Diane and Rachel playing Scrabble at the hut (photo by Deb Hann)

Mark at the hut (photo by Deb Hann)

Zealand Falls Hut Overnight

Destinations:  Zealand Pond (2457'), Zealand Falls, Zealand Falls Hut (2630'), Whitewall Brook Outlook (2630')
Trails:  Zealand Road, Zealand Trail, Twinway, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Little River Mountains
Location:  Twin Mountain (Carroll), NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Ponds, views, hut, wetlands, river, brook, waterfall, cascades, backpack
Distance:  12.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1150 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 7:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/31/2009 (Saturday) (2 days)  
Last Updated:  11/05/2009  
Weather:  Zero, plus or minus, while on the trail
Author:  Diane King, Webmaster
Companions:  SDHers: Deb, Diane, Mark, Tom, Sharon, Rachel, Cheryl, Reinhild

Wetlands area on Zealand Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)


Route Summary   

This is an overnight hike which visits Zealand Pond, Zealand Falls, and Zealand Falls Hut. There are good outlooks into Zealand and Carrigain Notches from in front of the hut and the nearby Whitewall Brook ledges. The night was spent at the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut.

  • Since Zealand Road is closed to vehicular access in the winter, this hike started from a large parking area on Route 302, 0.2 mile east of Zealand Road.
  • From the parking area, cross the street and head west (turn right when facing the road while standing in the parking lot) on Route 302. You will soon see a snowmobile trail paralleling the road on the left. You can hop over the snowbank and follow this route instead of walking directly on the road.
  • Worn-out Appalachian Trail sign on a tree trunk (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • After 0.2 mile you will arrive at Zealand Road.
  • Turn left onto Zealand Road and follow it gently uphill for 3.5 miles until its end. The road may or may not be plowed depending on logging or other activities but it will not be open to private vehicles regardless. When we did this hike just a little more of the first mile of the road was plowed.
    • After 1.0 mile on Zealand Road, you will pass by the Sugarloaf Trailhead on the right.
    • Shortly beyond this point, a snowmobile trail veered off to the right while Zealand Road continued straight ahead. It may be tempting to veer right on the well-packed wide trail but the road continues straight ahead; what's obvious to follow during summer isn't so obvious in the winter with snowmobile trails looking like roads.
    • The trailhead for Hale Brook Trail will be found on the right 1.5 miles after that of Sugarloaf Trail.
    • Keep following Zealand Road for another mile which will bring you to its end where Zealand Trail starts straight ahead.
  • Follow Zealand Trail for 2.5 miles until reaching the end of the trail at Zealand Pond.
    • After hiking up the gentle Zealand Trail for 0.8 mile, you will reach Zealand River where the trail curves to the right and a short spur path leads left to the shoreline of the river.
    • A mile farther along Zealand Trail will bring you to a pretty wetlands area crossed by a sturdy boardwalk.
    • A half-mile after that A-Z Trail goes off to the left; continue straight on Zealand Trail.
    • Just 0.2 mile more of easy walking and you will arrive at Zealand Pond on the right where a few strides off the trail will bring you to the shoreline of the pond at a small opening in the trees.
    • Just beyond this point, Zealand Trail ends as it meets Ethan Pond Trail and Twinway. Twinway is part of the Appalachian Trail.
  • At the junction of Zealand Trail, Ethan Pond Trail, and Twinway/Appalachian Trail, bear right to follow Twinway/Appalachian Trail while Ethan Pond Trail veers off to the left. At this point you are only 0.2 mile away from Zealand Falls Hut. Between here and the hut are two access points to Zealand Falls.
    • The first access spot to the falls is where the main trail veers right and there is an obvious path to the left. Follow the side trail for about 40 feet and you'll be at the tail end of Zealand Falls where there is a series of small cascades.
    • Returning to the main path, the trail climbs steeply up toward the hut via stone steps. About halfway up this pitch, is another spur leading to the left, only about 20 feet long, and it brings you to the main section of Zealand Falls where the water drops straight down a 15-foot high cliff. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you can work your way down the embankment and then across the stream to the ledgy area directly at the foot of the falls.
  • Back on the main trail, tackle the final portion of the steep climb to arrive at Zealand Falls Hut. Here you may want to make a quick detour, just beyond the hut, to the left of the main trail to Whitewall Brook which slides across slanted open ledges before dropping sharply below. There are good views from these ledges.
  • After spending the night at the hut, hike out the following day via the same route. From the front porch of the hut, turn left to head steeply down Twinway/Appalachian Trail and you will be on your way.

