Garnet Mountain and Lewis Hill are two trailless mountains just outside the quaint town of Bethlehem, NH. Both are on the New Hampshire 500 Highest peak list that my friend Ken and I are working through. As he says, “There are 2000 mountains in New Hampshire. Why would you climb the same ones over and over?” That’s why we’re working on this list, rather than griding the White Mountain 4000 footers.
Lewis Hill is almost entirely on conservation land, so access is not an issue. The summit of Garnet Mountain is also but abuts private property that you need to cross to get to the peak. While it is posted, “No Hunting”, the local signage indicates that hikers are welcome. Sill we made every effort to stay out of sight of the adjacent private residence.
We parked at a log landing (an open area where logs were once loaded onto trucks) at height of land on Lewis Hill Road, in between both peaks. Being winter, this is the preferred direction of entry to both peaks, as long as you have enough clearance to get in and out of the lot.
Lewis HillLewis Hill
There’s a logging road that leaves the landing and heads uphill, so we started our bushwhack there. There was about 6-8″ of powdery snow, so we were in snowshoes for traction. There were a lot of blowdowns down across the logging road so we followed it for a while before heading into the trees and working our way towards the summit.
I stepped out of the woods and noticed a Yellow blaze painted on a tree. It marked a trail headed in the direction we wanted to go, so I followed it, checking it against the map and my compass as it snaked through the woods. It took us right to the summit. That was unexpected.
We searched the summit area for a canister and logbook but couldn’t find anything, so we followed the yellow trail back down all the way back to our cars. No kidding. Instead of heading up the logging road from the landing, stay to your right and follow the cut in the trees to find the yellow trail, which is both blazed and taped.
Garnet MountainGarnet Mountain
We crossed Lewis Hill Road and continued across the big open field before entering the woods. Ken came up to a stream that we had to cross. It was frozen over but the ice broke if you pressed down on it with trekking poles. We scouted a better crossing and I crossed first, stepping on some branches midstream before clambering up a rock on the other side. We found a broken bridge nearby on the return trip, which we managed to cross instead.
There’s was a big marshy area on the other side of this stream, but we came upon a log bridge (a bridge made of stacked logs) that spanned the entire area. That was a lucky find. The bridge was easily 120 feet long, so quite deliberate.
Once across, we came to an open swath of forest, which we assume separated the private property to the left from the conservation land to the right. This led to a big open field, before starting to climbing back into the forest. From there, we followed several logging cuts before climbing up the ridge through fairly open woods. There were still a lot of forest debris underfoot, which made the snowshoeing somewhat challenging. At one point, a branch lodged itself in my snowshoe and I had to take it off in order to pull it free. It was really on there.
There’s a false summit on Garnet, before the actual summit. We climbed that, dipped into a shallow col, and then climbed to the summit. We found the canister and logbook quite quickly and signed in. After a quick lunch, we hiked back over our tracks, but veered slightly right after the log bridge, following the blazed property line. This led us to a broken bridge, which we crossed carefully. From then it was a short walk back across the field to the log landing and our cars.
Two very pleasant and fairly easy whacks!
Recommended Hiking Navigation Tools
I carry and use all of these navigation aids on hikes, both on-trail, and off-trail, in addition to a paper map. The most reliable tool is the compass, by far, because it only relies on the earth's magnetic field to operate. The others are also excellent, but they can generate false positives in the field and it's useful to have a compass along so you can verify the information they provide.
- Casio Pathfinder Solar Powered Altimeter Watch - are you sick of changing or charging your watch's batteries? This multi-function watch is solar-powered and the watch band is replaceable. I've been wearing one continuously for 5 years. I never take it off. It has time, date, compass, temperature, altimeter, barometer, stopwatch, backlit display blah blah. I mainly use the time and the altimeter.
- Suunto M3 Declination Adjustable Compass - great compass. Set the declination and forget it. True north eliminates ever having to add or subtract degrees when going back and forth with a map and compass. I have the M3-NH (Northern Hemisphere) model. They also have an SH model and a G-model, which means it's a global compass that can be used north or south of the equator.
- GaiaGPS Navigation App - there are some things about Gaia that really annoy me, but they have a lot of different maps and map layers to help you figure out where you are in the field. I mainly use the Gaia Topo and TF Outdoors base maps with the Slope Angle and the US Roads layer, which has forest/park service roads, fire roads, some snowmobile trails, and unpaved roads. You can't carry all these maps at once unless they're available in digitized form on your phone.
- Caltopo - Caltopo doesn't have the programming staff that GaiaGPS does, but I still like it much better than Gaia's route planning tool. This is what I use on my laptop to plan and document my hikes. It's also very convenient for big picture planning especially when you're trying to block out a number of alternative routes. Caltopo also has an app, but I like Gaia's much better.
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