While short, this is a strenuous hike that quickly climbs from the lake's shoreline to the Eagle Cliff ledges. The trail spends most of the time climbing in the woods, but section of the trail climb over and across ledges, which could be very slippery in wet or icy weather.
Finding the Trailhead
The trailhead for the Eagle Cliff Trail is located on Bean Road, just over 5 miles from its intersection with Route 25 in Center Harbor. It is easy to miss the trailhead because there is only a small sign on the side of the road where the trail enters the woods. There is no official parking lot, but on either side of the road, there is space for several cars to park off of the pavement.
The trail itself is well maintained, constructed and easy to follow. The trail is a blue blazed trail.
The Hike to Eagle Cliff
From the road, the trail drops slightly and crosses a small stream before beginning to climb the shoulder of Red Hill. From here, the trail makes several long switchbacks up the hill with some fairly impressive trail building having occurred to stabilize the trail as it makes its way up the mountain.
The first two thirds of the hike to Eagle Cliff climb quickly, but not that steeply. The trail goes through an open hardwood forest on sweeping switchbacks, but the trail itself is easy to walk on and does not present a problem for hikers.
Starting at a trail junction with the Eagle Cliff bypass trail, The last third of the trail changes in character and climbs up through a line of ledges, then cuts around and climbs up to the top of Eagle Cliff.
The bypass trail avoids the climb through the ledges. The unsigned trail junction (there was a sign, but it has either fallen off or been removed as all that is left is an empty signpost) is at the base of the climb through the ledges, where the main Eagle Cliff trail continues straight up, while the bypass trail heads right and climbs up around the ledges. The bypass trail rejoins the main trail just above the ledge climb.
From here, the trail goes left and climbs to the top of Eagle Cliff.
The Eagle Cliff Trail continues another 1.9 miles to the summit of Red Hill where there is a fire tower. However our trip was just to the cliff. We had a great view of the surrounding area and Squam Lake spreading out below us.
The climb was steady and steep in places, but not overly difficult. The only real problem we ran in to were a few wet spots on the ledges and plenty of fallen leaves (this was November), which made the trail slippery in a few places.
We spent under two hours climbing up, relaxing at the cliffs and then heading back down.
Our route back down from Eagle Cliff followed our way up, except that we took the bypass trail around the descent through the ledges. This route is slightly longer as you make a large switchback around the ledges, but is a much easier descent.
Difficulty - Strenuous (steep climbs)
Distance - 1.2 miles round trip
Full photoset on Flickr
Trail and Map Resources
AMC Southern New Hampshire Trail Map
The trip is described in the AMC White Mountain Guide