Simply because it is a little closer to my home, I opted to use the Black Mountain Trail, rather than the Chippewa Trail. Anyone who has used the Black Mountain Trail knows that trailhead parking can sometimes be problematic. The official parking lot is at the end of a 0.2 mile unmaintained road which can be a muddy mess in warm weather months, and impassable in winter months since it isn't plowed. However, since we've had so little snow this winter, the 0.2 mile segment appears to be passable. Shown below is the trailhead parking lot with the road leading to it.
But, did I drive down the 0.2 mile segment of road and park at the lot? Nope, I chickened out, and opted to squeeze into a small spot off the maintained portion of the road at the point where the unmaintained segment begins.
The trail conditions from start to finish were perfect for Microspikes. There was an inch or two of snow on top of an underlayment of ice. Presumably no one has traveled this trail for awhile since no human footprints were seen at any point along the route. Other than a few animal prints here and there, the trail was pristine. The photo below shows a particularly picturesque segment of the trail where it crosses a small brook.
When I arrived at the point where the Chippewa Trail comes in, there was ample evidence of hikers having used this trail (photo below).
After the Chippewa Trail junction, it is only a hop skip and jump to the top of the mountain. The next photo shows the top of the mountain!
From the top, there are nice eastward views toward the Kinsmans and the high peaks in the Franconia Range (photo below).
The next photo is a zoomed shot of the Kinsman/Franconia Range view.
Very nearby is the massive hulk of Mt. Moosilauke. The weather can change very rapidly in the mountains. When I first arrived, all of Mt. Moosilauke was cloud-free. However, within a span of 20 minutes or so, the top of the mountain was engulfed in clouds. These two different views of Moosilauke are shown in the next two snapshots.
Moosilauke - No Clouds
Moosilauke - 20 minutes later
In addition to the easterly views toward the Kinsman/Franconia Range, and Mt. Moosilauke, there were also westerly views of the Connecticut River Valley that runs between NH and VT.
And, looking overhead from the top of Black Mountain, there was what I considered to be a colorful display of pine cones. Who needs to go to Florida to see orange-colored fruit hanging from trees?
So, that was my hiking adventure to Black Mountain. While driving home on Rt. 142, I stopped at a roadside spot about midway between Franconia and Bethlehem. From here, there is frequently an awesome view of the north end of the Franconia Notch. Shown below is the view on this particular day.
To sum it up, the trek to Black Mountain is short (about 5 miles round-trip). But sometimes, big things come in small packages. I think this small hike provides a very "big bang for the buck"!