United States and laid the groundwork for the Mount Washington Observatory. This winter marks the 150th anniversary of their feat.

A Scientific Quest

According to the book, The Worst Weather on Earth: A History of the Mount Washington Observatory, “Hitchcock’s effort to establish a year-round, mountaintop meteorological observatory was the first sustained scientific operation of its type in the world.” However, the idea wasn’t entirely new; In 1853, one of the builders of the Mount Washington Carriage Road urged Congress to construct a full-time observatory on the summit of the mountain to monitor Washington’s unique weather conditions.

As far back as 1856, Huntington, then a college student, was contemplating spending a winter on Mount Washington, going so far as to write a letter to the Smithsonian in search of funds for an expedition. Hitchcock soon learned of Huntington’s plans, beginning a decade of correspondence between the two men as they looked to turn the dream into a reality.

But anyone who has stood on the summit of the Rockpile during the winter understands the audacity of Hitchcock’s and Huntington’s aspiration. This was especially true in 1870—at that point, the summit’s hotels, open since the 1850s, closed every winter because the weather conditions made supplying food and materials too challenging. Moreover, by 1870 there had been just two recorded successful winter ascents of the mountain and “failure was universally predicted” of the expedition. As Hitchcock later remarked in Mount Washington in Winter, Or The Experiences of a Scientific Expedition, “fear of accident has prevented most people from attempting to climb Mount Washington in winter.”

Telegraphing from the Top

While many doubted the expedition’s chances of success, it did pique the interest of the United States Signal Service, a precursor to the National Weather Service. To support the expedition, the Signal Service sent Hitchcock and Huntington instruments, three miles of insulated telegraph wire to run from the summit to the Cog Railway’s base station, and an experienced telegrapher and meteorologist named Sergeant Theodore Smith. With the support of the Signal Service, the expedition now had the means to send weather reports from the summit of the mountain down to the railroad’s base station. But they also needed a place to stay.

Originally, Hitchcock and Huntington had hoped to reside in Tip Top House, a hotel built on Washington’s summit in 1853. However, their request was denied on multiple occasions. Instead, they ended up in the summit depot of the fledgling Mount Washington Railway Company, which had just opened the Cog Railway one year before. In October 1870, some of the party, with the assistance of a local carpenter spent “several days…upon the summit in preparing the building for occupation,” partitioning a room, setting up a stove to heat it, and laying double-floors to insulate it. The room was about 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and eight feet high, with “[e]very inch of space…utilized” once the party arrived.

“An Excitement Found Nowhere Else”

Rounding out the six-member expedition party were observer S.A. Nelson and photographers A.F. Clough and Howard Kimball. Due to the parties’ various responsibilities, they all arrived on the mountain at different times. Huntington was the first—on November 12, 1870, he ascended to the summit and, the next day, recorded the expedition’s first weather observations. He remained there alone until November 30th, when Clough and Kimball arrived with two visitors. Smith arrived on December 4th. Hitchcock arrived on December 21st, the first day of winter.

Day-to-day life on the mountain offered “an excitement found nowhere else.” The party regularly observed “gorgeous” sunrises and “glorious” sunsets, “throwing a flood of light across a sea of clouds.” They also observed all the weather phenomena and fury the mountain had to offer, diligently recording their observations in their journals, then telegraphing them to the “lower regions.”

As noted in the book, Mount Washington: A Handbook for Travelers, “Full reports of the weather encountered were telegraphed daily, and the public interest in the enterprise was wide-spread and keen.” One notable measurement occurred on February 5, 1871, when they recorded a lowest temperature of minus 59°F. Using a hand-held anemometer, the peak wind gust they recorded that winter was 105 mph.

When not observing, the party spent time exploring the mountain, repairing their quarters, taking and developing photographs to give “those who cannot visit such places a chance to see the wonders and beauties,” receiving visitors, and mending the telegraph wire, a process that required traveling down the Cog to find the break, repairing the break, and then devising new ways to protect the wire from the elements. Some members also regularly returned to the valley floor for days at a time. Only Huntington, Nelson, and Smith spent every night that winter on the mountain.

After full days on the mountain, the group gathered around a stove which was “prized very highly on account of its marvelous heating properties.” There, they recorded their observations and wrote in their journals, the latter of which provide incredible insight into what life was like for the men.

Working in shifts over the course of the winter, their observations continued until May 12, 1871, when they departed the mountain.

The Aftermath

The Signal Service continued conducting weather observations atop Mount Washington until 1892, making the summit station the first of its kind in the world. Forty years later, another audacious group—led by Charles Brooks, a professor of Meteorology at Harvard, and Joe Dodge, the legendary AMC high hut manager—would carry on the early work of the Signal Services and resume recording the weather at the top of New England, laying the foundation for the Mount Washington Observatory as we know it today.

Four men manned the next-generation mountaintop weather station—Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie, and Joe Dodge—working without pay or time off, but not without reward. Just two years later, on April 12, 1934, the Observatory recorded the world’s fastest surface wind speed ever observed by man: 231 mph. It would be almost a half century until that wind speed was even close to being attained again on Mount Washington—the second-fastest wind record at the observatory was 182 mph in 1980.


The Mountain Washington Observatory is now one of the several permanently staffed mountaintop weather stations in the world and its forecasts are critical to outdoor endeavors across the region. It even hosts visitors—in non-COVID times, the EMS Climbing School leads overnights at the MWOBS—providing a glimpse into what life was like at the top of New England for the six men who spent the winter of 1870-1871 there.

The Dos and Don’ts of Winter Hiking

The pandemic encouraged a lot of people to take up hiking this year. If you’re planning to continue your mountain adventures even as the temperatures drop and the snow accumulates, keep reading for some tips on how to stay safe while winter hiking this season.

Credit: Tim Peck

Winter Hiking “Dos”

Tell a friend: Spending an unplanned night out in the mountains of the Northeast is potentially deadly, even during the mildest months. Leave an itinerary and a return time with a responsible friend or relative. If you fail to get back by the prearranged time, they can direct help to you, speeding up the rescue effort.

Save yourself: Self-sufficiency is something every hiker should strive for, especially right now when rescuers and resources in busy regions like the White Mountains are so stressed due to added demand. Having extra layers, an emergency bivy, sleeping bag, and/or pad in your pack can make all the difference in the event of an accident or unplanned overnight.

Plan for shorter days: Winter days are a lot shorter. Starting early is a good strategy for maximizing daylight, and a headlamp is a nice safety net if you’re running behind schedule while winter hiking. Keep in mind it’s not only harder to navigate after the sun sets, it also gets significantly colder.

Stay hydrated: Sweat evaporates quickly and we lose more fluids through respiration in winter’s cold, dry air. Also, our body’s thirst response is diminished by up to 40% in the cold! Make sure to sip every time you stop and to protect your water from freezing by using an insulated bottle or by adding some sports drink to your water (the sugar and salt in it lowers the freezing point). Even better—bring a thermos of hot chocolate or sugary tea for some mid-route warmth and hydration.

