by Amy Patenaude
The Red Hill Fire Tower rises high above the shores of Squam Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee. Visitors that climb the steps up the tower will behold a grand vista over the Lakes to the White Mountains, the Squam Range and the Belknaps. The Ossipee Mountains and the Sandwich Range are near. On a clear day the panorama grows wide and many far away peaks can be seen from the tower.
The Lakes Region Conservation Trust has conserved nearly 24,000 acres and the Red Hill Conservation Area is more than 2,650 acres. Henry David Thoreau hiked to the top of Red Hill in July of 1858 and I trust he would still find it quite enjoyable since much of the view has stayed wild.
We needed a hike not too far north since we had an event in Exeter to attend later in the day. We’ve both been to the fire tower before but Danielle had not hiked the Eagle Cliff Trail. The Red Hill Trails are described in the AMC’s White Mountain Guide and this would count for redlining for her. We both desired a peak with a big view and Red Hill fit the bill perfectly.
The Eagle Cliff trail is the more difficult route to the summit–it is longer, steeper and rockier. The trail begins 4/10th of a mile north of the Moultonborough/Squam town line on Bean Road. The shoulder is wide at the trailhead and there is room for just 5 or 6 cars to park.
We only hiked a short distance before seeing patches of snow and the higher we hiked the more frequently the snow appeared. Eagle Cliff is only 6/10th of a mile up trail but just before reaching the top of the cliff the trail has a rocky rugged scramble. Here the bypass path leaves to the right and it is clearly marked and avoids the rock climb. Some ice still covered the rocks and we carefully climbed. At the top we jogged back down the bypass for redlining purposes and we scrambled back up the slippery section again.
There’s a sweet view of Squam Lake and the Squam Range from the top of the Eagle Cliff’s ledges that would make an excellent short hike on its own. From here it’s another 2.1 miles to the top of Red Hill.
We descended a short distance to where the Teedie Trail meets the trail. We continued on and soon we were walking on well consolidated snow. Danielle put on her micro-spikes to be more surefooted and I decided that the snow was soft enough so I could make my boot’s treads work. I did fall down once and Danielle didn’t.
The trail crossed a small knoll and then descended again before we climbed a much bigger knoll. This was a good climb and now we could see the fire tower. We descended a short distance and then we made the final gentle climb to reach the summit.
Snow and wind made the warm day down below feel downright chilly on the summit. We put on our down puffy jackets. There were a few other people on top but no one was on the fire tower as we headed up the steps. The viewing platform below the tower’s locked cabin is fabulous and there are view finding signs that are a big help for pointing out the mountains.
Moosilauke was bright white and so was the top of Sandwich Dome. We could see Mount Cardigan, Mount Kearsarge and the snow on the Gunstock’s ski trails.
By the time we came down the tower we had the summit to ourselves. We enjoyed our sandwiches on the ledge at the foot of the tower.
I ran up the tower one more time to take in the grand vista. I felt satisfied when I realized I could see South Kinsman way up north. Danielle went over to the picnic table to get another photo of Big Lake.
The trip back down went quickly and we passed by a few small groups on their way up.
This time we turned down the Teedie Trail and avoided the rugged sections of the Eagle Cliff Trail. The Teedie trail doesn’t have open views but it passes by some interesting stone walls. The trail popped us out right at the town line, there is no parking here. We walked north on the road back to our car.
We made it to Exeter High School on time to meet our friends for the AMC’s Four Thousand Footer Club Annual Meeting, Awards and Dinner. People and dogs were recognized for completing the 4,000 footer list. Danielle and I received our parchment for finishing the list in winter. We had much fun cheering for our friends receiving their awards too.