The North Peak of Loon Mountain, just outside of Lincoln, NH may just have the best views of any peak on the western side of the White Mountain National Forest. Where else can you see Moosilauke, the Kinsmans and the Cannonballs, Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Big Coolidge, Whaleback, Owls Head, The Bonds, Guyot, Jefferson, Adams, the Twins, and Tecumseh from a single peak? No wonder people like skiing down Loon Mountain in winter!
I climbed Loon last week on a sleepy Friday morning. The lifts are running if you’re interested in catching the views without much effort, but I hiked up the hard way via the Lower and Upper Walking Boss Trails on the east side of the mountain. These two ski slopes, covered with wild flowers and high grass meadows, climb 2100′ in less than 2 miles (starting from the resort parking lot). Don’t let anyone tell you that hiking up a ski slope isn’t hard work.
While it was a challenging hike up the steep dew-covered grass, it was excellent training for winter since I was carrying a backpack with a few days worth of gear and food in it. We’ll have snow by the end of November, so it’s time to start adding some weight to all that elevation to get ready for the winter hiking and backpacking season.
I had perfect weather for this hike and the hills were aflame with autumn color although it was still pre-peak. I took my time climbing the hill, stopping frequently to admire the view and pick out the peaks that I could identify in the distance. I live for days like this, where the air is crisp, the trees are turing yellow and red, and you can see for 50 miles.
I’d climbed these same trails about a year ago enroute to West Scar, a New England Hundred Highest peak, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect at the top of the mountain. Most of the mountain is bare around the ski lift, but there’s still a little crown of spruce trees at the summit that I wanted to enter to get to the mountain’s high point. The north (main) peak of Loon is on the New Hampshire 3,000 footer list and certainly one of the easier “trailless” hikes to complete. I couldn’t find a canister, but that didn’t surprise me. The area around the highpoint is probably crawling with skiers drinking beer in winter, judging by the littler in the woods.
Most people don’t realize that Loon Mountain is part of the White Mountain National Forest, even though it’s a ski resort. It’s also the gateway to Scar Ridge (West, Middle, and East Peaks) and Black Mountain, more peaks frequented by hikers. I’m not sure whether hikers have access to the ski slopes in winter though or if you have to pay like you do at the Wildcat Resort to hike up the Polecat Trail. I sure hope not, because I’d like to hike some of those peaks this winter, if only for the tremendous views.
Climbing Loon Mountain takes about two hours to get to the top and another two if you linger on that way down. While steep, it makes a good ramble if you’re in Lincoln and only have time for a short hike, but still yearn for fantastic views.