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Mount Parker and the Mt Stanton Trail

Mt Washington and the Rocky Branch watershed seen from the summit of Mt Parker
Mt Washington and the Rocky Branch watershed seen from the summit of Mt Parker

The Doberman started barking when I rounded the corner and I hoped his owner was nearby. When he charged my legs, I stuck my hiking pole in his face and he backed off. That’s the first time I’ve felt seriously threatened by an unleashed dog in the White Mountains.

I’d been scared, really scared. The owner then turned the corner and restrained his dog. I complained about the lack of a leash in a wilderness area which was met by the typical dog owner response, “Don’t worry he’s harmless.” If he was harmless why did I have to defend myself from a charge? These owner encounters always leave a bad taste in my mouth. But what can you expect on a 52 with a View Peak on a clear Sunday afternoon?

I soon forgot the dog when I emerged above treeline on Mt Parker and saw the incredible view of Mt Washington’s southern ridges open up before me. The morning mist had burned off and I could still see lingering snow pack on Washington and the other high peaks. The leaves on the trees in the Rocky Branch watershed had just come out and were a dazzling neon green. Views like this are the ultimate mood lifter for me and their effect lingers for several days after a great hike.

Mt Parker via the Mt Stanton Trail
Mt Parker via the Mt Stanton Trail (Click for an interactive copy of this map on Caltopo.com)

This was my second attempt at hiking Mt Parker, which at 3004 feet is a fairly low mountain as far as White Mountain peaks go. I’d been thwarted previously by deep snow in March and turned around rather than posthole, while wearing snowshoes (the snow was that deep.) When planning this trip, I’d been focused on the threat of lingering snow and ice on Mt Parker. So-called Spring Conditions in the White Mountains are a challenging time to plan a hike because the lingering snow pack can require carrying snowshoes and microspikes close to the Memorial Day weekend (at the end of May.)

I picked a hard route to approach the peak from, hiking in along the Mt Stanton Trail, which follows the southern end of the Montablan Ridge. I prefer hiking new trails whenever possible and I’d never been on this one before. It’s now one of my favorites in the White Mountains! Who knew?

Mt Stanton Trailhead
Mt Stanton Trailhead

The Mt Stanton Trail starts on Covered Bridge Road about a mile from the Covered Bridge store on Rt 302 outside of Bartlett, NH. The trail runs through open forest along a residential area before climbing steeply to Mt Stanton in 1.4 miles. From there on, it runs over open ledge to Mt Langdon, with magnificent views of the hills south of Bartlett, including North Moat Mountain. I was treated to a layer of undercast cloud when I walked over the ledge, which quickly burned off as the morning progressed. The trail is a moderate scramble over open ledge with occasional twists, turns, and dips around small cliffs and boulders – all loads of fun, with great views along the way.

Undercast above Bartlett, NH
Undercast above Bartlett, NH

At 2.1 miles, the trail comes to the summit of Mt Pickering, which has an excellent view of Iron Mountain, another 52 with a view peak, on the other side of the Rocky Branch River Valley. You really can’t appreciate the beauty or sheer size of the Rocky Branch watershed unless you see it from this vantage point. It’s also seldom hiked now that most of the Rocky Branch Trail is closed after being devastated by Hurricane Irene.

Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain

Once past Mt Pickering, the Mt Stanton Trail takes on a distinctly wilder flavor, and becomes downright difficult to follow after dipping into the col between Pickering and Mt Langdon. If you continue this way, make sure you have a friend along who’s good at finding trails amidst heavy leaf clutter and blowdowns and that you bring a map and compass in case you become lost and need to bushwhack out to a road or more obvious trail. The section between the Langdon summit to the Mt Langdon Shelter and then to Mt Parker Trail is probably the most challenging with few blazes although the reverse route back is somewhat easier to follow. Hint: Heading west, hike down the privy trail to find the trail to the Mt Stanton/Mt Parker intersection. It’s terribly marked and I only sussed it out after a few false starts. 

Mt Langdon Shelter (on the Mt Stanton Trail)
Mt Langdon Shelter (on the Mt Stanton Trail)

The Mt Landgon Shelter is one of the few remaining lean-to shelters in the White Mountains, which have largely been removed or left to disintegrate with age. It’s in pretty bad shape with warped floor boards, but the roof is intact and will keep you dry in the rain. There are lots of good tent sites in the area around the shelter though, which has a very nice water source.

Speaking of water, the stream at the Mt Langdon Shelter is the only water source along the Mt Stanton Trail that I encountered. Something to consider if you are hiking past the shelter, and up the Mt Parker Trail, which is also dry until you get up to Mt Resolution.

Three-way Trail Junction south of Mt Parker
Three-way Trail Junction south of Mt Parker

Continuing past the shelter, I soon came to the three way junction with the Mt Parker and Mt Langdon trails, before heading north to Mt Parker. The Mt Parker Trail is once again easy to follow, although it’s not heavily blazed either, because there a considerable amount of traffic up the peak. It is relatively steep though, gaining 1400 feet of elevation in 1.8 miles, although the ascent is moderated by switchbacks.

