I’ve been to Mt. Tom many times, but have always approached it directly from Rt. 302 via the Avalon and A-Z Trails or from Mt. Field via the Willey Range Trail. This time I decided that I would try something different and approach Mt. Tom from the other side, the Zealand Valley side. For this approach, I would take the Zealand Trail into the junction with the A-Z Trail and then follow the A-Z Trail up to the Mt. Tom Spur.
The were a few advantages to this approach, one, I had never been on the southern section of the A-Z Trail past the Willey Range Trail junction, so this would be new trail for me. Two, the elevation gain was just a little over 2000 feet for the whole trip and third, I hadn’t been on the Zealand Trail since last spring. There was one disadvantage, which might actually be considered an advantage, depending on how you look at it. The round trip mileage was 11 miles, but the elevation gain is very gradual. From Rt. 302, the round trip for Mt. Tom is only 5.8 miles with about the same elevation gain. The 11-mile length isn’t as bad as it sounds, because the ascent for the entire hike was pretty gently graded with the exception of about a half mile of trail which was steeper, but certainly not the worst I’ve seen in the Whites.
I pulled into the Zealand parking area and took off up the Zealand Trail. I hiked quickly as it was 50 degrees and overcast with a good breeze blowing. I was trying to get warm and was really glad I brought along my fleece, which I wore almost the entire day. The trip in was flat and the footing was nice as always along Zealand. The new bridge and trail relocation, replacing the old Z-bridge was a great improvement on the often flooded trail section, but I do miss the quirkiness of the old Z-bridge. I was soon at my junction and turning left, heading up trail I had never hiked.
The Zealand side of the A-Z Trail is a nice trail, with very easy grades until the half mile or so before the junction with the Willey Range Trail on the right. This is very different from the Crawford side of the trail, between the Willey Range junction and the Avalon Trail junction, which is much steeper. The footing, for the most part is good, but gets rougher near the top. There are many stream and feeder stream outlets, but all are easy rock hopped, and the boggy parts have the usual puncheons or stepping stones. The forests were pretty and filling in with all sorts of undergrowth, including ferns, trillium, trout lilies and lady slippers.
I arrived at the Mt. Tom Spur junction and thought that even the steeper last half mile wasn’t that bad. I would say the last half mile is on the harder end of moderate, and that the footing is rough in places since it is rocky. Overall, the section is short and I didn’t realize I was in that last section until I was almost half way through it. The trip over to Mt. Tom held no surprises, since I’ve been there many times, although I did see the first fungus of the year, some little red-brown mushrooms growing on the side of a dead stump.
Once at the summit, I was in a cloud with the wind was picking up, I didn’t stay long, since I’ve seen the inside of a cloud plenty already on my hiking adventures. I was hoping to be able to look out to the Zealand Valley where I had hiked up from, but no such luck. I quickly left the summit and headed down toward warmer temperatures and hopefully a little sunshine. The hike out was very quick and I was even able to see some blue skies and sunshine near the parking area.
While probably not the shortest route to Mt. Tom, it was a really enjoyable hike to a familiar place on a new-to-me trail!