Iron Mountain, South Cliffs, and Iron Mines

Destinations:  Iron Mountain (2726), South Cliffs (2430), Iron Mines (2100')
Trails:  Iron Mountain Trail, Iron Mines Spur
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest
Location:  Jackson, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, cliffs, iron mines
Distance:  3.6 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1400 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 3:00   Typical: 2:45  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 4:00   Typical: 4:15  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/03/2009 (Thursday)  
Last Updated:  09/09/2009  
Weather:  80 degrees, sunny, clear
Author:  Karl Searl

View from the South Cliffs (photo by Karl Searl)
View from the South Cliffs (photo by Karl Searl)

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike up to the summit of Iron Mountain, and then partially down the other side to visit the South Cliffs that offer fantastic views, and also to visit some old iron mines. The actual summit is wooded and there are the remains of a fire tower there.

  • Start on Iron Mountain Trail which leaves from Iron Mountain Road / FR 119, 10 yards up from the parking area on the left.
  • Walk for 0.2 mile through a large field, then a small field and up a small grown-in ski slope where you will then enter the woods.
  • After another 0.1 mile, you will enter the White Mountain National Forest (not marked).
  • Climb for another 0.6 mile over a badly eroded trail to reach the summit of Iron Mountain and the remains of an old fire tower.
  • Continue across the summit, still on Iron Mountain Trail, for another 0.7 mile to the South Cliffs outlook. Keep straight where a spur path turns left; we will check out the spur on the way back.
  • After enjoying fantastic views to the south and southwest, retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the spur.
  • Turn right onto Iron Mines Spur and descend for 0.2 mile which will bring you to the old iron mines where there is a water-filled shaft, some drill holes, and tailings.
  • After checking out the old mine, retrace your steps for 0.2 mile back up Iron Mines Spur until meeting Iron Mountain Trail.
  • Turn right onto Iron Mountain Trail and retrace your steps uphill for 0.6 mile back up to the summit, and then downhill on the other side of the summit for 0.9 mile to return to your vehicle.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Iron Mountain Trailhead (1920') 0.0 0.0
Iron Mtn. summit (2726') 0.9 0.9
Jct. Iron Mountain Trail/Iron Mine Spur 0.6 1.5
Iron Mtn. South Cliffs (2430') 0.1 1.6
Jct. Iron Mountain Trail/Iron Mine Spur 0.1 1.7
Iron Mines (2100') 0.2 1.9
Jct. Iron Mountain Trail/Iron Mine Spur 0.2 2.1
Iron Mtn. summit (2726') 0.6 2.7
Iron Mountain Trailhead (1920') 0.9 3.6

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging

Trailhead (photo by Karl Searl)
Trailhead (photo by Karl Searl)
 










 

Trail map of hike route to Iron Mountain summit, Iron Mountain South Cliffs, and old iron mines (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Our trip started mid-morning as we ventured out to find the trailhead. The road up to the trail was an upgrade, dirt road that was very narrow, but certainly passable and no problem for my Wrangler. I have read that this road is not passable in the winter or muddy seasons. We came to an area that had parking on each side of the dirt road. This parking area has extraordinary views to the north of the southern Presidentials and Mount Washington in particular. The setting at this point is very picturesque. It is an old farm with great stonewalls, a field and an old farmhouse.

Surprisingly, there was one other vehicle in the parking area when we arrived; however, these people were on their way out before we even started the hike. We spoke with them for a bit and they informed us that they never made it to the top of the mountain because the trail was too rough. We didn't let that intimidate us and decided to push on.

View from the field (photo by Karl Searl)
View from the field (photo by Karl Searl)

The trail starts on the left side of the road a few yards up from the parking area. There is a small wooden sign that simply reads "TRAIL" on a tree next to the start point. We first crossed a stone wall into a field. We traversed over the field and again got great scenery from Mount Washington. We snapped a few more photos and pushed into a wooded area. This wooded area only lasted about 20 yards and then opened up to a smaller field, in which there were many blueberry bushes. After the small field, the trail entered a younger growth forest that I believe was an old ski slope, which has grown in. The trail was narrow at this point but still pretty easy to follow.

After climbing moderately for a bit, the trail widened and entered an older growth forest, which was a more familiar setting for a WMNF (White Mountain National Forest) trail. Along with the scenery change, the trail also changed. It became steep and very difficult to climb due to erosion. It was obvious that the trail has not received any maintenance in years and that it serves as a main runoff for water coming off the mountain. There are many loose rocks and roots, so use extreme caution when ascending. I found myself using my poles for the way up which I don't typically do. After this steep portion of the climb, the trail leveled off a bit and we found a few open viewpoints to the north. It was a great place to sit down, drink some water, eat a Fiber-One bar and take a deep breath of mountain air. It was a very clear day and it was a great spot to view Mount Washington (including the observatory buildings) and the Wildcats.

