Haystack Mountain via North Trail

Mountain:  Haystack Mtn. (2713')
Trails:  North Trail, South Trail, Long Pond Road
Region:  VT - Northeast  
Willoughby Region
Location:  Westmore, VT
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, pond
Distance:  3.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  930 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:50   Typical: 2:10  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 4:40   Typical: 3:30  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  02/25/2008 (Monday)  
Last Updated:  02/16/2009  
Weather:  About 20-30 degrees, mostly sunny, breezy
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back winter hike to Haystack Mountain.

  • Since Long Pond Road is not plowed all the way to the North Trailhead, start instead at the trailhead for Bald Mountain.
  • Leaving the parking area, turn left and walk down Long Pond Road along the long side of the pond for 0.5 mile. When I was there, the first 0.2 mile was plowed and the remaining road was groomed for snowmobiles.
  • Look for a small (snow-covered) parking area on the left; it is large enough for about three cars to pull in. It is fairly obvious and can be confirmed by looking for a trail leading from its top right-hand side (when standing in the road facing the parking area). Looking up the trail from the road, I was able to spot a yellow blaze and a small sign.
  • Turn onto the trail and follow it all the way to the summit.
  • At a signed trail junction, turn right to quickly reach West Outlook; or turn left to quickly reach the summit.
  • From the summit, you can descend on South Trail to quickly reach East Outlook at the bottom of a hill.
  • Then if you continue on South Trail for another 0.1 mile, you will reach South Outlook on your right.
  • Retrace your steps back to your vehicle.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Bald Mtn. parking area (1900') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
North Trailhead (1840') 0.5 0.5 0:13 0:13
Start of narrower path/conifer section 0.7 1.2 0:42 0:55
Haystack Mtn. summit (2713') 0.3 1.5 0:35 1:30
East Outlook 0.1 1.6 0:05 1:35
Haystack Mtn. summit (2713') 0.1 1.7 0:05 1:40
End of narrower path/conifer section 0.3 2.0 0:25 2:05
North Trailhead (1840') 0.7 2.7 0:30 2:35
Bald Mtn. parking area (1900') 0.5 3.2 0:15 2:50

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging
 








 

Map of hike route to Haystack Mountain (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This was a pleasant hike with a challenging section near the top. I had quite a bit of trouble with the upper portion in the deep, slippery snow; but during summertime this section would probably be much easier with presumably better footing being available. And I think most of my trouble probably stemmed from snowshoes with insufficient traction. The following winter I bought a different pair and had no trouble at all hiking up pitches just as steep as these.

Island in Long Pond (photo by Webmaster) The first 0.2 mile was on a plowed gravel road with a few houses downslope in between the road and Long Pond. Then I climbed over a snow bank and continued on Long Pond Road which is groomed for snowmobiles in the winter. The walking was easy and on a gradual downhill; I didn't even put on my snowshoes until reaching the actual trailhead for North Trail.

On the left side of the road, the land sloped sharply upwards, and on the right Long Pond was practically right next to the road separated only by a line of trees. The pond as well as Hedgehog Mountain and Mount Pisgah were visible through the bare branches. There were some pretty cedars with their lacey needles along the shoreline. There was also an island and one open spot where the views were unobstructed. The island consisted of a hill densely covered with trees.

Not too long after the open view to the pond, I reached the trailhead on the left. There was no sign at the parking area (unless it was covered by snow) but there was a small but obvious parking area and what looked like a trail leading into the woods. Looking up the trail I was able to spot a yellow rectangular metal blaze and a small sign.

I was the first person to walk on the trail since at least the last snowfall which I believe was a few days prior. There were faint snowshoe marks visible beneath the top layer of snow. I put on my snowshoes, dodged around a small tree blocking the trail, and headed uphill. The small sign I could see from the road indicated that the trail was on private property and to please respect the land. Let's hope that all hikers know to respect the land with or without a sign. A bit beyond that was a small "Haystack Trail" sign.

The trail climbed through a hardwood forest up moderate inclines with some easier sections mixed in. There was just one narrow stream crossing on what appeared to be a snow bridge but I think there was a log bridge down at the bottom of the snow pile.

Long Pond Road looking north (photo by Webmaster) The bare trees allowed the sun to beat down on me for most of the hike and afforded views in many directions. Looking behind me were views of Long Pond and its area mountains but Bald Mountain with its fire tower was sometimes visible when looking forwards or to the left. And the top part of Haystack Mountain itself was visible after a while towards the right. The peak does look remarkably like a haystack. A better place to get a clear view of the mountain is on the drive to the trailhead: just 0.1 mile before Bald Mountain trailhead, stop on the road at the Long Pond fishing access area (the short side of the pond) and look up over the pond and a bit to the left.

About a half mile from the road the footway covers a flat section for about 0.1 mile and then turns left at a bright yellow sign for "Haystack Mtn." and continues the uphill trek. Up to about this point, the path had been blazed with faded yellow paint (except for the first metal blaze near the start of the trail); but then the blazes disappeared completely.

About 0.1 after the "Haystack Mtn." sign, the path becomes narrower and the forest quickly transitions to almost entirely conifers. The trail was faint and squeezed between and over small trees. There was a pretty good view of Bald Mountain, then after a switchback, a branchy view towards Long Pond. The wind picked up in this section and the thick evergreens quickly obscured the sun. I had been comfortable hiking in just a shirt but at this point I donned a fleece.

