The Beaver Brook Trail on Mt. Moosilauke is a rough, and, if you’re not careful, easy-to-go-for-a-fateful-tumble hike. The physical price of admission is steep with 3,150 feet of elevation gain over cascades of rocks, wood-block steps and metal rungs, all often perilously close to the ravine’s edge, especially when wet. The arduous entrance fee is worth Mother Nature’s show with seemingly endless waterfalls headlined by a spectacular open summit.
If you’re looking for a fun hike while vacationing in the White Mountains, and the only thing you gleaned from the previous paragraph is “waterfalls,” let’s be clear: the Beaver Brook Trail is NOT for inexperienced hikers. I can certainly appreciate the desire for a little parental payback by wearing kids out on the trail, but if your children view hiking as a disease characterized by blisters and prolonged quarantine from gaming devices, this isn’t the torture test for them. For starters, there’s a lot of this:
Toe-stubbing roots and shin-slicing boulders are just the beginning. The real hazard of the Beaver Brook Trail is the sections of steep, often slick rock traversed via wood blocks and metal rungs.
Parents, take note: what this image doesn’t show is the three-story drop just off the trail into Beaver Brook and a pool of shallow water and deep rocks. For the uninitiated who insist on climbing Moosilauke, you’ll find the Glencliff Trail a much safer alternative. If you think I’m goofing, take it from the Dartmouth Outing Club:
There isn’t a similar sign on the summit for Appalachian Trail NoBos, so let’s consider this your public service announcement: in the case of rain and inclement weather, the best bet is to wait it out at the Beaver Brook Shelter. Springer starters will have 1,794.4 miles beneath their boots (but who’s counting?) at this juncture, so confidence will (rightfully so) be high, especially after the easy Glencliff Trail ascent of Moosilauke; however, for NoBos the Moose comes in like a lamb and exits as the lion. Add to this that you’ll likely have tread-bare boots and an extra 30-40 pounds to assist gravity, and Beaver Brook becomes the poster trail for “better safe than sorry.” It’s hard to reach Katahdin, after all, with a cracked skull.
That should just about cover it for the CYA disclaimers. If you’re a rabid hiker foaming at the mouth from the previous warnings, let’s get down to business, shall we? The trail starts nice and easy with a couple bridge crossings over Beaver Brook.
The early pleasantries are short lived, quickly turning into a steep climb along the Beaver Brook Cascades.
For the better part of the next mile the trail mirrors the cascades with numerous sections that require the aid of wood-block steps and metal rungs.
You may be wondering whether or not to pack trekking poles for this adventure. It’s practically a coin-flip decision…I chose yes and was glad to have the extra stability coming down. That said, there are definitely places where you’ll need to have free hands, so the best bet is to use poles with the wrist straps.
Plan to hike the Beaver Brook Trail in late spring, early summer to get the best flow on the cascades. The key is to not go too early in the spring when there will still be ice on the steep sections. This will certainly vary from year to year, but Memorial Day weekend is a good starting point for the earliest target date.
It’s hard to believe due to the slow going and the easy-to-stop-and-stare waterfalls, but the intersection with the Beaver Brook Shelter side path is only 1.5 miles into the hike. Thru hikers may want to look for any excuse to stay here, especially in good weather, as the shelter view is one of the best in the Northeast. The privy isn’t too shabby, either.
The climb from the shelter is moderate at first but then levels out for some easy stretches.
Mentally it’s easy to think the climb is nearly over once into these flat spots, but there’s still 2.3 miles from the shelter trail to the summit. In between there are two other trail intersections and a little up and down as the route passes over Mt. Blue. Eventually the trail breaks free from the treeline and climbs to the open summit. There are several trails that merge near the summit, so take care in low visibility to make sure you’re oriented in the right direction.
Take I-93 to Exit 32 and follow Route 112 west. The trailhead parking lot will be on the left, approximately 6 miles up Route 112 from the intersection with Route 3. You’ll know you’re close when you pass the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. There is a $3 per day fee to park in the lot.