Recently, Steve Smith posted a report on his Blog about a trek to Mittersill Peak (3,630 ft.) and Cannon Mountain (4,100 ft.) via a new hiking route on the ski trails/service roads of Mittersill and Cannon ski areas.
(Click HERE to read Steve's report.)
A few years ago, I had hiked to Mittersill Peak using a route very similar (if not identical) to this new route that has now been formalized as an official hiking trail. After reading Steve's report, my interest was aroused to not only hike this route once again, but also to consider doing a loop hike involving the Kinsman Ridge Trail.
CONNECTING ROUTE BETWEEN THE TWO TRAILHEADS:
My biggest issue with doing a loop hike was the approximate 1.5 miles of non-trail walking along various roadways and highways in order to close the loop between the Kinsman Ridge Trail and the Mittersill trailheads. However, in thinking about this, I came up with two options which seemed to make the connecting route a bit more palatable.
Option #1 would be to use a combination of highway and service roads to connect the two trailheads. Option #2 would be to use a combination of highway, and service roads, plus use the unnamed trail that runs about 0.5 mile along the west side of Echo Lake between the beach area at the north end of the lake, and the boat launch at the south end. Option #2 appeared to be about a tenth of mile longer, but would be the more scenic route.
Shown below is a Google Earth image which I've marked up with various labels and highlighting, and so it is a bit messy. However, it might be helpful in illustrating the two options outlined above, or it might simply be confusing!
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: Routes to connect trailheads for Mittersill Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail|
When it came time to actually do this loop hike, I decided to "split the difference" and walk one portion of the connecting route at the beginning of the trek, and then walk the other portion at the end of the hike. To do this, I parked at the large parking area at Peabody Slopes near the trailhead for Veteran's Trail which leads to Bald Mountain.
And so, at the beginning of the hike, I walked along service roads from the Peabody Slopes parking lot to join up with the unnamed trail that runs along the west side of Echo Lake. I then followed that trail to where it ends at a boat launch near the south end of Echo Lake. From there, I walked through the Tramway parking lot to reach the trailhead for the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The total distance was about a mile, and it took about 20 minutes.
Then, at the end of my hike, I walked from the Mittersill trailhead back to my starting point by using a combination of the Mittersill Road and a service road. The total distance was about 0.6 mile, and it took just over 10 minutes.
The total distance for the entire loop was about 6 miles (1.5 mi connecting route; 2.0 mi Kinsman Ridge Trail; 2.5 mi Mittersill Trail). Since I spent so much time taking photos, and general dilly-dallying, it's difficult to be precise about hiking time. My best guesstimate is that the loop took about 3.5 hours of actual hiking time.
Further regarding the 0.5 mile unnamed trail along the west side of Echo Lake, my assumption is that this trail was built primarily for use by anglers. The signage shown in the next photo is posted at a few points along the trail.
|Signage posted along unnamed trail along west side of Echo Lake|
The unnamed trail along the west side of Echo Lake is scenic. Shown below are a few photos taken along that pathway.
|Nice bog bridges along unnamed trail on west side of Echo Lake|
|One of many lakeside views (can see a piece of the path at bottom right)|
|Another lakeside view from unnamed trail|
|Looking northward toward Artist's Bluff from south end of unnamed trail|
HIKING THE KINSMAN RIDGE TRAIL PORTION OF THE LOOP:
Most readers have seen countless photos of views along the segment of the Kinsman Ridge Trail between the trailhead at the Tramway and the top of Cannon Mountain. And so, I'll just post a few of my personal favorite views along this route.
|Looking down on Echo Lake and adjacent ledges of Artist's Bluff/Bald Mountain|
|Upper end of Kinsman Ridge Trail (beyond the severely eroded areas)|
|Looking over at the Franconia Range ridgeline|
|I-93 snaking its way southward|
|Approaching the top of Cannon Mountain|
After making an 'obligatory' visit to the observation platform at Cannon's summit, it was time to begin the descent phase of my loop hike via the new Mittersill Trail.
Depending on your direction of travel, the Mittersill route begins (or ends) beyond the passage under the Tramway/summit cafeteria building as seen in the next photo. Interestingly, there is still signage at this point indicating that hiking the ski runs is disallowed. Regardless, about 50 ft. or so beyond that signage the yellow blazing begins for the Mittersill Trail.
|Depending on your direction of travel, the Mittersill route begins (or ends) here|
The next series of snapshots were taken at various points along the way as I descended the Mittersill Trail.
|View at very beginning of descent; Mittersill Peak is just slightly right of center|
|Another view of Mittersill Peak near the beginning of my descent|
|Looking back at Cannon Mountain while ascending Mittersill Peak|
|Coppermine Col; Cannon Balls; Kinsmans, as viewed during ascent of Mittersill Peak|
|Franconia Range (with Mt. Garfield of far horizon) as viewed from Mittersill Trail|
|One of many scenic trailside vistas from north side of Mittersill Peak|
|Typical view of ski run along the corridor for the Mittersill Trail|
|Mittersill Trail passes under chair lifts along its route on north side of mountain|
The next photo shows the sign at the trailhead which is located adjacent to a parking lot next to the new Mittersill chairlift. To reach the parking lot, take Mittersill Road off of Rt. 18, and then make your second left. (It's about 0.2 mile from the intersection of Rt. 18 and Mittersill Road.)
|Trailhead at new Mittersill chairlift parking lot off Mittersill Road|
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS:
Regarding the direction of travel for this loop, I opted to ascend via the Kinsman Ridge Trail and descend via the new Mittersill Trail. However, I can see advantages/disadvantages, regardless of whether this is done as a clockwise or counterclockwise loop. For example, the Mittersill Trail follows ski runs, and I think it's easier on the knees to ascend a ski run than to descend it. However, when conditions are icy or wet (as was the case on the day of my hike), it can be treacherous to descend the wet slabs on the Kinsman Ridge Trail. So, those are just a few of the many things to consider if you should decide to give this loop a try.
As to whether the new Mittersill route will be available for wintertime use, the following quote from the NH Legislature regarding this new trail leaves some "wiggle room" for it to remain open, or closed.
"The commissioner of the department of resources and economic development shall, after consulting with fish and game department, develop a hiking corridor from the base of Mittersill Mountain over the summit of Mittersill Mountain to connect with the Kinsman Ridge trail at the summit of Cannon Mountain. The department may restrict access to the hiking trail only during times the ski area is open to the public and only if restricting such access is necessary to promote safety."
I personally wonder if there would be difficulty in following this trail under wintertime conditions. Although there is blazing on thin poles along the route, much of the blazing (especially at sharp turns) is painted on the surface of rocks which will be snow covered in winter. The next photo provides an example of the two types of blazing along the trail.
|Blazing on rock and on thin poles along the route of the new Mittersill Trail|
To sum it up, this is a very enjoyable 6-mile loop hike which provides a wide variety of spectacular views. If you're doing this hike with another person or a group, it would very easy to spot cars at the two trailheads. This would bring the hiking distance down to about 4.5 miles by eliminating the need for the 1.5 mile connecting route that I incorporated into my loop. However, I must say that walking the connecting route was really quite palatable. Breaking it into two segments (one at beginning of hike, and one at the end) was helpful, and the half-mile segment of unnamed trail along the west side of Echo Lake is very scenic.