Hancock's & Hale

Date of Hike: 12/22/11

Hancock Notch/Cedar Brook/Hancock Loop: 9.8 miles (elevation gain 2,650)
Route 302/Zealand Road/Hale Brook Trail: 9.6 miles (elevation gain 2,500)
Total Miles: 19.4 (5,100 feet)
Click here for trail descriptions

Trip Report:
- On Thursday, December 22nd at 12:30am winter officially began and with it brings lots of enthusiastic hikers up to the White Mountains to hike in a winter wonderland. Unfortunately for hikers the full force of winter still hasn't showed up in the mountains where the ground is still bare with at most a few inches of snow above 3,000 feet.
- However I decided to head up for probably my last hike of the year to finish off hiking the New Hampshire 48 and Adirondack 46-R in 2011.
- My first hike of the day was an early morning hike of North and South Hancock. The first half mile I barebooted before putting my micro-spikes on as the footbed of the Hancock Notch Trail became ice filled.
- The first 2.5 miles over the Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook Trails is relatively flat over old logging roads where the most exciting part of the hike is the water crossings which were half frozen.
- Once on the Hancock Loop Trail you gradually start to gain elevation until you reach the North/South loop junction split. From here the trail becomes relentlessly step gaining 1,100 feet in just 0.7 miles. I always end up going clockwise because I feel the hike once gaining the ridge from North to South Hancock is easier this way.
- I missed out on the views as the clouds finally started to lift as I was descending South Hancock. The hike back went quickly and the only highlight was my boot falling through the ice and into the water on one of the crossings.
- Once back at the car I was treated with awesome views of the Osceola's from the outlook at the hairpin turn on the "Kanc" Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) where I changed into dry layer before heading north.
- In the winter Zealand Road is closed so you have to park about a tenth of a mile past the road off Route 302 and then hike 2.5 miles to the Hale Brook trailhead or 4.0 miles if heading to the Zealand trailhead.
- The hike on the road to the Hale Brook Trail wore me out, I felt like I was about to bonk so I decided once I reached the trailhead to scarf down my PB&J sandwich and chug some powerade before I began the actual hiking.  This worked wonders and I immediately got my energy back as I started the 2.2 mile ascent to Mount Hale's summit.
- Last year on the second day of winter I broke trail all the way up to the summit, today I barebooted the first 0.8 miles before putting on my microspikes at the Hale Brook water crossing.  I am not a big fan of the Hale Brook Trail, it's supposedly 2.2 miles but for some reason it feels as if that is off by about 0.3 miles.  For the second year in a row the last few tenths to the summit had me cursing up a storm!
- I had no views from the summit but the sun did break through the clouds for a couple of minutes warming me up, after almost falling and smashing camera #2 up I climbed to the top of the rock pile to see if I could see the Twin Range but they were in the clouds.
- After putting on dry layers I zoomed down the mountain and kept my microspikes on even for the road walk as Zealand Road had a thin layer of ice in the middle of it and I didn't feel like walking on the uneven edges of the road where there was no ice.
- I got back to the car at 3:30 and relaxed before driving back to RI, it was a fun day in the mountains but I can't wait for the snow to arrive!

Pictures: Click here for all pictures

 Crossing the Cedar Brook
 Zealand Road (Last Year Dec. 23rd - This Year Dec. 22nd)
 Hale Brook Trail
 Mount Hale Summit
Rock Pile on Mount Hale Summit


  1. Thanks for sharing your amazing hikes. I like the comparison shots. I been on a few hikes where I got to compare summer and winter.

  2. Thanks Gideon, glad you always enjoy the trip reports. Have a great winter, hope you get in some good hikes!


  3. Great idea with those side-by-side photos. Our winter here is just as crappy - last year I'd be skiing on the frozen lakes, now I could go canoeing. Lets hope the snow and proper winter arrives in the White Mountains and here soon!