Crawford and Resolution
Crawford and Resolution

The top of Mt Parker is largely open ledge with the best views facing north. I sat and ate lunch while admiring the views to the east, north, and west.

Open Ledge on Mt Parker's Summit
Open Ledge on Mt Parker’s Summit

When planning this hike, I’d originally hoped to hike a loop, passing Parker, continuing to Mt Resolution, before heading eat along the Stairs Col Trail and out the Rocky Branch Trail back to Jericho Road. This would have required a 5-6 mile road walk back to my car, which I’d scouted the evening before and decided to avoid. Jericho Road isn’t flat and it’s bordered by many homes, which usually translate into at least one unpleasant dog encounter for this road walking hiker.

Instead, I opted to hike back out the way I’d come in, pausing to camp at the Langdon Shelter for the night. I was in need of a short restorative overnight trip, where I could go to sleep with the sun and wake with the dawn, even though I’d just gotten back from an 18 day trip on the Appalachian Trail a few weeks ago.

Cooking Dinner on a wood stove at the Mt Langdon Shelter
Cooking Dinner on a wood stove at the Mt Langdon Shelter

Arriving in the mid-afternoon, this proved to be a very relaxing place to camp, especially on a Sunday night, when I had the entire shelter and camp site to myself. After eating, I read a book and went to sleep early, waking up around 3:30 am to close the front vestibule of my tent when it started raining.

The next morning I hiked out the Mt Stanton Trail back to my car and returned home, mentally refreshed and my backcountry battery re-charged.

Total Distance: 14.2 miles with approx 5000 feet of elevation gain.

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14 comments

  1. Those type of dog owners are the worst thing to even happen to hikers, runners, and cyclists.

  2. Two friends and I were hiking with their friendly German Shepard. Part way through the trail another dog comes at him and starts going for his throat, pretty far beyond play fighting. When the owner shows up she yells at us for bullying her dog… Some people just don’t know how to train animals. I always blame the owner not the dog, the owner bought that breed of dog knowing their natural inclinations and failed in their half of the relationship.

  3. I’ve done the lower traverse over Stanton, Pickering and Langdon (and The Crippies), it’s a nice hike. Might be heading out to Parker this weekend. I confused though by this statement:

    “But what can you expect on a 52 with a View Peak on a clear Sunday afternoon?”

    How is Parker being a 52WAV peak related to an unruly dog?

    • I think you know exactly what I mean. It’s a peakbagging peak close to a road and a dog magnet. There’s bound to be some user conflict in those situations. .

      • Well, no. I didn’t know what you meant, which is why I asked. I’m with you on unleashed dogs, especially if they are lunging toward people. Owners are 100% responsible for their pets.

      • Sorry if I was fierce there. Enjoy your hike. I didn’t really intend this to be a critique on dogs in the Whites. It was just part of the story. This route is a sensational hike.

  4. “Don’t worry he’s harmless.” – I hate that answer. It is totally unacceptable. I have a dog and she probably is harmless but she is immediately leashed in the presence of others. She’s also kept within line of sight and immediate calling distance (by which I mean speaking voice). Grrr, people like that ruin it for the rest of us!

    Glad you were safe though.

  5. Dog owners should simply follow the rules with their dogs. There’s no excuse for not leashing a dog when the rules state dogs need to be leashed. It’s incredibly selfish. If they don’t like those rules, they can go elsewhere, or leave their dogs at home. Period.

  6. Philip I believe you’ve hit a nerve. I’ve had a few bad experiences with dogs on trails. Usually the owner shows up to restrain his/her unleashed pet, and I let them have a piece of my mind. All owners say something to the effect that their dog is friendly. Yeah, right. I don’t feel the need to carry trekking poles, but I’ve opted to carry one to keep dogs at bay and to see whether that log in the mud can take my weight. I’ve found dogs at shelters often beg–ugh!–and I’ve watched them harass wildlife. Frankly, pets are better left at home.

  7. I have an unleashed dog loving granddaughter who will chase that loose cur until it scurries back to its master, whimpering for mercy.

  8. Hi Philip – I believe we crossed paths on the side of Mount Langdon on Sunday (group of ‘colorful’ hikers). That was also our first time on the Mt Stanton trail and we loved it! Lots of little ups and downs, but the views are pretty awesome on both sides of the ridge. I don’t think I’d realized how big the cliffs on Iron Mountain are!

    We did the northern chunk of the Mt Parker trail the day before and aside from Mt Parker’s summit and the Resolution ledges it’s pretty much trees – I think back tracking was a good call.

    • Hey TJ – I think I saw your post on NE Trail conditions. That trail was really nice. A great set of ledges to go hang out on.

      Iron Mountain was very nice. I had no idea how big it was either! That’s the beauty of redlining. You get to rediscover the beauty of the Whites that you never new existed,

      See you out there!

  9. The worst kind of dog owners are the ones who keep perfectly behaved and friendly dogs leashed on hikes at all times. These are generally the ones that let them crap in the middle of the trail because the leash is too short and they leave it there or put it in a bag then throw it in the woods.

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