A Spring Like Winter Hike to Mount Isolation

Date of Hike: 1/21/17

Rocky Branch Trail: 3.0 miles  /  Engine Hill Bushwhack: 1.1 miles  /  Isolation Trail East: 1.3 miles  /  Davis Path: 1.6 miles  /  Isolation Trail East 1.3 miles  /  Engine Hill Bushwhack: 1.1 miles  /  Rocky Branch Trail: 3.3 miles
Total Miles 12.2 (3,500 feet elevation gained) Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Trip Report:
- Every winter I try and hike Mount Isolation because the standard winter route passes through the beautiful Birch glades along the Engine Hill bushwhack.  Usually the high snow levels makes the rest of the hike more attractive too, turning the ho-hum/drab trail corridors of the Rocky Branch, Iso East, and Davis Path sections into a winter wonderland.  However, with the recent warm up and rain, the trails looked more like early April than mid-winter.  Unfortunately conditions for the foreseeable future look to remain the same, as where getting another round of light snow - sleet - rain below 5,000 feet.  Even with the not ideal conditions it was still a lovely Sunday morning to head to my 2016 Grid finishing peak.
- Leaving the Rocky Branch trailhead off NH16, the route heads uphill at a steady rate for the first two miles before leveling off for a bit before gradually climbing uphill again to the height of land where the Engine Hill Bushwhack begins.  Depending on how it is broken out the whack heads through a couple of different clusters of glades before angling down to the Isolation Trail East.
- At this point the trail parallels Rocky Branch Brook and crosses it three times, however the first two crossings were bypassed and the last was easily hopped across about thirty feet upstream from the regular point of crossing.
- From there trail meanders towards a primitive campsite where another short detour is taken a tenth of a mile to where it pops out on the Davis Path.  Once on the Davis Path, it's an easy hike of less than a mile to the short spur path that steeply climbs up to the bare summit.
- Views from the exposed top are usually grand, but on Sunday there were low clouds and high winds, so I stayed for only a few minutes before retreating back down into the woods, changing into dry layers, and trail running back to the trailhead before making the quick drive home for lunch with Sarge. :) 

Near the beginning of the Engine Hill bushwhack 

 Entering the Birch glades

The high winds made for unique line patterns on top of the snow 

Hard to see in the photo on the left, but from this opening in the glades Stairs Mountain can be seen

 Mount Isolation summit

 Summit marker

 Wildcat and Carter Range off in the distance

Sorry for the fuzzy photo.  Top is looking towards the Doubltops (I think), Kearsarge North, and Cranmore (you can just make out the ski slopes of Cranmore to the extreme right), bottom is the Baldface Range way off in the distance
Lunch time play time with Sarge!


  1. Chris,
    Those birch glades looking inviting to hike through. Nice reports and pictures as usually.

    1. Thanks Matt, hope you are having a nice winter hiking. With the recent snow those birch glades probably look 100X better than just a few weeks ago!