View of the Wildcats from Iron Mountain Trail on the north side of the mountain (photo by Karl Searl)
View of the Wildcats from Iron Mountain Trail on the north side of the mountain (photo by Karl Searl)

After these viewpoints, we moved forward to the summit, which wasn't far away. The summit was wooded and did not provide any views. However, there was an old broken down, wooden fire tower that once stood on Iron Mountain. I'm not sure of the history on this or how long ago the fire tower was active. I was also surprised to see a geological survey marker on a boulder. I didn't think it was traveled or popular enough to get awarded one of these things. After taking a few minutes to explore, we headed down the south side to the South Cliffs. There was an old sign that pointed the way, although it was broken. Again, something that needs some attention.

Cairns led us over the summit and down another steep trail on the south side. Although it was steep, it was a much easier trail to move over than the north side's trail. After descending for a while, the trail started to level off. We noticed more signs of wildlife on this side of the mountain including many tracks and moose droppings. We came to the South Cliffs outlook and the views just opened up. The cliffs were large and open and the panoramic views were breathtaking. We could see south and southwest for miles. It was easy to make out Chocorua, the Tripyramids and what we believe were mountains in Franconia Notch out in the distance. The clear skies obviously helped with this. The views from the South Cliffs were worth the hike.

View from the South Cliffs (photo by Karl Searl)
View from the South Cliffs (photo by Karl Searl)

After taking in the views for a while, we headed back the way we came, back toward the summit. Unfortunately, the Iron Mountain Trail does not network in with any other trail system and does not provide a loop. However, we did take a small detour down a spur path near the South Cliffs, which is off of Iron Mountain Trail and leads to old iron ore mines that were once active on the east ridges. This 0.2-mile spur path was not well marked (a few rocks oddly placed which we thought may or may not be the trail) and was very steep in places. The markings for the trail consisted of two or three rock cairns that were difficult to locate. At a few points, we had to walk around and look for these markers to ensure we didn't get lost. When we came to what is left of the iron mines, it didn't seem to be worth the 0.2-mile detour. We found an old mineshaft flooded with water, a few holes drilled in some rocks and an old pile of iron ore rocks. After exploring for a few minutes, we headed back to Iron Mountain Trail.

Remains of the old fire tower on the summit (photo by Karl Searl)
Remains of the old fire tower on the summit (photo by Karl Searl)

We found ascending the south side to the summit was easier than the north side trail due to the condition. Descending the north side proved to be a bit difficult and we slipped a couple times taking some light falls. Poles definitely should be used on the way back down the north side. All in all, this was a great day of hiking. There were really great views on both the north and south sides. I hope one day, the Iron Mountain Trail receives more foot travel, which would help get it the attention it deserves.

Remains of the old fire tower on the summit (photo by Karl Searl)
Remains of the old fire tower on the summit (photo by Karl Searl)
 



Iron mine holes in rock
(photo by Karl Searl)
Iron mine holes in rock (photo by Karl Searl)







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NH - Central East



  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for Iron Mountain is located in Jackson, New Hampshire.

From the South:
  • From the junction of Routes 16 and 302 in Glen, turn north onto Rt. 16.
  • Piles of iron ore rock (photo by Karl Searl)
    Piles of iron ore rock (photo by Karl Searl)
  • Travel about 2.7 miles, then turn left onto Green Hill Road. This is 0.2 mile north of the red covered bridge in Jackson.
  • Follow Green Hill Road for 1.4 miles (pavement ends at 1.2 miles) which will bring you to a fork in the road.
  • Bear left at the fork, which is Iron Mountain Road / FR 119 and travel for another 1.2 miles. At 2.6 miles from Route 16, there are parking areas on either side of the road which are provided by the land owner.

From the North:
  • From the junction of Routes 16 and 2 in Gorham, turn south onto Rt. 16.
  • Travel for about 20 miles, then turn right onto Green Hill Road. If you reach the red covered bridge in Jackson, you have gone 0.2 mile too far.
  • Follow Green Hill Road for 1.4 miles (pavement ends at 1.2 miles) which will bring you to a fork in the road.
  • Bear left at the fork, which is Iron Mountain Road / FR 119 and travel for another 1.2 miles. At 2.6 miles from Route 16, there are parking areas on either side of the road which are provided by the land owner.

Access Restrictions:
  • Iron Mountain Road / FR 119 is closed in the winter.
  • Iron Mountain Road / FR 119 is not passable in mud season.
  • Iron Mountain Road / FR 119 is very narrow, a bit rough, and steep.

View of Mount Washington from Iron Mountain Trail on the north side of the mountain (photo by Karl Searl)
View of Mount Washington from Iron Mountain Trail on the north side of the mountain (photo by Karl Searl)
 



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