Mount Martha and Owl's Head
Cherry Mountain

Mountains:  Mt. Martha (3573'), Owl's Head (3258')
Trails:  Cherry Mountain Trail, Martha’s Mile
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views
Distance:  5.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2450 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 3:55  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 5:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  08/18/2009 (Tuesday)  
Last Updated:  08/25/2009  
Weather:  Hazy, hot, and humid
Author:  Alex Clogston

Trail Junction (photo by Alex Clogston)
Trail Junction (photo by Alex Clogston)

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike to the summits of Mount Martha and Owl's Head: two peaks on Cherry Mountain which is to the west of the northern Presidentials. Mount Martha offers views to Franconia Ridge and Owl's Head has excellent views to the Presidentials, including Mount Washington. Mount Martha is included on New Hampshire's 100-highest list.

Mount Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)
Mount Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)
  • Start on Cherry Mountain Trail from the parking area on Route 115.
  • Follow the trail for 1.7 miles until reaching a T-junction at a ridge.
  • Turn left onto the trail that connects to Mount Martha while Cherry Mountain Trail goes to the right, eventually coming to an end on Cherry Mountain Road.
  • After 0.2 mile, you will reach the summit of Mount Martha which has some views as well as some supports for a fire tower that used to there.
  • From Mount Martha, pick up Martha's Mile which runs to the northeast.
  • After 0.8 mile on Martha's Mile, you will first encounter the view ledges, and just above them, the summit of Owl's Head. The ledgy outlook offers outstanding views.
  • After enjoying the scenery, retrace your steps, first back to Mount Martha, then 0.2 mile beyond that, be sure to take a right-hand turn in order to return to your vehicle on Route 115.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Cherry Mountain Trailhead on Rt. 115 (1650') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Cherry Mountain Trail/Connector to Mt. Martha (3370') 1.7 1.7
Mt. Martha summit (3573') 0.2 1.9
Owl's Head summit (3258') 0.8 2.7
Mt. Martha summit (3573') 0.8 3.5
Jct. Cherry Mountain Trail/Connector to Mt. Martha (3370') 0.2 3.7
Cherry Mountain Trailhead on Rt. 115 (1650') 1.7 5.4

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Trail signs on Mount Martha
(photo by Alex Clogston)
Trail signs on Mount Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)


 

Trail map of hike route to Mt. Martha and Owl's Head on Cherry Mountain (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Owl's Head – a spur of Cherry Mountain, not the peak in the Pemigewasset Wilderness – has been on my list of places to visit ever since I saw it on my drive home from my first trip to the northern Presidentials. When seen off to the east from the area of the junction of Routes 115 and 115A, it's a very striking peak. It rises into a nearly perfectly-shaped cone, almost begging to be hiked up to. I always thought it must be a great spot to visit, even if it were a wooded summit – but I did a bit more research afterwards and found out that it has one of the most highly touted views of the Presidentials, seen from a ledge just below the summit. This sealed the deal on my visiting it.

While I had originally planned to directly ascend Owl's Head from the north, I changed my mind a few days before the hike. I decided I would hike up Cherry Mountain Trail and visit Mount Martha first, the highest peak of Cherry Mountain. This extended the hike a bit and gave me more to explore.

Trail Junction (photo by Alex Clogston)
Trail Junction (photo by Alex Clogston)

The few days before I had done this hike had been very hazy, hot, and humid and today was no different. I got an early start in hopes that I would beat the worst of the humidity. The trail was moderately steep from the outset, but had excellent footing and was nice and dry, making it fairly quick work to reach the ridge. I arrived at the junction with the trail to Mount Martha's summit in a little over an hour after leaving my car. This particular spot was very pleasant. It's wide open and has a lot of ferns and other low growth due to it being an old road. Whether it was used by past logging operations, or to access the fire tower that once stood at the summit, or both, I'm not entirely sure. It does make for a wonderfully peaceful little spot though.

A few minutes later I was at the site of the fire tower at the summit area. There are a couple little viewpoints here, one with a little bench, the other being past the tower a few yards with a great view of the Twins and Franconia Ridge. It was very hazy, which made the views obscured, but it was still sunny and a glorious day to be out in the woods. I set off for Owl's Head on the lovely little section of trail between the two peaks known as Martha's Mile. This went by rather quickly, even with a couple stops to look at some interesting plants, like the Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora). Indian pipes are also called ghost plants which is a bit confusing because the similar term, "ghost pipe," is applied to a different plant: one-flowered cancerroot.

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) (photo by Alex Clogston)
Indian pipes (photo by Alex Clogston)

Before long I was making the short climb up to the ledge below Owl's Head summit, which only had one spot that was a little tricky, but easily accomplished with the help of tree handgrips. Even with all the haze, this was the highlight of the trip. I took in the sights briefly, before climbing up to the summit, only a few yards farther. The actual summit is wooded but is still a great little spot, with quite a few viewpoints nearby. Just below the summit on the north side is a little outlook to the north and east out to Route 2, and another view out to the Mount Washington Regional Airport, and farther northwest on clearer days.

I returned to the main ledge and dropped my pack. I ate an early lunch and studied my haze-enshrouded surroundings. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the entire line of the Presidential Range became barely discernable in the distance. It took some squinting, but I could make it out all the way from the north peaks down to Crawford Notch. This must be an incredible sight on a clear day. Perhaps a crystal clear winter day? Hmmm... mental note taken.

Anyway, I sat for a good long while before hoisting the pack and departing back the way I came. I met a couple about a mile from the trailhead, these being the only people I had seen all day. I was glad to finally know what the top of that wooded cone looked like and to have added Mount Martha to the itinerary. It quickly became a personal favorite and I'm sure it won't be long before I return.
 
Trail sign for Martha's Mile
(photo by Alex Clogston)
Trail sign for Martha's Mile (photo by Alex Clogston)


Trail signs at the T-junction 0.2 mile away from Mount Martha
(photo by Alex Clogston)
Trail signs for a junction near Mt. Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)
 
Hidden view of Franconia Ridge from Mount Martha's summit (photo by Alex Clogston)
Franconia Ridge from Mt. Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)
 


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The Cherry Mountain Trailhead is located in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire on Rt. 115.

From the South:
  • From the junction of Routes 302 and 3 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), head north on Rt. 3.
  • After 2.1 miles, turn right at a flashing light onto Rt. 115.
  • Travel on Rt. 115 for 1.9 miles.
  • Turn right into the parking area which is opposite Lennon Road.

From the North:
  • From Rt. 2 in Jefferson, turn southwest onto Rt. 115.
  • Travel on Rt. 115 for 7.8 miles.
  • Turn left into the parking area which is opposite Lennon Road. Be sure you are at the Cherry Mountain Trailhead parking area and not the one for Owl's Head Trail which you will pass by about 4 miles earlier.

View northeast from Owl's Head (photo by Alex Clogston)
View northeast from Owl's Head (photo by Alex Clogston)

Other Notes   

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

Rates:
  • $3 per day
  • $5 for a week-long pass
  • $20 for a year-long pass
  • $25 for two year-long passes (one household/two cars)

Fire tower supports on the summit of Mount Martha
(photo by Alex Clogston)
Fire tower supports on Mt. Martha (photo by Alex Clogston)
 

Benchmark on Owl's Head (photo by Alex Clogston)
Benchmark on Owl's Head (photo by Alex Clogston)

 

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