Credit: Tim Peck

Dress in layers: Having a variety of different layers allows you to adjust to both the weather and your level of exertion, minimizing sweating and keeping you dry and comfortable.

Remember your puffy at rest breaks: Leaving your puffy in the pack is a recipe for a rapid cooldown any time you stop for more than a minute or two. Putting it on while you’re standing still is a great way to maintain some of that warmth you’ve built up.

Feed the furnace: Studies show that exercising in cold weather like winter hiking burns more calories than exercising in warm weather. Eat regularly and pack cold-weather friendly foods that won’t freeze—PB&J, trail mix, and leftover pizza are all excellent options.

Study trail conditions: Reading trip reports from people who’ve recently hiked the same peak you’re planning to summit is a good way to get information about what you’ll be getting into. Pay close attention to information about deep snow and downed trees, two things that can really slow you down. If there are no recent trail reports, anticipate that you’ll likely be breaking trail from car to summit.

Credit: Tim Peck

And “Don’ts”

Underestimate the challenge: Shorter days, harder terrain, and less forgiving weather all conspire to make winter hiking more demanding. That June hike that you finished with time to spare might end in the dark during December.

Tackle too-big objectives: If you’re just getting into cold-weather hiking, start small with hikes you are familiar with and know you can accomplish in the time you’ve allotted. Consider a guided trip if you have a bucket-list winter hike in mind, like Mount Washington, but are unsure of your abilities.

Go barefoot: Wading through deep snow is slow and exhausting, and ice is outright dangerous; consequently, it’s essential to have the appropriate flotation/traction device—whether it’s snowshoes, crampons, or Ice Talons/MICROspikes. Remember, the clear conditions you encounter at the trailhead don’t always reflect what you’ll come across at higher elevations.

Get fixed on a single objective: Learn to take what the weather gives you. If there are high winds above the treeline, audible to a more protected objective. If you make a last-minute pivot in your plan before losing cell service, make sure to update the person you left your itinerary with.

Credit: Tim Peck

Fly blind: Know what weather you’re in for—and what type of hike to tackle— by checking Higher Summits Forecast (if you’re hiking near the Whites) before your trip. Remember the forecasted weather for the nearest town might be different from the surrounding summits.

Wear cotton: “Cotton kills” is a favorite saying of outdoorsy people. Cotton retains moisture (unlike synthetic and wool layers, which dry more quickly), nullifying its insulation properties—leaving you feeling cold and putting you on the path to hypothermia.

Start your hike too warm: Your body generates a lot of heat when hiking, especially in the mountains. Hitting the trail a little chilled and letting your excursion warm you up helps avoid soaking through critical layers early in your trip.

Think it can’t happen to you: Even if you’re with an experienced group, accidents happen; Sliding falls, fast-moving weather, and navigational issues are realities for even the most seasoned hikers. Being prepared for an unfortunate situation like this—both in terms of equipment and training—may make all the difference.

Lastly, whatever hiking trips you take this winter, DO remember to have fun and stay safe!

Credit: Tim Peck

Crotched Mountain: "Out-of-this-World" Skiing

New Hampshire has a storied ski history. It was the first state in the nation to cut dedicated downhill ski trails and to have overhead wire-rope ski tows, a gondola, and an aerial tramway. It’s also home to the first downhill ski race in the U.S., a route you can still ski today. Still, almost a century and a half after the founding of the nation’s oldest continuously operating ski club, New Hampshire remains passionate about its skiing.

Small ski resorts across the Granite State keep the ski stoke high winter after winter. These ski areas might not compete with their bigger brethren in acreage, vertical, or glitz, but they are unrivaled when it comes to passion, thanks to their accessibility, comparative affordability, and community atmospheres. One such ski hill is Bennington’s Crotched Mountain.

Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Crotched Mountain

The reason skiers love Crotched Mountain is simple: the skiing. From trees to steeps to parks to cruisers, there’s terrain for everyone at the mountain—and thanks to the single, small base area, groups can split up, take the trail that most appeals to them, and reconvene to ride the lift back up together. The mountain’s out-of-the-way location ensures that the crowds are typically thin and long lift lines are abnormal.

Crotched also has an amazing community. Before the lifts even start spinning, it’s common to see groups of skiers uphilling together, a practice that continues throughout the day thanks to the mountain’s liberal uphill travel policy. There is also a strong contingent of telemark skiers, and Crotched has even hosted the U.S. Telemark National Championships. It’s not uncommon on nice days to see families and groups gathered together in the parking lot cooking on portable grills or sharing brown bag lunches.

Credit: Tim Peck

Finding the Best Terrain

The crown jewel of Crotched Mountain is “the Rocket,” a high-speed, detachable quad that carries skiers to the resort’s 2,066-foot summit. From the top of the Rocket, skiers can access all of the mountain’s 100 acres of trails, plus the overwhelming majority of its glades. New skiers need to know that there is no novice trail from the summit; The easiest descent is via Moon Walk, a blue square.

Crotched Mountain has four other lifts besides the Rocket—a quad, a triple, a double, and a surface lift—but this high-speed four-seater remains the favorite for its efficiency and accessibility. In 2018, Vermont skier Scott Howard made the most of the Rocket’s speed, ticking 143 runs and 130,900 vertical feet in a single day at the mountain while on his way to set the record for most vertical feet skied in a season.

Credit: Tim Peck

Something For Everyone

Skiers of all abilities will find a trail to test their limits at Crotched Mountain—28% of the mountain’s trails are rated as novice terrain, 40% intermediate, and 32% expert. In general, the steepest trails are close to the Rocket, where Pluto’s Plunge and Jupiter’s Storm offer plenty of pitch for steep-skiing aficionados. Another expert-level favorite is UFO, which often features natural or manmade bumps. Trails on the ski area’s outer edges—Galaxy and Super Nova—offer more mellow descents.

In addition to groomers, Crotched Mountain has 80 acres of glades. Seasoned tree skiers will love the Darkstar Glade’s steep pitch and tight trees while those just getting accustomed to skiing in the woods will love the lower angle and widely spaced trees of the Final Frontier Glade.

Crotched Mountain also has a variety of parks to play in. The typical park progression for Crotched Mountain riders is to go from the NCC-1701 park to the Zero-G park to the CM Terrain Park. The NCC-1701 is a favorite with newer park riders thanks to its relaxed slope angle, small jumps, and relatively low-consequence rails, while the biggest, rowdiest jumps and features are in the CM Terrain Park.

Credit: Tim Peck

Under-the-Radar Runs

Like most small ski areas, much of Crotched Mountain’s skiable terrain is visible from the lifts, but there are few hidden gems too. A powder-day favorite is Big Dipper, which is tricky to connect with other steep trails and generally involves skating or shuffling back to the Rocket—both of which keep the crowds at bay and freshies untracked. The mountain is also home to a fair number of unmarked glades, so keep your eyes peeled for tracks leading into the woods or loosen the lips of a local with a beer at the Onset Pub & Lounge. (We suggest ordering a Rocket Fuel, which is brewed just down the road, especially for Crotched Mountain, by Henniker Brewing.)

