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Monday, October 5, 2020

Mt. Major Hike - Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

If you need to know anything about me, it's that I am a planner.  I love to plan trips, weekends, hikes, my day, you name it.  Going into the weekend, I had a list of 48ers I wanted to tackle but instead, we altered plans.  The only glitch was Adam also had a list of things he wanted to do.  The new unplanned plan for the weekend was Adam had a day to pick what to do, and I would pick the second day.  The only issue with my shot at compromise was my day was the second one which involved some very sore legs after Adam's day and a 4.5-hour drive back home.  

1) All hiking aside, this was my first time staying at a bed and breakfast and I really wanted to try the breakfast (10/10, excellent decision).  
2) Staying for scheduled breakfast meant missing an early start at any of the trailheads - necessary for a parking spot during a fall hiking weekend in the Whites.  
3) On top of our later start, our legs were sore from hiking the Franconia Ridge so another big hike was also off the table.  
4) Judging by an attempted drive through Lincoln, I knew the smaller/shorter hikes would be mobbed 

And so, we totally changed our plans and decided to pack up after breakfast and start heading south. 

I typed in "Best Hikes in New Hampshire" and started reading through the list of hikes outside of the Whites.  I quickly came across a name I had never heard, "Mt. Major".  This hike took you up to a peak overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee and at a 3.5-mile hike gaining about 1,100 feet of elevation, this wouldn't kill our sore legs.  This hike also offered lovely views at the cost of just a short detour from our ride home - it all looked promising.  And so, we pulled up to the trailhead to see about 200 cars lining the road and sighed as we realized you can't really escape the crowds of New Hampshire during leaf-peeping season.  

As crowded as the parking area was, we were happy to see that the crowds died off within the first 15 minutes of the hike.  The hike gains elevation quickly and this hike is touted as being "family-friendly" which encourages all different types of hikers who use the trail.  Being in pretty good shape, we easily moved out of the crowds and found some gaps of lovely silence as we made our way up the popular blue trail towards the summit. 

The Blue trail starts by climbing over trees and roots before hopping over some boulders until you find yourself scaling a steep section of the mountainside as you near the summit.  You will not be alone but depending on your pace, you can move through the crowds.  The Blue trail gains elevation fast and as you make your way just above the summit, you will see a clear view of the lake below you.  We decided to stop here for a break knowing the views were not that different and this spot was much less crowded.  We were so impressed with this amazing view of the lake below and the beautiful islands sprouting out of the lake.  The fall foliage was just starting to come in and it was a perfect break among the vista in New Hampshire. 

After pushing on to the summit, we took a different trail down the mountain to complete the loop and we followed the orange trail back down the mountain (per the recommendation of a stranger who saw us looking at the map).  This may have been the best advice we received all day as the Orange trail down was a lovely option than returning down the steep slippery sections of the blue trail.  The orange trail was also quiet with a lot of people and beautiful views of the lake and then the woodlands around us. 

We made it back to our car about 2 hours after we left, the perfect quick mid-day hike with a lovely view to boot.  While busy, we were able to sneak away from the crowds much easier than the trails in the Whites.  We had lunch on our brains and after a quick google search and keeping our eyes peeled as we drove, we stopped at Dockside, just a few miles down the road right on the end of the lake in a little town on the lake called Alton Bay. 

We sat outside on the front porch, enjoying the views of the lake, the pile of freshly fried seafood in front of us, and the amazing weekend nearly behind us.  We had a 3-hour drive ahead of us and two happy hikers and their happier dogs headed back to the Connecticut coast. 

New Hampshire is hard to beat during peak foliage with her beautiful hikes and quaint little towns.  Mt Major is the perfect family-friendly (ish) hike and a way to enjoy a hike without traveling to the Whites.  

T r a i l   S t a t s 

Distance: 3.5 miles

Elevation: 1,165 feet 

Duration:  2 hours (with breaks) 

Trailhead: Mount Major Trail (875 Mt. Major Highway/Route 11), Alton Bay, NH 03810

Dogs/Kids:  Dog (on-leash) and kid-friendly - I was impressed by the number of kids who made it up the blue trail.  If you do bring your little ones, know that there are some steep and edgy areas along the blue trail. 

Trail: Blue trail to the summit, Orange trail from the summit back at the trailhead.  The blue trail is the heavily trafficked route up the trail and there are some STEEP sections.  I was impressed by the amount of smaller kids scaling these near-vertical rock faces.  The orange trail was much less traveled and was a lovely hike down the mountain.   

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