The Bobcat’s Tail
Five great summer hikes
It’s summer, so get out and enjoy the views from our fine nearby peaks
With summer officially here and the days getting warmer, it’s time to start planning a few hikes.
So, here, in no particular order, are a few great hikes to get you thinking.
Oh, and this skips one of the most obvious favorites: Mount Monadnock. It also skips many other cool non-peak destinations, places like The Nature Conservancy’s Loverens Mill Cedar Swamp in Antrim, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers trails at MacDowell Dam in Peterborough and the list goes on.
Crotched Mountain — Bennington, Francestown and Greenfield: Crotched Mountain’s summit has nice views of the eastern hills, including Rose, Winn and Lyndeborough mountains, Joe English Hill and the Uncanoonucs. If you poke around the trees, you also get great views to the west, including Mount Skatutakee in Hancock and Beech Hill in Dublin. On clear days, I’ve seen the signature peaks of the White Mountains.
You can climb Crotched from a few sides and all trails will please. Bennington Trail, off Route 31 and Mountain Road is a great approach. But the nicest, I think is from Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield. Check out the amazing things that the center has done by providing accessible recreation on the Gregg Trail. Keep going at the end of the Gregg Trail, after Blueberry Ridge and enjoy the remarkable views from the restored blueberry fields.
You can reach the summit and return — including time for snacks and views — in 3 hours or so.
Mount Skatutakee / Thumb Mountain — Hancock: This is a hike with many options. You can start at the Harris Center for Conservation Education or at the Cadot Trail on Old Dublin Road. Or you can spot cars and go up one side and down the other. You can extend the hike by including Thumb Mountain and the ridge between Mount Skatutakee and Thumb; just follow the Thumb’s Up Trail.
History abounds here. The Cadot Trail follows Hancock’s old Whittemore Road, which once led to busy farms run by the Whittemore and Tuttle families, among others. Try counting the well-laid stone culverts along the way.
From the clearing on Thumb Mountain, as you look towards Mount Monadnock, think about this: Much of the lands you see have been permanently protected by far-thinking organizations and individuals. They include Eleanor Briggs, who founded the Harris Center; the Harris Center; the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Monadnock Conservancy, the state of New Hampshire and many, many others. Their legacy will last forever and be enjoyed by countless people and wildlife.
Depending on whether you do Thumb and Skatutakee, the hike will take 3 to 5 hours. But take your time and enjoy.
Bald Mountain — Antrim: Here’s another hike with options and many great views. The big, rewarding views, however, are those from the ledges just below the wooded summit, looking southeast. Any time of year, you get great views of Willard Pond, but in the spring and fall you’re might also see migrating raptors.
Start at Willard Pond and follow the Tudor Trail along the pond’s edge and up Bald Mountain Trail. Or start from the parking lot, go up Tamposi Trail to the ledges and back down Bald Mountain and Tudor for a nice loop.
These lands are part of New Hampshire Audubon’s dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the region’s crown jewels of protected lands.
Depending on whether you do a loop or an up-and-down trip, this hike will take 2 to 3 hours.
North Pack Monadnock — Greenfield, Peterborough: Standing on the summit of North Pack Monadnock Mountain, you can feel a sense of wilderness - even here in busy Hillsborough County. Lands here are a mesh of ambitious protection efforts, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wapack National Wildlife Refuge, The Nature Conservancy’s Joanne Bass Bross Preserve and Miller State Park.
This is the northern end of the 21-mile Wapack Trail, which starts at Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, Mass. If you ever do the whole trail, this is the best part. And the summit of North Pack offers views of the Souhegan Valley to the east, Mount Monadnock to the west and Crotched Mountain to the north. On a clear day you can see the White Mountains.
You can start from Old Mountain Road (between Peterborough and Greenfield) on the north end and head south. That’s a 1.5-mile hike to North Pack. Or you can start from the parking lot at Miller State Park and walk 3.7 miles north, including the summit of Pack Monadnock Mountain. This way gives you a nice stretch along the ridge between the packs.
What’s cool about North Pack are the extensive rocky outcrops and glacial features. You’ll see many glacial boulders and striations (deep stone-cut grooves), that are reminders of the Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago.
North Pack from Old Mountain Road takes about 2 to 3 hours.
Gap Mountain — Jaffrey, Troy: Gap is like an old friend that you keep coming back to. It’s got a nice mix of forests, cool stone walls and curious terrain. The gap itself is from the saddle between its peaks. And actually, Gap Mountain has three peaks: the south peak is wooded with no views; the middle and north peak offer astounding views of Mount Monadnock and nearby lands.
You can hike Gap from the Troy or Jaffrey sides. From the Troy side, the trailhead is off Gap Mountain Road. From Jaffrey, the trailhead is off Route 124, on Bullard Road. Much of the way up and down Gap on either side is the Metacomet Trail, which runs 114 miles from the Connecticut-Massachusetts border to Mount Monadnock.
The 1,160-acre Gap Mountain Reservation is owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which leases it to the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation as part of Monadnock State Park.
When you hike Gap, be sure to bring a camera to capture those views of Monadnock. You may also want a blueberry bucket. You won’t be joined by the throngs at Monadnock, but your views will be just as grand.
The whole trip — from either the Jaffrey or Troy side — takes two to three hours. But take your sweet time.
Eric Aldrich writes from his home in Hancock. You can reach Eric at email@example.com.