Mt. Hale & Zealand Falls Loop Hike

Mt. Hale & Zealand Falls Loop Hike

Mt. Hale Summit Elevation: 4,054 feet
Distance: 8.7 miles (full loop, see below for trail specifics)
Time: 4-6 hours
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors
Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots or Trail RunnersDay PackTrekking Poles

Mt. Hale via the Hale Brook Trail is an ideal hike for those cloudy days when visibility is limited. There’s a “partial” view on the Hale summit, obtained by climbing the beefy summit cairn to see over the surrounding treetops. That’s not to say a Mt. Hale hike has to be all trail, no treasure—loop it with Zealand Falls via the Lend-a-Hand Trail and Zealand Trail for some waterfall eye candy.

Hale Brook Trail

Distance to summit: 2.2 milesHale Brook Trail Sign
Elevation gain or loss: 2,300 feet
Time to summit: 1-2.5 hours
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors

The Hale Brook Trail is on the easier end of the White Mountains 4,000-footer scale. The trail, never overly steep, climbs steadily from the beginning with switchbacks near the top. The brook crossings are no problem under ordinary conditions, and while there are some trail rocks and roots, most of the hike can be done without carefully minding each step.

Hale Brook Trail Climb
The Hale Brook Trail climb through the hardwood is no sweat. (Okay, maybe a little sweat…)

While the Hale Brook Trail is hike-able for most children, there likely aren’t enough challenges or scenic rewards to hold their attention. For kids, consider taking the Zealand Trail straight to Zealand Falls.

Lady Slipper on Hale Brook Traill
The lady slippers were out on this hike.
Mt. Hale Summit Clearing
The Mt. Hale summit clearing. Remnants of the old fire tower can still be seen, but the trees have grown in enough to prevent any views from the ground.
Mt. Hale Summit Cairn
In terms of pure circumference, there aren’t many cairns in the Northeast bigger than the Mt. Hale summit cairn. Partial views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range can be obtained by climbing the cairn.


Distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation gain or loss: 1,300 feet
Time: 1.5-3 hours
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors

The Lend-a-Hand trail connects the summit of Mt. Hale to the Twinway/Appalachian Trail, a mere o.1 mile above Zealand Falls and the hut. Like the Hale Brook Trail, Lend-a-Hand isn’t oppressively steep at any point, but it is steeper and rockier than Hale Brook, especially closer to the summit.

An easy stretch of the Lend-a-Hand Trail.

There is a slightly open section of the trail walled in by a ledge with decent views, followed by boardwalks over wet areas. The lower portion of the trail features several small brook crossings before connecting onto the Appalachian Trail.

Top of Zealand Falls
The view over Zealand Pond from an outlook on the Appalachian Trail above Zealand Falls.
Zealand Falls Hut
Zealand Falls Hut offers a good place to drop your pack and take a pit stop on route to checking out the falls. Reservations are recommended for overnight stays.
Zealand Falls Hut Croo Packs
The packs used by hut croo workers to hump in supplies.
Upper Zealand Falls
Zealand Falls is a procession of cascades. Here’s water flow over the upper section.
Upper Zealand Falls
More water fun on the upper section of Zealand Falls.
Zealand Falls Flower
The flowers were in bloom at Zealand Falls. Can anyone identify this flower? This isn’t a quiz, I really don’t know, my flower-identification skills aren’t, well, good.

When facing the hut, the Twinway/Appalachian Trail descends on the right side down a wide and rocky path past the lower section of Zealand Falls. From here, the intersection with the Zealand Trail is a short distance ahead.

Zealand Falls
The lower section of Zealand Falls.

Zealand Trail

Zealand Trail Sign
The Zealand Trail/Twinway/Ethan Pond Trail junction.

Distance: 2.5 miles to/from AT junction
Elevation gain or loss: 450 feet
Time: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Nature Walks

The Zealand Trail connects the end of the Zealand Road with the three-way junction of the Twinway/Appalachian Trail and the Ethan Pond Trail, 0.2 miles below Zealand Falls Hut. Following an old railroad grade, the Zealand Trail is flat and easy going most of the way with several water crossings. As a standalone hike, it’s good for those of all ages and abilities.

Zealand Pond
From the hut end, the Zealand Trail begins by skirting Zealand Pond.
Zealand Pond Bridge
There’s a short bridge over the outlet of Zealand Pond, followed by an intersection with the A-Z Trail.
Zealand Trail
Most of the Zealand Trail is smooth sailing on an old railroad grade.
Zealand Trail Footbridge
There’s also an extensive boardwalk bridge on the Zealand Trail to cross wetland areas backed up by beaver dams.
Zealand Trail Beaver Dam
A beaver dam along the Zealand Trail.

The lower section of the Zealand Trail closest to the parking lot parallels Zealand River. For those doing the full loop hike, there 1.3 miles of dirt road between the Hale Brook Trail and the Zealand Trail parking lots. We chose to park at Hale Brook and walk the road at the end, but there’s something to be said for getting it out of the way first.

Directions to Mt. Hale

Take Route 302 out of Twin Mountain Village. Turn right onto the Zealand Road (closed in winter) at the Zealand Campground. Hale Brook Trail parking is 2.5 miles in on the right. The Zealand Trail lot is another mile in on the left. Both are pay-to-park lots.

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