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Views from the northern ridgeline from Pawtuckaway. Courtesy photo.




Just-right hikes
Not too hard, not too easy

06/09/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 If you want to enjoy the views of a mountaintop and enough elevation to lend an otherwise easy hike a bit of a challenge, then these trails — with peaks ranging from 721 feet to 1,324 feet high — are for you.

 
North Mountain Trail
Pawtuckaway State Park, 128 Mountain Road, Nottingham, 895-3031, nhstateparks.org
Length: 2 miles one way
Features: Starts at the park entrance and heads north along the northwest face of the northernmost summit in Pawtuckaway. It follows the ridgeline of the north mountain, which opens it up to great views. It includes about a quarter mile of steep hiking but the rest is rolling ridgeline. The summit is at 1,011 feet, higher than the tower summit by about 100 feet. Park operating hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children age 6 to 11, and free for seniors 65 and older.
Why you should go: While the more popular trails in Pawtuckaway are the short Tower Trail and the longer Mountain Trail to South Ridge Trail to get to the fire tower, park manager David Richardson says the North Mountain Trail is far better.
“You get much better views from it,” Richardson said. “It’s been getting more popular over the past few years.”
He says one can also continue hiking past the summit around the east and come upon the boulder field.
“[It’s] definitely our coolest part of the park. It has boulders that are the size of houses up to … about 35 feet tall,” Richardson said.
There are plenty of opportunities to catch sights of wildlife, from great blue herons and bald eagles to moose and deer.
You can also see the “Devil’s Cliff,” which has a big cave in it.
This may be the best year to check out the North Mountain Trail, as Richardson says the Tower Trail is getting worked on this season and the tower may be inaccessible to hikers.
 
Catamount Hill Trail
Bear Brook State Park, 61 Deerfield Road, Allenstown, 485-9869, nhstateparks.org
Length: 1 mile one way
Features: The trailhead begins as a wide path near the Deerfield Road tollbooth. After a short walk it branches off to the right where signs point to Catamount Hill. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the 721-foot peak, with about 400 feet of climbing. The park gates are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The park is only open weekends until June 11. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children aged 6 to 11 and free for seniors 65 and older.
Why you should go: Bear Brook has a lot to offer, and Catamount Hill can often be overlooked, but it’s a popular choice for people looking for a little bit more of a challenge than the other nearby trails.
“There’s not a lot of mountains or hills in the park, so most of the trails are — I would consider easy,” said Tara Blaney, state park supervisor for the New Hampshire’s south region.
But given the more difficult elevation gains, she says, Catamount Hill is a more moderately challenging hike.
Along the way, there are blueberries and small wildlife and the trail is blazed and well-marked.
While the summit doesn’t have much of a view, there are three overlooks on the way up that offer views of the park. When you’ve reached your destination, you can either complete the loop or connect with another nearby trail and just keep hiking.
 
Crotched Mountain Access Road
Crotched Mountain, 615 Francestown Road, Bennington, 588-3668, crotchedmtn.com
Length: 1 mile one way
Features: It’s a wide, gravel access road sometimes used by vehicles that goes directly northward from its start next to the Rocket chairlift near the parking area. It’s a sustained incline all the way up but graded so it’s not a bumpy walk. There are great views from the top, at about 1,000 feet, and it takes about 45 minutes to climb.
Why you should go: Crotched Mountain is better-known for its ski trails in the winter and while the ski area is closed for the season, the access road to the summit is free and open to the public. Crotched Mountain’s Director of Marketing Andy Gendron says it’s kind of a well-kept secret, though the organization welcomes and encourages hikers to enjoy the mountain in the summer.
“The views are spectacular,” Gendron said.
 It’s open all day and all night and Gendron says it would be a great place to watch a sunrise or sunset, though hikers would be well-advised to come prepared with safety gear and flashlights in such dark conditions.
Right now, folks’ being able to use the trail to hike is a fairly informal arrangement, but Gendron hopes it will grow in popularity and is considering expanding it to other trails in the future.
Besides a 180-degree view of the Monadnock region at the summit, there’s also a radio tower and a ski patrol building at the top of the lift.
 
North Uncanoonuc Mountain Blue Dot Trail
North Uncanoonuc Mountain near Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials, 452 Mountain Road, Goffstown
Length: 1 mile one way
Features: The blue dot trail is the longer of two possible routes up to the 1,324-foot summit. The shorter, red dot trail is a steeper and more direct trail. The blue dot begins near the flower nursery, Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials, which is a fun place to visit in its own right, and loops around the southwestern corner of the hill. The trail is on property owned by the Goffstown Village Water Precinct and is free and open to the public at all times. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to hike one way.
Why you should go: It lends a great view of the city of Manchester, and if you’re daring (and well-prepared) enough to make the hike on a clear night, you’ll see the city lights from the highest vantage point in the Manchester area.
At the top of the mountain, there is a lot of moss, low-growing plants and granite boulders. While the elevation presents some challenge, it can be fun for all ages and some hikers bring their dogs up as well.
It’s a quick drive from civilization and only a few miles from the Goffstown village center. Many locals like to hike Uncanoonuc Mountain because of how quickly they can hike it. They can easily work in a hike after work or squeeze it into a full weekend. 





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