Best Snowshoe Hikes

Albany — January 30, 2009 — Snowshoeing is more than a modern sport. A vital travel tool, snowshoes were used for survival and migration for thousands of years. As a participant in modern recreation, you can enjoy both the improved technology of modern snowshoes, and experience snowshoeing as a timeless journey.

Pick a destination such as a mountain top, or do a loop. Travel there and back. Here are some suggested intermediate snowshoe hikes.

Loop trail near White Ledge
The nearby White Ledge in Albany, is a detached eastern spur of Mount Chocorua. The 3.6 mile loop trail is fascinating any time of year. It is not frequented in the winter, and breaking trail might be necessary. If so, take turns with your friends.

Parking for this hike is outside the gate of the White Ledge Campground, located on Route 16, fives mile south of the entrance to the Kancamagus Highway in Conway. Sometimes this small spot is plowed by the state, sometimes not. Sound adventurous already? Walk 100 yards up through the campground to the trail. Then, in 0.3 miles at a junction, you can turn onto the right hand loop or you can go straight. I prefer to go right.

Views along the way include looking up at the cliff of White Ledge, an incredible view north to the Moat Range near the summit, another great view looking south from the summit (where caution is needed), and great views of Mount Chocoura on the way down. I recommend this as a quiet winter challenge that is nearby town.

Potash Mountain Trail
The low Potash Mountain (2,700 feet) must also be a detached spur of sorts, along with its neighbor Mount Hedeghog (2,532 feet). Both are found rising from the valley on the northern side of the higher peaks of the Sandwich Range. Both have great views and both are accessed from the same parking lot.

I think the Potash Mountain Trail (4.4 miles round trip) is traveled a little less frequently than the UNH Trail up Mount Hedgehog, so snowshoes are more likely to be needed. To get there, travel out the Kancamagus Highway from Conway. Two miles west of Bear Notch Road, and directly across from the Passaconaway Campground, turn left into the parking lot.

From the parking lot, go straight on the Downes Brook Trail and bear right on the Potash Mountain Trail. Soon you reach Downes Brook, which can be a challenge to cross in highwater, yet is likely fairly straightforward in the winter with snowshoes. Soon the trail crosses a logging road and traverses upward. On top, the views of the Sandwich Range and the surrounding valley are striking.

Wentworth Trail
Flying south up over the high Sandwich Range and down into the valley on the other side, one finds the village of Sandwich. One of the closest peaks to the village is Mount Israel (2,630 feet). It was named by an early settler, using his own name. The 2.1 mile Wentworth Trail ascends quickly to the summit, where there is a fantastic view of the south side of the Sandwich Range — from Mount Chocorua to Sandwich Dome. Mount Israel is slightly detached from this range, making for a great wide angle vista of it.

Although Mount Israel is a popular snowshoe hike, and often climbed by a local group called the Over-The-Hill-Hikers, based in Sandwich, it is very easy to find solitude there. When I did it on Saturday, Jan. 12, a group had gone before me since the last storm, but I saw no one. The trail climbs a moderate grade without let up, and after passing a partial southern view point overlooking Red Hill and the Lakes Region, it folllows a bumpy conifer ridge up and down and up again to a small open area with the summit cairn. There is no protection from the west wind there, and the place is often very blustery and cold.

To get there, from Conway go south on Route 16 and bear right on Route 25 in West Ossipee. In Moultonborough, take a right on Route 109 into Center Sandwich. After the lights, bear right on Grove Street, and then go straight on Diamond Ledge Road. Continue straight to Mead Wilderness Base, and park. The trail starts to the left of the white house.

Tuckerman Ravine Trail
One more quick intermediate snowshoe suggestion. From North Conway, travel up Route 16 to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Camp. Behind the Trading Post, start up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and in a few feet bear right on the Old Jackson Road. In 0.9 miles, after climbing uphill, bear right on the George’s Gorge Trail. From that trail take the Leibeskind’s Loop out to Brad’s Bluff and Lila’s Ledge, and then return to the Old Jackson Road on the Crew Cut Trail.

For more information on this fine little trail system in Pinkham Notch, check out the AMC White Mountain Guide, or stop by the Trading Post when you get to Pinkham Notch and ask at the trail information desk.

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