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Thread: Mt. Belknap

  1. #1
    Senior Member askus3's Avatar
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    Mt. Belknap

    Back in the late 60s, my Dad drove me to a parking lot close to the summit where we hiked about a mile and several hundred feet up to the fire tower. Now 40+ years later, I thought on the return from one oif my White Mountain pilgrimages I would do two short hikes. One up Mt. Major - done.

    Beautiful hike. I hoped I would avoid crowds by going on a weekday (Monday, June 12). No such luck, Four school buses were in the parking lot from North Reading School District (whereever that is?). I don't know if I saw more people (children, aged 13-17) than blue markers. I don't know if I like the idea of school groups going hiking. I saw out of sorts teachers that were totally out of their element and so many kids totally unprepared for a hiking experience. Exposure to hiking for youth is good but a field trip to Mt. Major for all to venture up. If anyone got hurt and conssidering the footwear for some, I don't know, but this is another tangent.

    On to Belknap. Using map and an old guide I got to where Carriage Road angled off to the left from Belknap Mountain Road and came to a closed gate. There were three cars parked. I assume a hiking trail began there but with no map or inclination to do a lengthy hike, I turned around and headed home to New York. There was a sign located at the locked gate indicating the gate was locked from dusk to dawn, and it being 3 PM on a Monday I was disappointed as I did not want a long venture, just a quick up and back hike for a nice view from the tower. It is true, I don't have a current AMC Guide but what is the story on when you can go to the near summit parking lot on Mt. Belknap? When did they put the gate in and what is the best map of the Mt. Major/Gunstock/Belknap area hiking trails? For a future hike, what would be a good 4-5 mile circular hike to do justice to this area? Sometimes, I like just finding out a quick description of a hike that meets my needs without buying a guidebook and map set for the entire region.
    Last edited by askus3; 06-14-2006 at 08:31 AM.
    Aaron

  2. #2
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    My experience has been that the Gilford Public Library is the best source of maps for the Belknap Range. The topo maps show all the recent trails with the appropriate color system. The maps may be purchased or you may use their inexpensive photocopy machine.

  3. #3
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    In a little while carole will probably show up here and answer all your Belknap questions. Any attempt I could make would pale in comparison -- she's the go-to person for all things Major and minor in that area. So please be patient, I'm sure she'll help you out.

    As for the school groups on Major -- it's a seasonal hazard this time of year, sort of like winter ice on the ledges on top. Schools use it frequently in spring and summer because it's a relatively easy hike to get above treeline and the views are very nice.

    Yes, there are some school groups that come unprepared, and they have even been known to get lost and need SAR assistance. But the same can be said for many others that hike Major (and often inadvertently, some neighboring mountains as well.) Balanced against the beneficial effects of exposing all those kids to the fun and wonders of being outdoors, it's a trade-off that I can accept. I just don't hike there in the summer between 9:00 a.m.--6:00 p.m., unless it's raining.
    sardog1

    "Å! kjære Bymann gakk ei stjur og stiv,
    men kom her up og kjenn eit annat Liv!
    kom hit, kom hit, og ver ei daud og lat!
    kom kjenn, hot d'er, som heiter Svevn og Mat,
    og Drykk og Tørste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

    -- Aasmund O. Vinje, "Til Fjells!"

  4. #4
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    Interestingly, Monday (June 12) was a rare day for this season so far as I have seen very few buses, when most years this is the time to not even try to get in the parking lot. But, even so, I shared the summit (of Major) with only 2 others. But as related elsewhere this is what I found in the woods (see post #30)!! Some groups do an excellent job with the kids others leave much to be desired.

    Regarding Belknap – if the Carriage road was gated I would assume it was for repairs, either planned or from rain damage. We have had a lot of road washouts in the area with all the rain of late. I don’t drive up the road but hike from the bottom as there are trails to Gunstock, Belknap and Piper from there.

    Some trails in the range are clearly marked and others purposely not so. Thus a map is very beneficial to truly get the most out your hike. I have such a map and have permission to share it with others. It cost me $$ to make copies – I think $3-3.50 each last time I made some. It is a 17”x 11” double sided color copy, covering the Belknap Range from Belknap Mt. Road to Rt.11 below Mt. Major on one side and trail info on the reverse. I would be willing to send those interested a copy as long as I’m reimbursed for my costs (copy, postage, envelopes). Just send me a PM. I answer most questions for free.

    Maybe I should offer guided tours.
    I'm just outwalkin....

  5. #5
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    Hiking belknap often since its in my back yard. At the gate there is a white trail to go up to the summit of gunstock, if you walk say a 1/4 mile of the way down there is a blue trail to the summit of piper. To get to the trails for belknap you have to continue up the acces road. You'll hit white, yellow (the longer ones), Green and red are by the upper parking area if you continue past blue will lead you to the col between gunstock and belknap. At the upper parking lot there is a small field towards your back as you face the summit ,some nice lower views as well.

