This is a RUGGED trail. The first section (going up the Smarts ranger trail) is gradual and easy, and then you get to a small building (called the "garage") on the map. If you are not in great shape or not up for a long and arduous hike, stop here! The remainder of the trail is steep, rocky and slick. I would definitely recommend hiking polls and microspikes (if hiking in the spring). We tried once before to hike in the spring and ended up having to turn around because it becomes glare ice at the top. Once you finally reach the top you'll be slightly disappointed to see that there are no spectacular views, but a trip up the fire tower will fix that. There's also a nice tent site to sit and relax at to catch your breath. We met some hikers at the top who said they came up the AT instead of the ranger trail because it has nicer views. So, we took the AT down and they were so right! It was much more up and down and gradual for the first large chunk of the way down though, which through us off a bit. But, there are awesome rock face views and a nicer trail. Eventually it drops right off and brings you back to the parking lot. Beware: if you have a dog with you, know that there are barely any places for them to drink on the AT, which differs from the ranger trail which has a lot of creeks for them to drink from. All in all it was a 4.5 hour hike and we were beat by the time we came down. We'd definitely do it again, but only via the AT next time. Happy hiking!
I don't think we took the "moderate" trail!! The hike was more like a mountain climb. Whewww!! If you want a good workout, I highly recommend it. Wear waterproof boots though. We did this hike in Spring and it was very muddy. All in all it was a good day.
I disagree; I found this hike to be very anticlimactic. The first half of trail is beautiful but after you descend down a while to a somewhat flat and sightless hardwood forest. From there the trail heads upwards through the balsam fir in its steepest fashion where soon you arrive at a somewhat sketchy tower, climbing it appeared to be the only means of taking in any summit views. Marginal views, but overall a beautiful, diverse, and challenging trail that The Dartmouth Outing Club seems to be doing a great job of maintaining.