Last weekend was another of the three-day variety. The weather lined up well enough to schedule hiking up one of the more challenging mountains on this year’s list, Mt. Chocorua, over in Albany, New Hampshire. I was really looking forward to putting this one on the “done list”.
This hill is fairly unique, as it barely tops 3500 feet above sea level, but has one of the more prominent rocky summits in the White Mountains. The treeline ends on Chocorua somewhere around 3000 feet, and the views from the top of the granite crag are better than many taller mountains in New England. Chocorua and her two sisters are located in Albany, in that triangle formed by the junction of the Kancamagus Highway and NH Route 16.
Youngest son came up to the house on Friday, as he had some business to attend to in the area. As Chocorua is two hours away from here, we decided the best course of action would be to travel down to the area Friday afternoon, with a plan of hitting the trail early Saturday morning. Popular White Mountain trails fill quickly in the summertime, and the trail we chose, Champney Falls Trail to Piper Trail, is very popular.
We headed south on a very wet and rainy Friday afternoon, having made reservations at one of the less expensive motels in the North Conway area. “Less expensive” is a relative term, of course, but beware- the very dated (but clean) establishment we spent the night at was more than half the price of a room at the Mount Washington Omni Hotel, not far away.
Before checking in, Son and I stopped for a while at Delaney’s Hole in the Wall, a popular restaurant and bar in North Conway. I’ve visited this establishment many times, as it’s not far from the part of Maine where I lived for thirty years. The food is good and the beer is cold. Service was great and prices reasonable. They feature a good sushi menu, which Son sampled and gave thumbs up. I went with the chicken wings and a sandwich. Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood. After eating, we headed to the motel and called it an early night.
Early Saturday morning we were up and ready to go. The rain had stopped overnight, and the sun was out, burning off the morning fog. We had a 20-minute ride to the trailhead, so we packed up the Jeep and headed down the road. When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot, there were maybe five other cars there. The Jeep parked and secured, we saddled up and started up the Champney Falls Trail at 8AM.
Almost immediately we crossed Twin Brook, stepping from boulder to boulder. The water is very low this time of year. In the spring the crossing is much more adventurous, I’m sure.
Despite low water, the trail was very dank, dark and damp. Friday’s rain, coupled with being on the north side of the mountain would keep it that way for the entire trip to the treeline. Son said the operative word was “moist”.
We kept moving along the trail, at this juncture packed earth with occasional rocks and roots. Good to walk on. We crossed a couple more feeder creeks that were heading toward Champney Brook.
A little while after crossing the last creek we came to the major junction on this trail. At this point we were less than two miles in, I think. To the left was the path to Champney Falls, and up the stairs to the right, Mt. Chocorua. We headed up the stairs, and from there the trail became much rockier and steep. And still very wet- running water in some places.
We had not seen anyone else on the trail yet, besides a couple sleeping trailside with their dogs. I didn’t think that was allowed anymore, but apparently as long as you’re at least ¼ mile from the trailhead and not into the camping exclusion area, it’s ok.
As we continued up through the wetness, we discovered the elfin outhouse, various fungi, and a trail toad briefly captured by Son.
Upwards we continued, crossing smooth and steep rock face now. As we approached the col between Middle Sister and Chocorua, we got our first glimpse of the sun. I think this photo is one for the wall- it was a beautiful sight:
Shortly after cresting the saddle, we came to a sign telling us that the summit was roughly a half mile away. As we continued along, now on Piper Trail, Chocorua’s summit slowly grew in size and dimension. Even when we reached the final crag that was the summit, there was climbing left to do.
Climb it we did. I watched Son nimbly scamper up the granite, while I managed to ascend without issue, albeit not in the billy goat fashion of the olden days. Son and I reached the summit, and actually had the perch to ourselves for a few minutes. We may have been the last people that day to be able to say that- the crowd was building. The view from Chocorua is unimpeded across 360°- here are some of our photos:
It was pretty cool looking to the west and seeing Mt. Osceola, which we climbed last month. I remember seeing Chocorua from that summit and hoping we would get to it this year. And here we were. Seeing as there were folks awaiting their turn at the top, we relocated to an area out of the wind to enjoy some rest, water and a bite to eat. The trip up had taken us about two and a half hours. The trip down would take about the same amount of time, although I’m sure Son could have gone much faster were he solo. We returned to the Jeep just before 2PM, where I took off the boots and had me a beer. So did Son- the beer part, anyway.
Chocorua was in the “done column”, finally. Twelve years ago a younger me and younger youngest Son tried this mountain and abandoned the effort ⅔ of the way up. We traveled the Piper Trail from the start that time, and ran out of time, daylight, or more likely, I ran out of steam.
I was not then in the condition I am today.
We’ll close this one out with a video shot from the very top of Mt. Chocorua. I tried to get the full 360°- apologies for the less than steady camera work. But the views are nonetheless stunning.
We traveled about 8 miles on the hike, with a net elevation gain of over 2200 feet. Here’s a link to more information.
Much more to come this season. Thanks for stopping by!