QUICK TRAIL FACTS
- Preserve Size: 3,191 acres
- Trail Mileage: ~8.6 miles there and back
- Pets: yes
- Difficulty: challenging
- Sights: Gorgeous views, mountain bog
My sister and I hiked this Mahoosuc trail (a section of the Appalachian Trail) on a beautiful holiday weekend in October, close to peak foliage, and we were surprised at how few people we saw after getting beyond Table Rock! The lore of the trail, according to a fellow we met who hikes the mountain frequently, is that many hikers are drawn to the gigantic and impressive Old Speck Mountain across Route 26, leading to a quieter experience on the north side of Grafton Notch State Park and Mahoosuc Public Lands. I wonder.
Whether or not you meet hikers along the way, including chatty AT thru hikers, this is a fabulous there-and-back trail, with views from two high points — West Peak (~3,680 feet) and the final summit of East Peak, at 3,812 feet. The park says the total mileage of this hike is 7.6 miles, but our GPS indicated it’s longer — about 8.6 miles, or 4.3 miles one way to the summit. The good news is that while there are strenuous climbs, they are interspersed with mellower sections.
From Route 26, the hike starts relatively steeply, crossing and then following a stream. You’ll pass two intersections with trails to Table Rock, one close to the start of the hike, and the second at about 0.9 miles. The trail continues to climb for another mile, skirting a small mountain called Hedgehog Hill, before hitting a relatively level middle leg. When you reach the junction to the 0.1-mile spur to the lean-to, at roughly 2.5 miles, get ready to start climbing again. You’ll head up a steep section for approximately 1.1 miles, with the conifers getting steadily shorter around you, to reach the first of the great views from an open patch of ledge on West Peak.
Take a breather, look at the route ahead — you have a very clear vision of your final 1.2 miles. It looks more intimidating than it actually is! From West Peak, descend a short steep leg (~240 feet), which includes a wooden ladder, to a beautiful boggy dip between the peaks. The final stretch includes a steep climb up exposed rock ledge to East Peak’s long, flat, open summit. We encountered high winds. Go the length of the summit, following the winding, stone-edged path and string of cairns to the summit cairn and intersection with the long-distance Grafton Notch Loop Trail.
Directions: The trailhead leaves from the western end of Grafton Notch State Park and Route 26. The parking area is very large, but if it is full, people appear to park with no problems along the wide shoulder of the road. To get to the trailhead from Route 2 in Newry, turn onto Route 26 and drive for about 12 miles to the Appalachian Trail crossing.