Mt. Hale via Hale Brook Trail

Mountain:  Mt. Hale (4054')
Trail:  Hale Brook Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Little River Mountains
Location:  Bethlehem, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, brooks, 4000-footer
Distance:  4.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2300 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 3:14   Typical: 3:25  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 5:00  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/21/2002 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  08/24/2009  
Weather:  70 degrees, humid, very hazy
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This is a hike up to Mount Hale, a 4000-footer, via Hale Brook Trail and returning by the same route. The peak is ringed by trees so views aren't readily available, even when balancing atop the summit cairn. However it is still a pleasant excursion encountering three pretty brook crossings.

  • From Zealand Road, you will be following Hale Brook Trail for 2.2 miles all the way to the summit. The route is blazed in yellow. The hike starts relatively easily and then the ascent becomes steadily more moderate as you gain elevation.
  • After walking 0.8 mile from the trailhead you will cross Hale Brook.
  • Hale Brook will again be crossed 0.5 mile later.
  • A smaller brook is crossed 0.4 mile after that.
  • And a final 0.5 mile climb will deliver you to the summit.
  • For the return trip, simply retrace your steps. When leaving the summit, be sure to head out in a northeasterly direction as opposed to descending on Lend-A-Hand Trail which descends the southern side of the mountain.

Place         Split
Hale Brook Trailhead on Zealand Road (1770') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
First brook crossing 0.8 0.8 0:34 0:34
Second brook crossing 0.5 1.3 0:28 1:02
Mt. Hale summit (4054') 0.9 2.2 0:46 1:48
Second brook crossing 0.9 3.1 0:41 2:29
First brook crossing 0.5 3.6 0:22 2:51
Hale Brook Trailhead on Zealand Road (1770') 0.8 4.4 0:23 3:14
Boulder (photo by Webmaster)



Map of hike route to Mount Hale via Hale Brook Trail (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

This was a moderate hike with a couple of easy sections although it gains an impressive 2300 feet over only 2.2 miles. I think the shortness of the trail makes its steepness less noticeable. It's a pleasant path through a mix of hardwoods and conifers. It is very easy to follow; well blazed in bright yellow paint and no trail junctions.

Toad (photo by Webmaster) After about twenty minutes on the trail, I could hear Hale Brook on my right. I went off the trail a couple times to explore the stream and the surrounding, interesting rocks. Some mental snapshots: water running through a gorge-like channel, neat rocks, black and red berries of the hobblebush, V-shaped seed packets dangling from the striped maples, tallish (relatively speaking) sturdy-looking shining clubmoss, toads, golden and brown curled leaves decorating the limbs of fir trees, gentle breezes setting loose yellow leaves which flutter gracefully to the ground.

There were three stream crossings. The first one went over a log bridge. The second went over a wide stream bed but was easy to cross due to the low water level. The third one was somewhat narrow and easy to cross. There were actually a couple more after that but were so small and easy that it was like stepping over a puddle.

As I got closer to the top, the trail became rockier and the surroundings more lush with moss and ferns. I went through a section of needle-less conifers draped with lots of moss.

Hale Brook (photo by Webmaster) The summit consisted of a rocky field encircled by conifers. There's a large, 5-foot tall cairn at one end and lots of small boulders scattered about, making handy seats. There are four iron pipes marking the corners of where a fire tower used to be. Too bad it's not still there - the trees are blocking most of the view. There's no view from a sitting position and a very limited view while standing. A decent view can be obtained by standing on top of the cairn but those aren't the most stable things to climb. It was hard to tell what I was looking at because it was so hazy but the mountain outlines that I could make out seemed pretty impressive. There was a wide array of large clouds in the sky with the sun sinking down below one of them, casting glowing colors across the sky.

I explored some narrow paths shooting off the perimeter of the summit - one offered a small clearing and a better view towards the northwest - but they all were littered with toilet paper - pack it out you disgusting humans!

While I was sitting by the cairn, the juncos became very active, flitting about the trees and racing across the field, showing off the flashing white of their tail feathers and making chipping noises.

Although the footing seemed fairly good on the way up, it was a different story for the descent. The rocks and roots on the upper part of the trail were wet so it made for easy slipping. Once past the wet section, I was greeted by small rocks on the trail that doggedly tried to throw me off my feet by acting like ball bearings. I did most of the descent in the dark and the trail was still easy to follow. Towards the latter part of the hike, I could see the full, orangey moon peeking through the trees.

Views: The upper parts of the trail seemed to skirt the edge of the mountain and would probably provide several decent views if not for the haze. I imagine many more good trailside views will be available after the hardwoods finish dropping their leaves. Summit views may even be improved if the snowpack is deep enough. It seems like this would be a great trail to do in the winter with the smooth grades and shorter distance and easy stream crossings.


NH - Central East

  Hale Brook Trail decorated by falling leaves (photo by Webmaster) Driving Directions   

The Hale Brook Trailhead is located in Bethlehem, New Hampshire on Zealand Road which can be found on the south side of Rt. 302.

From the East:
  • Traveling on Rt. 302 West, Zealand Road is about 9.2 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site, and about 6.5 miles west of the AMC Highland Center. Zealand Road as well as both of these landmarks are all on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Turn left onto Zealand Road.
  • After 2.5 miles, there will be parking for the trail on the right. The parking lot is just before a bridge.
  • The trail takes off from the right hand corner of the parking area (when looking at the parking area from the road).

From the West:
  • From the junction of Routes 302 and 3 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), go east on Route 302.
  • After 2.1 miles, turn right onto Zealand Road.
  • After 2.5 miles, there will be parking for the trail on the right. The parking lot is just before a bridge.
  • The trail takes off from the right hand corner of the parking area (when looking at the parking area from the road).

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.

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

Other Notes   

WMNF Recreational Pass

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.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

More Mt. Hale Trail Reports   


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