Mt. Whiteface, Mt. Passaconaway, and Hibbard Mtn.

Mountains:  Mt. Whiteface (4020'), Mt. Passaconaway (4043'), Hibbard Mtn. (2940')
Trails:  Blueberry Ledge Trail, Rollins Trail, Dicey's Mill Trail, Walden Trail, Wonalancet Range Trail, The Short Cut
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Sandwich Range Wilderness
Location:  Albany, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, 4000-footers, rock scrambles, loop hike
Distance:  12.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  4350 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 8:30  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 11:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  04/11/2009 (Saturday)  
Weather:  About 40 degrees, partly cloudy
Author:  Bill Mahony
Companion:  Hunter (a dog)

Looking west from an outlook near Mt. Passaconaway's summit (photo by Bill Mahony)


Route Summary   

This ambitious loop hike in the Sandwich Range Wilderness summits Mounts Whiteface and Passaconaway and offers views into The Bowl. The Bowl is a secluded cirque enclosed by Mounts Whiteface, Passaconaway, and Wonalancet. Although the actual summits comprising this formation are wooded, there are views from nearby ledges on each of the peaks.

If conditions are good, you can also summit Mount Wonalancet (2760') by hiking an extra 0.4 mile.

From Ferncroft parking area to the view ledges of Mount Whiteface:
  • From the Ferncroft parking area, walk out the way you drove in, following the gravel road (FR 337) for 0.1 mile.
  • Upon reaching Ferncroft Road, turn right and walk along the road for 0.2 mile until reaching Squirrel Bridge.
  • Turn left across the bridge following a private gravel road, and then turning left into the woods after 0.2 mile, just before the last house on the road. Dicey's Mill Trail continues straight ahead so be sure to turn left here to get on the right path.
  • After entering the woods, you will meet a junction with Pasture Path on the left. Go straight to follow the blue-blazed Blueberry Ledge Trail which we'll be taking all the way up to Mount Whiteface's open ledges just below its true summit.
  • About 0.1 mile later, Blueberry Ledge Cutoff will bear right; stay straight/left to remain on Blueberry Ledge Trail.
  • After walking 0.3 mile, you will reach another junction. McCrillis Path turns sharply left but you should keep straight ahead on Blueberry Ledge Trail.
  • At a large cairn, you will reach the upper junction with Blueberry Ledge Cutoff after hiking another 1.1 miles. The cutoff will come in from the right and you should stay straight ahead still on Blueberry Ledge Trail.
  • After 1.2 miles, Tom Wiggin Trail goes right; stay straight on Blueberry Ledge Trail.
  • Climb for 0.7 mile which will bring you to the south summit of Mount Whiteface and the junctions with McCrillis Trail and Rollins Trail. This lower summit of Whiteface offers views from its open ledges.

From Mount Whiteface to Mount Passaconaway:
  • To continue the trek, pick up Rollins Trail which leaves the ledges to the north (McCrillis Trail leaves to the left).
  • The path will finish the ascent to the lower knob of Whiteface and then descend into a col between the two summits. Here, just 0.1 mile from the open ledges, Kate Sleeper Trail leaves to the left; continue straight to stay on Rollins Trail which we will follow to its end.
  • Trail signs at the junction of Dicey's Mill Trail and East Loop (photo by Bill Mahony)
  • Climb again for another 0.2 mile to reach the true summit of Mount Whiteface. This is a wooded peak with no views or indications that you've reached the top.
  • Continue along Rollins Trail for another 2.2 miles where it will end upon meeting Dicey's Mill Trail. Rollins Trail will bring you through mostly gradual descents but also some steep pitches and some ascents. Keep an eye out as there are a couple good outlooks along this path into The Bowl.
  • Upon meeting Dicey's Mill Trail at a T-junction, turn left onto Dicey's Mill Trail which we will take all the way up to the summit of Mount Passaconaway.
  • Climb for 0.2 mile which will bring you to a junction with East Loop. Be sure to bear left here to continue on Dicey's Mill Trail while East Loop turns to the right.
  • Continue for another 0.7 mile which will bring you to a point near Passaconaway's summit where Dicey's Mill Trail ends and Walden Trail begins. You may have limited views in this area during winter with bare trees and the snowpack giving you more height.
  • Turn right on a spur path and follow it for 40 yards to reach the true summit which is wooded.
  • For views, you have a couple options. You can simply walk along Walden Trail for 90 yards which brings you to an outlook to the east. Or, before reaching this viewpoint, descend a steep side path (the abandoned Downes Brook Slide Trail) to the left for 0.3 mile which will bring you to a north outlook.