Zealand Trail passing beneath tall conifers (photo by Mark Malnati)


Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Winter parking lot on Rt. 302 (1500') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Rt. 302 / Zealand Rd. 0.2 0.2
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Sugarloaf Trailhead (1644') 1.0 1.2
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Hale Brook Trailhead (1770') 1.5 2.7
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Zealand Trailhead (2000') 1.0 3.7
Zealand River (2200') 0.8 4.5
Beaver swamp zigzag bridge (2400') 1.0 5.5
Jct. Zealand Trail / A-Z Trail (2450') 0.5 6.0
Zealand Pond and Jct. Ethan Pond Trail / Twinway / Zealand Trail (2460') 0.2 6.2
Zealand Falls 0.1 6.3
Zealand Falls Hut (2630') 0.1 6.4
Zealand Pond and Jct. Ethan Pond Trail / Twinway / Zealand Trail (2460') 0.2 6.6
Jct. Zealand Trail / A-Z Trail (2450') 0.2 6.8
Beaver swamp zigzag bridge (2400') 0.5 7.3
Zealand River (2200') 1.0 8.3
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Zealand Trailhead (2000') 0.8 9.1
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Hale Brook Trailhead (1770') 1.0 10.1
Jct. Zealand Rd. / Sugarloaf Trailhead (1644') 1.5 11.6
Jct. Rt. 302 / Zealand Rd. 1.0 12.6
Winter parking lot on Rt. 302 (1500') 0.2 12.8

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging

Cheryl (photo by Rachel Bowles)

Brook (photo by Rachel Bowles)


Zealand Trailhead sign (photo by Rachel Bowles)

Zero degrees (photo by Mark Malnati)
 




  Trail Guide   

Trail map of winter hike route to Zealand Pond, Zealand Falls, and Zealand Falls Hut (map by Webmaster)


Deb arranged a wonderful winter adventure for us with an overnight stay at the AMC Zealand Falls Hut. Since Zealand Road is closed during the winter our trek started on Route 302, 0.2 mile east of Zealand Road. Zealand Road itself is 3.5 miles which means we'd be hiking 3.7 miles just to get to the Zealand Trailhead. Then via Zealand Trail and Twinway it's another 2.7 miles to the hut.

We had considered taking Spruce Goose Ski Trail which roughly parallels Zealand Road. But that would have been 0.6 mile longer than the road and when we caught glimpses of it from the road, it was unbroken and looked to be seldom traveled. By the time we had loaded up our heavy, bulky backpacks, we had decided the smooth roadway, with the first mile plowed, sounded pretty appealing.

Tom and Sharon on Zealand Road (photo by Deb Hann) For those interested in following Spruce Goose Ski Trail, it parallels the west side of Zealand Road and is marked by blue diamonds. There is a signed trailhead for it on the right-hand side of Zealand Road just a short ways in from Route 302. The cross-country ski trail passes through the Sugarloaf Campgrounds and I believe just beyond that point, it must dip out to the road just long enough to cross Zealand River on the road's bridge. Then it keeps to the woods and finally rejoins the road just before the Zealand Trail parking lot. This end of the trail is indicated by just a skiier logo sign.

Eight Seacoast Dayhikers decided to tackle this adventure in one form or another. Sharon, sticking to the literal meaning of "dayhiker" hiked to the hut and back all in the same day which is about 13 miles. Even with that long undertaking, she was kind enough to bring up her fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies to share which she left with us. Five hiked out Sunday morning while Cheryl and Rachel stayed an additional night and achieved a challenging winter ascent of both Zealand Mountain and Mount Guyot on Sunday.

Deb, Tom, and Sharon started the hike at 9:15 since we consider ourselves the official "slowpokes". Diane, Mark, Cheryl, Rachel, and Reinhild started around 10:30. We each wore snowshoes and/or some kind of microspikes. Those that opted not to use snowshoes experienced some postholing if they stepped off the packed trail even by a little.

Zealand Trailhead at the end of Zealand Road (photo by Mark Malnati)


When we started it was snowing lightly, was breezy, and the temperature was about 10 degrees which had dropped down to 5 below zero by the time Sharon finished her out-and-back trek. The snow, although light, accompanied us for most of our ascent.

Near the start of Zealand Road was a moderate uphill but most of the road climbed at a gentle slope. The first mile of the road, although plowed, had enough snow on it so wearing snowshoes was no problem. Beyond that a single-file trail was well-packed; this is a pretty popular route even in the winter, frequented by both hikers and cross-country skiers. Upon reaching Zealand Trailhead, some of us took a snack break, sitting on a bench whose seat was only a couple inches above the snowpack.

Zealand Trail was beautiful with its abundant snow-cloaked conifers. It ascended gently. With the snowpack smoothing out the trail I think this was an easier climb than it is in summer with all the roots and rocks and minute ups and downs wearing down one's energy. There were a few gentle downhills mixed in and several stream crossings on bridges. At one point were about a half-dozen trees whose bark had been scraped by antler rubbings.

Snow-fluffed brook (photo by Mark Malnati)


The wetlands area, crossed via an inviting boardwalk was beautiful as always. Through the haze Zealand Ridge's outline could be detected and the sun made a very brief appearance. Later we crossed a pretty bouldery brook on a bridge. The rocks were all covered in snow making the whole scene look wonderfully fluffy.

