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A Winter Hike Up Pine Mountain

My friend Ken on the southern ledge of Pine Mountain overlooking Mt Madison, Mt Washington and Pinkham Notch
My friend Ken on the southern ledge of Pine Mountain overlooking Mt Madison, Mt Washington and Pinkham Notch

Pine Mountain is one of the best view points in the northern end of White Mountains, near Pinkham Notch, Mt Washington, and the Dolly Copp Campground. Located just outside of Gotham, NH, the peak is surrounded by the Mahoosuc Range, the Carter-Wildcat Range, the Northern Presis (Washington, Adams, and Madison), and the Crescent Range in Randolph.

There are several fantastic viewpoints on Pine Mountain, which is not a single peak, but a series of knobs near the base of Mt Madison. There are multiple trails up to Pine Mountain, from the north and the south, and there’s even a road going to the top that you can hike up. It is a private road however and not intended for public traffic. It leads to the Horton Center, a religious retreat at the summit, which allows hikers to use the road to access the trails and views, as long as you stay on the hiking trails and away from the camp buildings.

The Pine Mountain Trail forks off from a snowmobile trail near Union St in Gorham
The Pine Mountain Trail forks off from a snowmobile trail near Union St in Gorham

When I hiked up Pine Mountain with my friend Ken, we came in from Gorham, starting at the end of Union Street where there is parking space for two cars. We hiked through a gravel pit and across the railroad tracks, before following a snowmobile trail to the Pine Mountain Trail head.

The trail head is not terribly well-marked but if you click on the map below, you can follow our actual GPS coordinates. We tried following the directions in the AMC White Mountain Guide, but we’re a few editions out of date and didn’t trust the directions printed there. The presence of an aggressively territorial dog also convinced us to move on. :-)

Once off the packed snowmobile trail, we quickly encountered deep powder, but shouldered on deciding that we could bare boot through the powder, which became increasingly difficult as the slopes got steeper. It was borderline, but snowshoes would definitely have helped.

Hiking up Pine Mountain in the Snow
Hiking up Pine Mountain in the Snow

The trail is very pretty as it weaves through open forest as we saw an abundance of animal tracks including coyote, snow hare, deer, raccoon, and moose. Lots of moose tracks, especially up near the old fire tower pilings on the Ledge Trail near the true Pine Mountain summit. There were so many moose tracks that the trail was completely broken out with many piles of poop and pee marks in the snow.

Chapel Rock
Chapel Rock

The first notable viewpoint is Chapel Rock, which has excellent views of the Carter Moriah Range, the southern knob of Pine Mountain, Carter Notch, Pinkham Notch, Mt Washington and Mt Madison. There’s also a wooden cross erected at the viewpoint. There are several viewpoints along the trail after this one, including the one where I took the photo of Chapel Rock above. The day was so clear, we could also see Old Speck Mountain in Grafton Notch, far to the north.

Ken in front of Morah, North Carter, and Middle Carter seen from the southern Ledges
Ken in front of Moriah, North Carter, and Middle Carter, seen from the southern Ledges

The trail was a bit difficult to follow as we climbed due to the deep snow. It is reasonably well blazed with yellow and orange paint. We encountered a few confusing spots however, probably because the bog bridges underneath us were completely buried under the snow that would have made otherwise made the trail clear.

Ken and I were both surprised by the fire tower pilings on top of the summit and the views from the southern ledges, which are really best-in-class. It’s head scratcher why Pine Mountain is not on the 52 with a View peakbagging list, but perhaps that has to do with the location of the Horton Center and their desire for privacy. Regardless, this is a great hike for a sunny day.

Pine Mountain (Click for route on Caltopo)
Pine Mountain (Click for route on Caltopo)

Round trip 6.5 miles with 2000′ of elevation gain

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4 comments

  1. Pine is pretty awesome, a real gem. Those southern ledges are a wonderful place to hang out on a sunny day. I climbed it from the south which has some nice scrambly bits and views along the Ledge Trail.

    As to why it’s not on the 52WAV list, it has nothing to with the Horton Center. It simply comes down to it not being chosen as one of the peaks by the original creators of the list. And since the list is now fixed and won’t be changed in the future, Pine won’t be included, even though it would definitely be a worthy addition.

  2. I guess I’ll add this one to my list. Im starting to feel like a creepy stalker, following Phil on all these trails.

    • I’m hiking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide….you’re bound to follow in my footsteps eventually.

      This is a good one. I purposely left part of the trail un-hiked so I’d have to go back this spring.

  3. Nice hike! Just about the length and elevation I like in my old age. Thanks!

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