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Climbing North Moat Mountain in Winter

Coral and Heather on the summit of North Moat Mountain
Coral and Heather relax on the summit of North Moat Mountain (3196′)

My friend Lisa and I led a hike up North Moat Mountain(3196′) last weekend, a surprisingly strenuous 3000-footer located within spitting distance of Mt Washington. It’s a peak I’ve attempted to climb several times in the past as part of a full traverse of South Moat, Middle Moat, and North Moat, only to be turned around by group fatigue or foul weather.

We had a very strong group on this trip with hikers from the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Random Hikers Meetup group. While I didn’t know everyone at the beginning of the hike, we quickly determined that we had many mutual hiking friends in common.

The route up North Moat Mountain begins at the Attitash Trail parking lot on West Side Road, just outside North Conway, home of the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery which we fittingly visited after our hike.

South Moat (rear), Middle Moat, and North Moat (foreground)
South Moat (rear), Middle Moat, and North Moat (foreground)

The first part of this hike follows the Attitash Trail for 2.3 miles past Diana’s Baths, a popular. multi-tiered waterfall and summertime swimming hole. that crosses picturesque Lucy Brook twice before climbing the North Moat Trail for 1.9 miles to the summit. The elevation gain for this hike is 2650′ from the trailhead, which is quite respectable for a peak that’s just under 3200′ in height.

Hiking past beautiful Lucy Brook
Hiking past beautiful Lucy Brook

Our route included two stream crossings of Lucy Brook, one bridged and one unbridged and fairly wide, that required careful rock hopping to cross. The water is running quite low in the brook so waterproof winter boots should be able to handle most slips, if required.

For those of you interested in fly fishing in the White Mountains, Lucy Brook drains into the nearby Saco River, where it marks that start of a popular fly fishing run. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this mountain brook has trout in it as well, what with the undercut banks, deep pools, drops and riffles in this section. I certainly plan on coming back here in the spring and finding out!

Diana's Baths to North Moat Mountain-1

Once the North Moat Trail forks off from the Attitash Trail, it climbs steadily to the open summit. We encountered thick ice on the trail, which must be quite wet during the remainder of the year, but only required microspikes for traction.

Descending the higher ledges on North Moat
Descending the higher ledges on North Moat

We lost the trail as we neared the summit and ended up climbing through a section of open ledge, buried in snow and ice, which made the final ascent quite easy. Still, there is enough of a slope angle and wind slab to warrant some caution as you climb or descend from the summit cairn, as an unexpected fall and slide could result in injury if you plow into the krummholz. I switched from microspikes to toothier Hillsound Pros Crampons on the descent for just this reason.

This was a great hike and is an excellent winter destination if you’re sick of climbing 4000 footers. North Moat is also on the New Hampshire 3000 footer and the New Hampshire 52 with a View Peakbagging Lists.

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2 comments

  1. North Moat is a great hike. Do let me know if you find any brookies in Lucy Brook. I’ve been meaning to do a little Tenkara in the White Mountains and that is a beatiful mountain stream!

    • Trout are stocked by NH F&G in all the big rivers, but I’d really like to find some good smaller streams to fish in. I know a half dozen that I want to check out this spring. In fact, I just bought my NH Fishing license yesterday. :-)

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