Mt Israel (2630′) is a 52-With-a-View peak that has jaw dropping views of Squam Lake and the high peaks of the Sandwich Range including Sandwich Mountain, Whiteface, Passaconaway, and Mount Chocorua. Covered with a large expense of open ledge, it’s easy to spend hours at the summit lunching in the sunlight and admiring the views.
Located outside of Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, I always get a kick driving the backcountry roads to the mountains and hiking trails in the Sandwich area. Despite it’s location near Squam Lake, the southern region of the White Mountains is relatively rural, with lots of working farms and pasture instead of the ski resorts and restaurants found up north. The road system is equally less developed (with little cell phone service) and it’s not uncommon to travel down a gravel or dirt road to get to a trailhead. I advise bringing a New Hampshire Gazetteer in the car when driving in the Sandwich Range and other off-the-beaten path parts of the White Mountains.
If fact, I took a wrong turn on my way to Mt Israel…Mt Israel Rd doesn’t actually go to the trail head, although it’s a delightful road to drive down, even after the pavement ends. I don’t actually mind getting “lost” on my hikes into unknown territory and it actually sweetens the adventure.
But there is still a short stretch of gravel road that brings you to the Mead Base Conservation Center, a former Boy Scout Camp, now conservation center, at the foot of the Wentworth Trail. The best way to drive there is from Center Sandwich via Diamond Ledge Rd. I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking Sandwich Notch Rd unless you have a death wish or want to rip the oil pan out of your car.
Once you do arrive, it’s easy to find the trail behind the main house. Tent platforms are also available for camping, along with running water and a privy. Click on the Mead Base link above for more information.
Despite its low elevation at 2630′, the climb up Mt Israel is fairly strenuous, ascending 1700′ over the course of 2.1 miles. The trail is lightly blazed but heavily hiked, so the path up is easy to discern.
There’s a lovely view from a southern facing ledge at 2200′ and then a short rocky scramble up to the summit ridge which traverses the top of the mountain through a lovely forest, passing the Mead Trail Junction on your left.
Soon you emerge from the forest cover into the open and continue over rock and scrub. Look for yellow blazes painted on the ledges which lead you to an opening on the north side marked by a summit cairn.
I hiked Israel on an early spring day when the humidity was low, the air was crisp, and the skies were so blue. Despite the struggle to reach the top, it felt good to be on a mountain top on such a fine day. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as climbing a mountain and being rewarded with a sublime view. I guess that’s why I do it time and again.
Mt Israel via the Wentworth Trail: Total Distance 4.2 miles with 1700′ of elevation gain.