Midnight Madness

Crotched Mountain’s defining event is Midnight Madness, which takes place every Friday and Saturday night. The mountain’s lifts spin until 1:00 AM—later than any other mountain in New England—during Midnight Madness, and the festivities include live music, bonfires, and other events.

Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

Directions to Crotched Mountain elicit the classic New England response, you can’t get there from here. Although Bennington—home to Crotched Mountain—is located in south-central New Hampshire and just 70-odd miles from Boston, getting there is a bit of an adventure for the uninitiated. Unlike many of the state’s big-name ski areas, Crotched Mountain isn’t close to any major highway and requires travel on single-lane rural roads through small, unfamiliar towns.

Upon arrival in Bennington, you’ll find typical ski town amenities in short supply. The town does have a small general store downtown and a handful of local eateries, but those looking to venture outside of the mountain’s cafeteria and pub will generally want to head toward places like Peterborough, Hillsborough, or Manchester, all of which are about a half-hour away. But if this is what you’re coming for, you’re missing the point—Crotched is for skiing.

If you haven’t visited Crotched Mountain before, put a trip to it on your winter to-do list, as this small mountain delivers big smiles.

Doc Benton and the Haunting of Mount Moosilauke

Mount Moosilauke, a favorite of New England hikers, is no exception to the ghost stories that haunt the White Mountains. The story of the sinister Doctor Thomas Benton is well-known thanks to the enthusiastic raconteurs of Dartmouth College Outing Club, who have been telling this spooky tale to first-year students since the 1920s. Like many of the best campfire tales, the story of Doc Benton has evolved over the years, with each teller adding their own flourish to a tale about a man seeking eternal life. Consequently, while the broad strokes of this legend of terror remain the same, the demonic details attributed to Benton grow in every telling.

The Rise of Thomas Benton

The story begins in Benton, New Hampshire, a village in the shadow of Mount Moosilauke. The only child of a poor family, Benton developed a reputation for his quiet demeanor and extraordinary academic skill at an early age. The village needed a doctor and, recognizing Tom’s aptitude, raised money to send him to medical school in Germany.

At the University of Heidelberg, Tom excelled in the classroom but failed to connect with his German-born peers. His only friend was an eccentric professor, with whom he shared an interest in medicine, science, theology, and, most tellingly, the quest for eternal life. The two spent long nights theorizing and conducting experiments. Shortly before graduation, the professor passed away, leaving Tom his research, a collection of arcane books, and a locked chest, which followed Tom back to Benton when he returned to fulfill his duty as the village doctor.

The Fall of Doctor Thomas Benton

In every rendition of this ghost story, Benton’s downfall begins when he returns to the New Hampshire village of his youth. The details for why vary greatly. In some versions, he becomes distraught soon after arriving, learning that his parents died while he was in Germany. In others, he first establishes a renowned medical practice, marries, and has a child, only to be devastated when his wife and child die from contagious disease.

These details aside, every telling of this legend has Benton responding to the loss by withdrawing from the community and retreating to a small shack on the side of Mount Moosilauke. The only possessions he took with him were the books and small chest left to him by his professor. After moving to the cabin, Doctor Benton returned to town occasionally to resupply, but as time went on, his visits became less frequent. Eventually, younger townspeople knew of Doctor Benton as only the strange person—his appearance having shifted from prosperous young doctor to long-haired, crazed-looking hermit—living in the woods.

The Legend of Doc Benton

Many speculate that Benton resumed his search for eternal life while alone on the mountainside. Furthering suspicions, local livestock started showing up dead, the only sign of injury to the animals a small wound behind their ears. The strange happenings escalated when the dead body of a young man was stolen from the undertaker, only to reappear later with a small wound behind his ear as well.

Villagers began to speculate about what Benton was doing in the woods—some thinking he discovered the secret to eternal life but at the cost of his sanity, others believing he simply went mad with grief following the tragic loss of his family. Many were willing to look past the doctor’s peculiar behavior, until finally things took a turn.

One winter evening in the 1820s, a small girl named Mary did not come inside when called for dinner. When Mary’s mother went to get her, she saw a set of adult footprints in the snow leading out of town toward Mount Moosilauke. She summoned the townspeople and together they followed the trail of footprints to Tunnel Brook Ravine. There they observed a shadowy figure in a dark cloak with a long grey beard, recognized by some as Doctor Benton.

With the snow intensifying, the villagers closed in, pushing the doctor toward the steep-walled canyon. Seemingly trapped, Benton, with Mary under his arm, is said to have climbed one of the near-vertical cliffs boxing him in to elude capture. Atop the cliff, the villagers observed Benton throw Mary to her death, before disappearing forever into the escalating snowstorm. When the townspeople collected Mary’s dead body, they observed the tell-tale wound behind her ear.

The Legend Lives On

Although Doc Benton disappeared that fateful evening, he was not gone for good. In 1860, a missing logger on Mount Moosilauke was found dead, the only observable injury a wound behind his ear. Some 40 years later, a railroad worker in the area was found dead, also with a similar mark behind his ear.

Some say that Benton continued to frequent the area thereafter. Mysteriously creaky floors, open windows, and food disappearing from the cupboards at the Prospect House—a stone structure built on Moosilauke’s summit in 1860—have all been attributed to him. Others claimed to see a dark-cloaked figure fleeing the summit, darting behind the large cairns marking the trail trying to avoid detection.

In the 1970s, a search party was deployed when a solo hiker didn’t return from a trip to the remote Jobildunk Ravine. When the hiker was found, he was covered in bumps and bruises, and in shock, but otherwise uninjured. Once safely away from the mountain, the hiker confessed that a hand pushed him while he was climbing on an exposed ledge.

We can only wonder how many people have caught glimpses of Doc Benton over the years—a hand disappearing behind a tree, the tail of a dark cloak moving behind a cairn, and the glimpse of a long grey beard quickly vanishing into the thick forest—only to write them off as tricks of the imagination. Similarly, our minds wander to the question: Ss it Doctor Benton’s spirit haunting the mountain, or is it in fact the doctor himself, having discovered the secret to everlasting life?

Alpha Guide: Climbing Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Steeped in history, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge is a must-do 1,000-foot route offering exposed slab climbing at a moderate grade.

A route almost as old as technical climbing in the Northeast, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge was explored by early climbing luminaries Robert Underhill and Kenneth Henderson back in the 1920s. Today, Standard Route is a must-do for old and new climbers alike—offering over a 1,000 feet of moderate, often runout slab climbing with enough spice to keep veteran climbers on their toes and remind rookies just how full on 5.5 can feel, making it a classic moderate slab climbing route in North Conway, New England’s trad climbing mecca.

