Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Trek Up Catamount Hill in Bear Brook State Park

Every year, my company has a Wellness Week to promote a healthy, active lifestyle for its employee’s and employee’s families. About five years back for this Wellness Week, I proposed a company hike that we have been doing ever since. We try to pick someplace local and has gentle terrain to accommodate those who don’t typically hike that much. This year, we decided on Bear Brook State Park.

Bear Brook State Park is a pretty large park, encapsulating 10,000 acres and falls in the crosshairs of four towns; Allenstown, Hooksett, Candia and Deerfield. The park welcomes many different activities such as mountain biking, camping, fishing, swimming, birdwatching and of course, hiking!

Map of route taken from PDF map on State Park Website

The route I mapped out for our group started at the north end of Bear Brook State Park off from Deerfield Road. The plan was to hike in on the One Mile Trail, hang a right onto the Catamount Trail, ascending and summiting Catamount Hill (721’) and then descending to the east (same trail over the summit). This portion of the Catamount Trail then linked to the Catamount Shortcut Trail which would exit back onto the One Mile Trail. Following this back to the parking area would provide a good length, lunchtime hike. A Bear Brook State Park trail map can be found here.

Tollbooth / Ranger Hut

The parking area is located on the north side of the Deerfield Road in Allenstown, across from a tollbooth/ranger hut. After getting packed up, we headed to the trailhead which was located on the south side of Deerfield Road, to the right of the ranger hut.

One Mile Trail

Old trail or clearing to the right of the One Mile Trail

The One Mile Trail was gated a few feet after the trailhead, but there was as heard path to the right to allow hikers, bikers, etc. through easily. The trail itself was pretty flat with a gravel base, and was really more of a woods access road or old fire road than a trail. After traveling down this road for about 0.3 miles, we came to a junction with the Catamount Trail on the right.

Beginning of the Catamount Trail

The Catamount Trail was more like a real hiking trail. It was narrow and headed uphill (Catamount Hill) with rocks and roots at your footing. Evidence that autumn is upon us, we found many red maple leaves on the trail along with many mushrooms poking up from the leaves on the ground. There were many large, very cool boulders off to the sides of the trail too. It was obvious to me that the park has done a great job with trail maintenance on the Catamount Trail as there were many steeper sections that had newer rock stairs setup as well as many new water bars.

Good trail drainage guidess

 Great trail work!

More Great Trail work!

At about 0.3 miles up (0.6 miles into the trek), the trail takes a sharp left turn and there’s a trail that runs across the Catamount Trail. This crossing trail was not marked and is not on the map. I would assume it’s the remnants of an older trail (Catamount West Trail) that I think has been abandoned, but I’ve found mention of in other trip reports online. There was also a bench setup at this location.

Saddleback Mountain in Deerfield over the trees

View over Bear Brook State Park

 Tree growing straight out of a boulder...pretty cool!

Signs that fall is here!

At about 0.5 miles up (0.8 miles into the trek), we came to some granite ledges (or small cliffs) on the left which provided a view of the rest of Bear Brook State Park as well as Saddleback Mountain in Deerfield (1,150’ high). We needed to be careful of our footing here as the ledges sloped down and slipping or falling would have most definitely resulted in a bad injury. I can imagine these are very dangerous when wet. There was also a bench setup here so it served as a great place to take a quick rest and have a snack.

 View from the summit, Belknap Mountain in the distance

Zoomed in Belknap Mountain

My daughter and I on the summit...foot summit shot!

At about 0.8 miles up (1.1 miles into the trek), we summited Catamount Hill, or at least we assumed we summited. The top is long and flat, and runs southwest to northeast. You have to use your judgment to find the high point as there are no markers pointing you to the true summit location. There’s one obvious viewpoint where there’s a lookout to the north and Belknap Mountain is visible. At this location, there’s a nice bench to enjoy the views as well as a roughly constructed kiosk. The kiosk has some pictures and a great description of the trail. The description does however mislabel Saddleback Mountain as one of the 48, 4,000-footers of NH which obviously is not correct.

 Kiosk on summit

Notice the mistake about labeling Saddleback as one of the 48-4K's

After having some lunch and searching for bugs with the kiddos, we continued on the Catamount Trail which circled down the summit on the southeastern slope. We passed a large cairn and a trail sign and headed back into the woods down a pretty steep section of trail for about 0.4 miles (1.5 miles into trek). We then came to a junction where the Catamount Shortcut Trail entered to the left and the Cascade Trail entered to the right. We continued our loop via the Catamount Shortcut Trail. In another 0.4 miles (1.9 miles into trek), we hung another left onto the One Mile Trail and headed back to the parking lot. The loop distance was approximately 2.3 miles in all.

Cairn just past the summit area before you head back into the woods

 Yellow blazes down the trail

 View of the Catamount Shortcut Trail

My daughter and I heading down the One Mile Trail on the way back to the parking lot

This hike was a great family style hike. We had flat, easy terrain. We had moderate elevation gaining terrain. Finally, we had a few steep sections too. There were two rewarding viewpoints for the effort and some great features (like boulders, mushrooms, etc.) to checkout along the way. Best of all, it was a lollipop loop hike. I love loop hikes because you’re typically not on the same trail twice. I would highly recommend checking out this hike if you have a couple hours to kill, want to get out walking the dog or go hiking with the family! 

Signage from the parking lot to the summit!

 Signage from the summit back to the parking lot!



  1. Great post Karl! Glad you guys enjoyed your hike at Bear Brook. Another good family hike in the park is out to Smith Pond and the Smith Pond Shelter.

    1. Hi NH State Parks - My family will definitely be checking out the Smith Pond area! Thanks for keeping up such an amazing place!


  2. Thanks for this great post! I camped at Bear Brook in September. Such a huge remote area of well-maintained trails and awesome natural environs.

  3. Bear Brook is in my list too! Guess you enjoy your trip there. This is really an amazing place to go for. The natural environment is so green, relaxed and awesome! Thanks for sharing

  4. Hiking with family can get you the most happiness if everything goes fine. Great post Karl.