Last Saturday the dogs and I headed out to log some much-needed solo miles in Tunnel Brook Notch, the long valley between the peaks of Moosilauke and Clough. The trail — 4.4 miles from end to end, though the north trailhead is no longer directly accessible thanks to the ravages of Hurricane Irene — had come on my radar after I asked a friend who always seems to find the coolest spots if he’d mind sharing a few routes. We started from the south trailhead intending to hike the full length of the trail as an out-and-back.
An old logging road quickly narrows to singletrack along (crossing and recrossing) a pretty stream with many small cascades. The first mile passes a normally-scenic but currently under construction reservoir that serves the Glencliff Home. We opted not to linger over this view.
The trail does climb a wee bit but is never remotely steep or difficult in footing, though I can imagine the many water crossings might fall on the tedious-to-tricky spectrum in high water. I made out fine rock-hopping (with the occasional “paid for this Goretex, might as well use it” moment) and the dogs were unconcerned. Lilo’s wading at the swimming hole on that hot, hot weekend seems to have emboldened her! At two and a half miles, the woods begin to open up a bit and Mud Pond, with views to Moosilauke, becomes visible on the right.
Beaver-related flooding has taken over part of the trail near Mud Pond, but there’s a well-beaten bypass through the woods to the left. It returns to the original trail at the north end of the pond by a well-built fire ring. It seemed like a good spot for a break.
Not to mention for a long, long look back the way we’d come!
We eventually continued north, ducking back into the woods before popping out at another wide-open beaver swamp, this time looking north. There’s a nice fire ring in this area, too. I hope to return and make use of them some evening.
To our left was Clough, a trail-less (I believe) peak that’s one of the New Hampshire Hundred Highest. I’d read a few reports of bushwhacks from Tunnel Brook up the slides and/or to the summit and it was in the back of my mind if I saw an obvious herd path. But none presented itself (though I think I did find the drainage that one writer mentioned taking to a slide). Maybe next time.
Beyond the ponds, the trail moves through shifting forest. One section is mysteriously marked by cairns. I have no idea why; it’s well below treeline and the area isn’t even all that rocky by White Mountain standards. But it did feel a bit like running into old friends by surprise.
At last, the light through the trees ahead suggested an opening-up of the woods. We popped out onto Tunnel Brook Road. This was the original parking area for the north trailhead, but apparently the road was impressively washed-out by Irene a few years back. The cul-de-sac is being gradually overgrown. It made a nice spot to take our second long break of the day.
Once everyone was fed and rested, we headed south again.
Lilo sulked a bit when she realized it was an out-and-back. They do take after their people, huh? But the trail really does hike sweetly and we made good time back to the first campsite. I think we would all have been happy to linger there. Alas, we were on the clock and so had to savor as we went.
I’d had high hopes for the trail and it more than delivered: respectable mileage for a day hike without beating up on the hikers, plenty to look at along the way, and a scenic, unusual setting. The whole feel of the place was peaceful and welcoming. It has a lot of potential, too, between the campsites and the bushwhack to Clough and the possibility of a loop up Moosilauke. I have a long list of hikes that I’d like to do this summer, but I’m already looking forward to revisiting this one.