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Snowshoeing to the Red Hill Firetower on Squam Lake

The Red Hill Firetower
The Red Hill Firetower (2030′)

Red Hill is the site of a firetower overlooking Squam Lake in the southeastern end of the White Mountains, near Moultonborough, NH. There are numerous hiking trails on Red Hill, which is managed by the Lake Region Conservation Trust (click for trail map.)

I climbed Red Hill with two friends, Denise and Michelle, on a bluebird day when we had great views of the Crawford Ridgepole Range, Sandwich Mountain, Mt Whiteface and Mt Passaconaway. We hiked up to the summit on the Cabin Trail and descended by the Eagle Cliff Trail, hiking down to the lake and back up the Teedie Trail, en route.

The snow on the mountain was very deep, so we ended up on breaking a lot of trail. As we hiked, we kept hearing a “Woompf” sound, like you’d hear when triggering an avalanche, although we were traversing flat terrain and in no danger of triggering a slide. It was still disconcerting.

The hunters cabin on the Cabin Trail
The hunter’s cabin on the Cabin Trail

The Cabin Trail follows an old road, now used by snowmobiles, so it was broken out most of the way to the summit. The final leg, a ski trail, passes through open woods and climbs up a series of small knolls to the summit. Along the way, it passes an old hunters cabin, quite an ornate one, with a stone chimney and beautiful windows. I couldn’t help thinking about the Ranger’s cabin on Smart’s Mountain that I’d visited last fall. This cabin is far nicer.

The hasp securing the door was broken, so I checked out the interior which smelled like cedar. It was in far better shape and far cleaner than I would have expected, including this humorous sign to the “Ladies Parlor.” The fireplace was full of snow which had fallen down the flue, so I have to assume the cabin’s not used. Too bad really, because it’s is far better condition than some of the other rentable USFS cabins near Mt Washington.

Ladies Parlour
Ladies Parlor

The summit was windy, but there were some outbuildings near the firetower, so we sheltered out of the wind behind them, near a picnic table that was nearly buried in snow. The views of frozen Squam Lake were great. We were at the top of the world! This would be an excellent spot for a summer picnic.

Squam Lake from the Red Hill Summit
Squam Lake from the Red Hill Summit

After a break, we hiked along the ridge from Red Hill to Eagle Cliff, a sub-peak of the main hill, passing through several cols enroute. There were more great views from the ledges here, especially of the 4000 footers to the north and east.

There a bypass trail on Eagle Cliff which can be sketchy when covered with ice
There is a bypass trail on Eagle Cliff which can be sketchy when covered with ice.

The descent of Eagle Cliff is very steep, so we opted to take the bad weather bypass, which was still “exciting” in its own right. I was leading on the descent, breaking trail, and postholing to my knees in powders despite wearing snowshoes. The trail is very well blazed however, so it was easy to find despite the deep snow. We descended back to the ring road around Red Hill, which was a short walk to my car and the reverse shuttle to our start.

Red Hill is a fine winter hike and looks to be a good destination in milder weather as well.

Total distance: 6.5 miles with 2400 feet of elevation gain.

Red Hill (Click for Geospatial PDF)
Red Hill (Click for Geospatial PDF)

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7 comments

  1. Nice! Breaking trail, postholing, great quads?

  2. I experienced similar “woompfing” while snowshoeing up Friday and Balsam Cap in the Catskills a few Winters ago. I was on a moderately steep slope and several times large slabs would collapse while I was on them, occasionally starting to slide downhill. But it was in a very heavily forested area and none of the slides travelled farther than a few yards before losing their momentum. It was exciting and disconcerting at the same time.

    This has also happened to me a few other times in the Southern Appalachians, but never as continuously as that hike.

    • There was a frozen layer under all that snow. We’ve had very dangerous avalanche conditions on the higher summits from it this year, but thankfully it wasn’t an issue on this hike with the milder terrain.

  3. Bluebird day here, too. 84°F… our 12th day this winter over 80. We’ve only had 11 freezes, which makes me want to be away from here this summer! I think you guys are having more fun.

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