Quick Facts

Distance: 9 pitches
Time to Complete: Half day for most.
Difficulty: ★★★ (5.5, Grade II)

Season: Late-Spring to Early-Fall
Fees/Permits: None

Download file: Whitehorse.gpx


Most climbers approach Whitehorse Ledge from the climbers’ parking lot in a maintenance area just below the White Mountain Hotel. To get there from North Conway, take Route 16 toward the Eastern Slope Inn, turn left onto River Road at the traffic lights just past the inn, and then after about a mile, make another left onto West Side Road. After about another mile, look for a large sign for Hales Location on the right and turn in. Follow that road until the first intersection and turn right. This road will pass a couple of large homes, some of the golf course, and then start bending up toward the hotel. As the road bends uphill to the left, the maintenance area and climbers’ lot are straight ahead.

The climbers’ lot holds about 10 cars, so get there early on busy weekends if you want a spot. Beware that cars parked in the hotel’s regular lot may be towed. Also, there are no facilities in the climbers’ lot, so consider stopping in North Conway beforehand.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Traditional Approach

The approach to Whitehorse Ledge is quick and straightforward. Simply leave the climbers’ lot and walk up the road toward the hotel parking lot. Once you reach the parking lot, look for a well-defined trail leaving from the lot’s right corner. Follow this path for about 5 to 7 minutes to the base of the cliff. As it nears the cliff, the path is a little rocky, so watch your step.

Once you’re at the base of the cliff, picking out Standard Route from the expanse of granite slab before you may seem overwhelming. An easy way to identify Standard Route is to look for the prominent arch rising up the middle of the slab. Trace the arch to the ground—Standard Route’s first pitch starts almost directly below it.

Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck
Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lift Off

Standard Route’s first pitch leaves the ground and heads up and slightly right about 100 feet toward a broad bench that climbers call the Launch Pad. Barely fifth class, some parties just scramble up this pitch then transition to roped climbing on the Launch Pad. However you decide to head up, you’ll eventually want to get situated toward the right side of the Launch Pad for the easiest access to the pitches that follow. There are options for anchors near your feet if you look carefully.

Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck
Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Toilet Bowl

Standard Route’s next pitch (5.1R, 110 ft) heads up and slightly right to one of the more humorous features on Whitehorse—the Toilet Bowl. It’s a big hole in the slab with a two-bolt anchor at the top. The pitch is somewhat run-out, although you will pass several flakes that have some options for gear along the way.

Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck
Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck

Crystal Pocket

With your crew converged on the Toilet Bowl, leave the anchor and head up the next pitch. One of the longer pitches on the route (150 feet, 5.2R), it angles slightly left leaving the anchor heading toward two bolts. From the higher bolt, delicately pad a bit more up and left toward a flake at mid-pitch (place some gear here), then blast up the slab toward the Crystal Pocket anchor, a two-tiered ledge covered in crystals with a two-bolt anchor.

On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck
On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting to the Arch

From the Crystal Pocket, your next destination is a thread anchor in Standard Route’s main arch about 100 feet up. To get there, first climb a steeper swell (crux, 5.3), then follow a series of pockets out and right as you angle up to the arch. If you have tricams on your rack, they’ll definitely find homes in these cool-looking pockets.

Once you’re at the thread, either build an anchor or proceed a few feet up and around the corner to a vertical crack that eats mid-sized cams. Neither of these anchors is particularly comfortable, but from the latter anchor, your second will have a better view of the pitch ahead and won’t be hassled at the rap station by a party rappelling off Sliding Board or Wave Length.

Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lunch Ledge

Perhaps the most enjoyable section of the climb, the next pitch (5.4, 130 ft) first follows the large arch as it arcs up and right. At a weakness, the pitch then ascends a small break in the slab up featured, vertical terrain to a two-bolt anchor atop Lunch Ledge. This section of hero climbing has great hands and feet and is quite moderate—so long as you climb the easier, left side of the intersecting arch.

Due to its size and location (more than halfway up the climb), Lunch Ledge is the perfect spot to pause, have a snack, and rehydrate. Many parties rappel from here—working down to the ground in five double-rope rappels. If you’re at all wavering about going higher, this is one of the last good spots to rappel from.

Pro Tip: Since rappelling on Whitehorse requires two 60m ropes, plan on climbing as a party of three or carrying a long tag line so that you can get down if you decide to rap.

Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck
Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Business

The pitch above Lunch Ledge is the 5.5 crux of Standard Route. Start on the right end of Lunch Ledge and climb up about 20 feet. From here, climbers traverse right to a left-leaning ramp that takes you to the top of the pitch. Start by making a sharp right and padding delicately across a smooth slab protected by a bolt. Next, step slightly down onto a small ledge, clip another bolt, and continue padding right past the infamous “Brown Spot” and toward the ramp. Once on the ramp, continue up for about 40 feet to a right-facing corner. Climb through the corner and then continue up and left for a few additional moves. Build an anchor below the final overlap.

Besides presenting the route’s physical crux, this twisty-turny pitch also presents a rope management challenge. To minimize rope drag, consider placing long slings on your pieces. Another alternative is to do the more direct 5.7 variation.

Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Finishing Pitches

From the anchor above the Brown Spot, there are three more pitches to the top of Standard Route. The first pitch (5.2R, 80 ft) follows the overlap left, reaching a featured dike that you’ll ascend briefly to a ledge. Build an anchor here.

The last two pitches (both 5.2R, 150 ft) follow the dike to the top of Whitehorse. These two pitches are split in the middle by another large overlap, which is easily passed on its left end near a small pine tree. Just above the pine tree, look for a small ledge where you can build an anchor.

The final pitch stays in the dike, passing one old bolt before reaching the top of the cliff. Build an anchor on a solid tree and bring the rest of your crew up.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Variations

The Original Route: If the opening pitches above the Toilet Bowl are crowded, an excellent alternative is to start up the pitch and climb to about the half-way point. Once there, move left toward a long ledge leading over to the base of the route’s namesake arch and a two-bolt anchor. From this anchor, climbers ascend the arch for two pitches (both 5.3) rejoining the normal route at the thread anchor atop the Crystal Pocket pitch. Best avoided in wet conditions, this variation is the original Standard Route and a must-do for aficionados of Northeast climbing history.

The 5.7 Variation: A spicier alternative to the Brown Spot pitch is to take a straighter, more direct route to the anchor. Technically the fourth pitch of Slabs Direct (5.7 PG, 120 ft), this pitch starts the same way as the normal route. It climbs up and right for about 20 feet toward a left-leaning corner then deviates from the normal route—climb the corner then step right onto a slab protected by a bolt. Continue moving up and right toward a ramp. Follow the ramp left to a corner, ascend the corner (pin) and build a belay just below the final overlap, at the same spot where the Brown Spot pitch normally ends. Use long slings to minimize rope drag.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Atop Whitehorse

With the technical climbing behind you and ample places to sit comfortably, the top of Whitehorse Ledge provides a picturesque setting for rehydrating, switching from climbing to approach shoes, packing your rope and rack, and getting ready for the descent. Before leaving, be sure to soak up the fantastic views, with North Conway in the foreground and the White Mountains spilling out north.

Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting Down

From the top of the climb, start walking climbers’ right toward the saddle between Whitehorse and Cathedral, following a well-trod path ducking in and out of the woods and occasionally onto some low-angle slabs. Shortly after the trail departs from the slabs for a final time, it forks. Head right (going left will bring you to Cathedral), and follow the initially steep, but eventually mellow, trail for 15 to 20 minutes to the base of the slabs.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • Tricams are a particularly useful piece of protection on Standard Route, as they slide into pockets that don’t accommodate nuts or cams.
  • A 60-meter rope is the perfect length for Standard Route and you won’t go wrong with a Sterling Nano IX 9.0 mm, but like we said above, if you plan on repelling, you’ll need two.
  • Big enough to carry your climbing kit, layers, food, and water, the Black Diamond Speed 22 is the ideal-sized climbing pack for a trip up Whitehorse.
  • There isn’t much protection from the sun on Whitehorse’s exposed slabs—a sun shirt offers simple, safe protection.
  • A sticky-soled pair of approach shoes are invaluable at Whitehorse—many will scramble up to the Launch Pad (or even the first few pitches) in them while everyone appreciates them on the at-times-steep and scrambly descent.
  • Feel like climbing more? Check out the North Conway Rock Guide for all the information needed to tackle other routes at Whitehorse, along with the area’s other crags.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Slab climbing on wet rock is terrifying. If the rock is wet, it’s raining, or rain is in the forecast, consider a different objective.
  • The routes on the Slabs on Whitehorse (Sea of Holes, Sliding Board, Standard Route, Beginner’s Route, and Cormier-Magness) are extremely popular. Plan on an early start or climbing during the week to avoid crowds and traffic jams.
  • There aren’t a lot of placements on several pitches of Standard Route. A normal rack for the route might be 9 cams (0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 with doubles of 0.5, 0.75, and 1), a size run of nuts (5-13), a few small tri-cams, and 8 alpine draws.
  • Sending Standard Route is an achievement worth celebrating. Flatbread Company in North Conway is only a few minutes from the cliff and offers the tastiest pizza around.
  • Realized you were missing a key piece of gear on the route? Want to cruise for a deal on a new puffy? Just want to check out the latest and greatest in outdoor gear? Stop into our North Conway store before you head home!
  • If you’re not sure you’re up for leading the route but really want to climb it, the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School will be happy to guide you up it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Current Conditions

Have you recently climbed Standard Route on Whitehorse? What did you think? Post your experience in the comments for others!

Bikes and Brews: Bear Brook and Concord Craft Brewing

Bear Brook State Park, located in south-central New Hampshire, is a mountain biker’s dream. With trails that offer options for every type of rider, Bear Brook is an easy trip for many in-state and Massachusetts-based mountain bikers, while its campground makes it perfect for those visiting from farther afield. Better yet: Combining a ride here with some post-ride refreshment from Concord Craft Brewing makes for a fantastic day out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Originating through the Recreational Designation Area Program—a New Deal project to build public parks near urban areas—Bear Brook is located about 30 minutes from both Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire. The park sports an extensive and diverse trail system, with roughly 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, and there’s no better way to explore it than on a mountain bike.

There are a handful of parking options, but the biker/hiker parking lot or Hayes Field on Podunk Road—both off of NH-28—both provide a central jumping-off point for exploration. Generally, parking in the hiker/biker lot means beginning your ride with a climb, while parking at Hayes Field means ending your ride with one.

There’s a $4 per person fee to enter the park, which you can pay in advance on their website or in person at the “toll booth” on Podunk Road or the ranger station at the entrance to the biker/hiker parking lot. Even if you prepay, it’s a good idea to stop and get a free map—the park is vast, the trail signage could be better, and navigating is tricky at times.

Evidence of a pre-park time is apparent throughout most rides, as the park’s large trail system passes stone walls, long-forgotten foundations, and old cemeteries.

Bear Brook’s trails offer something for everyone, with everything from fast and flowy trails to techy rock gardens to playful side hits. There is also climbing—lots and lots of climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Fast and Flowy: Ending almost in the hiker/biker lot, Big Bear is the crown jewel of Bear Brook’s trail system. It delivers huge smiles as you whip down the smooth trail and hurtle through banked turns—there are even a couple of optional jumps for those looking to clock some air time. Designed for descending, downhillers have the right of way on Big Bear. Across from the hiker/biker lot (after a short climb) is another great option for those with the need for speed: Hemlock offers a swift, bench-cut descent before giving way to fast, fun, rolling terrain.

Tech: One of the awesome things about riding at Bear Brook is that after the steep climbs and robust rock gardens, the best techy trails usually reward bikers with enjoyable, easier riding. Two great options are in close proximity to Hayes Field. Carr Ridge offers rock-strewn, punchy climbs and loose descents that give way to well-manicured and grin-inducing turns. Similarly, Bear Hill delivers climbing, intermittent rock gardens, a skinny elevated log ride (don’t worry, there’s a B-line), and a few fun things to pop off of, all mixed in with pleasurable, easy-rolling singletrack.

Climbing: When thinking about Bear Brook climbing, one trail immediately springs to mind: Alp d’Huez. Named after the iconic Tour de France climb, Alp d’Huez is less centrally located than other classics (it’s close to the toll booth), but offers a nice switchbacking ascent sure to have you breaking a sweat and trying to catch your breath. The Little Bear Trail—which starts near the hiker/biker lot and is the standard way to get to the top of the Big Bear Trail—provides a similar experience but is a little bit shorter and less steep.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

One of the best ways to end a great day of riding at Bear Brook is with a craft beer—and Concord Craft Brewing in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, is the perfect place to kick back with friends, whether on the patio or in their cozy taproom. Just be warned, the brewery only serves cold beer and munchies (think pretzels, peanuts, and chips). Luckily, there are also a bunch of great places to grab a bite within walking distance.

Double IPA: IPAs rule the day at Concord Craft Brewing, and although you may not have claimed a KOM or QOM on your ride, you can still sit down with the Gov’nah. An imperial/double IPA, at 8.6% ABV, the Gov’nah is Concord Craft Brewing’s strongest offering. Fair warning—the more miles you’ve logged, the more powerful this brew seemingly becomes.

New England IPA: If 8.6% ABV feels ambitious, you can seek a safe space—a Safe Space IPA, that is. A classic hazy New England-style IPA checking in at 6% ABV, Safe Space is the ideal treatment for those tired legs, but not so dangerous to affect your odds of riding again tomorrow.

Session IPA: If you’re planning to spend as much time on the patio as you did on the trails—or feel like you deserve a beer for each trip you took down Big Bear—consider a Finding NEIPA, a delicious low-alcohol (4.2%) brew that won’t leave you feeling like you went over the handlebars the next morning.

Sour Slushie: For non-beer lovers and those super-hot days, you can’t go wrong with a Sour Slushie. A delightful treat that will have you yearning for your youth, but happy to be over 21, Concord Craft mixes its Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour in a slushie machine for a truly unique treat.

