How would you like to hike up the mountains shown in the photo to the left? Provided that you are willing and ambitious enough, you can climb to the top of several peaks in the Lakes Region, where the view will blow you away. Most peaks are under 3,000 feet and can be done easily in an afternoon, although the definition of easy is subject to opinion. The trails we'll cover here are popular and well maintained.
Trail Conditions: hiking early in the season shortly after the snow has melted will likely yield the poorest of conditions, as those who maintain the trails have the daunting task of clearing away downed trees and branches from winter snow and ice storms. In the summer, heavy rains can cause slippery surfaces and the occasional strong thunderstorm winds can drop many trees which may take a while to clear away.
Safety: the woods here are free from poisonous snakes or dangerous spiders. There are a few bears in these woods, especially around the northern perimeter of the lake, near Moultonboro, but they tend to avoid the high traffic trails and remain deep in the woods. To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a bear attack. It's not out of the question to encounter a skunk or raccoon if you're hiking late in the evening, but they would much rather run away than come gnaw on your leg. As for plants, poison ivy does grow in the Lakes Region, but it's not overly widespread and just about impossible to get if you stay on the trail.
Mt. Major: One of the most popular and fantastic views of the lake can be had from the rocky flat top of Mt. Major, which will give you an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet. Most of the hike is pretty easy, as it follows old logging roads. Toward the end as you near the summit, it becomes steeper. The last stretch can be steep and potentially slippery when wet. The summit is wide, flat, and offers panoramic views of the entire Lakes Region. This climb is especially stunning during the fall foliage season. Total trail is about 3 miles in length and is located on Route 11 between Alton and Weirs Beach. More Information
Lockes Hill: A smaller and gentler version of Mt. Major, the Lockes Hill loop offers several places to stop and rest, picnic, or just relax and take in the scenery. If you're in search of the rare and beautiful Lady Slipper flower, there is almost always one set slightly off the trail on the wooded backside of the loop. Lockes Hill can be easily found right off of Route 11 on the way to Alton Bay from Weirs Beach. This is an easy trail and one that is an excellent choice for a beginner hiker. More Information and check out this nice video.
Belknap Mountain: This trail runs about a mile and a half long and can take up to an hour and a half to complete. You'll climb 740 feet to the summits peak elevation of nearly 2400 feet, you get to drive up most of it. It's a climb of moderate difficulty, however it's fully worth the effort, as the the view from the summit is stunning. You can find the trailhead off Belknap Mountain road from Gilford Village. If you climb in May, Early June, or September, and it's clear, you'll will be able to see brilliantly snow capped Mt. Washington way off in the distance. More information
Gunstock Mountain: Gunstock offers several trails located in the Belknap Mountain range on which you can hike. As you enter gunstock, you can pick up a trail map at their camp store. They have recently added a new trail, which comes out to a overlook. Stay on that trail as it dips and then back up and eventually intersects with trails to the summits of Belknap and Gunstock mountain. A good trail for an intermediate hiker. You get more information from Gunstock by calling 603-293-4341. www.gunstock.com
Mounts Morgan and Percival: Located in Holderness, this will take you over two peaks in the Squam range, which of course offer views of New Hampshire's most heavily protected body of water, Squam Lake. Coming in at five miles, this trail is best left to the experts or the difficult to tire. Over the course of about four or five hours, you'll gain over 1,400 feet as you reach the summits, which stand at a maximum of 2,212 feet above sea level. More information.
Red Hill: By Lakes Region standards, Red Hill is bigger than some mountains. It's summit rises 2,029 feet above sea level, you however, will only have to climb 1,370 of those feet. Red Hill is a long flat-topped ridge, rising up from nearly flat ground at it's base. At it's top sits a fire tower, which makes spotting Red Hill easy, even from great distances. Located off a market dirt road from Bean Road in Center Harbor, Red Hill offers moderate hiking and unsurpassed views. More Information
Lakes Region Nature Walks: The Lakes Region Conservation Trust owns 70 properties totaling over 10,000 acres, most of those acres are open to the public. Some of their properties offer hiking trails and nature walks, and are a outdoor lovers dream come true. Some of the properties the trust owns are Islands, Stonedam Island is one of our favorites. For more information you can call the Lakes Region Conservation at 603- 279-3246 or visit their website at http://www.lrct.org.
Squam Mountains: The Squam mountain range located in Holderness offers several trails that are maintained by the Squam Lakes Association. Call 603-968-7336 for trail and guide information or visit http://www.squamlakes.org.
- What are some general hiking guidelines?
You've heard it before, always carry out what you carry in.
Lightning is the greatest danger on the trails, always check the weather before heading out.
Bring sunscreen if the mountain you are climbing has a bald peak and you plan to hang out for a while. The slightly cooler temperatures and stronger winds found at mountain summits often mask the feeling of your skin burning.
Don't drink and hike. Some of the trails are rocky and steep and you'll need your fully unimpared judgment.
Prevent noise pollution. Hiking up with your friends and telling jokes and stories is great for you, but not everyone else. You would be astounded how far voices can carry in the woods. For most people, escaping the general noise of society is one of the main reasons for taking to the trail.
Bring plenty of water.
Take a long a sweater, it may be a comfy 72 degrees at the base, but at the summit it may be 54 degrees with a gusty 35-45 mile per hour wind. It can often get colder than anticipated.
Bring your camera. Nothing will send you into a rampage like getting to the top and not being able to prove it to your friends.