After our first successful trip to the Belknaps last weekend, my son and I decided to head back and bag a few more. Because of our time schedule for the day, a double-hit-and-run of two short hikes was perfect. Rowe and Whiteface summits are both obtained by short trails, although from different trail heads on different sides of the range, so we’d have a short break in between hikes while driving from one to the other.
Our first objective of the day was Mt. Rowe. Rowe is easily hiked in .8 with 750ft. elevation gain by the Ridge Trail, the starting or ending link in the Belknap Range Trail. (The Belknap Range Trail is made up of segments of other trails, but links many of the Belknap summits so that a traverse can be made with a carspot.) Following the directions in the AMC Southern NH guide book, we found the trail after parking at the Gunstock Recreation Area and heading northward behind the main lodge, toward the zipline and play ground areas. Just to the left at the gate is a service road that branches left and immediately forks, we took the service road to the left and the left fork. There is only one sign and one blaze at the beginning.
Partway up the service road, we took another left, marked by a white arrow and sign that says “cell tower” on tree. We continued following the service road winding up to the top, where there is a very large communications tower. If we would have wanted to continue on the Belknap Range Trail toward Gunstock and Belknap, we found that it ducks into the woods at the left of the communication tower fenced area, on a ski trail marked “The Ridge”. After a bit of exploring, we did see some white blazes down the trail indicating it went over the ridge as marked on the map.
It took us exactly the book time, 45 minutes to get to the top, but only 15 minutes to get back down. For the whole hike, the clouds were low, but we were underneath them, so we could see the whole tower and occasionally the sun trying to peak through. We had a nice fresh layer of spring snow, so we didn’t need traction at all, probably a factor in us doing a little slipping/sliding/skiing on the way down!
Once back at the car, it was time to take off to our next destination, the Whiteface Mountain Trail leading to Whiteface Mt. in 1.6 miles, with about 700ft. of elevation gain. This trail is located at the end of Belknap Mt. Road, about 1.4 miles past where the Carriage Road (leading to other Belknap trails) diverges left. There is a small turn around and gate, although the road does continue a short way as there are residences beyond the turn around. We parked carefully, so as not to block the gate. The temperatures were starting to warm up, which meant dripping water from the trees, so we changed into waterproof jackets and I added a pack cover before heading into the woods. This turned out to be a smart decision as we were getting snow and water bombed the second we stepped into the woods. We then started up the road, sort of wondering what we would find, as we couldn’t see any signs or indicators of a trailhead. Sure enough, as we came over a rise, on the left before the last house, there were some signs and a blue blaze on a tree.
This was good, as I was a bit concerned about this trail, because the guidebook said it was “unblazed but easy to follow”. Following unblazed trails is not too difficult in the summer where you can see the tread path, but with a dusting of snow on the ground, it becomes more of a challenge. Thankfully, the first .7 miles of the trail up to the junction with the green blazed Whiteface-Piper link, was newly and well blazed. Arriving at the junction more quickly than we thought, we headed over the stone wall for the last .9 miles to the summit.
This portion of trail was not as well blazed. There are blue blazes, but they are faded and dark and take a little looking to find. Thankfully, the way is pretty obvious. We came to a small meadow, and there we took a right to the ATV/jeep road, where we saw a yellow sign in the shape of an arrow pointing left which said “Whiteface”.
We headed left, up the road and over several ledgy areas and arrived at the summit. While we were pretty much just under the clouds at the summit, while we were there, the clouds lifted a bit, allowing us some views. After pictures and a snack, we headed back down the trail to the car, making the last section after the junction a trail run, just for fun.
While it wasn’t a day with perfectly clear skies, we agreed we were blessed with a good time, explored somewhere new and had safety while doing so! Cameron did say that while he didn’t think the hiking was too hard on these mountains he really was surprised by and enjoyed the views that we were able to see.