If you’re staying at the campground or heading south to get home, there’s still a great way to sample some of the brewery’s choice beverages. Concord Craft beers abound at grocery and convenience stores near Bear Brook. Be an après-hero and grab a four-pack (or two) for your crew for some post-ride refreshment.

Have you visited Bear Brook or Concord Craft Brewing? If so, we want to hear about your favorite trails and what ales you in the comments below!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

A Beginners Guide to Hiking in the White Mountains

At almost 800,000 acres in size, containing approximately 1,200 miles of hiking trails, and topping out at 6,288 feet—higher than anywhere else in the Northeast—the White Mountain National Forest offers nearly limitless possibilities for human-powered exploration. Hiking options in the White Mountains expand with the inclusion of adjacent state parks like Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch (which includes the nation’s oldest continuously maintained hiking trail—the Crawford Path).

The proximity of the White Mountains to many of the Northeast’s biggest cities makes them an attractive option for the region’s hikers, but one barrier remains for some who want to explore this dreamy destination: where to start?

On top of Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range. | Credit: Tim Peck
On top of Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range. | Credit: Tim Peck

Start Small to Go Big 

Epic hikes like the Presidential Traverse, Pemi Loop, and Franconia Ridge are at the top of seemingly every hiker’s White Mountain bucket list, but they aren’t the best trips for hiking novices. Start small, build fitness, get familiar with the weather and terrain of the Whites, and start figuring out what gear works for you.

Some great 1-3 hour hikes for getting your feet wet include:

For a little more of a challenge, consider these moderate hikes:

  • Middle and North Sugarloaf
  • Welch-Dickey
  • Mount Willard
  • Hedgehog Mountain
  • Mount Pemigewasset

Ready to start ticking off 4,000 footers? Here are a few of the easier ones:

  • Mount Hale via Hale Brook
  • Mount Tecumseh via Tecumseh Trail
  • Mount Waumbek via Starr King Trail
  • Mount Pierce via the Crawford Path
  • Cannon Mountain via High Cannon
Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Carry Essential Items 

The “10 essentials” serve as a basic guideline of what you should carry in the event of an emergency or an unexpected night outside. The concept originated in climbing classes taught by the Mountaineers—an outdoor recreation organization founded in the Pacific Northwest—in the 1930s. However, it wasn’t until 1974 that the 10 essentials actually made it to print, when the long-standing tome of American climbing, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills included the list in its third edition.

In the near-century since their development, the 10 essentials have evolved to encompass modern technology but still fulfill their original intention. The 10 essentials are:

  • Navigation: Study your route before you leave home, then bring a map and compass, GPS, or a smartphone with a navigation app like Gaia.
  • Headlamp: Hikers are encouraged to carry a headlamp with extra batteries, but we live by the maxim that the best place to keep extra batteries for your headlamp is in another headlamp—after all, a powerful headlamp like the Black Diamond Spot only weighs three ounces.
  • Sun protection: Sunglasses for your eyes and sun-protective clothes and sunscreen for everything else.
  • First aid: Check out the goEast article How to Restock Your First-Aid Kit for ideas on what to carry.
  • Repair kit: A small knife or multi-tool and some duct tape for making trailside repairs like fixing a broken zipper or tapping the sole of a shoe back on.
  • Fire: Waterproof matches and a firestarter.
  • Shelter: A lightweight bivy to hunker down in the event of an unexpected overnight or while awaiting rescue.
  • Extra food: Our article Staying Fueled Up on Long Hikes outlines some basic nutritional principles for powering your adventure—as a rule of thumb, bring more than you need.
  • Extra water: Water is heavy, but tablets or a lightweight mini-filter offer safe, easy ways to stay hydrated in an emergency.
  • Extra layers: Everyone has different needs—some people run warm, some cold—but bring more layers than you think you need. Get an idea of what your hiking kit should look like in our article Top to Bottom: Gear to Hike the NH 48.
Crossing the Alpine Garden below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck
Crossing the Alpine Garden below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck

Mountain Weather 

The weather in town is often a lot different from what you’ll find in the mountains. Strong, chilly winds are commonplace on hikes above treeline, as are intense sun and even the odd out-of-season snow. Rather than trusting the weather app on your phone, check out the higher summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory for a clear idea of what’s happening weather-wise in the Whites.

Trail Conditions 

Weather isn’t the only difference between town and the mountains. For example, snow can linger in the woods for weeks after it has melted from sidewalks and backyards. Another thing to keep in mind before hitting the trail is water crossings, as spring snowmelt and heavy rains can turn small streams into raging rivers. The website is a handy resource for learning what conditions to expect on your hike.

Lake of the Clouds hut, below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck
Lake of the Clouds hut, below Mount Washington. | Credit: Tim Peck

Find Some Friends

Joining a more experienced partner or two for your first few outings is a sure way to get all the benefits of the Whites without any of the stress. An experienced friend can provide critical beta—like directions to the trailhead or which way to turn at the unsigned trail junction—while also offering feedback on questions you have about appropriate gear and your fitness level.

Stay Safe

A good reason to hike within your abilities, carry the 10 essentials, and know what you’re getting yourself into is that the State of New Hampshire has recently started charging people for rescues if they’ve demonstrated negligent behavior. To insure yourself against a bill for a rescue, and to support NH Fish and Game search and rescue efforts, consider purchasing a Hike Safe Card for $25 a person or $35 for a family. Don’t think you’ll need a rescue? The NH Fish and Game on average participate in 190 search and rescue missions per year.

Have any tips for new hikers? If so, leave them in the comments below.

Are the Green Woodlands New England’s New Mountain Bike Hot Spot?

More and more mountain bike trails are springing up around New England every season. In most cases, these trail systems start with a few miles and grow slowly over the years; Rarely does a full-blown trail system spring up overnight. One place breaking the mold and blowing up the mileage is Green Woodlands in Dorchester, New Hampshire, which has opened up 70 miles of mountain bike trails—35 miles of which are machine built—in just a few years.

Green Woodlands’ mountain bike trails come thanks to the Green Woodlands Foundation, a private (multi-generational family) operating foundation that has 23,000 acres of land in the New Hampshire towns of Lyme, Dorchester, Orford, and Wentworth. The foundation’s focus is wildlife management, environmental research and education, historical preservation, and activities that get people outside, such as cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

The area has one of the easiest trail systems to navigate in the Northeast. In addition to having printed maps and brochures in most parking lots and maps at prominent trail junctions, there’s also a digital map on the Trailforks app and a free, downloadable geo-referenced PDF that is compatible with apps like Avenza. Be sure to arrive prepared—Green Woodlands’s goal was to create a backcountry “wilderness” mountain bike experience, which is what you get (to say cell-phone service is spotty is an understatement). There’s also no end-of-day trail sweep, so ride with a buddy.

The only charge for riding Green Woodlands is a smile, which isn’t hard to produce after a day riding their trails. It’s worth noting that the new nature of the trails and the fact that they’re machine built makes them particularly sensitive—avoid riding them in the rain and when they’re muddy to ensure they remain rideable and open. If the weather is questionable, check their Facebook page for conditions and updates. The mountain bike season at Green Woodlands runs from June 1st to November 5th.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Smooth and Clean 

What differentiates the Green Woodlands trails from the rake-and-ride trails that dominate other New England destinations is that they are primarily machine built. This means that the trails are smoother with fewer rocks, roots, and natural obstacles in them. It also makes these trails accessible to a wider range of riders—beginners will love the relative lack of obstacles and that the most challenging sections almost always have b-line or are easily rolled. Alternatively, more seasoned riders will find plenty of berms on trails such as Cellar Hole, tables on trails like Moose Tracks, and side hits including those on Brook Trail to play on.

While the trails themselves are very beginner-friendly, most will want to make sure they’re feeling pretty fit when visiting Green Woodlands, as there’s a significant lack of flat and rolling terrain; long climbs are rewarded with long descents and vice versa. However, thanks to an abundance of parking lots on North Dorchester Road, shuttling is a straightforward (and popular) activity, provided you have two cars.

Upper Norris. | Credit: TIm Peck
Upper Norris. | Credit: TIm Peck

The Must-Rides 

All the trails at Green Woodlands are worth exploring, but the Norris Trail should be on every Northeast mountain biker’s must-ride list. Accessed by a long, gradual climb up the Quimby Bike Trail—or a more direct grind up the double track of the Six Mile Trail—the Norris Trail is worth the effort. Delivering three-ish miles of pure downhill bliss, the Norris Trails descends approximately 1,000 feet, making it one of the longest continuous descents you’ll find in New England.

It’s not merely the length of the Norris Trail that makes it a must ride, it’s the quality. The trail begins with a sneaky (and uncharacteristic for Green Woodlands) steep, rocky chute before giving way to smooth, swoopy machine-built berms, boostable tables, and the odd side hit that will quickly have you forgetting about the searing in your lungs and wondering if it’s normal to smile so big.


Beyond the Favorites 

Ledges was the first mountain bike-specific trail built at Green Woodlands—before biking, the area was known for its extensive network of XC ski trails. Different in character from many of the network’s other trails, Ledges starts with a climb up smooth singletrack which leads to some uncharacteristically techy granite ledges (hence the name) and eventually leading to a swoopy, machine-made descent.

Riders looking for a tamer trail will want to seek out the Brook Trail. Ebbing and flowing between short climbs and gradual descents, the wide, smooth singletrack culminates in a series of grin-inducing berms. Notable for the numerous giant stone cairns guarding the sides of the trail, the Brook Trail is great for beginners looking to gain confidence as well as seasoned riders wanting a fun, fast, trail that requires some pedaling.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Fine Print

At the moment, Green Woodlands is only open to residents of New Hampshire and Vermont, but the trails were built to draw visitors to this off-the-beaten-path part of the state. While you wait for Green Woodlands to expand their opening, spend some time riding hills to ensure maximum mileage when you visit and follow their Facebook account for updates.

Have you visited Green Woodlands? If so, let us know if you have any tips for first-time riders in the comments below. And, if you just visited Green Woodlands for the first time, let us know what you think!

Alpha Guide: Hiking Mount Moosilauke

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

The treeless summit of New Hampshire’s tenth tallest mountain and westernmost 4,000-footer is a stunning and worth prize for peakbaggers.

Taking its name from the Abenaki language, Mount Moosilauke translates to “bald place.” No doubt named after its stunning, treeless, wind-swept summit cone, Moosilauke is a day hiker’s delight, offering a wide variety of trails that will challenge all types of hikers. No matter what direction you summit from, the reward is a stunning 360-degree view—so long as the weather is good.


Download file: Moosilauke.gpx


Most of the day hikes on Mount Moosilauke leave from four trailheads: the Carriage Road Trailhead, the Ravine Lodge Trailhead, the Glencliff Trailhead, and Beaver Brook Trailhead.

The Carriage Road and Ravine Lodge trailheads are both located off NH Route 118, while the Beaver Brook Trailhead is on NH Route 112. All three are within 15-20 minutes of both Lincoln and Woodstock, New Hampshire.

Getting to the Glencliff Trailhead is a bit more complicated. First, get to NH Route 25 (which runs north-south west of Moosilauke), then turn onto Sanatorium Road. The trailhead is about a mile up the road on the right. A field and a White Mountain National Forest sign are two indicators that you’ve found the right parking lot.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Gorge Brook Trail

Distance: 7.4 miles, 2,450 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day

Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None

The shortest and most popular way to Moosilauke’s summit, the Gorge Brook Trail begins near Dartmouth College’s Ravine Lodge on Ravine Lodge Road. After crossing a brook on a hikers’ bridge, the trail turns left, then at a well-marked junction, starts climbing alongside Gorge Brook, crisscrossing the brook on a few occasions.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail diverges from the brook near a memorial for Ross McKenny, the Dartmouth Outing Club’s Woodcraft Advisor, and builder of the Ravine Lodge. From here, the trail begins to climb gradually up Moosilauke’s flank through beautiful forest, eventually passing a series of overlooks—one toward the Sandwich Range and then others with fantastic views of Lincoln, Franconia Ridge, and the Kancamagus Highway. Nearer the summit, the trail steeply ascends a series of switchbacks, eventually reaching an open area with excellent views. From here, the trail briefly drops back below tree line before beelining up the summit cone. A short-but-steep, open, and often windy hike across the alpine zone gets you up to the 360-degree views on Moosilauke’s rocky summit. Once you arrive, plop yourself behind one of the many windbreaks, grab a snack, enjoy the views, and relish the 3.7 miles and 2,400 feet of elevation gain that you’ve achieved.

To return to the base, either retrace your steps or, on nicer days, make a fantastic loop by descending via the Carriage Road to the Snapper Trail and back to Ravine Lodge Road. If you do the loop, tag Moosilauke’s South Peak on the way. It’s one of the best sub-peaks in the Whites!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Beaver Brook Trail

Distance: 7.6 miles, 3,100 feet, one way, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Full-day

Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: White Mountain National Forest Recreation Pass ($5/day or $30/annual)

The Beaver Brook Trail is the steepest and most challenging trail to Moosilauke’s summit, and is also part of the iconic Appalachian Trail. Ascending 2,700 feet from Beaver Brook Trailhead to Mossilauke’s summit, the trail gains 3,100 cumulative feet in elevation—accounting for the trail’s various ups and downs—over just 3.8 miles.

Leaving the Beaver Brook Trailhead, the trail starts gently, weaving over roots and boulders, and crossing a few bridges before gaining the Beaver Brook Cascades. From here, the trail hugs the Beaver Brook Cascades for the next mile and delivers some of the steepest hiking in the Whites—hiking that is made even more challenging because it is often wet and slippery thanks to mist from the nearby falls. Many of the steepest sections feature wooden steps and iron rungs to aid in the ascent.

