Mt Hale, at 4,055ft, is one of the easiest 4,000 footers to climb in New Hampshire.
|On the trail to Mt Hale|
My, oh my, we've had some extreme temperature variations up North lately. The second and third weeks in January brought both a weekend of 40-50°F and then a cold spell with highs in the teens and below zero lows. Kind of makes it a little difficult to plan hikes huh?
Anyways, last weekend I bagged Mt Hale as a sort of swan song for the university-less part of my winter. I know that once another spring semester of graduate school gets in full-swing, there will be less opportunities for these types of things. Mt Hale is a gentle summit in the way of 4,000-footers but is still a steep climb. Its about a 9.5 mile round trip in the winter but in the summer you can park at the actual trail-head and cut out about 5 miles out of the trip. In the winter, Zealand Rd is closed and you must hike in. This is a nice hike though! It follows the brook and offers some nice views of the surrounding summits.
The map above should give you a basic idea of the hike and you can get directions to the parking lot from anywhere. From the parking lot, you cross the busy route 302 and follow snowmobile tracks up to the beginning of Zealand Rd. This part is closed to snowmobiles. Its a relatively flat 2.5 miles to get to the trailhead and there are a couple of sections where you can see the brook and take some nice photos. At first I thought this was going to add a pointless extra distance to the trip but I found the walk to be enjoyable.
It was almost 40 degrees when I reached the trailhead! I was hiking in spring clothes! From the trailhead, it is a steep 2.2 miles to the summit. You may want to bring some snow-shoes or crampons for this part. Especially towards the top, it can get icy and steep. For this warm day, I scarcely used my snowshoes, but it was nice to have them just in case.
|Winter hiking at its finest|
|There are fleeting views of the Pemi Wilderness and Mt Carrigan|
The Hale Brook trail up to the summit is not characterized by an abundance of views but there are some fleeting breaks in the foliage where you can see the Presidentials and the Pemi Wilderness. If you like to hike for views, I wouldn't recommend this trail but it was a nice and sheltered ascent up some gullys to the summit. As the elevation increased, I hit that certain elevation that exists on most 4,000-footers where the snow dramatically increases and every tree and rock seems to be completely covered in white. I've always noticed this on my winter trips and its a magical part of hiking during this season. It compensated for the lack of views.
I was on top of the summit before I even knew it. If you stand on the very top of the cairn, you can see North Twin and South Twin and the very tip-top of Carrigan but not much else. There is a nice, protected clearing where you can enjoy a little lunch or snack.
|Looking towards the Sugarloafs|
|Classic view of the Presidentials on the drive back|
Well, I'm glad I was able to climb another mountain before the next semester started. I love hiking in the Whites during the winter and I hope I can bag some more during this next busy season!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!