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The Lakes and Mountains Have a Hike for You

The Laker - September 6, 2017

By Barbara Neville Wilson

Photo courtesy Andrew Drummond

Nothing soothes one’s soul more than mountain air, warm sun and nature showing splendor through all the Whites. No matter your age, your time constraints or state of fitness, New Hampshire has hikes for you as summer turns to fall and the foliage begins to paint the trees.

Go online or to your favorite book store and you’ll find a plethora of websites and books to help you plan a walk. You can savor the White Mountains for a scant few minutes or for a longer trek. No matter your chosen path, you’ll find rewards: drop-dead views, raw nature, animals in their element, and the simple pleasure of being outdoors in the fall.

A recent non-scientific Facebook study reveals that families, seniors, romantics and teachers treasure hikes in the White Mountain National Forest. Favorite adventures range from easy and short to long and intense.


If you want great scenery with relatively easy effort, resident Kim Matte recommends doing Black Cap in her hometown of Conway, NH. She and her young daughter enjoy it all summer long and into the fall. “We love this hike. Do it, 2-3 times a month in the warm weather months. We usually do a treasure hunt. I make it up: find a heart-shaped leaf, spot a bird, etc.,” she says. It takes about an hour to get to the rocky top. From Black Cap, she says, you can connect to Peaked and Cranmore, or take the lift at Cranmore Mountain (ski area) and walk across to Black Cap.

For a truly breathtaking view, Stephany Cameron of Moultonboro, NH, recommends Foss Mountain, just a ¼ mile walk off the road in Eaton. It offers 360-degree views of the White Mountains after a barely-breathe-hard walk.

Day Hiker:

Boulder Loop is also a favorite for families with young children. Kara Jacobs of Wolfeboro, NH, recommends Boulder Loop, a 3 ¼ mile hike that has plenty of opportunity for on-the-path learning about tree species and geographic features. Every family is different, but Kara’s sons were doing this trail when they were just 4 or 5. Daniel Doan and Ruth Doan MacDougall caution in their 50 Hikes in the White Mountains, however, that “It should be considered more of a hike than a picnic jaunt.” At the top, expect to see splendid views of Mount Chocorua, Mount Passaconaway, and the Passaconaway Valley.

Long-time Maine teacher Natalee Hall Stolz fondly remembers taking the Percival-Morgan Loop in the Sandwich Range. “I even took my class hiking there one year as a field trip,” she says. Just over five miles, it’s a good half-day journey where hikers traverse across rocks and by caves at the summits of Mount Morgan and Mount Percival. The views of Squam Lake (the site where much of On Golden Pond was filmed) are gorgeous.

Parents be warned: starting children hiking when they are young can lead to romance and careers! Kathleen Masse of Vermont’s Sky Run Properties and her husband Rob are prime samples. As Kathleen tells it, they had planned to hike Falling Waters, across to Little Haystack, onto the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mount Lincoln, then to Mount Lafayette and back down Bridle Path, usually a six- to seven-hour hike. “We left later than we should have,” she says. “I was sitting on a rock on top of the last peak, Lafayette, eating an apple when Rob walked over to me and casually said, ‘So, you want to get married?’ ” He said it so nonchalantly that she scolded him, “Don’t joke about that.” It turns out he wasn’t joking. He was just so nervous he forgot to pull out the ring that had been burning a hole in his pocket all the way up the path. They have been happily married for years now and live and work in the mountains.

Kathleen says, “Growing up in the Lakes Region and White Mountains has definitely influenced my life in a good way. I’ve always been passionate about outdoor activities…and yes, I wanted to run a business that allowed me to be located in the mountains…It is a dream to run a business that is in ski/hiking country.”

Another solid day hike (allow at least 4.5 hours) is Mount Osceola, outside of Waterville Valley. With a 2000+’ vertical rise, it offers views of Sandwich Mountain and the old ski range of Mount Tecumseh. Stephanie Cameron offers the “Awesome views on top of Osceola!” as her reason for choosing it as a favorite and 50 Hikes…backs her, saying that at the top, “You are now standing on the highest of the mountains encircling Waterville Valley, and the panorama off this isolated summit is vast.” It offers glimpses of Mounts Hancock and Carrigain, Washington, Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, Flume and Moosilauke.

Extreme hiker Andrew Drummond of “Ski the Whites” counts Mount Carrigain as his favorite, noting that sunset views from its summit are spectacular. Kara Jacobs says, “One of my absolute favorites is the Signal Ridge Trail” to the top. Be sure to take your trail map and description along with you, and keep sharp eyes out to find and follow the path. Spring run-off or recent rain can require bushwhacking to avoid high water, and heavy storms in recent years have caused erosion that calls for trail detours. These inconveniences are soon forgotten at the summit where the observation tower yields opportunity for marvelous photography.”

Seasoned hikers Laura Maroon and Brent Summers both recommend the curiously-named Six Husbands for other serious hikers. The 29th edition of the White Mountain Guide introduces it, describing “This steep, rough, challenging trail…” and explains, “At 1.0 miles, the trail ascends a steep ledge on a pair of ladders, then climbs under an overhanging ledge on a second pair, with a tricky sloping ledge at the top of the ladder that might be tricky if wet or icy…” Later “the trail passes over a talus slope that is usually covered well into July by a great drift of snow…” and steep terrain before reaching the top of Mount Jefferson.

No matter the length or suggested difficulty of the trail, or the perceived fitness level of the participants, hikers should prepare themselves for the worst possibilities. Always check the weather forecast for the area you’re entering; dress for the weather, and plan the length of your trip with provisions and daylight time to spare. Carry fully charged cell phones and portable chargers, but don’t rely solely on your phone for direction. Carry maps and guides as well. Make sure someone (not with you) knows your plans, and make sure those with you stay together. The first responsibility for your safety lies with you, so make sure you know basic first aid before venturing out. The New Hampshire Fish & Game maintains a corps of trained search and rescue volunteers. The $35.00 annual “Hike Safe” card insures you against having to repay costs if you need rescue while hiking, or any other outdoor activities in the state.

Many thanks to those who took part in the author’s informal Facebook survey, to Daniel Doan and Ruth Doan MacDougall who wrote 50 Hikes in the White Mountains, and to Steven D. Smith and Mike Dickerman, compilers and editors of the 29th Edition of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide.


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