After about 1.5 miles on the Beaver Brook Trail, it intersects with a short spur trail leading to the Beaver Brook Shelter which marks the end of the steepest climbing. After another half-mile of hiking, the trail meets with the Asquam Ridge Trail; Bear right and continue on the Beaver Brook Trail for another 1.5 miles, passing under the summit of 4,529-foot Mount Blue (a non-counting New Hampshire 4,000-footer). From here, the trail converges with the Benton Trail for the final half-mile push across the alpine zone and past large cairns to the summit.

An ascent of Mount Moosilauke via the Beaver Brook Trail is most commonly an out-and-back affair. Use caution on the return trip, though—descending steep terrain on tired legs can be a recipe for disaster.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Carriage Road

Distance: 10.2, 3,100 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day

Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None

Constructed in the 1800s, the Carriage Road was built as a means to get visitors to a hotel (the Prospect House, later known as the Tip Top House) that once stood on top of Mount Moosilauke. The Carriage Road is the longest and gentlest of the popular hiking routes to the mountain’s summit—it’s approximately 5 miles long and climbs 3,000 feet.

Hikers begin their journey on the Carriage Road at a small gravel lot on Breezy Point Road that’s notable for the numerous hotels that have stood there, including the Merrill Mountain Home, the Breezy Point House, and the Moosilauke Inn. Although none of the buildings remain today, curious hikers can find remnants of these old buildings with a little searching.

An ascent of the Carriage Road begins benignly. Over the first 1.25 miles, the trail slowly weaves through a low-elevation forest passing pines and birches and gradually picking up elevation then passing over the Baker River before intersecting with the Snapper Trail. Continuing on the Carriage Road, hikers will begin to notice the birches give way to smaller pines with occasional views to their right and at their back. Not long after meeting the Snapper Trail, the trail starts to steepen as it climbs 1.25 miles to its junction with the Glencliff Trail and a short (0.1 mile) spur trail leading to the 4,523-foot South Peak.

From here, it’s just under a mile to the summit with each step bringing you further into the alpine zone, and exposed to the elements, as the krumholz gives way to bare rock before ending at Moosilauke’s bright orange summit sign. Along the way, there are plenty of views, especially west toward Vermont’s Green Mountains—try to pick out Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield on the western horizon. It’s common for Carriage Road hikers to return the way the came, enjoying the width and gentle grade of the trail on the descent.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Glencliff Trail

Distance: 7.8 miles, 3,300 feet, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half-day

Season: Late-spring through early-fall.
Fees/Permits: None

Just 4 miles long and gaining roughly 3,300 feet in elevation to Moosilauke’s summit, the Glencliff Trail is a fantastic way to explore the southwest side of Moosilauke. Beginning at a trailhead on Sanatorium Road, the trail is quite moderate for the first mile—starting through grassy fields before gradually ascending through forested terrain of yellow birches and hemlocks.

Thereafter, the trail begins to climb more steeply, while also becoming more rocky and rugged, as it approaches the ridge just below Moosilauke’s South Peak. Atop the ridge (around the 3-mile mark), the trail passes a short spur trail for South Peak—be sure to check it out if you have time—and then joins the Carriage Road almost immediately. From the junction with the Carriage Road, it is another mile up to the summit.

Ascending Moosilauke via the Glencliff Trail is typically done as an out-and-back. Because Glencliff is part of the Appalachian Trail, hikers may well spot some thru-hikers as they head north toward Maine’s Mt. Katahdin or southbound toward Georgia’s Springer Mountain.

Moose from South Peak. | Credit: Tim Peck
Moose from South Peak. | Credit: Tim Peck

Trails Less Traveled

If you’re looking for a bit more solitude on your hike up Moosilauke, consider one of these less-traveled trails.

Asquam Ridge Trail: Those looking for a longer hike from the Ravine Lodge Trailhead should check out the Asquam Ridge Trail. Running 5.8 miles to Moosilauke’s summit, the trail makes a gradual ascent up the northeastern side of the mountain. One highlight of the trail is that just before it connects with the Beaver Brook Trail (at mile 3.9), it passes near the summit of Mount Jim, which at 4,172 feet tall is one of the several non-counting 4,000-footers that surround Mount Moosilauke. Look for a short spur trail to check out Jim’s summit.

Benton Trail: Thanks to the out-of-the-way location of the Benton Trailhead—and some rerouting in the wake of Hurricane Irene—the Benton Tail sees much less traffic compared to Moosilauke’s more popular routes, despite being one of the easiest ways to the mountain’s summit. The 3.6-mile trail follows the route of an old bridle path, accounting for its modest terrain and moderate footing. Hikers on the Benton Trail are also afforded fantastic views of the Kinsmans and Little Tunnel Brook Ravine, before connecting with the Beaver Brook Trail/Appalachian Trail. From here, the trail continues for a half-mile through the alpine zone, guided by impressive cairns, to Moosilauke’s rocky summit.

Snapper Trail: The 1.1-mile long Snapper Trail is a popular connector for hikers looking to make a loop hike out of the Gorge Brook Trail and the Carriage Road. The most popular of these loops is to ascend Moosilauke via the Gorge Brook Trail and descend via Carriage Road, breaking off on to the Snapper Trail and reconnecting with the Gorge Brook Trail a little more than a half-mile before the Ravine Lodge.

Looking for another great way to explore Mount Moosilauke? Skinning up the Carriage Road to Moosilauke’s summit and descending on skis is a classic New Hampshire ski tour. Check it out after the next big winter storm.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit 

  • Whether it’s spare layers or fuel for your Moosilauke adventure, carry it in comfort (and style) with an Osprey Talon/Tempest daypack.
  • Sitting alone on the edge of the Whites and exposed to the full force of the elements, Mount Moosilauke’s summit is notoriously windy. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (men’s/women’s) offers lightweight and packable protection.
  • Similarly, a puffy coat is often welcome on Moosilauke’s summit even during the dog days of summer. The Outdoor Research Ascendant (men’s/women’s) uses a breathable insulation that is perfect for days when you’re trying to stay warm on your scramble back down to treeline.
  • Here are 10 great reasons to use trekking poles—and Black Diamond’s Trail Trekking Poles (men’s/women’s) offer the perfect blend of performance and durability.
  • Stoke will only power you so far up the mountain. When it starts to wane, refuel with a Honey Stinger Cracker N’ Nut Butter Snack Bar (the peanut butter and milk chocolate ones are our favorite).

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • The Last Chair in Plymouth is a great place to stop for a pizza and pint if you’ve been hiking the Glencliff Trail, Carriage Road, or Gorge Brook. Beaver Brook Trail hikers can grab a burger and beer at J.L. Sullivans in Thornton.
  • You don’t need to be a Dartmouth student to take advantage of the school’s Ravine Lodge—it’s open to everyone and offers easy access to the Gorge Brook Trail.
  • Spend a night on the mountain at the Beaver Brook Shelter, located right off the Beaver Brook Trail. The shelter sleeps eight, and features one of the better privies in the Whites.
  • With so many trails criss-crossing Moosilauke’s flanks, make sure you stay on course with map like this waterproof map of the White Mountains.
  • Hunt for history and hike to the site of a 1942 plane crash below the Asquam Ridge Trail.