Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mount Martha and the Other Owl's Head

Hazy, hot and humid, I'm not a fan of any one of those but today I would be experiencing all three of them. My hike would take me to the summits of Mount Martha and Owl's Head using the Cherry Mountain Trail and Martha's Mile. I spent last night tossing around several different hikes before deciding on this one. My intent was to try and beat some of the midday heat as well as any showers or thunderstorms that were in the forecast.

 Trailhead Map

 Trailhead Sign

 Carter Brook

I was the second one in the trailhead parking area today. Stepping out of my vehicle I fully expected to be attacked by a cloud of black flies, there were none. It was early morning but the warm air was already thick with haze and humidity as I hit the trail.

 Clear-cut beside Cherry Mountain Trail

 White Baneberry

 Trail Junction Spur Path to Mount Martha
The Cherry Mountain Trail parallels Carter Brook to the right and a large clear cut to the left for about a half mile. The lower part of the trail had muddy stretches but were easy to get around.

 Painted Trillium
 Hazy view from the summit of Mount Martha
There were a few brooks that crossed the trail and I took the opportunity to splash some cold water on my face to keep cooled down. It sure felt good! The heat was slowing my pace a bit.

After about a mile I could see a hiker up ahead. The heat must have been affecting him too. I soon caught up to him, we spoke for a few minutes and he said he would only be going to the summit of Mount Martha. Never did see him again.

 West view from Owl's Head
The trail was getting steeper at this point. As I got higher there seemed to be just a bit of an occasional breeze and I was thankful for that. Humidity was still there and hanging on like a warm, wet blanket.

 Ledges on Owl's Head

I reached the junction for the spur trail and turned left for the summit. The trail was wide and looked like an old road. There were fresh signs of moose along here so I kept an eye peeled.

Up on the summit of Mount Martha there was no shade. The hazy views were opaque at best. I took a few photos and made my way down the Martha's Mile trail over to Owl's Head. It was nice to get into the woods and out of the direct sunlight. I'm not going to say it was cool but at least the sun was not beating on me.

This is a very good path going over to the other summit. There were many wildflowers along the way. As I was bent over to take a photo something had crawled into my hiking boot and either bit or stung my foot. I quickly removed my boot and something resembling a stinger with wings was on my sock. After removing it I continued on.

The last part of the trail before reaching the summit has some steep, and in one case vertical, climbs. This would be interesting in icy conditions. I pulled myself up with the help of roots and trees.

There are some good ledges on the summit of Owl's Head and on a clear day the views must be spectacular. There are several spur paths up here that allow for views in different directions. I hit them all but the distant views were dismal in the haze.

After some photos and a quick snack it was time to reverse direction and head back. From the summit of Mount Martha the views looked a little less hazy but not much. I didn't stay long and started making my descent to the trailhead.

 Lady Slipper

On the way down I met nine hikers, four couples and one solo. I was glad to have gotten an early start because it was really starting to heat up by this time and I knew those hikers had a hot climb ahead of them.

I was glad I chose this hike today. Throughout the year I pass by here many times for either hiking or skiing and this has been on my list for a long time. Was hoping that it would have been a little less hazy and the views a little better but I thoroughly enjoyed the hike itself.

180 degree view from the other Owl's Head

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Great blog post. I did this hike about two years ago in spring. Took a nasty spill on some icy rocks on Owl's Head. Need to go back, so I can properly enjoy the views from there.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      The thought did cross my mind of how "interesting" it would be with icy conditions on those ledges. That last vertical climb on the trail would be very challenging. The hazy views were somewhat disappointing on Saturday but a very nice hike. I'm thinking this would make a great Fall foliage destination!