It's always so refreshing for me when I do a hike to a new destination, or even take a new route to a place that I've previously visited. My friend Marty and I ended the month of March 2012 by driving to the neighboring State of Vermont for a hike to Burke Mountain (3,267 ft elevation). Neither of us had done this hike, and so the entire experience was new to us, and it was fun!
Sometimes it's difficult to get beyond a preconceived notion that one has about a place. I've hiked to other mountains that are nearby to Burke, such as Mt. Pisgah and a number of peaks in the Groton State Forest. However, I've bypassed Burke Mountain since I've thought of it as being primarily an alpine ski resort with an auto road leading to the top. This lessened its appeal to me as a hiking destination.
However, as Marty and I discovered on our adventure, the hiking trails on Burke Mountain are surprisingly scenic and remote. This is despite the fact that this very same mountain also includes an abundance of trails for mountain biking, alpine and XC-skiing, as well as the Toll Road for automobile travel to the top of the mountain. Plus, there is the old CCC Road, and a number of ski area access roads.
We launched our hike from the trailhead for the Red Trail which is located off the Sherburne Base Lodge Road at the far end of the lower parking lot. The photo below shows a portion of the trailhead where the trail begins on a woods road.
The next photo is a rendition of the trail map that is posted at the sign-in station for the hiking trail system. Our route is lightly highlighted in pink. We ascended via a combination of the Red Trail + the West Peak Trail; and descended via the Red Trail. (Click on the map to enlarge it.) Our hike was about 6-miles (round trip) with around 2,100 ft elevation gain.
On the map shown above, I've hand-drawn a red arrow which might be helpful to others. Marty and I made a rookie error at the outset of this hike. As we were merrily walking along the woods road, we failed to notice the sign (0.6 mile from trailhead) which marks the point where the Red Trail diverges from the road and heads off into the woods. Before we sensed something was wrong, we had trudged onward along the road for about 15 minutes beyond the point marked by the red arrow.
In our defense, the sign is barely noticeable, and it sort of blends in with the tree trunk to which it is attached. The next photo shows the trail sign. (To see the sign, you might need to click on the photo to enlarge it!)
Here is another item that might be helpful. There are places throughout this trail system where there are hairpin turns, and the temptation is to go straight ahead, but in reality, the trail has completely reversed its direction!
Regarding trail condition, there was only patchy snow up to the point where the trail bisects the old CCC Road. Shortly after crossing the CCC Road, the trail had some icy spots, as well as a light coating of snow (an inch or less) all the way to the top. We were easily able to ascend without using any foot traction device. However, for the descent we opted to put on some light traction (Microspikes for me, and Hillshound for Marty).
The next photo is fairly representative of the surroundings beyond the CCC Road.
As we approached the West Peak, we came to open ledges which provided our first distant vistas of the day. One of the more prominent views was looking westward over Vermont's farmlands and toward the high peaks in central VT, and beyond to the high peaks in the Adirondack Range of NY State (next photo).
Also, seen from these ledges was the windmill farm at what I presume to be the Sheffield site. (I don't think the windmills on Lowell Mountain have been built as yet.) The pointy mountain seen in the distance in the next photo is what I presume to be Jay Peak (but I'm no expert in identifying VT peaks).
From West Peak we worked our way over to the Burke Mountain summit area where there are several man-made structures, such as ski lift apparatus, communication towers, etc. (next photo).
Among the many structures located here is an old fire tower which I started to climb to get some enhanced views. However, I was quickly dissuaded from going very far since I was being pelted by melting icicles that were falling from the upper portions of this structure. I did get one photo toward the Presidential Range in NH before making a hasty retreat!
It is very easy to escape all this man-made hubbub by hiking a short distance on what I think is called the Profile Trail. Regardless of what it's called, there are ledges along this trail that provide sweeping vistas looking eastward into NH. The next photo provides just a partial overview of what can be seen. This snapshot begins with the Pilot-Pliny Range on the far left and progresses over to the Franconia-Kinsman Range on the far right.
The next photo is a zoomed shot highlighting the Presidential Range.
The Franconia Range is highlighted in the zoomed snapshot shown below.
From various points along the route of this hike there are views of the Willoughby Gap. This very distinctive feature of the Vermont landscape is shown in the next photo. Mt. Pisgah is the mountain on the right (eastern) wall of the gap, and on the left (western) side is Mt. Hor.
And so, the foregoing text and photos presents the highlights of our trek to Burke Mountain. I'll just add one additional sidelight remark to say that the Spring Wildflower Season is just days away from bursting forth. At various points, we spotted green shoots just beginning to emerge!
To sum it up, as always, it was exhilarating to experience a new hiking venue. Also, I re-learned what I already knew, but had failed to heed, i.e. put aside preconceived notions about places. Go forth and explore. It often proves to be very rewarding!