|Winter Hiking on Cannon Mountain|
Cannon Mountain is certainly one of the more beautiful summits in New Hampshire and the Northeast. Its dramatic rise over Franconia Notch
, the previous site of "The Old Man of the Mountain
" and the outstanding climbing opportunities on Cannon Cliff have earned its name into the natural and human history of New Hampshire. Cannon Cliff is more famous than the summit itself as it is the only "big wall" in the Northeast and has been called "El Capitan of the East". I'd hiked this summit in the summer but I was back this year for a pleasant winter climb. The conditions, trail and views were phenomenal, of course.
Cannon Mountain was actually one of the first mountains I hiked in New England. In 2010, I came to New England for the first time and actually worked a whole summer out in Maine. Even though I was used to those "big mountains" out west, I found the rugged forests and wilderness of the Northern Appalachians captivating. After hiking Mt Washington, Mt Katahdin and Acadia National Park, I couldn't leave the Northeast without seeing Cannon Cliff and Franconia Notch. I suppose this is part of what drove me to move up here and why I continue to love living in New England.
|Franconia Notch, even more spectacular in the winter|
The only parking lot which doesn't fill up very early in the day (even in winter) is the parking lot by the ski resort and cable car just at the northern end of Franconia State Park. I actually like this trail up Cannon Mountain- it offers an incredible vista just above Cannon Cliff and is much less crowded than the Lonesome Lake/Hi Cannon Trail
Here is a great map of hiking trails
I elected to hike up the ridge trail which is about 2 miles up to the summit of Cannon Mountain. It is steep but straight forward and without any particularly hairy sections. About 3/4 of the way up there is the excellent vantage point above Cannon Cliff-
|Looking towards Mt Lafayette, the second highest mountain range in New Hampshire|
It didn't take more than an hour and a half of mid-paced hiking to get to the summit of Cannon Mountain. A lot of hardcore wilderness types don't particularly care for the summit of Cannon because it has ski lifts and a summit hut at the top. However the views from the weather center are excellent. Sure there are lonelier summits in the state, but I do enjoy hiking Cannon.
I decided I wanted to continue onward because the weather was perfect and I might not have another opportunity for such great winter hiking for a while. Northeast Cannonball was just another mile away.
|Northeast Cannonball in the winter|
The trail from the Cannon Mountain Summit to Northeast Cannonball was actually quite difficult in some sections. In particular, the 0.4 miles between the Hi Cannon Trail and the col which separates the Cannonballs from Cannon Mountain was steep, icy and difficult to navigate. I wished I had brought an ice axe and crampons for a few sections! However the microspikes did work well; just a little harrowing in some sections.
The Northeast Cannonball was just 0.4 miles and a few hundred vertical feet above the col between the two summits which was somewhat strenuous but not by White Mountain Standards. There were some directional views from the summit of the Kinsman Ridgeline-
|The Kinsman Ridgeline as seen from the summit of Northeast Cannonball|
The extra hike out to Northeast Cannonball was worth it. The trails were pretty clear of people but also well marked and cut. Seeing the Kinsman Ridge from afar also was excellent. NE Cannonball was a nice little detour!
Turning back the way I came, I stopped to appreciate all the views once again on the way down-
|Last Look on Cannon Mountain|
Cannon Mountain seems to be one of the better options for a relatively short but still pleasantly strenuous winter hike that can be done by more novice hikers. You're never too far from a good view or a nice place to stop and grab a snack. The winter time was just as enjoyable.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!