Mount Monroe and Little Monroe

Mountains:  Mt. Monroe (5372'), Little Monroe (5225')
Trails:  Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, Crawford Path, Mount Monroe Loop, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Thompson and Meserves Purchase, NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, hut, gorge, cascades, brooks, river, 4000-footer, alpine zone
Distance:  7.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2900 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 5:04   Typical: 6:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 9:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/12/1999 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  08/08/2008  
Weather:  60 degrees, clear and sunny
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This hike follows Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail up to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, with a short detour to some fantastic cascades and waterfalls. Once above treeline a mile-long route loops over Mount Monroe and Little Monroe, before returning to Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail for the descent.

Waterfall through the gorge (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • Start on Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail located in the parking area off of Base Road.
  • After 1.0 mile there will be a junction with a trail leading 0.3 left to Base Station (the Cog Railway). Go right here to stay on Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail which now has the Ammonoosuc River flowing along its left-hand side.
  • After walking another 1.1 miles, you will reach Gem Pool with a pretty waterfall.
  • Continue for another 0.2 mile and then look for a spur path on the right. Follow the spur for about 80 yards to check out the gorge and its stunning waterfalls and cascades, then return to the main trail.
  • Resume the uphill climb for another 0.8 mile until you will reach Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the junction with Crawford Path which is also the Appalachian Trail (AT).
  • Turn right and follow Crawford Path/AT for about 0.1 mile.
  • Bear right to take Mount Monroe Loop.
  • After 0.3 mile, you will arrive on the summit of Mount Monroe.
  • Descend the other side of Mount Monroe, traverse Little Monroe and then meet up with Crawford Path/AT (at a different spot from where you left it) 0.4 mile from the summit of Mount Monroe.
  • Turn left and follow Crawford Path for 0.7 mile back to the first junction with Mount Monroe Loop, and then continue about 0.1 mile more to return to Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
  • Go straight/left here to descend via Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, retracing your steps on this trail for 3.1 miles all the way back to the parking area (remember to turn left upon meeting the trail to Base Station 2.1 miles into the descent).

Place         Split
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead (2500') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. with trail leading to Base Station 1.0 1.0
Gem Pool (3450') 1.1 2.1 1:20 1:20
Spur trail to gorge 0.2 2.3 0:04 1:24
Lakes of the Clouds Hut (5012') 0.8 3.1 0:56 2:20
Mt. Monroe summit (5372') 0.4 3.5 0:16 2:36
Lakes of the Clouds Hut (5012') 1.2 4.7 0:37 3:13
Gem Pool 1.0 5.7 0:57 4:10
Jct. with trail leading to Base Station 1.1 6.8 0:31 4:41
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead (2500') 1.0 7.8 0:23 5:04

Lakes of the Clouds Hut (photo by Mark Malnati)

Waterfall (photo by Mark Malnati)


Map of hike route to Mt. Monroe and Little Monroe (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

This hike was repeated on July 26, 2008 by nine intrepid Seacoast Dayhikers. It is photos from their outing that illustrate this trail report. Thanks Mark and Claudette! Due to the abundant rain received this summer, all the waterfalls and cascades were especially beautiful.

Despite being heavily traveled, and near the noise and smog of the Cog Railroad, this was a fantastic route with spellbinding waterfalls, plus never-ending views from the summit of Mount Monroe.

The first mile is fairly flat and I was immediately disturbed by the noise of the train's chugging. The path looks like it is often a wet trail as logs and stepping stones provided a dry route over the mud (which was almost non existent when I was there). As I listened to the chugging and piercing whistle of the train, I was surprised that my neighbor had called this a wonderful route and was thinking that I probably wouldn't do it again.

The cog railway train (photo by Claudette Raymond)

The next mile ascends gradually and follows along a wide, roaring brook that becomes Ammonoosuc River. The brook is pretty and the trail works itself over and around easily navigable rocks and boulders. The brook also served the more important purpose of drowning out the noise of the Cog Railroad.

