One day after Andrew and I returned to the White Mountains in New Hampshire we decided to take on the Hancock Loop off the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus Highway. Sarah had made her way up here late the previous night to join us on the rest of our trip. We woke up at around 6:30 in effort to be on the road by 7. Andrew was curious about Tripoli Road and insisted that we take it to 93 North. I knew it would eventually get there, but knowing the road is closed during winter I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Turns out there a good reason for the road being closed in winter as the majority of it is unpaved and sketchy as all hell. It seems to be a common theme for us trying to navigate some sort of potential disaster every single time we go hiking, but at this point its just part of the fun for us. Anyway after a few miles of slower travel we got by the road and made it to I 93 where we would continue into Lincoln for our breakfast.
We stopped at Flapjacks in Lincoln for a big breakfast. I always remembered this place from when my parents would take me as a child. It was pretty much the same as I remembered with some kick ass pancakes and toy trains moving in the rafters. After loading ourselves with starch and carbs we headed off to the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus where we would come to our trailhead. The trailhead parking just seemed to be filling up as we got there. Fortunately we were able to find ourselves a spot before the lot got full. From there we threw on the gear and got ready to start our hike.
The weather seemed like it may or may not hold off for us that day but I’m not overly accustomed to caring too much about some minor weather. Nonetheless the three of us took off down the trail towards the Hancock’s. We would follow the Hancock Notch Trail for a little over a mile before reaching a trail junction that would head toward the loop. The hike up to that point was about as easy as it could get with the trail being very flat and very well maintained with pretty much no notable obstacles to speak of.
The conditions that day seemed to be constantly improving which was a welcome surprise for us thinking that we would ultimately get rained on. The trail was still flat, the sun was burning off the clouds and life was good for the time being. The portion of trail between the Hancock Notch Trail and The Hancock Loop Trail was called the Cedar Brook Trail. This much like the Notch Trail was overall very well maintained and pretty flat. The only real difference between the two sections were a few water crossings that still did not act as much of an obstacle.
Before long we came to a sign for the Hancock Loop Trail which we would ultimately follow to both of our peaks for the day. At this point we knew that the climb would start to gain elevation pretty quickly so we decided we would get a little fuel into our systems before making our way up to the summits. Eventually we reached the actual loop portion of the trail where we had to make a choice of either hiking the South Peak first or Hancock.
We figured we would take the trek up to the South Peak first that we would be able to accomplish in .5 miles. The trek up to South Hancock was about as steep as it gets for hiking standards. We found ourselves sucking wind and pausing frequently on the way, not to mention I was hacking up a lung from the cold I had the previous week. Before too long though we made it to the summit of South Hancock. The summit area had a nice outlook where we did manage to get a nice view, but other than a height of land the was no real feature there marking the summit.
We spent sometime on the summit getting a bite to eat and socializing with some other hikers. While on the summit we noticed some Gray Jays were lurking around us. Rumor had it that these little guys were pretty bold little birds and are known to eat right out of your hand. Knowing this I had to give it a go and see if one of them would take the bait. Sure enough after holding out some granola long enough one of those little guys perched itself on my finger and took a beak full before taking off to enjoy their little snack. As amusing as this all was we knew we needed to get going to our second peak of the day Mt. Hancock.
We got going down the trail which looked to be a 1.4 mile ridge hike we no real exposure but fortunately the drop in elevation was not going to be too over bearing. It was a pretty straight forward walk with some slightly muddier sections along the way but I wasn’t too long before we started approaching our second summit of the day. We noticed the trees thinning out a bit but never any bald portions until we ultimately reached a sign which signaled that we were at the summit. Much like the last summit there wasn’t really any obvious area to observe the surroundings other than a small outlook just off the summit. Once again we took time to get a bite to eat and feed some Gray Jays.
After taking about a half hour to rest we figured it was about time to head back down the mountain. According to the trail junction it was going to be .7 miles down point where the Loop Trail split. The trail going down to the split was very steep and treacherous. The trail gave me flashbacks of the Macomb slide with a lot of loose rocks and gravel on a very steep gradient. We took it slow on the way down to ensure we didn’t injure ourselves at least until we reached the loop.
We gathered ourselves once reaching the loop before making our way out as quickly as we could. The trail going out was just as easy as it was coming in although when you have no more summit to look forward to it always seems like its longer. We eventually got back to the road and once there we were all in shock about what we were witnessing. Let me start by saying that I love hiking at this time of year but there volume of cars out there blew me away. Why people come in droves to watch leaves die I guess I’ll never understand. Anyway we knew we had one day of hiking to go so we headed back to get some food and rest.
Recommendation to Hikers: The Hancock’s are a fun day with nothing too challenging getting in your way. While the views aren’t outstanding you do get an opportunity to get a few nice pictures out on the trails without hiking too many miles.
Views: South Hancock – 4 Hancock – 5
Difficulty: South Hancock – 4 Hancock – 4