Saturday, March 26, 2011

Early Morning Hike Up Pawtuckaway Mountain, Middle Peak!

I finished up my grad classes for this term this past week, and it feels good! To celebrate, I decided to get up early and take a morning stroll up Pawtuckaway Mountain’s Middle peak (map). It’s a short drive from my house and the hike is only 3.6 miles round trip from the from the Tower Rd./Reservation Rd. intersection. I figured I could get out there before the sun came up, hike the trail, do a little bushwhacking, and still make it home by 9am.

Starting Out, Not So Bright, But Early

South Peak over Pond

It was 22° when I left the house at 5:30am, but it felt like 12° with the wind. The sun hadn’t made its way over the trees yet when I made it to the trailhead, but I knew it would be along soon. To my surprise, I found a reasonable amount of snow on the trail. It was all pretty icy and crunchy, but certainly didn’t require snowshoes or microspikes. The hike up Tower Road, which is an old trail road, was pretty flat and even. Most of the way down Tower Road, you follow the banks of a pond (which is still froze over) to the right. Unfortunately, with the maps I could find online, I couldn’t identify a name for the pond. It did have quite a few beaver dams built up in it, and plenty of evidence of beavers chopping down trees along the road.

Middle Mountain Trail

First Glow from the Sun on the Treetops

0.8 miles up the Tower Road, I found the Middle Mountain Trail entering from the left. This trail ascended slightly and I noticed some really nice stonewalls following the right shoulder of the trail. On this section, I noticed a small water runoff in the distance that had created a miniature waterfall. I decided to bushwhack out to it, to see if it was worthy of any pictures. It was small indeed, but did have some pretty icicles which I thought were cool.

Snow Cover Near the Top

Bright Orange, Frozen Sap

Once back on the trail, the hike continued to climb gently. On this stretch, I noticed the tree tops turn orange from the sun which was peaking over the landscape before my eyes. It’s nice to be out in the woods all by yourself to see things like this take place. It’s certainly something I take for granted every day.

Cedar Trees on Ledges

View to the southeast

The trail curved to the left and then began climbing steeply for a short way through a couple switchbacks. As I climbed in elevation, the snow became less sporadic and more consistent. I finally got through the short, steep section and the trail flattened out again. I noticed wind was also hitting me a bit harder near the top.

View of the Fire Tower on the South Peak

Weathered Tree on Ledges

As I hiked on the top of the Middle peak, the trail seemed to go on forever. That’s the thing with these Pawtuckaway Mountain peaks. They are all very long mountains (sort of a smaller version of Owl’s Head), so to get to the true summit sometimes takes a while of walking on the top. At one point, I thought for sure I was at the summit as I didn’t see any land around that was lower than where I was, however, there was no cairn or marker of any sort. I continued on the trail and finally came to ledges on the southeastern slope. I realized at that point, that I had passed the summit and it must have been where I thought it was.

Me on the ledges, proving I was there

I sat down and relaxed for a bit on the ledges. There were good views to the east, over to the South peak where you could easily make out the fire tower standing on top. There were also pretty nice views to the south, although, there is not much of a landscape in that direction. I also noticed that there were quite a few cedar trees on the ledge area, which I thought was pretty neat. Cedars are pretty uncommon in this area of New Hampshire, and I always enjoy seeing them.

Small Waterfall I Found


Making my way back, I again found what I believed was the tallest point of the Middle peak and proclaimed myself as “summitted”! As I descended the mountain, the morning grew a bit later and the wildlife started making an appearance. I followed a squirrel and a chipmunk up the side of the trail for a while. I also startled some blue jays (by accident) from the banking of the trail into some trees. I tried to get a picture, but they were too far away, unfortunately. While walking out, I also noticed a hawk circling, looking for breakfast I assume.


Hawk in Flight

There is nothing better to clear your head than an early morning walk in the woods. I can say that I would much rather be hiking the Whites than hiking Pawtuckaway Mountain. But when you’re short on time, you can’t beat it. I was up early, enjoyed nature and was home by 9am to conquer the rest of the day!



  1. Sounds like a great hike. Any summit, is better than no summit at all.

  2. Tim, I agree with you completely!

  3. Great post, especially for us Bostonians who don't want to trek up to the Whites for a day-hike. Have any other suggestions/URL's on hikes in NH within 60-90 minutes of Boston?


  4. Thanks for posting this Karl!

    Although this might not have been like a hike in the White Mountains, it was still hiking!! Regardless of location, it's always great to be outdoors and enjoying nature.

    And here's yet another "positive", judging from some of your photos, I think it's possibly safe to say that you'll be enjoying the Spring flowers much sooner than us folks up here above the notches!


  5. Karl,
    I am amazed by your ability to get up so early and take such good pictures! it is also cool that you have this kind of hiking near your front door; I guess that is one of the perks of being a NH resident. The whites are usually a 3-4 hour drive away from me but it is totally worth it.

  6. Hi Jeff,

    Definitely check out Mount Major and other Belknap Mountains. They are this of the Lake Winnipesaukee. Also, a bit closer is Blue Job Mountain, and the Monadnocks. There are plenty of hiking trails in the NH Southern region, just not many mountains.

    Hi John,

    You're right, out in nature is better than not, regardless of where it is. My preference is always the Whites, but I'll take what I can get. Yes, the wildflowers should be out in April. I know I saw my first Hepatica out in Pawtuckaway back last April. Hopefully, I'll find the same ones this year!

    Hi Grant,

    You're right, the 3-4 hour journey is worth it for the Whites. I am lucky to have State Parks like Pawtuckaway close by...I should really go and enjoy these places more often. I can't wait to get back up to the Whites, though. Only a 2 hour trip for me, luckily!

    Thanks everyone!

  7. Nice hike, and beautiful country. I live in Oregon, so I'm used to mountains, but it's nice to see mountain ranges in other areas!

  8. Looks like a great trip, love the moon pic and the waterfall with the icicles, beautiful! I love Pawtuckaway, have camped there a few times :)


  9. Hi Survivalsense - Definitely check back on some of my previous postings from this past summer so you can see some pics from the White Mountains of NH. The pics in this post don't do our NH mountains justice. Thanks for stopping by!

    Hi Liz - Thanks, the moon pic came out pretty nice. I thought the icicles were kind of a crazy shape, so I snapped a pic. Pawtuckaway is great, and right up the street from me. I should stop by to hike more often there. Not sure why I don't!