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Zeacliff

Length: 7.8 miles out-and-back

Difficulty (click for info): Hard

Elevation Gain: 1750 feet

Rating (click for info): 8/10

Elevation: 3620'

Prominence: none

Driving Directions:
Trailhead and parking area are at the end of Zealand Road in Bethlehem, NH (Zeacliff is in Lincoln). Zealand Road leaves Rt. 302 2.2 miles east of Rt. 3. Drive 3.5 miles to the end of the road and park in the large parking area on the left. The Zealand Trail begins at the end of the road.

About the Hike:
The hike to Zeacliff offers some of the White Mountains' best scenery: brooks, marshes, ponds, waterfalls, an AMC hut, and spectacular wilderness views. Once destroyed by fire during the logging operations of the early 1900s, now no evidence remains of this devastation in one of the White Mountains' most scenic valleys. Allow plenty of time to take in the endless beauty of the Zealand region.

From the parking area, walk past the sign for Zealand Falls Hut and begin your journey on the Zealand Trail, which begins on the grade of an old logging railroad. Soon, the trail leaves the grade and becomes rocky, traveling through a beautiful forest. Several small brooks are crossed on wide bridges. In 0.8 miles, after returning to the railroad grade, the trail meets the Zealand River. Walk out to it to see a pretty cascade. The trail continues upward toward Zealand Notch, barely climbing at all. Eventually, it crosses Zealand River on a bridge. Several unbridged brook crossings are made after this. At 1.7 miles from the parking area, the trail passes through a large marsh on a boardwalk (formerly known as the Z-bridge; recently reconstructed). From this boardwalk, there are good views over the marsh to Zeacliff. The trail runs flat for a while, then in another half mile, it passes a limited viewpoint of Mt. Tom over a grassy meadow surrounding the much smaller Zealand River. Stay straight where A-Z Trail goes to the left. The trail then crosses the marsh at the north end of Zealand Pond, then leads to a viewpoint over Zealand Pond. On the hillside above the still waters, you can see the cascades above Zealand Falls. At 2.5 miles from the the parking area, turn right onto Twinway.

The trail leads through a small wet area, then passes a set of cascades on Whitewall Brook. Walk out onto an island in the middle of the brook for the best perspective. The trail now becomes rocky and begins to climb more steeply. At a sign on the left, a spur leads to Zealand Falls, an unusual and impressive waterfall, distinguished by its rectangular central chamber, which two cascades pour into from opposite sides. The trail climbs steeply to Zealand Falls Hut, reached at 0.2 miles from the Zealand Trail. Here, there is a limited view over the trees of Whitewall Mountain. Before continuing on the trail, follow a spur path to the left out to Whitewall Brook, where, alongside cascades, there is a view down to Zealand Pond. Beyond the hut, the trail follows the brook. Several herd paths lead out to more cascades and pools. Not too far from the hut, bear left where Lend-a-Hand Trail goes right. The trail then makes a somewhat difficult crossing of Whitewall Brook, followed by one more major brook crossing and several tiny stream crossings. Now, it climbs steadily and steeply through the forest for a mile. Near the end of its climb, the trail swings to the left, soon emerging on ledges. Wildflowers line the trail as it heads toward Zeacliff. Turn left at a view sign and walk out onto the magnificent Zeacliff outlook.

From the sunny ledges, you have a sweeping vista over the eastern Pemigewasset Wilderness. Directly below you is Zealand Notch and the talus on the side of Whitewall Mountain. Above is the Willey Range, with the Presidential Range behind. To the right of the Willey Range is the southern Montalbano Ridge. Rising from the vast valley is low Shoal Pond Ridge, with Shoal Pond at its northeast end. Across the valley is the Nancy Range, separated from massive Mt. Carrigain by deep Carrigain Notch. To the far right is Mt. Hancock. By walking down to a lower ledge, you can glimpse Mt. Bond.


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