Our friend Eric suggested hiking Middle and/or North Sugarloaf
Mountains because they are close to our campground, have panoramic
views from very low summits, and are "easier" than many other trails
North and Middle Sugarloaf Mountains are only 2,310 and 2,539 feet high,
respectively. The out-and-back T-shaped trail to both summits, which are
probably the lowest in the Whites with such panoramic views on top, is only 3.4
miles, or about 4 miles if you include a loop on the Trestle Trail.
Excellent view toward Mt.
Washington and the Presidential Range in the distance
Granted, the mountains are just a few miles from our campground and Middle Sugarloaf
definitely has great views, but this was by no means easy for us.
Although you may not be able to determine how steep some of the pitches
are from my photos,
you'll be able to see examples in this entry of the wet roots, rocks, and rock steps we
negotiated -- without mishap, fortunately.
The trail was almost as rough as the Crawford Path in the southern
Presidential Range that I hiked two days ago and rather slick after this
morning's rain. The good thing was that it's relatively short and the
views from the summit made it worth it, to me at least. Not so sure Jim agrees.
There's no easy way around this
tangle of roots and rocks on the trail to Middle Sugarloaf.
I can't believe Jim even suggested that he go with me today. It
hasn't been much more than a week since he declared he'd never go hiking
in New England with me again!
I planned to take the dogs and go by myself but for some
reason he decided to go, too -- maybe because it rained off and
on all morning and he didn't get as long of a bike ride as he wanted.
We'd both prefer to hike in the rain than ride our bikes in it.
The trails were wet but it didn't rain while we were hiking. The sun
came out before we got to the summit.
OK, LET'S GO EXPLORE A NEW TRAIL (TO US)
About 2 PM the rain appeared to be over so we left the campground with
both dogs and drove a few miles to the trailhead on FSR16. The
small parking area is located just before the dirt road crosses the
Zealand River. It was easy to find with the White Mountains maps and
guidebook Eric loaned to us while we're here.
A fee is required to
park at this and many other trailheads in the White Mountains National
Forest. We saved some money by buying a weekly pass when we arrived in the area. There are also
daily and annual permits.
We walked over the vehicle bridge across the Zealand River and made an
immediate right turn onto the trail that accesses both Sugarloaf
Mountains and the foot trestle, which washed out in 2009 and hasn't been
replaced. This is the vehicle bridge across the river:
The trail to the Sugarloafs (Sugarloaves??) starts at the arrow.
The trail was pretty rough from the get-go. It followed the low-flowing Zealand River
for about a quarter mile before turning uphill to the left. The Trestle
Trail continues along the river; I didn't hike it while we were
here because the trestle washed out several years ago and hasn't been replaced.
The river is scenic and it's a good place to let dogs or kids splash around
when the water is this low.
On the way back to the truck at the end of
the hike Jim got into the water to play with Casey:
Much of the trail was pretty rough with lots of roots and rocks and a
wet area with bog bridging. There were also some steep pitches with rock
steps as we climbed from about 1,500 feet to 2,200 feet
at the "T" in the col between the two peaks.
The trail is mostly shaded by large hemlocks, firs, birches, and
other trees and shrubs. It's a lush landscape in the summer with lots of
moss, lichens, and ferns:
These rounded boulder steps
seemed steeper and more treacherous to me
coming back down than going up
because descents are rougher on my knees.
There are some huge boulders along the trail on the way up to the
ridge between the mountains. We liked this split in one of them:
The trail goes left around one side -- Cody and I went that way
-- but you can do what Jim and Casey did and slither through the
slot if that's your preference.
Here's another interesting boulder arrangement. Kids
would have fun with this:
It is just under a mile to the "T" in the col between the two peaks:
No really knowing what to expect on either summit, we decided
to go left for 4/10ths of a mile to the top of Middle Sugarloaf first
-- that's the better choice, in our opinion, if you have time for
only one of the peaks.
go right, it's 3/10ths of a mile to North Sugarloaf.)
The trail was relatively flat and smooth at first as we headed across
the ridge toward
Middle Sugarloaf, then climbed to 2,539 feet at the summit. This is the
Whites so there were more rocks and large "steps," of course:
Just before the summit we encountered this steep
wooden ladder, which was easier for me to go up than down:
I was glad it was there, though, because it would have been more
difficult to navigate sloped, smooth, wet slabs of granite than the
We ended up going to just the Middle Sugarloaf summit and it was the better choice
of the two mountains, with much more bedrock (open ledges) on top to roam around on.
We had great views in all directions, including a clear view of Mt. Washington to the east. We
could even see where the cog railway goes up the western side of the mountain:
It's always cool to see a ridge or mountain I've climbed from a
That and the other expansive
views from the top of Middle Sugarloaf made the climb and descent worth
Presidential Ridge (in the distance) to the east . . .
Franconia Ridge (in the distance) to the southwest
. . .
Part of the wide expanse of granite on the western
side of Middle Sugarloaf Mountain
Jim found a great spot for a snack, overlooking the
valley to the northwest.
We weren't quite as close to the edge as this
From the top of
Middle Sugarloaf we
could see the lower summit on North Sugarloaf, below the arrow in the
It didn't look like we could see nearly as much from there so we
didn't go over to that peak:
Our hike took about two hours total, including spending about 15 minutes
at the top. We hiked a little less than 3 miles since we went to just
Jim enjoyed the views but wasn't real happy with the hike in general because
the trail was so rough. Might be a while again before he hikes with me! I'll
keep hiking around here because I love the scenery so much. I just have to
factor in extra time for all the obstacles.
Next entry: cycling on Zealand Rd. and
hiking to Zealand Falls
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil