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Thread: Cog Rail Trail

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Cog Rail Trail

    With the clocks being set back soon this is normally the time of year that I do a lot of sunset hikes. Two of my favorites for this are Clay and Monroe and the general lawn areas in between. With the descent being in the dark I was curious about the Cog Rail "Trail" as an option. I see more and more references to it in trip reports now so I'm assuming it is a good option but I've never done any of it, either up or down. So I had a few questions:

    1) Is it legal to use? Are there any issues with the Cog property boundaries and ownership, trespassing or whatever? Does that change if you spend the $10 to park near the Cog building, i.e. is access to all of their property part of that $10 fee or is it strictly parking?

    2) Are there any sketchy or dangerous sections along the way? I'd be descending in the dark most likely for the first time so was curious if there were any problem areas to be aware of/plan for? I don't generally do a trail for the first time in the dark but I am assuming it is essentially the same way top to bottom the way it is up high near Gulfside, i.e. fairly wide rocky path that can accommodate motorized equipment. Would that be correct?Main reason I would utilize this trail would be if the conditions were icy and the rock piles of the Jewell Trail or slabs and rocks on Ammo could be tricky descending and the Cog would present a safer option. Is the terrain "comfortable" on the Cog Trail from a slippery perspective? (I would obviously have traction options). Steep is fine provided it has secure footing.

    3) One recent trip report for this trail referenced the "tricky river crossing at the end not being a problem". Are there water crossings on this route? The only one I see on the satellite is basically in the parking lot and I would assume you could just take the trestles over. Is that a bad assumption?

    Appreciate any info on this area from people who have traveled it. Thanks in advance.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    3) One recent trip report for this trail referenced the "tricky river crossing at the end not being a problem". Are there water crossings on this route? The only one I see on the satellite is basically in the parking lot and I would assume you could just take the trestles over. Is that a bad assumption?
    I would say that this is in reference to the crossing on the Jewell Trail right at the Cog property which avoids the "tricky river crossing at the end". Several years ago when that bridge washed out, the trail was rerouted through the Cog property and crossed on their property.

    Tim
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    Senior Member dailey7779's Avatar
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    The $10 fee allows you to access the Cog Path.

    When descending, there is about a half mile section starting a little past where the Westside Trail crosses the swath where the rocks are on the smallish to medium size and can move around a lot, that part is tedious if you're not comfortable on that stuff. Other than that it's smooth sailing for the most part. Once the swath fills with snow, it's a totally different animal.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    I would say that this is in reference to the crossing on the Jewell Trail right at the Cog property which avoids the "tricky river crossing at the end". Several years ago when that bridge washed out, the trail was rerouted through the Cog property and crossed on their property.

    Tim
    You lost me there. I recall a potentially nasty crossing to the LEFT of the cog tracks (looking uphill to the ridge) on the Jewell Spur that climbs up and meets the actual Jewell Trail. It was un-crossable 1 of the 2 times I tried using. Are you saying the Cog Rail Trail finishes there at that spot or that it is now higher up and/or on the other side of the brook so that is no longer an issue? The trail report I referenced was definitely talking about the Cog Trail, not the Jewell Trail or Jewell Spur.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Nevermind then.

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

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    We hiked this down about a month or so ago. By and large not any real problems (preferable to the upper Jewell in my opinion). The upper reaches are a combination of rocks, rail debris and old coal soot. Watch your ankles, as much of this is very loose. There are a few sections which would be tricky/dangerous in snowy and icy conditions. A number of trains passed us when we were descending. The crews were friendly and waved at us, which led us to believe that there was no problem with our presence.

    As to the crossing, the "trail" crosses the Amo river right before the base station. However it is bridged.

    In my opinion a good descent option as light fades in the afternoon. It descends to the West and is wide-open. Also, it is helpful in limited-visibility situations, since you can for the most part use the railway in sight.

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    If you go up the same way as you come down, you should be okay providing your headlamp is good and bright. Unlike the Jewell which has good footing, the Cog footpath will have rocks as they lay or were moved during Cog construction. Should be easy to follow, just watch your ankles.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    If you go up the same way as you come down, you should be okay providing your headlamp is good and bright. Unlike the Jewell which has good footing, the Cog footpath will have rocks as they lay or were moved during Cog construction. Should be easy to follow, just watch your ankles.
    The Jewell Trail has for the most part very good footing. Been up and down it many, many times in just about every condition. I've actually walked down that trail with a broken ankle. It is that 1/4 mile or so where it meanders through the rock piles that can be an issue in icy/bad conditions. The rock piles of the Presidentials to me are one of the biggest dangers to shoulder season hiking where a thin coating of ice is an issue. Can be very tedious travel, especially in the dark.

