The summit of Peaked Mountain provides a phenomenal view of Mount Chocorua and Moat Mountain Range. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase

 

For decades, I drove by Middle and Peaked Mountains near North Conway, New Hampshire, on my way to taller peaks. I remember thinking they looked like interesting potential climbs and wondering if there were hiking trails that led to the bald summits. My curiosity was insufficient to motivate further inquiry.

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance I met on Pleasant Mountain in southwestern Maine recommended the twin peaks. He extolled the virtues of the trail system, their exceptional views and trailhead accessibility. Always in search of new mountains and trails, I resolved to explore them. My friend’s suggestion proved accurate and I’ve been a frequent visitor since.

Situated east of the busy village of North Conway in Mount Washington Valley, the two closely connected peaks are part of a range of small mountains known as the Green Hills. A special appeal for me, they are additional mountain hikes that I can travel to from my home in Topsham and easily complete in a day. That option is particularly beneficial during the shortest days of the year. Old with poor night vision, I avoid driving in the dark whenever possible.

In need of an early January mountain fix, I posted a Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society club hike on Middle and Peaked Mountains. My retired friend and frequent outdoor accomplice, Ken Gordon, quickly signed on. Since they were new peaks for Ken, he wanted the benefit of my presumed Green Hills experience, always a dubious expectation.

We met at the trailhead on Thompson Road in North Conway. A popular hike, there is limited parking so getting there early is advisable. Except for a small area, parking is prohibited on the road.

A trail inspection indicated the surface was hard-packed snow and soft ice, ideal conditions for microspikes. In my opinion, there is no more comfortable hiking than on a snow-covered winter trail that has been broken and subsequently hardened. It creates a flat highway above an underlying often rocky base that is gentle on the joints, especially aging ones.

Initially, we hiked easily on a wide snow-covered road for a short distance to a kiosk at a trail junction. A sign indicated the mountain footpath turned left. Pudding Pond Trail went right and Power Line Trail straight. Mountain biking is permitted on the latter trails but we didn’t find any evidence of bike tracks.

The incline was gradual as we progressed up a wide path in an impressive stand of tall red pines. The Green Hills are renowned as the habitat for an exceptional growth of red and pitch pines. After a half mile, we arrived at a major junction. Four-mile Black Cap Connector Trail turns left. It joins with Peaked Mountain and Black Cap Mountain Trails before completing a traverse to Hurricane Mountain Road. Continuing straight, Middle Mountain Trail is the shortest distance to Peaked Mountain and the only route to Middle Mountain. There is excellent signage throughout the trail system.

A narrow passage steepened as we advanced steadily up Middle Mountain Trail adjacent to a boulder-strewn stream. A sector of hard ice was encountered that required careful negotiation. After passing a mounted camera strategically located to film wildlife, two Chowderheads arrived at a trail on the left that leads to Peaked Mountain.

Intent on climbing to the summit of both mountains, we persisted up Middle Mountain Trail. Angling right, we surmounted several forested ledges before turning left and scrambling over massive boulders to the partially barren Middle Mountain summit, elevation 1,857 feet. The views of western Maine from the overlook were outstanding.

Returning to the junction for Peaked Mountain, we turned right and hiked a short distance to the Peaked Mountain summit trail. Two seniors not acting their ages clambered up the precipitous path to the open 1,739 foot mountaintop. Another party was already enjoying the phenomenal views of Mount Chocorua and Moat Mountain Range when we arrived.

We decided to take the longer loop itinerary, joining with Black Cap Connector for our descent. Since the upper section contains open ledges facing Mount Washington, an exceptional panoramic vista was anticipated. Alas, George was socked in but we enjoyed a glorious view of Mount Kearsarge.

We were back at the Thompson Road Trailhead in a little over three hours. This old man was safely home before dark.

Ron Chase, Outdoors Contributor

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is now available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco.html. His previous books are...