EASY Dayhike: 4.1 miles (3 hours) — 8 miles from Hanover
The north peak of Moose Mountain, at 2,300 feet, is the highest point within Hanover’s town boundaries. Where cleared pastures once bordered the summit of this long ridge, now the forest has grown back and returned Moose to its wilder past. For those whose picture of Hanover is limited to the busy intersection of Main and Wheelock Streets, this hike is an opportunity to see another side of town and to experience the rural landscape of the Upper Valley.
How To Get There:
From the Green, follow East Wheelock Street up and over Balch Hill and down to the village of Etna in 4.3 miles. (In the earliest days of Hanover, several mills located along the brook here in Etna made this the commercial, center of town unlike the sleepy corner by the river where the new College was located). At the T junction in Etna, turn left onto Two Mile Road. After 0.8 miles, turn right onto Rudsboro Road, follow it along the brook for 1.5 miles, and turn left onto the dirt Three Mile Road. Follow this road as it ascends uphill, crests, and descends again. At the top of the next hill, 1.3 miles from Rudsboro Road, the AT crosses the road. Park in the small dirt parking area on the left.
The trail up Moose Mountain, part of the Appalachian Trail, leaves from the right (east) side of the road by an orange trail sign.
At 0.4 miles, after cresting a small rise and fording a tributary of Mink Brook, the trail crosses a two-rut woods road known as the Harris Trail. Continue straight across the Harris Trail and into a swampy section.
At 0.9 miles, following a steep ascent, the trail enters a grove of hemlocks as it gains the ridge. From here, the trail crosses a ski and snowmobile trail as it winds its way to the summit.
At 1.8 miles, reach the summit of South Moose (2,290 feet). In 1968 a Northeast Airlines plane crashed on the south ridge below the summit. As part of the rescue effort, a bulldozer drove up from the Harris Trail and cleared the summit for a helicopter landing area. Subsequently, a caterpillar infestation killed much of the remaining timber on the upper mountain, creating a surprisingly open view from this otherwise forested summit. Although a new growth of saplings is thriving in the sunlight and reclaiming the peak, there are still good views east towards Mount Cardigan and southeast towards Mount Kearsarge. The town of Canaan lies in the valley below, with Goose Pond in the foreground and Clark Pond in the distance.
The quickest route back to your car is to retrace your steps, but for those with more time and waterproof boots, an excellent loop continues north on the AT. Follow the white blazes from the north side of the clearing, being careful not to take the wide bulldozer road that leaves to the left (west).
At 2.3 miles, after crossing a summit bog and winding downhill, the trail enters the col between the north and south summits and intersects with the Clark Pond Loop (unmaintained to the east). Straight ahead, the AT continues north over quartzite ledges to the summit of North Moose (2,300 feet) in 1.5 miles. The rough ledges and softwood groves on this side trip are well worth visiting if time allows. About 0.1 miles past the junction, a blue-blazed side trail on the right leads to Moose Mountain Shelter, opened in 2004. Our loop continues to the left, west, by following the Clark Pond Loop downhill.
Although erosion has taken a heavy toll on the Clark Pond Loop, it is still possible to picture the major thoroughfare that this woods road once was. In 1772, in order that he might attend Dartmouth’s first commencement, New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth had a road cut to connect Portsmouth with Hanover. Known locally as the Wolfeboro Road, the Clark Pond Loop follows this historic road as it passes through Moose Mountain Col. Most of this old route is still passable as a Class VI road in Hanover.
At 3.0 miles, the Clark Pond Loop reaches the bottom of the mountain and intersects the Harris Trail at a T junction. Turn left, south, and follow the two-rut Harris Trail through frequently muddy patches.
At 3.5 miles, pass straight through a four-way intersection of side trails.
At 3.7 miles, after passing another side trail to the right, the Harris Trail reaches the AT junction. Turn right onto the AT south and retrace your earlier footsteps back to your car in 0.4 miles.