Castle in the Clouds - Lucknow

Destinations:  Castle in the Clouds - Lucknow, Fall of Song, Bridal Veil Falls, Shannon Pond
Trails:  Shannon Brook Trail, Brook Road, Tram Road
Region:  NH - Central East  
Lakes Region, Castle in the Clouds
Location:  Moultonborough, NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Castle, cascades, waterfalls, gorges, brooks, pond, orienteering/route finding, loop hike
Distance:  Approximately 4.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  600 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 2:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 4:30  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/27/2008 (Tuesday)  
Last Updated:  10/24/2009  
Weather:  Snowy, cloudy
Author:  Faye Doria
Companions:  Claudette, Mary, Mark

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike up to the Castle in the Clouds estate. It uses a combination of trails and a private road to reach the castle.

  • Start on Shannon Brook Trail and follow it to Fall of Song and Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Cut back to the entrance road (Brook Road) and follow it up to the stables, then directly up a path to the castle itself.
  • After checking out the castle area, head down from the castle on the tram road, and follow a bridle path leading to Shannon Pond.
  • Then circle back to Shannon Brook Trail and return to Route 171.

The "Pebble" (photo by Mark Malnati)


Fine stonework on the house's chimney (photo by Mark Malnati)

  Trail Guide   

The forecast on Saturday night was for Sunday to be partly cloudy with a 20% chance on snow showers and little wind. I woke up on Sunday to six inches of snow on the ground in Barrington and more coming down in a stiff wind. That scared off a few hikers, but four of us met at the hiker's parking lot for Castle in the Clouds, after an interesting drive.

Stone house (photo by Mark Malnati) The snow had largely stopped by the time we started, but the wind was still strong. Our plan was to walk down Route 171 to the main entrance, then up the entrance road to Shannon Brook Trail (which used to be called Welahka Trail, then Brook Trail), follow that along the brook, visit the castle itself, and return by the Shannon Brook Trail on the other side of Shannon Brook. But as soon as we heard the snowmobiles on Shannon Brook Trail, we altered our plans.

Shannon Brook Trail lived up to its description of "cascades, flumes, gorges, and waterfalls... providing a new natural wonder around nearly every corner." We had to stop so often for a photo, that I wondered if we were ever going to get anywhere. But after viewing the 50-foot Fall of Song and Bridal Veil Falls, both icy wonders, we cut back to the entrance road and followed it up to the stables, then directly up a path to the castle itself.

Twin falls (photo by Mark Malnati) If you have never been there, the view from the castle is its most outstanding feature. The clouds were still around and low, so the view was not all the way to Lake Winnipesaukee. But it was pretty spectacular. We sat on lawn chairs on the patio around the castle out of the wind and had our lunch. We agreed that the building itself was also beautiful, although we weren't as impressed with the interior we could see looking in the windows.

Mary wanted to see Shannon Pond, so we headed down from the castle on the tram road, and found a bridle path leading in that direction. We followed that to the pond, which was iced over, and then circled back to Shannon Brook Trail, which was not even on the map at the kiosk by the pond.

The upper part of the trail was even more beautiful than the lower part, with another half-dozen named waterfalls and pools. We really did stop to marvel at each of them as we made our way back towards the main entrance.

Altogether, we agreed we were glad we had braved the weather to take the hike. We went about five miles, with a 600-foot climb to the castle. And the drive home was much more pleasant since the roads had been plowed and salted.

Lake Winnipesaukee in the distance (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

There is a parking area for hikers on the south side of Route 171 in Moultonborough just east of the Castle in the Clouds main entrance (Brook Road, which is closed in winter) on the north side of the road and Severance Road on the south side of the road.

From the North and South and West via I-93:
  • Follow I-93 to Exit 23 and take Rt. 104 east towards Meredith.
  • At end of Rt. 104, turn left onto Rt. 3.
  • At the lights, turn right onto Rt. 25 and follow it into Moultonborough.
  • Turn onto Rt. 109 south, go 2 miles, and then bear left onto Rt. 171.
  • The hiker parking area is approximately 2 miles on the right, just after passing the Castle in the Clouds entrance on the left and Severance Road on the right.

From the South via I-95:
  • Take Rt. 16 north.
  • Turn left onto Rt. 171 in Ossipee.
  • Continue on Rt. 171 for approximately 15 miles.
  • The hiker parking area will be on the left. If you reach the Castle in the Clouds entrance on the right or Severance Road on the left, then you have gone just a tad too far.

From the Northeast via Rt. 16:
  • Take Rt. 16 south to Rt. 25 west in West Ossipee.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 25 and continue for approximately 10 miles.
  • Turn left onto Rt. 109 south, go 2 miles, and then bear left onto Rt. 171.
  • The hiker parking area is approximately 2 miles on the right, just after passing the Castle in the Clouds entrance on the left and Severance Road on the right.

Icy brook (photo by Mark Malnati) Other Notes   

An 11x17 inch map can be purchased from Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT). It is printed on waterproof and durable Tyvek and includes color-coded trail routes, distances, and descriptions for over 40 miles of trails within the 5,420-acre LRCT conserved property.

To purchase the trail map, send $5.00 with your complete name and address to:
      PO Box 1097
      Meredith, NH 03253

About Castle in the Clouds Estate   

Thomas Gustave Plant, having made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing industry, accumulated land in the Ossipee Mountains and from 1913-1914 built a castle that he named "Lucknow". He lived there until his death with his wife, Olive.

The 5,420-acre property encompasses about 45 miles of wonderful hiking trails and bridle paths as well as a beautifully maintained castle with magnificent views. The estate has been owned and protected since 2002 by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

"Lucknow" Castle at the Castle in the Clouds Estate (photo by Mark Malnati) This landmark property is part of the Ossipee Mountain ring dike, a circular formation of volcanic origin nine miles in diameter whose impenetrable terrain has discouraged roads and settlement for hundreds of years and has preserved a true wilderness habitat for a wide range of wildlife and vegetation, including several rare and endangered species. Seven of the Ossipee Mountains' most prominent peaks are within the estate's boundaries, including two of the most popular hiking destinations in the region–Mt. Shaw, the highest at 2,975 feet, with its panoramic view of the White Mountains to the north, and Bald Knob, with its spectacular view of Lake Winnipesaukee to the southwest. The trails, many of which were originally built by Tom Plant as carriage roads, are well maintained, marked, and mapped, with options for every hiking ability.

The castle itself is open seasonally. The estate is available for weddings and other special activities. There are also events open to the general public such as a fall festival and an antique car show. Refer to the Castle in the Clouds website for specific details.

More Castle in the Clouds Estate Trail Reports   

Mary (photo by Mark Malnati) Faye and Claudette (photo by Mark Malnati)

  Frozen waterfall (photo by Mark Malnati)

Strange results: This photo was taken from outside one of the castle's windows to capture the stained glass insets on the opposite window, across an interior room. The camera captured the opposite window, the photographer minus his head, and the landscape behind him that was reflected in the exterior side of the window. (photo by Mark Malnati)


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