The trail turned again and headed straight up the steep-sided peak. At one point, even after much struggling, I just couldn't get up an abrupt pitch. So I decided to take off my snowshoes so I could kick toe holds into the slope. As soon as my snowshoes were removed I promptly sunk into the snow to above my knees. I switched from fleece gloves to snow-proof gloves and basically climbed, kicked, and crawled my way up the steep pitch.

I continued this slow awkward method of climbing for about 0.2 mile with only short respites of moderate slopes. Finally it looked like the trail leveled out and I put the snowshoes back on and easily walked the last 0.1 mile up to the summit area. Since the snowpack was so deep, the latter part of North Trail involved a lot of walking hunched over to avoid running into tree branches.

I reached a sign indicating that West Outlook was to the right and the summit to the left. I turned right and walked through the woods in the direction indicated but didn't really find a clear outlook. There were a few routes that looked like they could be the trail but there weren't even any faint footprints to follow. A couple spots looked like they might have clear views but they were on the very edge of a precipice and I wasn't sure if I'd be standing on solid ground or a snow shelf so I decided not to get that close to the edge.

Long Pond and Hedgehog Mountain (photo by Webmaster) I retraced my steps and continued on North Trail for just a few strides which brought me to the snow-covered summit cairn of Haystack Mountain. From here were a few glimpses of views but with trees mostly in the way. A small, faded sign indicated that South Trail dropped off the other side of the peak.

It seemed that no one had stepped foot on South Trail for the entire winter. Surprisingly I spotted a clear yellow paint blaze marking the route. It was only about a foot above the snow line. I slid down the steep pitch to check out East Outlook at the bottom of the hill. There was a tiny opening at the edge of a cliff towards the left. I got near it and ducked down to see under the branches but I didn't dare go all the way to the edge with the slippery conditions. Towards the right was a wider opening where I could see extensive views through and above a screen of short, young trees.

There was a sign at the bottom of the hill indicating that East Outlook was to the left and South Outlook to the right. Unfortunately I misinterpreted the sign and thought that the right-hand East Outlook was South Outlook. It looked like South Trail dead-ended there. Later I realized that after going down and to the right a bit, the trail then veered back uphill.

I followed South Trail just for a short ways beyond this point to check out how easy the route would be to find and whether or not the blazes would be sufficient. The blazes seemed clear although somewhat widely spaced given that the trail in these winter conditions wasn't obvious. South Trail goes down the other side of the mountain and comes out to Long Pond Road 1.3 miles south of the North trailhead. Since it was late afternoon and cold I didn't want to risk the blazes disappearing halfway down the trail so I decided against the loop hike that I had originally planned.

If I had continued just a little farther along the trail, I probably would have found South Outlook; but since I was mixed up and thought I had already found it, I wasn't looking for it.

Cedar needles (photo by Webmaster) I retraced my steps up the steep section back to the summit. I ate some crackers while exploring the summit area but it seemed quite cold so I didn't bother with a sit-down lunch. Each time I removed my gloves, my hands seemed to immediately get bitter cold and my socks were soaking wet from postholing on the snowshoeless climb.

So I descended from the summit on North Trail and when I reached the steep section I just sat down and slid. Even though I had my snowshoed feet out in front of me trying to dig the crampons into the snow and my hands were dragging next to me in an attempt to slow down, I still gained speed quickly and felt like I was plummeting down the mountainside. It was fun but dangerous at the same time.

Fortunately I arrived at the bottom of the steep pitches without injuries to myself or my gear. I stood up and walked like a normal person and enjoyed being out in the sunshine again. The descent was a pleasant jaunt with views to enjoy through the bare branches all the way down.

There were just a few moderately sloped sections where it was difficult to walk downhill. After falling down one, I decided it was just easier to sit down and slide down the others. These were short, safe glides, unlike the wild slides near the top of the mountain.

Upon reaching Long Pond Road, I turned right and headed up the gradual hill to return to my car at the Bald Mountain parking area.

I didn't run into another soul for the entire hike. I did hear a couple snowmobiles while I was up on the mountain; and on the return walk up the road I spotted some fresh snowshoe tracks across the ice on Long Pond.
 



Long Pond Road looking south (photo by Webmaster)


Tree by Long Pond (photo by Webmaster)



White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 


VT - Northeast

  Driving Directions   

Winter Parking:
  • Since Long Pond Road isn't plowed all the way to the trailhead, winter hikers must park at the trailhead for Bald Mountain. Do not park at the end of the plowed section of Long Pond Road as this would block snowmobile access.
  • From the junction of Routes 5 and 5A in West Burke, Vermont, head north on Rt. 5A.
  • After 9.7 miles on Rt. 5A, turn right onto the gravel Long Pond Road. Lake Willoughby runs along the left side of Rt. 5A at this point and on the right, on the corner of Rt. 5A and Long Pond Road is the Willoughby Lake Store (closed in winter).
  • Travel on Long Pond Road, mostly uphill, for 2.1 miles, just 0.1 past the fishing access area on the short side of Long Pond.
  • Turn left to park in a roomy lot. A trail sign for Bald Mountain will be visible at the back of the lot although that is not the object of today's hike.

Summer Parking:
  • Follow the directions above, but continue on Long Pond Road for 0.5 mile past the Bald Mountain parking area.
  • Turn left and park in a small parking area directly next to the road.
  • There's no trailhead sign but the parking area is fairly obvious.
 

 

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