Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some History on South Uncanoonuc Mountain

I had a few free hours on Saturday, which is very rare these days with a newborn, work and school. I decided to take full advantage of the time and head into the woods. I needed a location not too far from home and a short round trip time, as I needed to be home for something later in the evening. I decided to target the summit of South Uncanoonuc Mountain in Goffstown. This is certainly not a desirable destination for most hikers as the views are very limited and the summit is riddled by radio towers, but I had different agenda on this day. I was in search of a little bit of history!

South Uncanoonuc Mountain, as I’ve already said, is home to many huge radio towers on its summit. However, at one time, it was actually a tourist attraction in New Hampshire. It is one of many lost ski areas in New England. You can read about its history ski history here. It also had an incline railway that brought tourists, as well as skiers, to the top of the mountain. The railway was similar in nature to the Cog up Mount Washington, in the sense that it went straight up the side of the mountain. However, the train ran on electricity, not biofuel or coal. The south summit was even home to multiple fire towers and even a resort hotel at one time.

A portion of the Incline Trail that may represent an older photo I found on the web. I got this idea, of trying to compare the current trail to the past photo from 1HappyHiker Blog Posting: Meanderings around North Sugerloaf!
Same thing as previous posting...Idea from 1HappyHiker

The “Incline” railway, as it was called, was put into service 1907 and was halted in 1941 when a fire destroyed 500 feet of its tracks. The train climbed 800 feet in elevation when ascending at a 35% grade, which is pretty steep. It cost tourists and skiers $0.15 for a ride to the summit and $0.25 for a round trip ticket! Some great information on this railway system can be found on this site.

 Chipmunk checking me out!

Old foundation in the woods next to the trail.

The railway bed that the Incline Railway once climbed is still on the mountain and easily acceptable to hikers. I decided to take this path up to the summit in hopes to see some historical artifacts and piece some of the old pictures I found on the web together.

 Old Rail Ties in the Woods with Hardware

The trail was consistently steep as I expected. You begin by crossing a small bridge over a brook and the climbing begins. The footing is pretty good on the first half of the trail. There was one creepy cabin on the right of the trail, soon after the bridge but had no trespassing signs on it, so I stayed away. Soon, the good footing gave way to lose rock and gravel, like the bottom of a slide trail. However, I’m assuming this was just the foundation for the old rails.

 Pipe with bracket in the woods. I'm not sure what it was used for.

Weathered rail with hardware. I assume this was part of the rail system.

There was one great viewpoint to the southeast a little ways up the Walker Trail, which made its way into the Incline Trail about halfway up. I did a little bit of bushwhacking just off the trail when I thought I saw something that may have historical significance. In doing so, I think I found the sites of a few old cabins, with broken down wooden structures, old porcelain covered metal sinks and more. I finally came across some older railroad ties with large bolts through them which I’m sure was part of the Incline Railway at one time.

 Views over toward Manchester

 Views of some mountains in the distance, not sure what mountains, though.

I finally made my way onto the summit, and as many who have described it before said, it was covered with radio towers and the constant humming of their base stations. I was surprised to see that they were not bunched together, but instead had their own little plots of land, scattered over the large, flat summit. I made my way to the highest point and started searching for a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Traverse Station Benchmark. A lot of the information such as the year, number and position were not marked on this disc, so I have no idea how long it was up there.

One of the towers on the summit

I eventually headed back down the way I came up, via the Incline Trail. I was really happy with this short hike because I was looking for some evidence from the past and found it. I found some really cool railway ties with old hardware in them. I wondered why these pieces were left behind while all the other ties were brought down. I wondered how many tourists traveled over these ties that were now left to rot in the woods. I wondered who originally installed this tie up on the mountain and if he was a nature lover as well.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Benchmark!

I was also really happy about finding a new Benchmark…these things have become addictive to me. It’s the first one I have found from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. I wonder why this specific Benchmark was installed and when. I wonder how many people walked over it, not even knowing it was there. I know I certainly walked over it a few times, and I was actually looking for it.

I really love history. Combine that with hiking and nature, and it is really my passion!

A couple great websites where I got some of the information for this post and got the older pictures for this post are:


  1. Wonderful report, Karl! Just as you do, also love combining history with hiking whenever possible.

    In case you're unaware, the Mt. Uncanoonuc hiking trails made Honorable Mention in the "Hippo's Best of 2011" listing for all sorts of venues in southern NH.
    The link for that listing is as follows: http://www.hippopress.com/read-article/hippos-best-of-2011

    And here is what is said:
    Best: Mine Falls Park in Nashua.
    Runner up: Lake Massabesic, which has a parking lot on Depot Road near the Auburn-Manchester line.
    Honorable mention: Mt. Uncanoonuc hiking trails in Goffstown, see goffstowntrails.com


  2. Hi Karl

    I was waiting for this one, because you said you were coming back for the south peak, and it was a great read. Those comparison pictures are awesome, and I bet people would be more likely to check these peaks out now because of this report. It's quite interesting for a lesser known peak.

  3. Looks like an interesting hike! I'm not a fan of climbing all the way but sounds like you had heaps to hold your interest

  4. Another great write up Karl. Sometimes what may seem like a mundane hike to some, are real treasures to others especially when what you are really after is some time outside. :D

  5. Hi Karl,
    Great trip report. We often use the south side road to run up for training and do a couple circles at the summit. I read someplace that the actual trolleys that used to go up are still scattered around at the base, privately owned but I've never been able to find one.
    Quick question, where exactly is that benchmark? I've been up there a dozen times but never able to find one. Good job!

  6. Hi John - Thanks for the information! Also, thanks for letting me use your idea of comparing the old pics with the new ones! I love the historical portions of hikes, which is why I enjoy your blog so much!

    Hi Dan - Thanks for the kind words. If my report helped get people interested in hiking South Uncanoonuc, I would be really happy. That's kind of why I write this blog. To share my travels and hope I can recommend some interesting hikes to others as well.

    Hi Andrea - I did have heaps to hold my interest. It was definitely a fun hike.

    Hi Tim - I agree 100%. I find a lot of hikes, that many find boring or less desirable, to be a lot of fun! Anything with a historical presence, I'm all in!

    Hi Dan - I can't imagine running up this mountain! It must be great for training! I've heard that about the trolleys too. I've never seen them either. I did hear there was one at the summit that was eventually removed for museum purposes. I sent you info on how to get to the Benchmark...it was not easy to find. I hope you'll be able to find it with the info/pictures I provided! Certainly let me know.

    Take care everyone,

  7. Wow Nice report Karl and a little history lesson to boot! Always a nice time of the year to hike,for any reason.

  8. Nice write up Karl. The Uncanoonucs are just a few miles from my house so I hike and bushwack them allot. If you're looking for more history, you might like to see the collapsed cabins/camps between the Walker trail and the summit loop road. From what I'm told, back in the day people had summer camps up there. It's amazing to me how much has changed.

    Creator of GoffstownTrails.com

  9. Since you've done so many hikes, I can understand why you start look for something a little different.

  10. How interesting! Tim finds old ruins like that so fascinating also. He always wants to know how it all worked.

  11. how did u c the view of mancheser becuz when i went up ther i could not see manchester

  12. เว็บรวมเกม MEGA GAME ที่ดีที่สุดในปี 2022 ที่มาพร้อมกับระบบ สล็อตทุกค่ายเกม easyslot เปิดให้บริการตลอด 24 ชั่วโมง