Saturday, November 30, 2013

Belknap Range Finish - Mt. Rowe to Whiteface - 11/24/13

Last November, we did a 7-peak Belknap Range Loop on a nice day to get started on this unique peak-bagging list.  I can't believe a year got in the way of completing the remaining 5 peaks.  Many times this had been labeled a back-up, or rainy day hike, but this past Sunday, we had to get a hike in, and it was the back to the Belknaps. (cover: Gunstock and Belknap Mtn. seen from the Ridge Trail from Mt. Rowe)

The Belknap Range has a funny little L in it.  This is one of the difficulties of stringing all 12 together in a day without having hiked them before really (that had been the hope last year). The five peaks remaining were Rowe, Gunstock, Belknap, Piper, and Whiteface, and the start of the hike brought us to the parking lot at Gunstock Ski Area.  We walked around the front of the lodge, over to the skate park area, and the road started up Mt. Rowe right behind that.  This frigid morning was a test for those mornings to come in a couple of months.  Shivering and antsy, we set off up the road hoping that we would warm up.

Slowly but slowly we started to regulate our temperature.  The walk up the road was perfect though.  It is always nice to warm up on easy terrain.  We drifted toward the olympic ski jump by accident, but bushwhacked over back to the road and continued up to the summit of Mt. Rowe.  It was nothing spectacular, but we had one down and nice view of where we were heading.
Cell phone tower on Mt. Rowe summit  
Ridge Trail, Mt. Rowe

The trail ahead was looking nice, and we were warmed up, so now on with the hike.  The terrain was covered with a dusting of un-touched snow.  There were fox and bird tracks all over the place on the trail. Shortly afterwards, we came up on a plate boundary observatory station.  The Belknap Range is what is remaining of an ancient volcano off the west shore of Lake Winnipisaukee, so it only makes sense to have one here.  Another cool thing about the Belknap Range.

Eartchscope Plate Boundary Station

Belknap and Gunstock 
Nice open woods on the Ridge Trail to Gunstock
Along the way to Gunstock, we had some nice views.  We reached the summit at the same time someone else was from a different trail.  It was the only person we saw all hike.  The summit of Gunstock was a ghost town today as it was freezing, but we took in the view for a few minutes and continued on to Belknap.

A nice view along the way 
The summit chairlift at Gunstock
The Hut at the top of the ski area  
Belknap Mountain Fire tower 
Belknap Mountain summit marker 

We made it to the summit of Belknap, and went right for the tower, but we didn't linger very long at all.  The wind was gusting really good, enough to blow us off our stance. After leaving we had some nice views as we declined elevation on some icy terrain.  The next ascent would take us up Piper Mountain on the Orange trail.  This was another "remote" section that was really nice.  We made it to Piper which was nice with open views and sprawling rock ledge.     

Orange Trail (Old Piper) - Belknap Range 
Piper Summit 
Looking ahead from Piper
The area around Piper and Whiteface had a lot more ice than the rest, so we used microspikes for a good portion of the middle of this hike.  Although we had seen tons of tracks in the snow all day, we came across a really nice set, again on untouched snowy trail.  Most likely fox tracks, or maybe coyote tracks, but not sure.  There were no human tracks around, that's for sure.

Continuing, we came onto the ATV Trail to Whiteface and followed it to the summit, finishing the last of 12 peaks in the Belknap Range to earn a new patch - a pretty cool one, I might add! I have been going up to Lakes Region just about all my life, and had been to Belknap by all trails from the halfway point. I even got lost once, and ended up in someone's back yard about 2 miles away from Belknap Mountain.  It's definitely a unique place to hike.  It's not a walk in the park, and its variety gives you a little bit of everything to keep you on your toes.  Looking forward to getting the patch in the mail (see below).

Belknap County Sportsmens Association

Hike Stats
Trails: Mt. Rowe access road, Ridge Trail, Saddle Trail, Blue Trail, White Trail, Orange Trail, Green Trail, White Trail (to Belknap Access Rd), Blue Trail, Saddle Trail, Brook Trail
Distance: 12.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,320 ft.
Actual Book Time: 6:55


  1. Great pics. It's cool to take in ski area peaks, especially before they're open for business. Just did Killington and Pico and it was kind of eerie being up there with all that machinery, with no one around.

    1. Thanks Erik. I have experienced Ellen in the fall in VT, and Saddlebacks in Maine during off-season times. It's interesting. I bet its fun skiing up in VT.

  2. Congrats on your finish! I live within view of the Belknaps; I see Gunstock and the tower everyday when driving around town. The patches are cool, too, they're pretty quick about sending them out, we got ours in a about month or so. Oh, and those are coyote tracks. They are definitely up in the Belknaps. I have a friend who has seen a pack while hiking up there. I've see the tracks and scat, too.

    1. Hi Summerset, Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and confirming the coyote tracks! They were everywhere, and I've heard about their frequent presence in the Belknaps, which I think is cool.