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16 September 2013

Cannon-Mittersill Loop Hike

BACKGROUND:

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
HIKING THE MITTERSILL PORTION OF THE LOOP:

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.

14 comments:

  1. I saw Steve's post, too, and have decided to give the new trail a try. I almost went up there today, but given the weather will be nicer tomorrow, opted to wait. Glad I did, because your post has added a little extra info to the whole thing - thank you! I didn't know there was a trail along the shore of Echo Lake. Last year when we couldn't use the tramway lot due to I-93 construction, I parked at Echo Lake and did the service road walk, so I knew about that. It really isn't that bad (I've done worse road walks!), but the lake would have been more scenic! Like I said, I'll try the Mittersill Trail tomorrow.

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    1. Hi Summerset,

      First of all, I completely agree with you that the service roads at the Cannon ski areas are really not bad road walks.
      And secondly, if you decide to try that unnamed trail on the west side of Echo Lake, the start of the trail at the north end is presently a bit tricky to find due to some construction work that is being done around the concession stand at the beach area. However, just do a bit of snooping around the construction area and I think you’ll find it.

      Hope you have a fantastic hiking experience tomorrow. I’ll be eager to read your blog report.

      John

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  2. Thank you John,
    I just look on my map for Mittersill Peak. And it is not clear where it is. But with your Google map, I found it. Is is very easy to find now. The other day I thought to go on Cannon with an other trail. You give me an idea now. Nice picture also John.

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    1. Yvon, thank you for posting your comments.

      Best wishes to you for a marvelous hike to Mittersill and Cannon. You are an exceptional photographer, and therefore I'll be very eager to see your pictures, and read your report.

      John

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    2. We did it friday and we like it.
      Thank you to you and Steve for the informations and the map have help us to find the trailhead. We did the loop opposite way you did.

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    3. Thank you Yvon for letting me know that you did this loop. I am delighted to read that you enjoyed doing this loop. It is nice to have the new Mittersill Trail available. Not only does it provide an option for a Cannon-Mittersill loop, but it also provides an official access route to the excellent views from Mittersill Peak and nearby ledges.

      John

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  3. Thanks for the great report! I'm always looking for new trails to explore! Just put this one on my list! The next time I go up Cannon......it'll be this way!

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    1. Michelle, it's great to read that you also enjoy new explorations! I'm grateful to Steve Smith for alerting the hiking community about this new trail.

      Best wishes to you for a terrific experience when you try out the new Mittersill-Cannon Trail!

      John

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  4. If you want to avoid a little road-walk, there is a trail that parallels the road from the Peabody Slopes parking lot at the start to the Echo Lake Beach parking area (it connects the 2 ends of the Artists Bluff/Bald Mountain loop). Go out the back o the parking lot and then turn right. To stay "on trail", you would go all the way to the Artist's Bluff end, and the you either cross the road to the Bike Path entrance, or walk a short road distance to the Echo Lake Beach parking area. From the bike path, you can cut across to the beach and the West side trail, or stay on the East side of Echo Lake

    If you can bushwack 20 feet :-) there is a well-worn herd path next to a telephone pole/green box right across from the ELB parking lot up to the trail. It is probably officially frowned on, but you would be far from the first to use it.

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  5. Thank you for the suggestion . . . much appreciated!

    I'm familiar with the trail that you suggested, and actually considered using it. But in the end (even though it meant a short trek along a service road), I opted to take a more direct route to hook up with the unnamed trail that runs along the west side of Echo Lake.

    The loop that I did was relatively short. And so, for a future hike, I'm considering incorporating Bald Mountain and Artist's Bluff into the loop, either at the beginning or end of the Cannon-Mittersill portion.

    Thanks again for your comments and suggestion!

    John

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  6. Thanks for the post - took the dogs up to Cannon via Mittersill today. Lovely day and appreciate the maps and notes.

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  7. When I took a quick hike up Mittersill on October 26, the sign at the bottom of the slope and the blazes-on-stakes had been removed, probably in preparation for snow season. If you are doing this hike during the "unmarked season", simply head uphill following the liftline, and take a left into the woods at the first major opening in the trees, between the 2nd and 3rd lift towers. Once in the woods, there are eventually blazes on trees prior to where it takes a right on the service road/ski trail and starts switchbacking up the hill.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking time to post this update! Very much appreciated!

      John

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