  6. #6
    Senior Member SherpaKroto's Avatar
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    Aaron, North Reading is in Mass. I live there . I offered a few years ago to chaperone some of their hikes but they took one look at me and immediately assumed that I would be a liability (this was the year I finished my NEHH). I guess I am just not part of the "in" crowd. From what I remember, a few of the middle and high school classes climb a mountain each year (the year I offered, it was Monadnock). There are 6-8 hikers to each adult chaperone. I won't comment on their relative level of experience other than to say that the group my daughter was in did not reach the summit. I do plan to make another attempt to help them out in the future, assuming I get back into hiking condition, but it did leave a sour taste in my mouth,

  7. #7
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    Regarding the trails at the base of the Belknap carriage road referenced in the posts above, does anyone know how long they have been in existence? As a youth (late 70's/80's) I never noticed that trails existed there. Beginning in the late 90's, I began to notice cars parked at the gate at the base of the carriage road. On some days, there are more cars at the base than in the lot at the top of the carriage road.

    How many trails are there (I am assuming two, based on the posts above)? What are the distances and difficulties? What entity publishes or updates the maps to the area?

  8. #8
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    fmgate: As to the trails starting at the lower end of the Carriage Rd. info is given in post #5 above. How long they have been there I can not answer but by the looks of the Piper Trail it has been there for quite some time.

    The Piper Trail is just over a mile long with ~980’ gain, it is well blazed. The Gunstock Mtn. Trail is similar distance with ~1150’ gain, though blazed it is a bit more difficult to find and follow. People also chose to hike up the Carriage Road if gated to access the upper trails to Belknap.

    As to a map, it was privately made and info on getting one is in my post above (#4).

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    I hate to disagree with C
    Really, since when??

    But I disagree with RoySwkr. I think the questions referred to the first gate he mentioned thus my reply remains the same.

  10. #10
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonPatrikz
    At the gate there is a white trail to go up to the summit of gunstock, if you walk say a 1/4 mile of the way down there is a blue trail to the summit of piper. To get to the trails for belknap you have to continue up the acces road. You'll hit white, yellow (the longer ones), Green and red are by the upper parking area if you continue past blue will lead you to the col between gunstock and belknap.
    I'm still a bit confused by the list of trails and the 2 different gates here:
    * There is a gate on Carriage Road just past the last house that is locked at night, in winter, when road is impassible, etc. Just past that gate is a WHITE trail to Gunstock and a little farther a RED trail to Piper.
    * There is a gate by the warden's garage at the upper parking area (a mile and a half or so of switchbacks from the lower gate) There are about 4 trails that fan out just beyond this gate: BLUE to Gunstock col, RED to Belknap, GREEN to Belknap, and ATV which is not blazed but obvious and crisscrosses GREEN. If you walk back down the road just past the first culvert there is WHITE to Piper Mtn

    That leaves me missing a blue trail to Piper and a yellow trail, where do they leave the road?

    Speaking of paint colors has anyone used a Pantene card on the blazes from Piper col to N Piper? Salmon? Tangerine?

    You can make a 5 mile loop from the lower gate or from the Gunstock Recreation Area or from other points using the map described above, which is made by a private individual who apparently prefers to remain anonymous and is particularly accurate because he built many of the trails on it

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoySwkr
    I'm still a bit confused by the list of trails and the 2 different gates here:
    * There is a gate on Carriage Road just past the last house that is locked at night, in winter, when road is impassible, etc. Just past that gate is a WHITE trail to Gunstock and a little farther a RED trail to Piper.
    * There is a gate by the warden's garage at the upper parking area (a mile and a half or so of switchbacks from the lower gate) There are about 4 trails that fan out just beyond this gate: BLUE to Gunstock col, RED to Belknap, GREEN to Belknap, and ATV which is not blazed but obvious and crisscrosses GREEN. If you walk back down the road just past the first culvert there is WHITE to Piper Mtn

    That leaves me missing a blue trail to Piper and a yellow trail, where do they leave the road?

    Although you edited your last two posts you are correct in the trail colors and starting points. The confusion is only in the colors mentioned by JasonPatrikz. Yes, Piper trail is blazed in red but there is a sign at the beginning so I didn’t correct him. As to ‘white, yellow’, I assume he is referring to the White trail which joins up with the East Gilford trail (yellow) and both trails (and colors) ascend to Belknap Mtn.

    Numerous loops can be made on that side of the range starting on the Carriage road. Some I have enjoyed:

    **Taking the Piper trail up over Piper and on out to Whiteface Mtn, coming back down the full length of Whiteface Mtn. trail to Belknap Mtn. Road and walking the road back to the Carriage road (a nice road walk).

    **Again taking Piper trail and continuing out to Swett Mtn, including the loop around Valley View trail on the return and back to the Carriage Road.

    **Taking the Gunstock Mtn. trail to Gunstock, following the trails to Belknap and over to Piper, then down the Piper trail.

    Some nice loops can also be made from Rt.11A and from Gunstock parking area – one recently I did was a loop up over Rowe to Gunstock and down the Brook trail on a perfect sunny autumn day without the summer campers or winter skiers.

    Short or all-day hikes can also be enjoyed from the several access points in the range.

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