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Bethlehem, New Hampshire, United States
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06 February 2016

A Bushwhack to Cone Mountain (near Thornton, NH)


Since the mid 1800s there have been hiking trails in the Waterville Valley area of New Hampshire.  One very popular trek is a loop hike via the trails that go over Welch Mountain and Dickey Mountain, which are known collectively as simply "Welch-Dickey".

Located very nearby is a lesser-known peak named Cone Mountain which is separated from Welch-Dickey only by the narrow corridor named Dickey Notch.  A visit to Cone Mountain entails a bushwhack which unto itself is relatively easy.  However, special care should be taken to do this trek by staying on National Forest public land, and avoid trespassing on the parcels of adjacent private land.

Over the years, I have bushwhacked to this destination several times, and have used a different route on each outing.  All of my treks were launched from the Welch-Dickey trailhead.  The Brown Ash Swamp XC-Ski/Bike Trail was followed northward into the Dickey Notch to a point where I could head westward on public land to reach Cone Mountain.

If you are a hiker with off-trail experience, perhaps the map shown below will be useful in planning a route to explore Cone Mountain. (The red and orange shading indicate slopes that have a particularly steep/rugged gradient.)   

(These photos were taken in early February 2016 during my trek to Cone Mountain and surrounding ledges.)

Although Cone Mountain has no official trail leading to it, the summit has a very impressive cairn.  There must be an interesting story behind the construction of this masterpiece.   The cairn can even be seen from "outer space" in Google Earth images (left panel).
From the ledge with the large cairn, the vista includes the Welch-Dickey mountains with their famed bare rock ledges, as well as other prominent mountains such as Jennings Peak, Sandwich Mountain, etc.
By moving around to other ledges off the summit area of Cone Mountain, there are other less-obstructed views of Welch-Dickey, such as this one shown in this photo.
From a ledge on the northeastern end of Cone Mountain's ridge is a view of the Franconia Range.  When viewed from this angle, I'm always amazed to see how far Mt. Flume is set back from the other mountains in this range.
Also visible from the northeastern end of Cone Mountain's ridge is this view of Mt. Moosilauke.
Along my route, there were several picturesque displays of ice clinging to cliffs.  This was one of the more impressive displays.
Despite the impressive displays of ice clinging to cliffs, the ground cover of snow was rather sparse for large portions of my trek.  Very unusual for February in New Hampshire!