Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hiking the Hancocks

It was a cool 39 degrees as I left the house for the Kancamagus Highway this morning. The weather forecast called for warm temps and sunshine. There was a beautiful sunrise to greet me as I made the drive to the trailhead. Passing through Franconia Notch the sun was rising on Cannon Mountain with a setting moon above. Today's hike would take me up the Hancock Notch Trail to the Cedar Brook Trail and finally the Hancock Loop Trail.

Sunrise on the way to the trailhead

Sun coming up on Cannon Mountain with moon above

View from Hancock Overlook parking area

Lady Slipper

Water crossing

On the Hancock Notch Trail

As I pulled into the Hancock Overlook parking area there was one vehicle ahead of me. In a few minutes I was on my way down the path, crossed the Kancamagus and was on the Hancock Notch Trail at 7:00 am. This trail is a nice, flat, straight stroll through the forest for 1.8 miles to the Cedar Brook Trail. There were many water crossings after this but all were easily crossed. I was thinking this would be a very difficult hike after heavy rain.


Bog bridge

Easy-under blowdown

Another water crossing

Another seven-tenths of a mile and I reached the Hancock Loop Trail. This trail started a gradual uphill climb to the Hancock Loop Trail. It was now decision time and I was trying to remember if the loop was best done clockwise or counter-clockwise. I decided to ascend the North Peak and descend from the South Peak.

Hancock Loop Trail junction

And another water crossing

Lots of Painted Trillium along the trail today

Decision time

Arrow slide on Mount Hancock

The trail dropped down to another easy water crossing then began a climb up. This is a steep rocky climb and only starts to level out as the trail reaches the summit of Mount Hancock. There are a few views between the trees but the best are only from the outlook just below the summit. I stopped just long enough to get a few photos. It was at this point the flying insects found me and I put on the bug spray and made my way toward South Hancock.

Water crossing

Steep ascent has begun!

Still going up!

South Hancock

Back in the woods the bugs seemed to drop off, not sure if that was a combination of bug spray and walking but I wasn't going to stop to find out. As I rounded a bend in the trail a Wood Grouse flew up in front of me and landed on a tree branch. It was close enough to touch but I only used my camera to capture a picture of this beautiful bird. Sitting there watching me it blended in well with the tree and never flew off. I got my photo and kept walking.

On the summit of Mount Hancock

Wood Grouse

Another bog bridge

Looking back at Mount Hancock from South Hancock

There is a little up and down on this section of trail and some well placed bog bridges. I arrived at the summit of South Hancock with no views. Dropping down on a side trail there is an outlook with a limited view but that's better than nothing. The bugs were worse on this peak and I took some quick photos before beginning my descent.

Mount Carrigain through the trees

Mount Carrigain...closer

On top of South Hancock

I was wondering if I had made the right choice with going to the North Peak first. The ascent from the South Peak was very steep with lots of loose rocks. As I reached the bottom I was thinking I made the right decision. If someone asks me I would recommend a clockwise hike on the Hancock Loop Trail. It was here at the trail junction that I met my first hiker of the day. There would only be four more, no crowds on the trail today.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Trout swimming upstream

It was a pleasant hike back to the Hancock Overlook from where I started six hours before. The last two miles were nice for cooling down before reaching the parking area. There were now several cars there as well as many motorcycles pulling in and out as I arrived, this being motorcycle week. One thing I did notice was no trail sign although there is a post where one might have been.

Wet and muddy section of trail

Signpost without a sign

With Mount Hancock being 4,420 feet and South Hancock 4,319 feet today's summits were #27 and #28 on my list of completed 4,000 footers . Great weather and trail conditions made for a fantastic day to be out hiking in the White Mountains!

This hike had many bog bridges

View from Mount Hancock outlook

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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