From Mount Passaconaway back to Ferncroft parking lot:
  • From Mount Passaconaway, descend on Walden Trail soon passing the east outlook and then later passing an outlook to the south. After 0.6 mile you will reach a junction with East Loop (whose other end you met on the way up via Dicey's Mill Trail). Veer left to stay on Walden Trail.
  • Just 0.1 mile later, you will encounter a junction with Square Ledge Trail on the left; bear right to stay on Walden Trail.
  • Stay on Walden Trail, through its ups and downs, for 1.2 miles until reaching the junction with Wonalancet Range Trail. Here, bear right to pick up Wonalancet Range Trail while Walden Trail continues to the left.
  • Follow Wonalancet Range Trail for 0.5 mile which will bring you to the summit of Hibbard Mountain. This summit is wooded but has good outlooks nearby.
  • Continue on Wonalancet Range Trail for 0.5 mile until you reach the upper junction with The Short Cut. En route you will pass an outlook to the west. Then look for a short spur on the left which provides an outlook to the south.
  • For this hike, we turn left onto The Short Cut and rejoin Wonalancet Range Trail after 0.4 mile. If you wish to summit Mount Wonalancet, you should continue straight here on Wonalancet Range Trail which will bring you over the wooded summit, then down to view ledges just below the summit, and then will finally meet the lower junction of The Short Cut after 0.8 mile. So this option adds 0.4 mile to the hike and can be a real challenge to do in the winter with the steep, icy ledges that you'll have to traverse.
  • Upon reaching the lower junction of The Short Cut and Wonalancet Range Trail, turn left when coming from The Short Cut (or keep straight if descending from Wonalancet's summit).
  • Descend for 1.4 miles until bumping into Old Mast Road where Wonalancet Trail ends.
  • Turn right onto Old Mast Road (a trail) and follow it for 0.1 mile to return to the Ferncroft parking area from which you started.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Ferncroft parking area (1140') 0.0 0.0
Lower summit of Mt. Whiteface (3990') 3.9 3.9
Mt. Passaconaway (4043') 3.4 7.3
Hibbard Mtn. (2940') 2.4 9.7
Upper jct. Wonalancet Range Trail/The Short Cut (2600') 0.5 10.2
Ferncroft parking area (1140') 1.9 12.1

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Walden Trail (photo by Bill Mahony)


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Trail map of hike route around The Bowl to Mt. Whiteface, Mt. Passaconaway, and Hibbard Mtn. (map by Webmaster)

 




  Trail Guide   

I started this loop hike to Mounts Whiteface and Passaconaway expecting rain so I had packed a bit heavy. I also brought my dog Hunter with me with some trepidation because bears are active now and the trail conditions may not be for dogs. The start was cloudy and cool (about 40 degrees) at the base and starts at about 1,200 feet.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Ascent to Mount Whiteface's Ledges
From Mount Whiteface to Mount Passaconaway
Descent from Mount Passaconaway via Hibbard Mountain


Ascent to Mount Whiteface's Ledges   

You have to walk through private property for the first half-mile so you need to stay on the road and follow the well marked trail signs. Once we crossed the Wonalancet River (on a bridge) the trail became private and quiet. We saw a sign that gave me pause: No Bear Dogs Allowed!

The trail was still covered with deep snow, but since it was only 7:20 a.m. it was hard and easy to stay on top of without postholing. The trail was a low slope at this point. As we ascended into the blueberry barrens the sun began to poke out, the view became incredible and the snow disappeared. This is a good place to stop and take a breather, but I like to push on.

The trail up to this point is a reasonably easy hike up although there were a few short steep parts. Blueberry Ledge Cutoff comes in from the right so you have to follow the stone cairns, blue blazes and trail signs. Overall Blueberry Ledge Trail is well marked.

As I hiked up, a pair of chickadees roosted just above my head to sing to each other. I took a picture with my phone, but you just can't see them well even though they were only four feet away. Looks like spring is here.

View of The Bowl with Mt. Passaconaway to the left (photo by Bill Mahony)


The trail starts getting much steeper here and even though I had bought some new gear to help regulate temperature I was sweating like crazy and stripped down to a sweater only with just my light hiking pants on my legs. Some snow came back to the trail as I ascended, but did not require crampons or even much worry for footing (yet). Of course I had just climbed to just above 3,000 feet (on the way to 4,000), so some work is expected. The temperature was still around 40 degrees because the sun warmed up while the altitude kept it cool.

The final ascent to the ledges below Mount Whiteface's summit was beautiful. There were frequent views to the south and to The Bowl with Mount Passaconaway behind it (to the left). I picked this route because of the hike around The Bowl, and since it was south-facing I hoped it would have less snow at this time of year. The side of Whiteface is impressive and is a good vantage point for photos. I was able to take a photo from the rock side of Mount Whiteface showing Hunter and a vista of Mount Washington in the background.

Hunter checking out the views from Whiteface's ledges with Mt. Washington in the background (photo by Bill Mahony)


The lower summit comes shortly after this point and requires some scrambling and hand climbing, but did not require crampons, but since I had just bought a pair of microspikes from EMS I figured I'd try them out and see if I like them. They worked great for the final 100 yards to the ledges of Mount Whiteface, where I could see that they had an ice storm last night and there was a beautiful view of Mount Chocorua to the east. I had to get pictures of Chocorua since I had hiked it just last week.

