The North Moat Mountain / 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. This hike is particularly nice in late September and early October when autumn foliage is at its peak.
With close to 3000 feet of elevation gain, this is a fairly strenuous hike, but well worth the climb for the views. The hike begins and ends at Diana’s Baths, a famous White Mountain waterfall and swimming hole, that’s perfect for a picnic or refreshing dip at the end of the hike.North Moat Red Ridge Loop
Recommended Waterproof Map
Distance and Difficulty Rating
- 10 miles with 3000′ of elevation gain
- Moderately strenuous
- The Diana Bath’s trailhead is on the Upper West Side Road about two and one-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. And I mean early on weekends, although it’s less crowded on weekdays.
- April – mid-November
- Bring plenty of water on sunny days, when the open rock ledges of the Red Ridge Trail radiate heat
- Follow the Moat Mountain Trail for 4.2 miles to the 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 area that runs past Diana’s Baths, a popular waterfall, and a 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.
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.
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 are 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.
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.
As you descend, take a moment to admire the profile of North Moat Mountain over your right shoulder.
Follow the cairns that mark the Red Ridge Trail carefully, while admiring the grand views 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. The ledges here also make a great place for a picnic.
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 the forest, it rejoins the Moat Mountain Trail at 8.9 miles after a brook crossing, which is often rock hop-able in low water. Turn right onto 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.
New Safety Disclaimer? For the last year I’ve just been printing out your narratives and brining with me. No need for a map or phone. Are you suggesting I shouldn’t be doing that? :)
No – I put these on all trip plans for guidebook-style plans that aren’t autobiographical trip reports. It’s just a precaution.
Must just be the first time I’ve noticed it. I don’t blame you!
I did this loop last fall and it’s a very pretty hike – lots of outlooks.
Your sentiment about the trailhead parking can’t be overemphasized though. Get there early!
You could also park under Cathedral Ledge or in the Whitehorse Ledge climbers parking lot and access the loop from there. The trails are on the AMC map. I think it would make the hike just slightly longer.