Zealand Pond appeared to the right with a mountainous bulk towering above it on the opposite shoreline. In the summer you can detect Whitewall Brook tumbling over ledges and down this bulk and can usually spot a few hikers at the top. Perched next to the ledges was Zealand Falls Hut looking intimidatingly high above the pond considering all that elevation was to be tackled over only 0.2 mile. The pitch to the hut turned out to be steep but blessedly short. Partway up, I took a detour on the short spur to check out Zealand Falls. The falls and river were totally covered in snow with very little ice visible.

Usually upon reaching the hut you are immediately rewarded with a good view but the weather showed only thick, gray skies. I made the short detour to check out the Whitewall Brook ledges and like the falls, they were pretty much covered in snow and not terribly interesting.

Wetlands area with Zealand Ridge towards the right (photo by Mark Malnati)


The hut Saturday night was a buzz of activity with 35 guests including several children plus one caretaker. It was chilly until around 4 p.m. when the fire started and then it was pretty cozy. Deb hauled up two huge trays of lasagne and a bottle of wine and we dined on that, salad and tacos. We had enough food left to give to the caretaker.

The hut was efficiently layed out with a central main room housing the woodstove and three sturdy tables. High up above hung two clever coat racks. A simple rope and pully system allowed the racks to be lowered and raised as people needed to hang or retrieve their wet gear. The kitchen was beyond the main room towards the back. Off to either side of the common room was an 18-bed bunk room. The caretaker had his space in the loft. To use the bathrooms you had to go outside onto the porch and then over to a separate building which didn't have any heat source at all and felt quite frigid (they have chemical toilets). Due to the cold there was no running water. Water came from a pump and then was brought inside and heated up on the gas stove for hot drinks and washing dishes.

Relaxing in the main room of Zealand Falls Hut (photo by Mark Malnati)


We played games before dinner while waiting for our assigned stove slot and again after dinner. All especially liked "Apples to Apples" which Deb brought up. It was so uplifting to get out and enjoy the beauty of winter and the contagious merriment of the Seacoast Dayhikers. We stayed up and played more games til past lights out with just our headlamps until 9 p.m.

Even though there was no heat in the hut in the morning, we didn't feel too uncomfortable and were relieved the Zealand Valley yielded 6 degrees–at this point anything above zero was a bonus. Mark reports his bunk area was 20 degrees at 4 a.m. so the sleeping areas probably fell to the teens briefly. I believe everyone had a zero or lower rated sleeping bag. For the most part we remarked we were overly warm through the night, attributable in part to the miracle of hand, foot and body chemical warming packs. I went through about ten sets of those this weekend and could not have managed the hut temps without them.

Everyone had a great time staying at the hut and some are hoping to go again next year since it was so much fun. Many thanks to Deb for planning this trip!
 
White Mountains elegant vacation rental

Rachel (photo by Rachel Bowles)


Diane on the trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

Rachel washing dishes (photo by Mark Malnati)

Cheryl on Zealand Trail (photo by Rachel Bowles)
 

Zealand Falls Hut (photo by Mark Malnati) Zealand Falls Hut (photo by Mark Malnati)

 


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

Deb in the hut (photo by Mark Malnati) Parking for this hike is at the winter Zealand lot in Bethlehem, New Hampshire on the north side of Rt. 302.

From the East:
  • Traveling on Rt. 302 West, the parking area is about 9.0 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site, and about 6.3 miles west of the AMC Highland Center.
  • Turn right into a large unsigned parking lot
  • If you reach the turnoff for Zealand Road on the left, then you have gone 0.2 mile too far.

From the West:
  • From the junction of Routes 302 and 3 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), go east on Route 302.
  • After 2.3 miles, turn right onto Zealand Road.
  • Turn left into a large unsigned parking lot, found 0.2 beyond Zealand Road (which is on the right).

Winter: Zealand Road is closed to vehicular travel during the winter, although hikers and skiers are welcome to use it. Snowmobile trails also intersect the road in a couple spots. There is a large winter parking lot on Route 302, 0.2 mile east of Zealand Road. If starting this hike from the summer lot, you can subtract 3.7 miles (each way) and 500 feet of elevation gain from the hike. During the summer, drive to the very end of Zealand Road to find the Zealand Trailhead.

Check out the White Mountain National Forest's road status page for the most up-to-date information on road closures.

Facilities   

Zealand Falls Hut with bathrooms and kitchen and lodging facilities.

Other Notes   

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

Rates:
  • $3 per day
  • $5 for a week-long pass
  • $20 for a year-long pass
  • $25 for two year-long passes (one household/two cars)
  White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

Reinhild hiking past Sugarloaf Campground on Zealand Road (photo by Rachel Bowles) River (photo by Rachel Bowles)

 
  More Zealand Pond, Zealand Falls, Zealand Falls Hut Trail Reports   

 
 

Zealand Trail (photo by Mark Malnati) Zealand River (photo by Mark Malnati)

 

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