North Sugarloaf and Middle Sugarloaf

Mountains:  North Sugarloaf (2310'), Middle Sugarloaf (2539')
Trails:  Sugarloaf Trail, Trestle Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Little River Mountains
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summits, views, river
Distance:  4.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1200 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:36   Typical: 2:40  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 4:30  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  11/18/2000 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  08/24/2009  
Weather:  20 degrees, partly cloudy
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This hike hits the two lovely summits of North Sugarloaf and Middle Sugarloaf which offer excellent views. It finishes up with a loop roughly paralleling the Zealand River.

  • Start on Trestle Trail which is the same as Sugarloaf Trail for the first 0.2 mile.
  • Turn left at 0.2 mile to follow Sugarloaf Trail.
  • Where the trail splits, first turn right and go to North Sugarloaf.
  • Then retrace your steps to the split and go straight to access Middle Sugarloaf.
  • Retrace your steps again back to the split and turn right to head back down to the junction of Trestle Trail.
  • Upon hitting Trestle Trail, instead of turning right for the direct route back to the parking area, turn left and follow the loop trail which brings you back to the parking area after 0.8 mile. Note that at the time I hiked this, there was a footbridge over Zealand River. That was washed out in 2005 and still not replaced as of 2009, so crossing the river may not be feasible. Still it's worth it to walk to the crossing and then to retrace your steps; the walk on the opposite side of the river isn't as nice anyway.

Place         Split
Sugarloaf/Trestle Trailhead 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. Trestle Trail/Sugarloaf Trail 0.2 0.2    
Split in Sugarloaf Trail 0.7 0.9 0:37 0:37
North Sugarloaf 0.3 1.2 0:15 0:52
Split in Sugarloaf Trail 0.3 1.5 0:12 1:04
Middle Sugarloaf 0.5 2.0 0:21 1:25
Split in Sugarloaf Trail 0.5 2.5 0:22 1:47
Jct. Sugarloaf Trail/Trestle Trail 0.7 3.2 0:28 2:15
Parking area 0.8 4.0 0:21 2:36


The trail (photo by Webmaster)

  Trail Guide   

This trail provided me with a perfect winter hike. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, making everything pretty, but not so much ice to make it too treacherous (but enough to keep me cautious). It was a relatively short hike and I was rewarded with great outlooks from both North and Middle Sugarloaf's summits.

It was 20 degrees so I started out with a light pair of leggings, a long sleeved t-shirt, a fleece top, a lightweight shell, gloves, and earband. The trailhead starts on the opposite side of the river as the parking area. The first 0.2 mile runs right next to Zealand River and I had to step over several tributaries eagerly joining the flow.

At 0.2 mile, I turned left, leaving the Trestle Trail behind for now. Shortly after the turnoff I entered a hemlock grove where rambunctious black capped chickadees were chattering away. The trail was muddy and icy in spots - the ice not quite thick enough to prevent a footfall from breaking through to the puddles beneath.

At one point the trail breaks out onto a wide dirt road. The trail resumes on the other side and there is a "trail" sign. The route is well marked throughout with yellow paint blazes on trees (and at the summits, on rocks) and occasional wooden signs.

Boulders (photo by Webmaster)

After about 15 minutes, I came upon some fantastic boulders. They were about the size of a cottage. Two standing a few feet apart, looked like their sides would mate and were probably one rock eons ago. The rocks were covered with a mixture of ferns, lichen, and moss.

There were a few more huge boulders scattered later along the trail and plenty of smaller sized ones. And there was no shortage of greenery either: tall hemlocks and firs and the tiny shining clubmoss and the tree clubmoss. Also of interest was fungi attached to trees and projecting itself outward perpendicularly. One tree had several of these fungi, high up along the trunk, spaced apart to look as if they could form footholds for someone climbing up.

A bit after the rocks, the grade changed from easy to more moderate, and shortly before reaching the col where the trail splits, it was steep. Painstaking effort went into building this steep section of the trail as it is composed of boulder steps. And one part of the trail after that, that's not steep enough for steps, has instead, boulders placed along the side of the trail, offering protection against sliding off the edge of the trail and down the slope.

Ladder (photo by Webmaster) I was toasty warm while climbing but upon reaching the col where the trail splits, I was less protected from the wind. Upon reaching the split, I was on a little ridge and through the leafless trees, could catch views on both sides of the divide.

