Backpacking a Tunnel Brook Loop

Tunnel Brook is a lush, steep-walled valley on the west side of Mount Moosilauke (4802′). Seldom visited by day hikers, it’s a quiet and secluded place to observe wildlife and witness the avalanche and flash flood damage that Moosilauke and neighboring Mount Clough (pronounced Cluff) experience during major rainstorms and hurricanes.  This loop hike climbs one of Moosilauke’s many sub-peaks, Hurricane Mountain (3015′), before heading up the Tunnel Brook Trail where there are excellent dispersed camping opportunities. It climbs to a protected point just below the Moosilauke summit on the pretty Benton Trail before climbing to the summit sign. From the summit, the route visits Moosilauke’s popular South Peak (4523′), before returning to Dartmouth’s Ravine Lodge at the beginning of the loop.

What’s the correct way to pronounce Moosilauke? There’s actually no right or wrong way. Some people pronounce it “Moose-i-lock”, while others prefer the more melodious “Moose-i-lock-ee.”

White Mountain 4000 Footers

  • Moosilauke (4802′, 10th highest in the AMC 4000 footer list)
  • South Peak, Moosilauke  (4523′, not on the AMC 4000 footer list)

Rating/Difficulty

****/4 out of 5

Distance/Elevation Gain

18.6 miles w/5200′ of cumulative elevation gain

Tunnel Brook Loop
  • GPX File (Download) – Trails only

Recommended Duration

2-3 days

Season

mid-June thru October

Permits Required

None.

Regulations

Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

Camping is prohibited on Mt Moosilauke east of the Appalachian Trail, except at lean-tos. This includes the Hurricane Trail, the Carriage Road Trail, the Beaver Brook Trail, and the Glencliff Trail on land which is owned and maintained by Dartmouth College. It’s ok to camp 200 ft off the Tunnel Brook Trail and the Benton Trail, per the regular White Mountain National Forest Backcountry Camping regulation linked above.

Parking/Trailhead Directions

Ravine Lodge Rd. (unpaved) leaves NH 118, 5.8 miles east of NH25, outside of Woodstock, NH and 7.2 miles west of NH 112, outside of Warren, NH. Parking is prohibited in the last 0.2 miles of the Ravine Lodge Rd. which is reserved for lodge guests. Hikers should park in the west side of the road, south of the service road that diverges left 1.4 miles from the intersection of NH118. Dartmouth has also added additional diagonal parking spaces closer to NH 118 that may be used by the public. Ravine Lodge Rd. is closed in winter to vehicle traffic.

Parking beyond this sign is reserved for Ravine Lodge guests

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the AMC White Mountain Trail Map 3-4: Crawford Notch-Sandwich Range and Moosilauke-Kinsman (2017 ed), which is the best waterproof map available for this region, although I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set (2017 ed) rather than one map at a time. More detailed trail descriptions can be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.

  1. Gorge Brook Trail- 0.5 miles
  2. Hurricane Trail – 4.3 miles
  3. Glencliff Trail (AT) – 0.4 miles
  4. High Road (paved) – 100 yards
  5. Forest Road 19 – 0.4 miles
  6. Tunnel Brook Trail – 5.2 miles
  7. Benton Trail – 3.2 miles
  8. Beaver Brook Trail – 0.4 miles
  9. Carriage Road Trail – 2.1 miles
  10. Snapper Trail – 1.1 miles
  11. Gorge Brook Trail – 0.8 miles

Scenic Highlights

The following list provides cumulate distances on the route to each view or landmark.

  • Hurricane Mountain Viewpoint – 3.2 miles
  • Mud Pond – 6.7 miles
  • Beaver Ponds – 7.5 miles
  • Little Tunnel Ravine Outlook — 12.1 miles
  • Moosilauke Summit – 14.6 miles
  • Moosilauke, South Peak Summit – 15.5 miles

Camping/Shelter Options

Water

Natural water sources are plentiful in the White Mountains although you may need to descend to them from ridgelines along side trails if you run short. In any case, carry a detailed topographic map with you and don’t rely on the overview map provided with this trip description to find water sources.

I also recommend purchasing the WMNF Pemigewasset Map in Guthooks Guide’s New England Hiker Smartphone App (IOSAndroid) which is a GPS guide to all of the trails, trailhead, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. I use it all the time and it is much more complete and current than using the maps bundled with the Gaia Smartphone App.

