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21 December 2012

This Road is Made for Walking: Mt. Prospect Auto Road (Lancaster, NH)

The following photo collage shows typical scenes experienced on a recent romp up the Mt. Prospect Auto Road at Weeks State Park near Lancaster, NH.  As the snapshots show, it was an overcast day.  However, on a clear day, Mt. Prospect provides stunning 360-degree views which include the White Mountains to the south and east, the Green Mountains in Vermont to the west, and peaks in the Connecticut River valley to the north.   Mt. Prospect's views are attributable to its location, rather than its summit altitude of only 2,077 ft.

Weeks State Park is only a 20 minute drive from my home.  On a clear day, I can actually catch a glimpse of Mt. Prospect through the trees from a second-story bedroom window.   Although I visit this location several times throughout the year, only now and then do I post a report on my Blog about my little hiking adventures there.  An occasional posting, such as this one, is done mostly for the benefit of those readers who might have missed an earlier report about this place.

The Auto Road (3.2 miles round-trip) is open to traffic on a seasonal basis.  However, it's open year-round for hiking, snowshoeing, XC-skiing.  As the title of this report indicates, the Auto Road is made for walking! It provides a welcome outlet for a "hike-ette", especially when you are short on time, or simply don't feel like doing a longer trek.  Also, since the roadway is paved, it's a nice hike to do when the trails are muddy from recent rain and/or melting snow.

Besides the 1.6 mile paved roadway, there are over 3.5 miles of traditional trails through the woods (Around-the-Mountain-Loop Trail; Davidge Path; Old Carriage Road).  When combining the distance of the woods trails with the paved Auto Road, there are over 5 miles of hiking available on this little mountain.  And, this trail/road system has a layout that is ideal for constructing a variety of loop hikes.

It's also worth mentioning that the northwest side of the mountain has a small ski slope (tow-rope) which is managed by volunteers from the Mount Prospect Ski Club (  On this recent hike, I noticed that the ski club's yurt is set up and ready for the season.  Now all we need is sufficient snow to coat the slope (no snow-making equipment here)!

The trail system (plus the location of the ski slope) are shown on the map below which is also posted on the Internet at:

And lastly, for those interested in such things, the 420-acre Weeks State Park encompasses Mt. Prospect plus the John Wingate Weeks Historical Site which was once the estate of John Wingate Weeks (1860-1926).  He was an avid environmentalist, and served as both a U.S. representative and senator and was Secretary of War under Presidents Harding and Coolidge.   More notably, Weeks was largely responsible for the Weeks Act which spurred the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest, as well other national forests in the U.S.

Weeks built his retreat at the top of Mount Prospect in 1912, and in 1941 the Weeks' children donated the property to the State of NH.  The property includes: a lodge (National Register of Historic Places); a beautiful fieldstone fire tower (National Register of Historic Lookout Towers); the Auto Road to the summit (designated as a New Hampshire Scenic Byway). 

To sum it up, for folks like me who live within a short drive, the trail system at Weeks State Park provides a nice venue for those times when you just want 1 to 2 hours worth of outdoor activity.  And for people who live out of the area, it can be included as part of a day's itinerary when visiting other locations in the North Country of NH.

ADDENDUM (Added 21-Dec-2012):

For whatever it's worth, I just happened to recall that when I was on Middle Sugarloaf Mountain a few weeks ago, I took a highly zoomed photo which shows (way off in the distance) the main building and stone tower atop Mt. Prospect. 
(Click on photo to enlarge.)


Steve Smith said...

Nice informative post, John! Good info about the trails and history. The Prospect Auto Road is a nice little hike, especially in winter. Great views, even when the tower's closed.


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Steve!
Seems like we all have a few favorite hikes that are nearby in our “backyard”. This is one of mine. And as you state, this one is particularly nice as a winter hike.


Anonymous said...

After reading your article, a group of us (family, and friends) ranging in age from very young to not so young, decided to do this hike up the road to Mt. Prospect. It was enjoyed by all! Thanks!

1HappyHiker said...

. . . and thank you for your positive feedback! It's always gratifying to know that you did something to add pleasure to someone's life!


Rita Wechter said...

Hi John,

How nice that you have this nearby state park where you can enjoy short outings such as this one. Looks like a great place for a short cross-country ski jaunt.

And hooray for John Wingate Weeks! We need more environmentalists like him in today's congress.

1HappyHiker said...

Rita, it is indeed so nice to have a place like Weeks State Park so close to home. Although it’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s almost like having an extended backyard here at our home! :)

And yes, I’ll join you with a big “hooray” for folks like John Wingate Weeks!