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19 January 2012

A Winter Hike to Black Mountain (the one in Benton, NH)

Black Mountain is a common name for mountains, not only in New Hampshire, but other parts of the country as well.  As indicated in the title of this report, Benton, NH is the location of the Black Mountain that I visited on a wintery 19th day of January.  Benton is a small village on the far western edge of the White Mountain National Forest.   On one of the small buildings in town there is a quaint sign which proudly proclaims that you are in Benton, NH (photo below).

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"!  


Peppersass said...

Lovely photos and not a long hike. I think I'll put this on my winter list. My Hedgehog trip was all snow.

1HappyHiker said...

Peppersass, I just read your Blog report about your 15-January Hedgehog trek (link below).

Wow! The amount of snow you experienced was amazing as compared to the miniscule amount that was encountered on my Black Mtn trek.

Thanks for posting a comment,

Ellen Snyder said...

John -- thanks for posting about another small gem. I am fond of these smaller peaks and trails tucked away from the more heavily traveled areas. Ellen

1HappyHiker said...

Ellen, although there is pleasure in hikes of all types, I share your fondness for "trails tucked away from the more heavily traveled areas".


Steve Smith said...

Nice report, John, as usual. Black is a great little rocky peak. Sure is a great view of the Moose from there, especially into Benton Ravine.


Yvon said...

I like the photos John. The mountain is on my list now. One day I will visit it.

1HappyHiker said...

STEVE and YVON: Thank you for your generous comments!
This LITTLE mountain certainly provides BIG rewards! :)

Yvon said...

John, I do not remember you did the Black Trail for Black.
Chippewa Trail trail is super nice and well maintained. During our visit last Saturday, the trail had no snow at first, but later we had to put our Hillsounds because of the ice.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Yvon,

Thank you very much for your comments!

Yes, as your read in my Blog, I hiked the Black Mountain Trail about a year ago in January 2012.

I appreciate your recommendation to hike the Chippewa Trail in the winter. I will be eager to do this, especially since I have only hiked the Chippewa in the warm-weather months.

Regardless of whether I hike the Chippewa during this current winter, or next winter, I will write a Blog report about my adventure!

Thanks again,