On the Trail

The Gorge Brook Trail

The Gorge Brook Trail begins at the end of Ravine Road just beyond the turnaround area. Follow the signs to the Gorge Brook Trail, passing near the Ravine Lodge cabins, and crossing over a rocky stream, until you see the sign below. The Hurricane Trail forks left shortly after it.

After crossing the bridge, follow the sign to the start of the Hurricane Trail

Hurricane Trail

The Hurricane Trail heads south along the east side of Moosilauke, within earshot of the rocky stream below. The trail climbs gently before curving back down to streamside, passing several swimming holes that you might want to revisit at the end of your trip. This stream has its origin two miles upstream in one of Moosilauke’s western ravines. Downstream, it widens into the mighty Baker River, which flows into the Pemigewasset River near Plymouth, NH

The trail veers away from the stream and climbs gradually for 1.0 mile until it reaches a junction with the Moosilauke Carriage Road. The carriage road was originally used to transport guest to a hotel which was opened on the Moosilauke Summit in 1860 but burned down in 1942.  It’s a backcountry ski trail in winter, while its above-treeline section is frequented year-round by hikers and backpackers.

The Hurricane Trail peels off and heads right after 0.3 miles

The Hurricane Trail joins the Carriage Road Trail for 0.3 miles before splitting apart, turning right, and climbing a hill. The trail is blazed in blue because it links the Appalachian Trail (starting at the Glencliff Trail Junction) with Dartmouth’s Ravine Lodge. Despite that, you’re unlikely to meet anyone except the occasional moose bedded down in the moist grass on the east side of the trail.

The Hurricane Mountain view spur

The trail climbs gradually through open forest to a signed viewpoint in 1.7 miles, over a number of rerouted and expertly reconstructed trail sections. The viewpoint spur trail leads to an open rock ledge with southeast views of the Hubbard Brook Research Area, a research forest operated by the US Forest Service but open to outdoor recreation. There’s excellent backpacking there too.

The Hurricane Trail passes the unmarked Hurricane Mountain summit before descending gradually to a junction with the Glencliff Trail. This section of teh Glencliff Trail coincides with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail.

Glencliff Trail

Turn left from the Hurricane Trail onto the Glencliff Trail and follow it as it passes through an open field.

Follow the track through the grassy field

Bear left down a signed side path towards the Townline Trail and Jeffers Brook Shelter.

Bear left when you reach this sign.

The Glencliff Trail ends when it reaches a paved road called High Street, which is also called Sanatorium Road in older guides. Turn left and walk downhill about 100 yards, passing a small wooden bridge (in the weeds) on your right.

Turn left when you reach the road and walk about 100 yards downhill on the pavement.

Turn right on the first road (unpaved), continuing to follow signs for the Appalachian Trail.

Turn right onto the first road to your right. Ignore the road closed signs.

You can ignore the road closed signs, which prohibit vehicles use but not walkers. This is FR 19, also known as Long Pond Road.

Continue down the road, over a gated bridge.

Continue past the Forest Service Road 19 sign on your right, passing another sign on your left pointing to the Jeffers Brook Lean-to and tent site (unless you want to camp there.) Hike over a gated bridge and continue slightly uphill, still on the gravel road, for 0.4 miles until you see the Tunnel Brook Trailhead sign on your right.

Bear right onto the Tunnel Brook Trail when you see this sign

Tunnel Brook Trail

Turn right onto the Tunnel Brook Trail which follows an old logging road at first, before narrowing.

The Tunnel Brook area is narrow valley between the east side of Mt Clough and the west side of Moosilauke, that gets wider and more open as you travel north.  Water is easily accessible for the length of the trail, although the dispersed camping is better on the northern half near and slightly beyond the beaver ponds, where there is a better view of the nighttime sky and the exposed cliffs on both mountains.

Tunnel Brook Trail

At 1.1 miles, the Tunnel Brook Trail reaches a small reservoir used by the Glencliff Home for the Elderly, formerly the Glencliff Sanatorium, which was originally opened in the early 1900s to treat tuberculosis patients. Care should be taken not to pollute the reservoir which is still in use. The trail runs to the left of the reservoir, which isn’t entirely obvious and should probably be better marked.

Avalanche slides on Mount Moosilauke

A series of ponds begins at 2.3 miles, as the valley widens and the views become more open. The trail is marked in places with plastic tape and must be followed carefully around several flooded areas. This a much wilder natural area than many places in the White Mountains and a good place to soak in some solitude if that’s what you’re looking for.

Avalanche debris that have covered the trail

The trail becomes rockier and more wooded as you continue north until you come to an active logging road at mile 4.4. Bear left when you leave the forest and continue 0.8 miles down the grassy and mysteriously mowed lane to the Benton Trail Junction.

Bear left when you come to a logging road

Benton Trail

The start of the Benton Trail performs an odd U-turn and leads you back along the direction you just came, before turning toward Tunnel Brook. Ford the stream, which is spanned by rocks if you want to *try* to keep your shoes dry, and begin to climb the trail up the west side of Moosilauke.

Turn right onto the Benton Trail

The Benton Trail is one of the easier ways to climb Moosilauke, with a gradual incline and soft tread. It’s another trail that you’re unlikely to meet anyone on despite the fact that Moosilauke is one of the most popular mountains on the AMC’s 4000 footer list.

Cliffside view from the Benton Trail

In 1.3 miles, you reach the Little Tunnel Ravine outlook, a cliffside ledge with a great view into one of Moosilauke’s many side ravines. The roaring of Little Tunnel Brook, which runs through the ravine, can be clearly heard below.

Turn right at the top of the Benton Trail onto the Beaver Brook Trail

When you reach the top of the Benton Trail, turn right onto the Beaver Brook Trail, which also coincides with the Appalachian Trail.

Beaver Brook Trail

The Beaver Brook Trail climbs 0.4 miles to Mossilauke’s summit, breaking into full exposure as soon as you leave the protection of the trees. Moosilauke is often quite windy, so dress appropriately. Hikers are asked to stay on the trail above treeline, which is marked by scree rock borders and large rock cairns. The grass and vegetation on the top of Moosilauke are very fragile and easily damaged if hikers walk over them. The summit area is covered with snow much of the year and damaged plants die because they don’t have enough time to recover before snowfall covers them again.

Follow the Beaver Brook Signs to the Moosilauke Summit

The Moosilauke summit sign is surrounded by the old hotel foundations and there are plenty of places to sit at the top and admire 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see Franconia Ridge to the east and the mountains of Vermont to the west.

Carriage Road Trail

The Mossilauke Carriage Trail leaves from the south side of the summit in full exposure but reaches the shelter of Krumholz within 0.2 miles. The trail comes to a junction with the Glencliff Trail in 0.7 miles. Turn right onto the Glencliff Trail for just a few steps, and you will see a small sign on your left for the South Peak Spur Trail.

Follow the cairns towards the South Peak

South Peak Spur

Follow the spur trail for 1/10 of a mile, along a boulder-filled trail, until you reach the large summit cairn on your right.

Turn right onto the Glencliff trail and then immediately onto the South Peak spur trail

The South Peak has the best view of the Moosilauke summit and should not be skipped. As you retrace your steps to the Glencliff Trail, you can see glimpses of the Tunnel Brook Valley between the west side of Moosilauke and Mt Clough, far below.

Moosilauke, South Peak summit cairn

Turning right onto the Glencliff Trail for a few steps, and right again to get back onto the Moosilauke Carriage Road Trail. There are numerous signs to help steer you in the right direction.

Carriage Road Trail

The first thing you’ll notice when you step on the Carriage Road Trail is how easy it is to walk on. While it isn’t paved, it’s much less rocky than the other trails on Moosilauke and easy on the feet. The trail is easy to follow and widens as is loses elevation. In 1.2 miles, you’ll come to a well-marked junction with the Snapper Trail.

The Moosilauke Carriage Road Trail retains some of its former regularity.

Snapper Trail

Turn left onto the Snapper Trail, which descends through open forest and reaches the Gorge Brook Trail in 1.1 miles.

Gorge Brook Trail

Turn right onto the Gorge Brook Trail which reaches the Baker River in 0.3 miles. If you’d like to visit Ravine Lodge for refreshments follow the signs up to the Lodge from the river or continue along the Gorge Brook Trail to Ravine Rd and your car.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (630 trails/1440 miles) and the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook that anyone can access. Philip has also finished hiking many of the region's peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72 (but still needs 24 hours of trail work for the patch). Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He usually teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

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