Ammonoosuc Lake and Red Bench Viewpoint

Destinations:  Ammonoosuc Lake (1840'), Red Bench Viewpoint
Trails:  Around-the-Lake Trail, Red Bench Trail, Down to the Lake Spur
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Willey Range
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Views, lake, loop hike, night hike
Distance:  1.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  150 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 1:00  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 1:15   Typical: 2:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/31/2008 (Thursday)  
Last Updated:  06/28/2011  
Weather:  5 degrees, cold
Author:  Webmaster

Ammonoosuc Lake and mountains (photo by Webmaster)
Ammonoosuc Lake and mountains (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike around Ammonoosuc Lake with a detour to a red bench from which there is an outlook. There are several viewpoints to the lake, and also some mountain views from the lake shore.

  • From the the Highland Center, take a left out of the back doors and walk down the drive, bearing right and heading towards a clearing. Around-the-Lake Trail starts from this open area, dipping slightly downhill through a small meadow.
  • Around-the-Lake Trail
    (photo by Webmaster)
    Around-the-Lake Trail (photo by Webmaster)
  • At the junction with the AMC Stewardship Trail, bear left.
  • The next junction, 0.3 mile from the start of the trail, is where the two ends of Around-the-Lake Trail meet. Bear left here for this hike.
  • After 0.3 mile will be the junction with Red Bench Trail. Turn left here.
  • Follow Red Bench Trail to its end. The trail crosses active railroad tracks so take care to look both ways before crossing. The trail continues diagonally across the tracks to the right. When the trail later branches, take the left branch to quickly reach the red bench (the right spur leads back down to the railroad bed).
  • From the bench, retrace your steps back to Around-the-Lake Trail.
  • At the junction, go straight to continue the loop around the lake.
  • Shortly after this junction, will be a signed path for Down to the Lake Spur. Turn right and descend this short trail to the shore of the lake where there are nice views of both the lake and the surrounding mountains.
  • Then retrace your steps back up to Around-the-Lake Trail, turning right to continue on the loop.
  • Shortly after crossing a dam and heading away from the lake will be a junction with the AMC Stewardship Trail. Bear right to stay on Around-the-Lake Trail.
  • And bear left upon returning to the junction of the two legs of the loop.
  • After 0.3 mile from this junction, you will be back at the trailhead.

Place         Split
Highland Center (1900') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Around-the-Lake Trail/Red Bench Trail 0.6 0.6
Red Bench Viewpoint 0.3 0.9
Jct. Around-the-Lake Trail/Red Bench Trail 0.3 1.2
Highland Center (1900') 0.6 1.8

Camera for wildflower studies (photo by Webmaster)
Camera for wildflower studies (photo by Webmaster)


Map of hike route to Ammonoosuc Lake and Red Bench viewpoint (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

This hike was repeated on June 3, 2011 but during the daylight instead of nighttime. It is photos from the daytime outing that illustrate this trail report.

I did this loop as a night hike on a beautiful, clear, crisp evening. The stars were brilliant and the views of the lake and surrounding mountains were unexpectedly revealing even in the dark. This route took me along narrow undulating paths around Ammonoosuc Lake and to the Red Bench viewpoint.

The packed snow negated the need for snowshoes; I instead wore crampons which proved to a good choice because otherwise the downhills would have been slippery.

The small (4 acres) Ammonoosuc Lake lies about 60 feet lower than the trailhead so Around-the-Lake Trail starts out with a gentle descent to the west side of the lake. Conifers ring the lake and I could glimpse it between the branches down to the right of the trail. Although I walked with a headlamp, I stopped often to turn it off and admire the stars and views without it. It was a mystical, hushed setting and it was surprising how much was visible even on a moonless night.

Ammonoosuc Lake and mountains (photo by Webmaster)
Ammonoosuc Lake and mountains (photo by Webmaster)

At the northwest corner of the lake is the junction with the Red Bench Trail. I turned left to follow this 0.3-mile spur. The trail headed uphill and crossed some railroad tracks. A sign indicated that this was an active railroad and warned against walking along the tracks. I think these may be the tracks used by the scenic railroad during the summer but they were definitely not in use at this time as they were snow-covered and appeared to be a snowmobile route. I crossed the tracks and picked up the trail on the opposite side diagonally to the right.

I crossed a stream on a bridge with frozen cascades both upstream and downstream. The path paralleled the railroad bed on a higher shelf and then headed up a short hill to reach a red bench. (Bearing right at the base of this hill leads back to the railroad bed where there is a "Red Bench Trail" sign, presumably for snowmobilers looking to find this spot.) I sat on the bench and enjoyed a snack while looking out to a view of a massive mountain, that during the daylight would reveal itself to be part of the southern Presidentials.

I retraced my steps back to the northwest corner of the lake and continued a bit farther on Around-the-Lake Trail before turning right to descend the short Down to the Lake Spur to the shoreline. The view of the frozen lake was peaceful and rising above the lake I could see the silhouettes of Mount Webster to the left and Mount Willard to the right, forming the famous Crawford Notch in the empty space in between.

I went back up the spur and turned right to continue the loop on Around-the-Lake Trail. The path ran right next to the lake, providing more views of both the lake and the surrounding terrain. I crossed a bridge over a dam and soon after that left the lake behind and quickly found my way back to the Highland Center.

Pink lady's slippers – both white and pink colors (photo by Webmaster)
Pink lady's slippers – both white and pink colors (photo by Webmaster)
(photo by Webmaster)
Foamflower (photo by Webmaster)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

Moth (photo by Webmaster)
Moth (photo by Webmaster)
The trailhead starts from the AMC Highland Center property which is located on Rt. 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire.

  • Coming from the west, the Highland Center is on the right 8.3 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302.
  • Traveling from the east, the Highland Center is on the left, 2.8 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site.

Park in the large lot for the Highland Center. You can walk up to the main front entrance of the Highland House, go through the lobby and out the main back entrance, turn left on the drive and then bear right to reach the trailhead next to the clearing. (Or from the parking area, you can simply walk around to the back of building using the driveway.)


Bathrooms are located in the Highland Center near the main entrance and front desk.

The Highland Center also offers lodging facilities.
Left: Denys on Around-the-Lake Trail
Right: Brook
(photos by Webmaster)
Denys on Around-the-Lake Trail (photo by Webmaster) Brook (photo by Webmaster)

Website by Logo

© 1998-2023
Page copy-protected against website content infringement by Copyscape
The information on this site may freely be used for personal purposes but may not be replicated on other websites or publications. If you want to reference some content on this site, please link to us.