By the time I reached Gem Pool I decided that I liked the trail in spite of the train. Gem Pool has a small, picturesque waterfall feeding it. The pool itself is about twenty feet by twenty feet. It starts out shallow near the trail and then slopes down steeply - similar to an inground pool's deep end. There's a small clearing with boulders that serve as good seats for sitting and soaking in the peacefulness.

Mountain sandwort (photo by Mark Malnati) At Gem Pool, the gradual trail is left behind and the real climb begins. Much of the beginning of the steep section consists of boulders which form a staircase. This makes the climb psychologically, if not physically, easier (what's the big deal about climbing up a set of stairs?).

Soon after leaving the pool, there's a spur path on the right that leads to a gorge. As I followed the path, my excitement built as I could hear the roar of the water and catch glimpses high up of the falls - and I decided that this was definitely a fantastic trail. When I got to the edge of the gorge, I was blown away and decided "fantastic trail" was a gross understatement to convey the beauty and enormity of this striking chasm. I looked up, up, up and saw falling water, falling water, falling water, and finally, sky. The water fell steeply, then gradually, then steeply... often changing directions to split and rejoin... to make narrow white-water falls or wide, thin, transparent falls. The various cacades amount to a 600-foot drop. The array of varying patterns offered me endless fascination and I think I would have been quite happy to spend an entire day here. The water finally took a rest from its descent at my feet and gathered into a pool bordered by tall boulders and rock walls in roughly a twenty foot by twenty foot area. The pool looked very deep. I plan on revisiting this site on a hot day and spending the day swimming and gazing in awe at the water. On the side of the pool farthest from the main falls, is an area about 4 feet wide that allows the water from the pool to slowly flow over and continue its downward journey. The boulders that let the water flow out of the pool seem to provide some kind of special gate that allows the water to get by, yet provide a barrier to prevent swimmers from accidentally falling over the edge themselves (I hope that's how it works anyway).

Waterfall (photo by Mark Malnati)

I finally managed to pull myself away from the gorge so that I could stay on track with achieving the summit of Mount Monroe on this day. I got back on the main trail and had images of the awesome falls floating through my mind, as my body dealt with the harsh reality of the demanding staircase (did I imply earlier that this steep section was easy? Ha - just kidding - it's tough!).

After a bit, the carefully placed stones gave way to a trail of almost constant big rocks that formed the slope of the mountain. Some parts required the use of hands to climb up but the rocks were rough with many hand and foot holds. It was at this part, that I again met up with the fascinating falling waters accompanied by great outlooks. This part of the trail took forever because I kept stopping to take pictures and to marvel at the natural wonders. The distraction was a good tactic because my frequent stops made the steepness a lot easier to handle. At one point, there was a ladder to assist hikers up a big, steep boulder. Although the ladder itself looks incredibly sturdy, be warned that it is not attached to the boulder - so if you start to teeter backwards, it's quite possible that the ladder is going to fall backwards right along with you.

Ladder (photo by Mark Malnati)

I was glad that this was a dry day which made climbing up the rocks much easier. It was still somewhat scary to be crossing the brook along these open ledges. It looked like if you fell here, you could easily slide dooowwwnnn the slope; yet it turned out to be a lot easier than it appeared to get across.

The trail finally veers away from the water as it makes the final ascent to Lakes of the Clouds "Hut". The building looked too big and well-made to be called a mere "hut". Other than an ugly area filled with propane tanks, the hut blended in tastefully with the landscape.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut (photo by Claudette Raymond)

Looking to my left, Mount Washington was staring me in the face - its summit buildings and towers readily visible; looking to my right, stood the much less intimidating Mount Monroe. I followed Crawford Path for 0.1 mile, then veered off to the right to follow Mount Monroe Loop. This quickly took me to the summit of Mount Monroe. The views from the top were sensational. Mount Washington was still staring me in the face on one side; but other than that, there were endless views in all directions. I could follow the trail of Crawford Path with my eyes for quite a distance over the ridgeline. I could look down and see the bright white and red of the Mount Washington Hotel (this could also be seen from the gorge spur). Turning my focus to the area between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe were the Lakes of the Clouds - several small but picturesque bodies of water. And everywhere else - mountains and more mountains - it always takes my breath away to see such an endless array of peaks.

