GUNSTOCK- BELKNAP- PIPER LOOP
Half Day Hike DATE: 03/18/2023 - 03/18/2023
Trip/Event Location: Gilford, NH
Trip Leader(s): Gandalf , JDNnh
Max # People: 12
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Join us for a late winter hike traverse of 3 peaks in the Belknap Range! It will be an easy pace covering 4-1/2 miles with 1700 feet of gain. We'll cross over Gunstock (2250'), Belknap (2382...
We are meeting at the Carriage Road that provides access to all trails on the west side of the Belknap range. Drive up I-93 North, take Exit 20 towards Laconia on Route 3 North; and then take a right to the Route 3 North Bypass. Take NH 11A East Exit. At Gilford Village leave NH 11A and take a right on Belknap Mountain Road south, bearing left at 0.8 mile and right at 1.4 mile. At 2.4 mile the Carriage Road forks left and leads in 0.2 mile a gate where limited parking is available. Do not block gate. Gunstock Mountain and Piper trails begin a short distance above the gate. Look for a blue Toyota Tacoma truck.
We did a loop hike to Gunstock Mountain [2,245 feet] and Belknap Mountain [2,282 feet] starting from the Carriage Road gate on this glorious sunny and spring like day! Temperatures were in the mid 40’s and breezy on the summits. It was 4.2 miles round trip with 1,531 feet elevation gain. Today was a great day to enjoy the famous watery views from these summits!
We pulled in in front of the Carriage Road Gate around 10:30AM and parked alongside the road. There were about eight vehicles when we arrived. Snow was very soft and we wore snowshoes from start to finish. The trail conditions were choppy, sloppy, with post holes. Saw a few people barebooting and it just destroyed any type of packing down that we did. If you go on any of these trails for the next few weeks, please wear snowshoes!
We prefer to begin our hike in a clockwise direction, bearing left off the forest road and heading uphill towards Gunstock Mountain. Tackling the first and steepest twelve hundred feet of elevation first is a big advantage, though thankfully even the steepest of trails on this route isn't really much of a thigh-burner. However, because we were sinking with our snowshoes in the soft snow it made it feel like we were breaking the trail. The trail was heavily wooded and we encountered about five hikers on our ascent. Before reaching Gunstock Mountain summit we enjoyed the westerly views from an outlook along the way.
When we reached the Gunstock Mountain summit, we found ourselves on top of a busy ski area with lifts operating, skiers with big smiles on their faces and the Panorama Pub up top full of people! Spring skiing is the best!!! With snowshoes on our feet, some skiers asked us how the hike was up top. We enjoyed the spectacular views from up here! Lake Winnipesauke is the main attraction however far back we could see the snowcapped and blinding white Presidential range! At the top of the mountain the Ski Patrol took their chairs from inside their hut and placed them outside in the sun. It was so inviting that after we checked the views, we parked ourselves in these chairs for lunch. As we enjoyed our lunch, we enjoyed seeing the skiers getting off the lifts, taking pictures of the views and going down the various routes from the summit. While sitting in these chairs, the Ski Patrol said we fit the part so well that we were offered jobs! Too funny!!!
It was hard to leave our comfy chairs behind but we continued on our way to Belknap Mountain. We only saw about three hikers having lunch when we first left the Gunstock Summit…after that we did not see any more hikers the entire day. Belknap Mountain has a fire tower which we climbed for expansive, 360-degree views! Not only could we see Mt. Washington, but also the Franconia Range, Mt. Moosilauke, Mt. Cardigan and peaks in southern New Hampshire.
We found ourselves now breaking trail in two feet of soft snow after leaving Belknap Mountain! The trail was a bit difficult to follow on the descent but we figured it out. We found ourselves now breaking trail in two feet of soft snow after leaving Belknap Mountain! Our pace for the entire day was slower than we expected between sinking in soft snow with our snowshoes and breaking trail so by the time we reached the Piper Mountain trail junction, we agreed we would save the peak for another day.
This was one of the best days ever for a hike here – sunny and springlike, bluebird sky, epic views, excited skiers, friendly Ski Patrol folks and fun spring hiking! We had a good time with the guys who joined us today. It was the perfect mix of skill set and fun & outgoing personalities! The Belknaps are well worth many more visits. You don’t have to hike up a 4,000 footer to have a great time!!!
There are 42 photos in Album (Note: Move mouse pointer over larger pic and click on NEXT for better viewing)