Saturday, March 19, 2011

Middle & North Sugarloaf Mountains - Winter Hiking

Middle Sugarloaf Mountain
Elevation: 2,539ft

North Sugarloaf Mountain
Elevation: 2,310

Trails: Zealand Road and Sugarloaf Trail
Elevation Gain: 1,135ft
Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
Duration: 6 hrs

Difficulty:  Moderate

I was looking forward to this particular hike! First off, this would be my last hike during the winter season as the spring equinox is tomorrow. Secondly, checking out my White Mountains trail map I saw that these two peaks were down the road from Mt. Washington and if the weather cooperated, I would have views of the snow topped giant. Well, I wasn't disappointed. For just a modest hiking effort, there are spectacular views of Mt. Washington from both Sugarloafs!

I carpooled with two of my hiking companions so this meant I had my hands free to test the video function on my new iPhone. Coming through the Franconia Notch there were some light flurries, but I was able get a short vid of the Cannon Mountain Ski slopes.

The skies were cloudy and overcast but as the morning wore on, the sun came out!  The Zealand road is closed during the winter, so we met the rest of our group in the parking lot and walked up to the trailhead at Trestle Trail. This trail took us along the Zealand River until we came to the Sugarloaf Trail split. Another 0.9 miles took our group through a large granite field and uphill to the saddle of the Middle and North Sugarloafs. We chose Middle Sugarloaf to ascend first and made our way to the summit. The sun had come out and as you can tell by my photos, the views  from all angles were stunning. The summit is open and made of many layers of granite slab. We took a few minutes for lunch, relaxing and getting more photos in. I was even able to get a photo of the North Sugarloaf summit!

We hiked back down to the saddle of the Middle and North Sugarloafs and continued to the North Sugarloaf. The trail took us on the west slope and through woods with quartz rocks in several areas. There are more large rock formations that look to be good areas for rock climbing/bouldering but I can't find them in any of my rock climbing books or on MountainProject.com. Near the summit the trail got steeper and in snowshoes, the going got tricky, especially when the trail was all ice.

At the North Sugarloaf summit the views are just as spectacular even if it was just from a ledge. The large granite ledges provided a perfect place for a brief rest, a change into MicroSpikes and more photos.

** Click on the photos to see a larger view 

On Zealand Road


Large Granite boulders on the trail towards
the saddle of Middle & North Sugarloaf (2)

 
Middle Sugarloaf Summit (12)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On the trail to the North Sugarloaf Summit (6)
 
 
 North Sugarloaf summit (5)
 
 
Zealand River (2)