I turned right to tackle North Sugarloaf first. The route started out flat, then descended a bit and went back to flat before climbing upwards to the ledges. Upon breaking out of the trees the views are great. But don't settle for that - the trail angles to the right where there's even more open ledges so I ended up being able to get views in almost every direction.

Since my legs had been chilly several times, I put my fleece pants over my leggings at this point and so even my legs were comfy warm for the rest of the hike. After lunching in the sun, I retraced my steps back to the col.

At the split, I continued straight ahead to check out Middle Sugarloaf. This route also started out flat but ended up climbing up steeply with a couple icy spots. The snow was a little heavier here and was clinging to the rocks and the evergreens making for a winter wonderland. One steep section over a big boulder is aided by a ladder, making the trail a lot less treacherous.

Upon breaking out of the trees, it was a similar feeling to North Sugarloaf, where I was greeted immediately by great views. And again, there were lots more open ledges available for exploring, giving even more views that what could be obtained on North. Off in one direction the town of Twin River could be spied. And in another direction were lots of mountains that had been dusted in snow. Farther behind those mountains was the bright, snowy, white ridge of the Presidentials.

From the summit of Sugarloaf (photo by Webmaster)

I lounged around for a while and finally headed back down. At the split, this time I turned right so that I was following the main branch that leads to the parking area. When I reached the junction of Sugarloaf and Trestle Trail, there was still daylight left, so instead of turning right (which would have brought me to the trailhead in 0.2 mile), I turned left to complete the loop that Trestle Trail makes.

The route followed the river, at first right along its banks. Then it gradually ascended to a spot where there was a big rock and some good lookouts (thanks to the leafless trees) and the river was roaring down below. After the rock, the path descended smoothly and eventually crossed a dirt road.

Right after the crossing was a huge boulder, with one edge forming a lofty overhang. At the foot of the overhang was a large, smooth rock resembling a table top. It seemed to be a perfect picnic or rest spot... sitting under the protection of the overhang while taking in the peacefulness of the surrounding hemlock forest.

From the summit of Sugarloaf (photo by Webmaster) After the rock stop, the trail curved around to come out on the wide dirt road again. It followed the road for about 50 yards, and then re-entered the woods on the right. Shortly after that, it descended to the river and crossed it on a cool wooden bridge with railings on both sides. It was fun to stand on the bridge and watch the boulder strewn river roaring under my feet. Note that this bridge was washed out in 2005 and still not replaced as of 2009 so crossing the river may not be feasible; if not, simply retrace your steps on the Trestle Trail back to the parking area.

On the other side of the bridge, the path climbed up a bit and ended up coming out onto a paved road that's part of a campground. Although the campground was totally deserted at this time of year, it felt weird to be in "civilization" on a trail that otherwise felt really remote and wild. To add insult to injury, two very smelly sets of outhouses had to be passed by before making a right hand turn back into the woods.

The woods trail shortly terminated back at the parking area - rather than the actual trailhead on the other side of the bridge. This end of the trail was only marked with a cross-country skier sign; whereas the other end (seems like the official "beginning" of the loop) had a hiker symbol sign in addition to a "Trestle Trail" sign.

Perched in a tree next to the parking area was a ruffed grouse. Its fat body caused the branch to dip down under his weight and it looked like he would fall right out of the tree. But he didn't - instead it looked like he was chewing on some of its twigs.


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is located in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire on Zealand Road which is found on the southern side of Route 302.

From the East:
  • Traveling on Rt. 302 West, Zealand Road is about 9.2 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site, and about 6.5 miles west of the AMC Highland Center. Zealand Road as well as both of these landmarks are all on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Turn left onto Zealand Road.
  • Follow Zealand Road for 0.9 mile and look for a parking area on the right.
  • The parking lot is just before the bridge over Zealand River and the actual trailhead is just after the bridge, also on the right.

From the West:
  • From the junction of Routes 302 and 3 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), go east on Route 302.
  • After 2.1 miles, turn right onto Zealand Road.
  • Follow Zealand Road for 0.9 mile and look for a parking area on the right.
  • The parking lot is just before the bridge over Zealand River and the actual trailhead is just after the bridge, also on the right.

Winter: Zealand Road is closed to vehicular travel during the winter, although hikers and skiers are welcome to use it. Snowmobile trails also intersect the road in a couple spots.

Check out the White Mountain National Forest's road status page for the most up-to-date information on road closures.

Other Notes   

WMNF Recreational Pass

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.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

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