My Top 5 Mountain Hikes of 2015

Although I didn’t get nearly as many mountains hiked as I had hoped this year, I crossed another seven 4,000 footers off my list and saw many amazing, memorable views. As the year draws to a close, I’ve looked back and determined my top 5 mountain hikes of the year.

1  Mount Pierce/Mount Eisenhower Loop – This was one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes I did this year. Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower are both 4000 footers that are part of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Both have great views, but the vista from the summit of Eisenhower was incredible. Definitely worth the 10 mile, 6-7 hour hike.

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2   Black Cap Mountain – One of my first hikes after the thaw this year, we hiked several miles up a closed road before reaching the mountain trail, and this was still an easy hike (in comparison to most mountains). Though this mountain is small (2,369 feet), the view is mighty! Black Cap Mountain offers a spectacular view and is a great hike.

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3   Mount Chocorua – I hiked up Mount Chocorua via the Champney Falls Trail, which is a gorgeous hike along waterfalls until you reach the switchbacks leading to the top of the mountain. The easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, the views from Chocorua’s 3,490 foot summit spread far and wide, allowing for a gorgeous look of the surrounding landscape.

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garfield4   Mount Garfield – I’d be lying if I said this was one of my favorite hikes, but it was one of my favorite views, which made the monotonous, grueling hike worth the effort. At 4,500 feet, Mount Garfield is the 17th highest of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. This was the first time I hiked a snow covered mountain, which I didn’t love, but the view at the top was so incredibly gorgeous that I completely forgot the horrors of the trail (until I was back on it on the way down). I was momentarily transported to an almost magical winter wonderland. Then I was back on the trail. The beauty was short lived, but it’s definitely a memory I’ll cherish forever.

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5     Mount Field – I peak bagged Mount Field along with Mount Willey, and was supposed to head over to Mount Tom, too, (all 4000 footers in the Crawford Notch region) but the weather turned and that didn’t happen. Usually I have a vendetta against a mountain anytime the hike doesn’t go as planned, but this time I didn’t. Perhaps that’s why I liked this hike – because it was a lesson where I grew and gained maturity. Maybe, but it’s more likely that the memory of the creepy birds landing on my hands with their taloned death grip grew on me (it did). I’d like to go back and have another chance with those birds. This time I’d try harder to put my whole birds are dinosaurs that sometimes peck your eyes out thing out of mind and instead try to enjoy becoming intimately acquainted with my new feathered friends as they land on me like I’m in a Disney movie.

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Lake Chocorua

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lakec5If you’ve spent a lot of time looking at pictures of beautiful lakes with mountains in the background, chances are you’ve seen a picture of Lake Chocorua. The bald rock summit of Mount Chocorua can be seen in the distance from the shores of the lake. In the summer, it’s a popular spot to launch lakec2a kayak or canoe. In the fall, it’s a serene spot to take a walk, surrounded by fall leaves shaking in the brisk air. It’s the perfect place to take pictures any time of year, with many award wining shots taken at sunrise and sunset. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of my own on my cell phone. Located in Tamworth, NH, right off 16, it’s a stop you can’t miss if you’re in the area.

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Champney Falls to Mount Chocorua

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chocuruachocurua17It was a beautiful, summer-like day when we set off to hike Mount Chocorua. There are several trails you can take to the summit. We chose the Champney Falls trail, named after renowned White Mountain artist Benjamin Champney, for the view. The trailhead was easy to find, located right off the scenic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.

chocurua12chocurua15We began the 7.6 mile hike in high spirits, stopping for lunch near the falls under the shelter of an overhang hidden in a chasm off to the left of the trail. Although it was May 10th, a thick layer of ice covered the ground, making our little picnic spot much cooler than the surrounding area.

chocurua9We then resumed our journey up the trail, the day becoming hotter and hotter, my skin frying under the boiling sun. The trail is in the tree line until you reach the bare, craggy rock at the top. Unfortunately, most of the trees along the lower 2/3rds of the trail were just beginning to sprout their leaves after winter.

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Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more heat (pretty sad for a Florida girl, huh?) we reached the pine lined switchbacks of the upper trail, occasionally crossing ice patches with their lovely little pockets of cold air. By the time we reached the treeless reaches of the upper realm, I had recovered from the heat.

chocurua8chocurua10It was clear, sunny, and best of all, windless when we arrived at the 3490 foot summit. The easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range, Chocorua’s views spread far and wide,
providing a gorgeous view of the surrounding landscape. After chocurua7a quick break, we began an uneventful descent. All in all,  Chocorua was a lovely hike, the falls were gorgeous, and it was another day well spent in the mountains.