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Great Hikes in the Whites: The Red Ridge Loop

Great Hikes in the White Mountains The Red Ridge Loop

The Red Ridge Loop is a 10 mile loop hike located just outside North Conway, New Hampshire that climbs the steep and rocky summit of North Moat Mountain before descending the Red Ridge Trail down a series of open ledges with awesome views of Mt Washington and the lesser summits of the Mt Washington River Valley. With close to 3000 feet of elevation gain, this is a moderately strenuous hike, but well worth the climb for the views. Hikers finish near Diana’s Baths, a famous White Mountains waterfall and swimming hole, that’s perfect for a refreshing dip at the end of the hike.

Red Ridge Loop Hike Map

Recommended Waterproof Map

Distance and Difficulty Rating

  • 10 miles with 3000′ of elevation gain
  • Moderately strenuous

Trailhead Directions

  • The Diana Bath’s trail head is on the Upper West Side Road about two and on half miles from North Conway Village. A daytime parking fee or White Mountain season parking sticker is required. Illegally parked cars are towed. Click for USFS trailhead information and GPS coordinates.
  • This is a very popular trailhead, so get there early in the day to get a parking space.

Season

  • April – mid November
  • Bring plenty of water on sunny days, when the open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail radiate heat

Trip Plan GPX File

Trail Sequence

  • Follow the Moat Mountain Trail for 4.2 miles to open summit of North Moat Mountain
  • Continue on the Moat Mountain Trail for 1.1 miles to the Red Ridge Trail Junction
  • Turn left onto the Red Ridge Trail and follow it for 2.1 miles descending across open rock ledges
  • Dropping below treeline, continue on the Red Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles until you reach the Moat Mountain Trail
  • Turn right onto the Moat Mountain Trail and follow it for 1.1 back to the trailhead parking lot

On the Trail

This hike runs counter-clockwise along the route shown above, climbing North Moat Mountain first, before descending along the Red Ridge Trail.

Follow the Moat Mountain Trail from the Trailhead, passing through a developed recreation areas that leads to by Diana’s Baths, a popular waterfall and summertime swimming hole on your left. This is a great place to stop at the end of the hike for a refreshing dip on a hot day.

Diana's Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail
Diana’s Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail

Continue along the Moat Mountain Trail which runs along Lucy Brook. At 1.2 miles, you’ll pass the southern end of the Red Ridge Trail Junction where it crosses a brook and rejoins the Moat Mountain Trail. Continue past the junction and stay on the Moat Mountain Trail which crosses several small brooks.

At 2.4 miles, you’ll arrive at a trail junction with the Attitash Trail. Veer left here, following the Moat Mountain Trail and begin to climb, passing through mixed scrub, which gradually gives way to open ledges as you climb toward the summit of North Moat Mountain. This is the steepest section of the hike, so set a comfortable pace as you climb.

You'll pass through open areas with partial views as you climb toward the open summit of North Moat Mountain
You’ll pass through open areas with views of North Kearsarge Mountain as you climb toward the open summit of North Moat.

At 4.2 miles, you’ll reach the open summit of North Moat Mountain (3196′) which has 360 degrees views that include Mt Washington and Mt Chocorua. There many good places to sit at the summit, which is a fine place to take a break and admire the views.

If you look to the southeast, you can also make out the open ledges of the Red Ridge Trail as they descend to the valley below.

The open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail are visible from the summit of North Moat Mountain.
The open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail are visible from the summit of North Moat Mountain.

Leaving North Moat, continue southeast along the Moat Mountain Trail, dropping down a series of ledges that require a bit of scrambling. After passing another open viewpoint, you’ll enter a wooded stretch, climbing again towards the junction with the Red Ridge Trail at 5.3 miles, turning left to follow it.  There’s a good chance you’ll encounter wood grouse guarding their nests at the top of the trail who may screech an alarm as you approach. There’s no need to fear them. They’ll run away as you approach, although they may be agitated.

North Moat Mountain
North Moat Mountain

As you descend, take a moment to admire the profile of North Moat Mountain over your right shoulder.

Descent the terraced ledges of the Red Ridge Trail
Descent the terraced ledges of the Red Ridge Trail

Follow the cairns that mark the Red Ridge Trail carefully, while admiring the grand views that of the Mt Washington Valley that open up before you. Hikers in the White Mountains yearn for these grand expanses of open ledge and the vistas that they offer.

Pay close attention to the cairns and painted blazes that mark the trails route
Pay close attention to the cairns and painted blazes that mark the trail’s route

After approximately a mile, the trail drops down below treeline again, descending steeply down open ledges that require careful footwork. After passing once again through forest, it rejoins the Moat Mountain Trail at 8.9 miles after a brook crossing, which is often rock hoppable in low water. Turn righ tonto the Moat Mountain Trail at this junction (which you passed early in the route) and continue for 1.1 miles, once again passing Diana’s Baths on the way to the trailhead parking lot.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He's 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. 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 also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

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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One comment

  1. This wonderful day hike is a great way to introduce kids to a longer, more rugged adventure. My wife and two teenage daughters look forward to this loop every year. We prefer hiking it clockwise – the section below North Moat is pretty steep. The views from North Moat are incredible!

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