While there are plenty of peaks on many peakbagging lists that are true bushwhacks, Mt. Nancy is not one of them. Mt. Nancy does not have an official trail, so is considered a bushwhack. The truth is that there is a pretty well defined herdpath all the way to the summit. Of course this was what all of our research has told us, all we had to do was hike out there and see it for ourselves.
Ethan and I had a beautiful fall day free to hike, so we headed up the Nancy Pond Trail parking area off of Rt. 302 south of Crawford Notch, but before Sawyer River Rd. I had never been on the Nancy Pond Trail but Ethan had and wanted to hike with me there this fall. We had even talked about this before I came home from the AT. The trail is nice and wide to start, looked like old roads of some sort. After the first major stream crossing, there were some reroutes, which included some switchbacks in some places. Nice trail overall and easy to get to the Nancy Cascades. The cascades were pretty and a nice place to stop.
Next was the steep section ascending parallel to the cascades and then above them. Steep, but not too bad. The footing was a bit more rooty than usual once the trail leveled close to Nancy Pond. Nancy Pond was nice and up next was Norcross Pond. While we didn’t see any wildlife, we definitely saw bear and moose tracks in the mud between the two ponds.
Upon arriving at Norcross Pond, we checked out the views from the pond outlet. At the point where the trail crosses there is a great view out to the Bonds and beyond. We also ventured up the rocks closer to the pond, where the old beaver dam is holding back the pond.
Near Norcross Pond was our departure point for the summit of Mt. Nancy. Instead of heading left at the campsite and across the pond outlet, which is where the Nancy Pond Trail leads, we turned right onto a herd path. There is a split, just a minute or two into the path, and from our reading, we knew to take the left fork. The path is pretty easy for the first tenth or so, but a bit brushy, not to be unexpected for a bushwhack or herd path. The path starts to gain elevation as it travels parallel to a slide and then takes a right into the woods near the top of the slide. This is where the path gets steep. No more steep than anything else in the Whites, and it is short, less than a mile of steep. The grade eases off near the top for the last tenth or so, and then it ends at a summit sign and viewpoint.
The view is north-ish toward the Dry River Wilderness and Presidentials. Although there was some cloud cover, we could see Mt. Washington in the background, plus Giant Stairs, Mt. Davis and other Dry Wilderness Peaks in front. By peeking around/through the trees, we could see into Crawford Notch, including the train track and Rt. 302 in some places, plus Mt. Willey and Webster Cliffs. After admiring the views, we headed back the way we came. Once off the herd path, it was a quick trip back to the car the way we came in.
It was a fun day out with Ethan and a nice easy peak for trying out a little off trail travel without full-on bushwhacking. Although the path was easy to locate and follow, we were prepared with research and back-up navigation techniques (map/compass, etc.) if need be. Always good skills to have regardless of the hiking trip!