Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Perfect Winter Day on Mount Cabot

We've had some great weather this week, perfect for hiking. Fellow hikers Christine and Brian asked me to join them on a hike to Mount Cabot (4,170'). This would be Christine's #46 hike of the 48 4,000 footers. Our hike would start at the York Pond Trail then onto the Bunnell Notch Trail and up the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Cabot. The weather forecast called for clear skies, temps in the lower 30's and no wind.

 Crossing the Upper Ammonoosuc River on the way to the trailhead

 The fish hatchery gate is open for the winter

 Presidential summits from the York Pond Road

 Mount Cabot


 York Pond Trail

 Sun just coming up

 Mount Cabot from York Pond Trail

 First water crossing

We agreed to meet at the York Pond trailhead at 7:30. The gate to the fish hatchery now stays open throughout the entire winter. It was a cold morning, -1°F when I left the house. This happens to be my shortest drive to a trailhead, 15 minutes. I arrived at 7:20 and Christine was already there. Brian had the longest drive today and he got there just after 8:00. I made a few layer changes before we set out, I was getting cold already. Brian had a 3°F reading at the trailhead.

 Brian crosses without a problem

 Bunnell Notch Trail

 Appears lightning struck this tree

 Saw lots of theses ice crystals today

 Christine crossing the ice

 Brian's turn on the ice

The trail was well packed. Christine chose to wear microspikes from the onset, Brian and I waited. We came to our first water crossing with a thick layer of ice and some open water. It was a little tricky without traction but there were no wet feet. Just after moving up the Bunnell Notch Trail Brian and I decided to put our microspikes on. It was also time to change some layers as we were starting to warm up. The entire hike could have been barebooted but the traction made it just a bit easier through some of the loose snow and there were no icy sections of trail.

 Kilkenny Ridge Trail junction

 Terrace Mountain

 Franconia Range in the distance

 Brian on Bunnell Rock

 A view from the outlook on Mount Cabot

As we got to the upper portion of the Bunnell Notch Trail the trees had a heavy accumulation of snow on them. It soon turned into a winter wonderland. Just after turning onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail we met our two and only hikers for today. They had a good pace and we moved out of the way to let them by. We saw them again at the Bunnell Rock outlook, they were just leaving. There were some beautiful views from here. We got some photos and then continued on up the trail.

 Moving up a snowy Kilkenny Ridge Trail

Basking in the sun at Mount Cabot cabin

There were occasional views through the trees to the west. I enjoyed this part of the trail. Along with some views the sun was shining down as we moved between a snowy trees making it very bright and warm. We were soon back into the shade of the woods.

 Jericho Lake

A nice new summit stick

 Christine tags the summit stick for #46

 My third time to the summit of Mount Cabot

 Christine's post-tag jump

Our next stop was the Mount Cabot cabin. It was a good place to take a short break. We found the inside of the cabin to be much colder than outside. The porch seemed to be a good place to bask in the sun and get a quick bite to eat. Once again we saw the same couple that we had met earlier. They had already been to the summit and were on their way back down. It was time for us to make the final push to the summit.

 Gnarly tree against a blue sky

The trail makes a short steep climb up behind the cabin then across the top of the mountain to the actual summit. There are new signs at the summit since the last time I was here. There is also a new summit stick bolted to a tree at the true summit. Christine tagged the summit and did her jump for joy that Brian and I tried to capture. I finally had some success with my camera's sport/burst feature. It was getting cold and time to make our descent. We had initially wanted to make this a loop hike to Unknown Pond going over The Bulge and The Horn. A quick look past the Mount Cabot summit changed our minds. Drifting snow had filled in a poorly broken trail. We turned around and went back the way we came in.

 A stop at the cabin on descent

After a quick stop at the cabin and another at the Bunnel Rock outlook it was a steady descent. As the sun went down so did the temperature. We made the final icy crossing with no problems. From there back to the trailhead is a level hike for the most part and a good way to wind down after ten miles.

Unusual ice formation discovered by Brian

 Final water crossing of the day

 Brian makes it look easy

Almost back to the trailhead

A rack of moose jawbones by York Pond

We arrived back at the parking area after seven and a half hours. This was my third time hiking to the summit of Mount Cabot, the other two times were solo. This can be a long, lonely hike and during frigid temps it can seem longer. Today was anything but that. It was just a perfect winter day with excellent trail conditions. I had a great time hiking with Christine and Brian. Thanks for inviting me and congratulations to Christine for completing #46!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Thanks... I have been wondering about the Fish Hatchery gate! Great information blog :)

    1. You're Welcome! There's a lot of hikers out there that want to know if this gate is open, especially those that want an early start and contemplating a 4 mile round trip hike to the trailhead if the gate is not open.