Moat Loop (August 16, 2020) - 8 hours

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Remarkable tiling of rocks on the trail.  View toward Conway.

I had done the Moat Loop 10 years ago going in the reverse direction, and had done more recently the whole Moat ridge starting from the eastern trailhead and spotting a car at Diana's Baths. On this Sunday I got to Diana's Baths at 9:30 only to find a queue to enter the parking lot and no other option to park. This Covid summer has been crazy with folks escaping to the mountains. So I waited 15 minutes to finally get a spot. Diana's Baths is a popular attraction but fortunately most people don't spend much time there. The parking crunch apparently limited the number of hikers, because I hardly saw anyone all day! I took the North Moat Trail, which becomes nicely ledgy as soon as it starts climbing. I admired some remarkable tiling of rocks on the trail (left), At some point there was a nice view toward Conway (right).

Views of Attitash Mountain with Carrigain in the background.  The Kanc.

As I got close to the top of North Moat fog started rolling in (not in the forecast) and I found the summit socked in. I waited for a while and eventually got views of Attitash Mountain with Carrigain in the background (left) and southwest toward the Kanc (right). And then it got socked in again. I enjoyed the coolness and the wind (it's been hot this summer) and eventually continued on the Moat ridge.

Kancamagus valley.  Attitash Mountain.

The trail along the ridge is really nice. It alternates between ledges and open spruce forest, and has plenty of views. After I dropped a bit the fog cleared, and I went off to a ledge to get a great view of the Kancamagus valley (left) and back toward Attitash Mountain (right).

Middle Moat.  Conway.

I got to the Red Ridge Trail intersection where the standard loop goes back down but I wasn't ready to go back down yet so I pushed on to Middle Moat (left, seen from the intersection) which has the best views of all. The trail dropped into a nice spruce forest and ascended Middle Moat, with great views toward Conway (right) and a very broad bare top to explore.

North Moat.  Daniel and North Moat.

I roamed around the top of Middle Moat to take in various views, including back to North Moat (left). I needed to have a picture with me in it but I was alone the whole trip (not that Covid encourages sharing phones) so I took this selfie with the same view (right).

North Moat Trail cairns, distinctly phallic.  Red Ridge.

I then backtracked to the Red Ridge Trail. An interesting feature of the North Moat Trail is the odd shape of its cairns, distinctly phallic (left). I have never seen this anywhere else in the White Mountains, but here they were everywhere. The trail is maintained by the USFS, whom I would not credit with much fantasy, but there it is. I got back to the intersection and went down Red Ridge, which is bare and has excellent views for a long time going down (right).

Black Mountain.  Hemlock forest with no undergrowth.

Just before the trail dropped into the woods there was a great view straight north toward Black Mountain (left). The drop was then very steep down to the crossing of Moat Brook, and after that there was a 2 miles flat hike to get back to the North Moat Trail and then out. That hike was mostly in a beautiful hemlock forest with no undergrowth (right), which made the trail sometimes unclear to figure out. I was grateful for the blazes! BTW this is the right direction to do the loop - that way you can enjoy the open descent on Red Ridge and the long flat part is better at the end than at the beginning of a hike!

See also: 2020 Hikes