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Hiking the Black Mountain Ledges

View from the Ledges on Black Mountain
View from the Ledges on Black Mountain

Black Mountain is popular peak on the New Hampshire 52-With-a-View list on the west side of the White Mountain National Forest. Noted for its open ledges, it’s a great place to observe the glory of autumn or bask in the summer sunshine. There are many Black Mountains in the White Mountains – (that does sound odd, doesn’t it), but this one is often called Black (Benton) to distinguish it from Black (Jackson), which I climbed a few days after hiking the Benton peak.

The most common way to climb Black Mountain (Benton) is via the Chippewa Trail off of Lime Kiln Rd. I must admit that I drove by the trailhead a few times before I realized that it was a hikers’ parking lot. Look for this sign, which is hidden in the trees.

Chippewa Trail Head sign
Chippewa Trail Head sign

Once acquired, these is a short walk from the car to the Chippewa Trail on old logging roads before you start climbing steeply up the ledges and views.

I often write about ‘ledges’ on my hikes in the White Mountains and I wonder if anyone has the faintest idea what that word means and its significance. Most hikers in the Whites will tell you that they hike for the views, which really are world-class. The best views are often from open ledges, think of them as open granite terraces without surrounding trees, where you can bask in a glorious view.

Ledges can be tricky though when wet or when they have ice on them in winter. They can be tricky to walk on because they’re rough and sloped, or they can drop off down a cliff if you get to close to the edge. You just have to maintain a healthy respect for them.

The Chippewa Trail climbs through a stand of red pine.
The Chippewa Trail climbs through a stand of red pine.

The Chippewa Trail is a beauty and climbs steeply up to the ledges through red pine, which is a fairly rare species in the Whites. I recently encountered another stand of red pine on Peaked Mountain above North Conway, on the eastern side of the Forest, close to Maine.

It was chilly morning but I warmed up quick hiking up this trail. Along the way, I encountered two teenagers hiking down from the summit lugging duffel bags and chatted with them briefly. They’d spend a chilly night up top and were looking forward to a hot meal in town.

When I broke above treeline, I had the summit and the views to myself. The autumn color was just past peak on this side of the Forest and I soaked up the views of Sugarloaf Mountain across the valley. I’d climbed that peak too recently on a marvelous bushwhack along the Jeffers Ridge with some friends.

Huge expanse of ledge on Black Mountain (Benton)
Huge expanse of ledge on Black Mountain (Benton)

But the cool wind chilled me quickly, so I kept on hiking down the other side of the peak down the Black Mountain trail before retracing my steps back to my car.

Black Mountain (Benton) Click for Map on Caltopo.com
Black Mountain (Benton) Click for Map on Caltopo.com

Black Mountain is a great moderate hike with excellent views, well worth a trip in dry weather.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

Written 2016.

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  1. I always wondered what “ledges” were. Thanks for clarifying that.

  2. I haven’t tried this one, looks like a solid choice. Thanks for the overview. Any estimates on round trip distance and vertical?

    • Sorry about that. 3.6 miles RT to the summit ledges via the Chippewa Trail with about 1500′ of elevation gain.

      The mapped route shown above is twice the minimum distance because I hiked down the north side before reclimbing the peak and then descending the Chippewa again.

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