Friday, February 28, 2020

South Moat Mountain In Winter

hike south moat mountain in winter

I got to take my friend Kaley on her first winter hike in the Whites this week!  Where to go?!  She's a strong hiker, but I didn't want us to bite off more than we could chew.  Plus, we were bringing her 40 pound dog so nothing too technical.  I chose South Moat Mountain - a 2,770 foot peak south of North Conway that's a great moderate climb with an awesome 360 degree view.  Kaley is hooked and ready for some more winter hiking.  As am I!  

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  South Moat Mountain in Winter

Getting there: South Moat Mountain parking lot is located on Passaconaway Road, just west of Conway village.  To get there, I drive Route 16 north.  In Conway at the light, turn left onto Washington Street.  Keep left onto West Side Rd.  After 0.7 miles turn left onto Passaconoway Road.  Drive 3.2 miles and the parking lot will be on the right.  It is signed with a WMNF trail head/hiker symbol.  
Summit of South Moat Mountain in Winter
Amazing Blue Bird Day on the Summit of South Moat Mountain in the White Mountains.

Trail: From the parking lot, there is only one trail to choose from.  This is a 5 mile out and back trail.  All Trails app rates it difficult but by White Mountains standards, I'd rate is as a solid "moderate".  The trail starts relatively gradual - meandering through hardwood forest with peaks of scenery through leaves.  There is a small brook crossing in the first mile or so with a bridge.  After a couple miles, the trail continues into a more aggressive incline.  In winter, packed snow and ice hide the rocks and the trek with spikes is like a ever steepening ramp.  With the last mile to go, hikers are rewarded with an opening and outlook onto southern peaks of Mt. Chocorua and others.  We had the perfect blue bird day to enjoy the view!

The summit of South Moat is stunning - 360 degree views of the White Mountains and North Conway below.  With no cover, the wind was impressive and we didn't stay long before descending for our lunch break.  Hikers can have the option to continue to North Moat, but I've never gone for it.  With warming temperatures, we struggled more on the way down as the snow was melting and we began to post hole through the deep snow.  Still, it was a perfect winter hike on a beautiful day!

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Distance: 5 miles out and back total (2.5 miles each way)
Light coming through trees in winter hike
Gorgeous winter afternoon light coming down the Moat Mountain Trail.


- There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

- You need traction on your boots to hike in winter.  I prefer microspikes but we saw other hikers with snowshoes.

- There was no place to pay to hike this trail, but I'm pretty sure in summer/high traffic months there is a $5 fee associated with parking on WMNF land. Come prepared with cash or check for a self service station.

- Winter hiking can be dangerous.  Plan ahead by bringing - waterproof winter boots, traction (see above), extra warm layers and dry clothes, extra socks (Kaley replaced hers twice!), first aid kit (so glad I had this for blisters!), food and water, map, and let a friend know your plan!

- Wear sunscreen - the snow reflects light and you will get burned!

Perfect Winter hike in the White Mountains
Jumping for joy on the summit of South Moat Mountain in the White Mountains.

You might also enjoy these similar experiences....

- A White Mountain Snowshoe

- Liebeskind's Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge in Winter

- Family Friendly Winter hikes in the Whites

- Mt Moosilaukee - Moderate Hike for a Major View

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cutts Island Trail, Kittery, Maine Family Friendly Hike

Prior to kids, my first  hiking choice was to hop in the car and drive two hours to the White Mountain wilderness.  Now, that's not a realistic choice.  With two kids under four, the drive time and the difficulty make the Whites a rare treat.  The result has been discovering beautiful nature paths within 30 minutes of my house.  Trails like Hanson Pines, Great Bay, Stratham Hill, and the Winnie the Pooh Trail make the Seacoast a mine of hiking gems!

Child hikes at Cutts Island in Kittery Maine
Icy trail on Cutts Island Trail

Today my family tried a new trail - Cutts Island trail in Kittery Maine!  This Seacoast trail is perfect for someone looking for a relatively easy loop trail and is great for families.  One important thing to mention is that dogs are not allowed.  

Adventure: Cutts Island Trail, Kittery, Maine

Getting There: The trailhead is easy to miss.  It is located at the intersection of Chauncey Creek Rd and Cutts Island Lane.  Located near the bridge, you should be able to see a worn area where cars pull off the side of the road.  A kiosk with sign and outhouse-style bathroom is located at the start of the trail and is partially visible from the road.  There is no official parking area.

Kiosk at Cutts Island Trail in Kittery Maine
Kiosk at Cutts Island Trail in Kittery Maine

Trail:  The moderately trafficked trail is a 1.8 mile loop - on the trail signed as the "orange loop".  This can be cut short by cutting back early on the pink "short loop".  
We started by taking the loop on the left (creek side).  The trail meanders with a gentle incline along Chauncey creek and through salt marsh.  The trail is well marked.  
A few check in trail signs keep you on track.  At the end of the loop, take a hair pinned trail turn and return to the start through a pine forest.  Now the trail is flat and gently sloped downhill at points.  

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.8 mile loop
Child walks in Morning light on the Cutts Island Trail in Kittery Maine
Morning Light on the Cutts Island Trail
trail mapy at Cutts Island Trail in Kittery Maine
Trail maps keep you on track throughout the Cutts Island Trail in Kittery, Maine

Recommendations/Additional Information:

- Parking can be tricky.  You will need to pull of to the side of the road on the trail-side because the other side is marsh/bridge.  

- Parking is free and there are bathrooms at the trailhead.

- We saw people using this spot as a stand-up-paddleboard (SUP) put in.  

- Dogs are not allowed - even on leash.

- This part of Cutts Island is part of a larger +9,000 acre wilderness area called the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

My family enjoyed this little treasure of a trail in southern Maine!  Afterwards, we went grabbed coffee and a chocolate croissant at Lil's Cafe in Wallingford Square, Kittery.  It was the perfect winter weekend activity.  I'm so excited to add another Seacoast hike to my collection!

Mother and son hike in Kittery Maine
Hiking with my almost four year old in Kittery Maine

For more Seacoast Hikes, you might enjoy...

Gonic Trails - Rochester

Hanson Pines Trail -Rochester

Willand Pond - Dover

Stonehouse Pond - Barrington