Mount Washington (photo by Mark Malnati)

Since I dallied so long among the waterfalls, I couldn't spend much time on the summit - although this is another place that I would be content to spend the day at. I continued along Mount Monroe Loop, going down the other side of the summit, and then ascending again to reach the summit of Little Monroe. From there was a short, steep ascent that put me back onto Crawford Path. I turned left and followed Crawford Path for 0.8 mile until it brought me back to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. I had the pleasure of watching several juncos along the section of Crawford Path that ran parallel to Mount Monroe Loop. This area is an especially fragile alpine zone so take care to stay on the trail and not trample any fragile plants or mosses.

From Lakes of the Clouds Hut, I made my descent back down via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. I quickly found out that those rocks that seemed so grippy on the way up, turned out to be quite slippery in spite of their total dryness. So the going was slow and careful. Most of the rocks had a neat-looking striated surface but it appeared that this neat-looking surface is what gave the rocks their slippery characteristic. Once I got back to the boulder stairs, the descent was much easier because the steps were formed either by striated rocks placed so that they were level; or by different types of rocks.

After going by Gem Pool, I even jogged parts of the trail to ensure that I would be back at the parking lot before darkness came.

Mount Monroe (photo by Mark Malnati)

Overall, the trail was well-marked. Most of the paint blazes were a quite-faded blue, but there seemed to be adequate markings at all the crucial points. Just keep a careful watch to make sure you stay on the trail. At one of the ledgy brook crossings there were even metal "road" signs with 90 degree arrows showing the way the path went.

It was at this point that I met a couple coming down as I was lounging by the falls and enjoying the outlook. They had gone to the summit of Mount Washington via the Cog Railroad and were hiking the trail back to the cog parking lot. That's one way to be able to spend more time enjoying the sights although I think next time I'll just start earlier in the day (I didn't start until noontime).

A little above that ledgy brook crossing (and not part of the trail) were more falls situated in a spot with a narrow gateway that gave way to a large clearing. I found a small, shallow pool of water here. The water flowed into this particular pool in such a way as to produce numerous, but separate swirls of white on the surface of the water. And looking beneath and in between these white squigglies, the rocks at the bottom of the pool were clearly visible with the white specks in them sparkling in the sun. It made an unusual and beautiful sight.

Crawford Path (photo by Mark Malnati)

At one point, I heard a plane and looked up to see two planes - one following another - with the rear one apparently tethered to the lead plane. I think the rear plane must have been a glider because shortly the planes separated - the lead plane flew back my way and out of sight while the glider disappeared over the far side of the ridge, out of my view. That was kind of a neat sight to see the planes tethered together like that.

It was a pleasant 60 degrees throughout the hike and the day was clear, sunny, and dry. The temperatures elsewhere were actually much hotter, but the shade of the woods provided an instant, appreciable temperature drop; and although the summit was in full sun, it was still about the same temperature because of the higher elevation and refreshing breezes.

Oakes Gulf (photo by Mark Malnati)

Waterfall through the gorge (photo by Mark Malnati)

Sign for the gorge spur (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

SDH (photo by Claudette Raymond)
  • From the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302, head east on Rt. 302 for 5 miles.
  • Turn left onto Base Road. There is a Cog Railroad billboard, as well as a train-themed restaurant on the corner.
  • Travel about 5 miles, then turn right into a large, paved, WMNF parking lot.
  • As you're driving into the rectangular parking area, the trailhead is located near the lower left hand corner and has a trailhead sign.

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

Lake of the Clouds (photo by Mark Malnati)

  Waterfall (photo by Claudette Raymond)

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