Mt Chocorua is a very popular mountain in the White Mountain National Forest, one that you can climb from many directions and up many different trails. I chose the Hammond Trail and Liberty Trail for this hike because they’re one of the more challenging routes and because I wanted to visit the Jim Liberty cabin which is open and free to hikers who want to camp on Chocorua for the night.
The Jim Liberty cabin has an interesting history. The cabin is on the site of Peak House, a three-story hotel built in 1891, and formerly owned by Jim Liberty, who built the original stone foundation. The Peak House was a popular destination for hikers but was destroyed in 1915 when it was blown off the mountain by the wind. The current structure was built in 1932 and last renovated in 1974. As you can see, the roof is chained down to the ground to prevent the roof from being blown off, a precaution which is also used on a wooden structure at the summit of nearby Mt Washington. So far it’s worked.
The most direct path to the Jim Liberty Cabin is via the Hammond Trail and the Liberty Trail although you can also climb down to it from Chocorua’s rocky summit. The Hammond Trail trailhead is on Scott Road off NH Rt. 16 just north of the junction with NH 113 in Chocorua Village. Parking is on the righthand side of Scott Road, 0.4 miles from NH Rt. 16.
When I hiked the Hammond Trail it was covered in a layer of leaves that came up my leg to mid-calf. However, I could still make out a faint path and followed it uphill past sporadic blazes. While I suspect the trail is easier to follow other times of year, the Hammond Trail is not one of the more popular routes up Chocorua, a fact that might favor it depending on your preferences. It is also considered the oldest trail on the mountain, which Native Americans used this trail prior to the coming of Europeans settlers.
In preparing for this hike, I’d read a pair of trip reports by Steve Smith, author of the Mountain Wandering Blog and co-editor of the White Mountain Guide, and John Compton, author of the 1 Happy Hike Blog, who’d both waxed poetic about Bald Mountain, which the Hammond Trail climbs before continuing on the Chocorua. Steve and John get to a lot of obscure spots in the Whites and it’s fun to visit places that they’ve come across in their adventures. I noted Bald’s location on my hike and puttered about its ledges, but decided to come back before committing to bushwhack it.
The next major landmark on my climb was the intersection between the Hammond Trail and the Liberty Trail. From there it is a short but wet hike to the cabin, through the alpine flora and open ledges that surround Chocorua’s summit area. Though relatively low in elevation compared to other White Mountain peaks, Chocorua can be quite dangerous in bad weather with little cover.
Being a popular peak, there are many ways to climb to the Chocorua summit, from all directions of the compass, and care must be taken when descending to make sure you get on the right trail lest you end up on the wrong side of the mountain. Since all of the different trails lead to the same summit, their different “personalities” are largely defined by their lower reaches.
While not the easiest trail to hike, the Hammond Trail also provides access to the Weetamoo Trail. Linking the Hammond and Piper Trails, the Weetamoo is one of the few trails on Chocorua that doesn’t climb towards the summit, but provides access to the streams and ridges along it’s lower reaches. Passing through beautiful forest groves, there’s a lot to discover and appreciate on Chocorua when you get off the beaten path.
Distances w/ elevation gains.
- Hammond Trail (Scott Rd to Liberty Trail): 3.0 miles, 2000 ft
- Weetamoo Trail (Hammond Trail to Piper Trail): 1.9 miles (rev 1250 ft)
- Liberty Trail (Hammond Trail to Chocorua Summit): 0.9 miles, 950 ft