This lower, ledgy summit of Whiteface was rocky and warming (the sound of ice falling off the trees was constant). There used to be something attached to the top of the mountain, but it's gone now... so the view is good, but not panoramic. You can see Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake, as well as Mount Shaw and a ring of mountains around it that I will hike one of these days. I wasn't done for the day so I continued my journey onto Rollins Trail up to Whiteface's true summit and towards Passaconaway.

View east to Mt. Chocorua from Whiteface's ledges (photo by Bill Mahony)


From Mount Whiteface to Mount Passaconaway   

We started on Rollins Trail and it should more properly be called "Crawllins Trail" because ice from over the winter had made it nearly impassable in some places. There is a point on the trail not far from Whiteface's ledges where the altitude is over 4,000 feet (again) and this is the true summit of the mountain. The snow was very deep on the trail, but since we had summited Mount Whiteface by 9:40 a.m. the snow was well frozen and firm. I left my microspikes on, which was good because the trail runs up and down and even along a ridge that dropped for hundreds of feet. Fortunately for me, you can't see down it like a sheer cliff because it is heavily treed.

Obstructed view to the north from near Mt. Passaconaway's summit (photo by Bill Mahony) There was a light snowfall from the previous night and I could see that someone had climbed up before me this morning, but I never did see them. Rollins Trail does not have much in the way of views, but it is pretty and a nice hike without too much elevation change (it never drops below 3,000 feet). The trail here is not well marked and it was hard to see it in spots.

After a nice walk down Rollins we came to the base of Passaconaway (at about 3,400 feet). The hike up was pretty easy although there are a couple of steep parts. The switchbacks make the climb a little gentler. The views from Passaconaway are not from the summit. The summit is fully treed and looks like a forest. The overlooks to the west and the north are about all you get, although there is another overlook to the east that shows Chocorua.

Descent from Mount Passaconaway via Hibbard Mountain   

So now the hike down begins and a half-hour stop for lunch and dry off. I had to change clothes and remove my boots to dry off. My wool socks just needed to air out, but my shirt was drenched and I had to take it off and hang it from my pack to dry. I ate my PB and Fluff sandwiches in the noon sun and considered a nap, but the sound of falling ice kept reminding me of bears and I just couldn't relax.

Taking a break near the base of Wonalancet Range Trail (photo by Bill Mahony) We moved on down the mountain, which was steep. The route down is by Walden Trail. We wanted to head over to Square Ledge, but I started down Square Ledge Trail and was postholing most of the way. The trail was not well marked and I wasn't sure of the direction and it was getting late, so I turned around and headed back to Walden Trail. From there we met another hiker who told me that Square Ledge Trail and Old Mast Road were soft snow and a slog all the way.

At that point I decided to follow the Wonalancet Range Trail instead of going from Walden to Old Mast Road. This was a good choice since we had a hard packed trail and a gentler slope down. We saw lots of moose poop, but never saw (or heard) a moose. We bypassed Mount Wonalancet's summit by taking The Short Cut. We started towards the summit but after 100 yards on soft snow, turned around and went back to The Short Cut. Being somewhat tired of postholing I opted for the easier route. Towards the end of Wonalancet Range Trail there was a beautiful cedar woods where we took a short break before finishing the hike.

The trek was overall very strenuous and about 12 miles. Unless you are comfortable in deep snow, the trip up and down Whiteface is all I would do at this time of year. I look forward to coming back later in the season to get to Square Ledge without all of the snow.
 
The side of Mount Whiteface (photo by Bill Mahony)

 


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for this hike is accessed via the Ferncroft parking area which is located in Albany, New Hampshire, indirectly off of Route 113A.

From I-93:
  • From I-93, take Exit 24 and follow Rt. 3 South to Holderness.
  • From Holderness, get on Rt. 113 and follow it east through its many curves and turns for about 15.5 miles until reaching the junction with Rt. 113A in North Sandwich.
  • Follow Rt. 113A northeast, for 6.7 miles, to Wonalancet.
  • Where Rt. 113A turns sharply right in Wonalancet village, turn left onto Ferncroft Road.
  • Follow Ferncroft Road for 0.5 mile.
  • Turn right onto a gravel road (FR 337) and travel for 0.1 mile.
  • You will arrive at the Ferncroft parking area and kiosk.

From Rt. 16:
  • From Rt. 16 in Chocurua, take Rt. 113 West and follow it for about 3 miles until reaching the junction with Rt. 113A in Tamworth.
  • Follow Rt. 113A northwest, for 6.6 miles, to Wonalancet.
  • Where Rt. 113A turns sharply left in Wonalancet village, turn right onto Ferncroft Road.
  • Follow Ferncroft Road for 0.5 mile.
  • Turn right onto a gravel road (FR 337) and travel for 0.1 mile.
  • You will arrive at the Ferncroft parking area and kiosk.

More Whiteface, Passaconaway, Hibbard, Wonalancet Trail Reports   


Blueberry barrens on Blueberry Ledge Trail (photo by Bill Mahony)

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