    And for whatever reason I've always had an "issue" with the Ammo trail in shoulder seasons and generally avoid it until real snow hits. That short stretch climbing to the waterfall crossing, with all that ledge and the brook crossings, has the potential for major issues in bad weather, especially descending. Never had a problem on it but it has always made me a little uncomfortable for whatever reason. Have done many other trails that are far worse than this one but Ammo has a little rent-free space going in my head. Not sure why that is. So if the Cog Trail is a more comfortable, issue-free descent I'm up for giving it a try.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    The Jewell Trail has for the most part very good footing. Been up and down it many, many times in just about every condition. I've actually walked down that trail with a broken ankle. It is that 1/4 mile or so where it meanders through the rock piles that can be an issue in icy/bad conditions. The rock piles of the Presidentials to me are one of the biggest dangers to shoulder season hiking where a thin coating of ice is an issue. Can be very tedious travel, especially in the dark.

    And for whatever reason I've always had an "issue" with the Ammo trail in shoulder seasons and generally avoid it until real snow hits. That short stretch climbing to the waterfall crossing, with all that ledge and the brook crossings, has the potential for major issues in bad weather, especially descending. Never had a problem on it but it has always made me a little uncomfortable for whatever reason. Have done many other trails that are far worse than this one but Ammo has a little rent-free space going in my head. Not sure why that is. So if the Cog Trail is a more comfortable, issue-free descent I'm up for giving it a try.
    Did a Mt. Washington trip in November several years ago where there was 1-3 inches of snow only on Lion's Head and up high. We passed one guy going down with a twisted knee and another who thought he had broken his ankle. It took far longer getting up then we thought having to pick our way through the thinly covered rocks. The weather was seasonal with not much wind. We got to the summit around 3:00. We made the decision to walk down the road, this is usually frowned upon based on weather/exposure. Since the weather was benign, we opted to go with the superior footing as the road was either bare or drifted with the light snow (nothing over a foot) but was smooth. We managed a good pace down the road and used headlamps about a mile or so above the Old Jackson Road. The Road and the OJR was easy to navigate with headlamps. That winter they opened the other side and I made another November trip up from Base Station and that was how I went up in winter also.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    Did a Mt. Washington trip in November several years ago where there was 1-3 inches of snow only on Lion's Head and up high. We passed one guy going down with a twisted knee and another who thought he had broken his ankle. It took far longer getting up then we thought having to pick our way through the thinly covered rocks. The weather was seasonal with not much wind. We got to the summit around 3:00. We made the decision to walk down the road, this is usually frowned upon based on weather/exposure. Since the weather was benign, we opted to go with the superior footing as the road was either bare or drifted with the light snow (nothing over a foot) but was smooth. We managed a good pace down the road and used headlamps about a mile or so above the Old Jackson Road. The Road and the OJR was easy to navigate with headlamps. That winter they opened the other side and I made another November trip up from Base Station and that was how I went up in winter also.
    What is the mileage to the summit using the Cog approach?

    And can skies be used for descent below tree line?
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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    What is the mileage to the summit using the Cog approach?

    And can skies be used for descent below tree line?
    I couldn't trace a perfect line on Cal Topo but it appears to be about 2.7 miles and 3500' of vertical. I think a lot of people actually do ski it in Winter but I'll defer to others on that topic because I'm not sure.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; ADK 46: 6/46; Cat 3.5k 10/35

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    What is the mileage to the summit using the Cog approach?

    And can skies be used for descent below tree line?
    I would defer to the backcountry skiers here. You'd want a lot of snow cover as it isn't groomed or uniform. The Cog did try running a snow train for a few years, I'm unsure where they are with that. If they ever get to build a hotel up higher, they might be able to make it profitable for a winter destination and activity.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    The cog did build a couple of warm up leantos with porta potties for skiers and hikers near treeline a couple of winters ago (without a building permit). It was claimed to be used to support their ski train concept and for hiker use. Its inside the cogs property and they eventually got an after the fact permit. The cog is currently focused on the new year round maintenance facility being built at the base station to allow them to move their temporary fab shop from Berlin. Obviously Covid made a major on their cash flow this y
    When they had attempted ski trains in the past, when the cog owner, Presby was a part owner of the Bretton Woods Ski area, they had two winters in row with minimal snow. They relied on natural snow. My suspicion is that they would have a tough time building enough water storage to support snowmaking so they are dependent on natural snow cover. With climate change even Mt Washington has to worry about snowpack
    Last edited by peakbagger; 10-30-2020 at 05:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    What is the mileage to the summit using the Cog approach?

    And can skies be used for descent below tree line?

    My GPS had it at just under 3 miles from where Gulfside Trail crosses tracks to Cog Base Station. Add about .3 from summit (using Trinity Connector and Gulfside), and another .4 if parking at Ammo lot.

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