Sunday, September 18, 2011


The Shelburne, NH area has a hiking tradition dating back to the late 1800s, when AMC trampers would sojourn at the Philbrook Farm Inn (which is still welcoming guests today). There has long been an extensive network of trails in Shelburne, leading to some of the small but interesting mountains at the south end of the Mahoosuc Range. However, over the years some of these trails fell into disuse, while others were obliterated by logging.

Enter the new Shelburne Trails Club (STC), which had its beginnings in 2009 and was formally organized in 2010. Over the last two years, this energetic band of local residents has re-opened several abandoned trails, and has spruced up some of the other trails in the area.

One of the trails re-opened by the STC is the Scudder Trail, which ascends 2242-ft. Mt. Ingalls. I had climbed this back in 1992, when it was previously open, and at that time it was obscure enough to almost be called a bushwhack. On a subsequent visit in 2006, it had been decimated by logging in its lower part, and was removed from the guidebook. Now it has been re-opened and re-blazed, and I joined Dick Lussier, President of the STC, for a hike up the Scudder on a hot, hazy, midsummer-like day.

The trailhead is 0.5 mi. up from North Rd. in Shelburne on the gravel Mill Brook Rd. The trail sign was adorned with a moose bone.

The first 1.3 mi. leads up an old skidder road where the woods are recovering from logging. Dick and other STC members have been working hard to keep the brush at bay in these open areas.

With the abundant sun, this area has a wealth of late summer wildflowers.

After passing a junction with a connecting trail to Mt. Cabot (the other Mt. Cabot), the Scudder Trail turns left and runs along a neat clifftop shelf, passing an excellent ledgy viewpoint. The Presidentials were smothered in clouds and haze, but there was a good look at Shelburne Moriah Mountain, seen to the south across the Androscoggin valley.

The upper half of the Scudder Trail is a gem. It meanders upward through a variety of woods, with mostly easy grades and occasional steep pitches to keep you honest. There are fine conifer stands...

...brushy blueberry patches...

...leafy beech woods...

...and more outlook ledges. The footway is not yet well-worn in some places, but the trail is well-marked with orange blazes that can readily be followed with a little extra attention through the many twists and turns.

One ledge just to the right of the trail offers a view east to Bear Mountain, a high trailless peak in the eastern Mahoosucs.

A cozy little col along the ridge of Mt. Ingalls.

One section of trail looped to the left over some more ledges, following cairns from the original route, which was laid out in the 1950s. Dick related that this trail was cut by Seth Briggs - who in his 90s still works on Philbrook Farm area trails - and a Mr. Scudder, because Mrs. Scudder wanted a trail up to the ledges she could see from the valley.

Just before the summit, we took a lunch break at an expansive ledgy area which, on a clear day, would have a fine view of the Presidentials. This photo is underexposed so that at least some of the mountains would show up through the haze.

The true summit, marked by a slightly vandalized sign, is wooded.

The trail continues another 0.1 mi. to a tiny pond secluded in the forest, which, as Dick told the story, was unofficially named after a local resident perhaps 20 years ago. The name has made it onto at least one trail map.

A quiet place, indeed.

Heading back across the near-summit ledges, with the Royces on the horizon.

A late afternoon vista back at the lowest outlook ledge.

We made a loop back over 1512-ft. Mt. Cabot. A woodworker member has made beautiful signs for the STC.

A little way down from the summit of Cabot on the Blue Trail, a spur drops to a ledge with a view of Bear Mountain beyond a shoulder of Mt. Ingalls.

Speaking of bears, one had left its calling card at the summit.

This old foundation is located at the summit of Mt. Cabot. Dick noted that there was once a shelter here, used by guests of the Philbrook Farm Inn. Apparently they would spend the night here and a guide would cook up breakfast for them in the morning. He also said that the currently overgrown view towards the Presidentials near the summit of Cabot would soon be cleared out by the STC. We then descended the pleasant Red Trail off Cabot, and followed a connector back to the Yellow Trail, which in turn took us back to the Scudder Trail near the trailhead. This was a most interesting and enjoyable day - thanks to Dick and his fellow STC members for all their good work on the Shelburne trails!


  1. Great hike! I look forward to visiting here soon. I still have a few miles in Randolph to redline.
    Amy P.

  2. Steve,
    Are trail maps of the area available anywhere? Do you think the trailheads can be reached in the winter time? Seems like a nice network of trails in there. Thanks, Dave

  3. Dave,

    The trails up Mt. Cabot and Mt. Crag are shown on trail maps that cover that area. The Scudder Trail is shown on two maps that came out this year - the 2nd edition of the AMC WMNF Map & Guide, and the National Geographic WMNF East. The Shelburne Trails Club is considering making a local map, but are only in the initial stage.

    I don't think Mill Brook Rd. is plowed, but I believe there is some parking available where it meets North Rd. It may also be possible to park at Philbrook Farm Inn in winter, with permission from the inn owners.


  4. Hi, I like your blog! I've recently moved back to NH and am excited to get out into the woods more. My favorite hike ever involved waking up on the summit of Mt. Garfield and eating our oatmeal with our legs dangling over the edge of a small cliff, and a crystal-clear view of the Presidential Range.

    Check out my blog about surfing (mostly in NH) if you're interested:


  5. This is a fun blog! I talked about you in my blog post today:

  6. Congrats. Totally fascinating. The vivid narration and enchanting photos. Thanking You with Regards.

  7. Really enjoy the hiking narrative -- and the beautiful photos. Thanks

  8. I dont want to sound negative - however as an avid hiker/bushwacker I believe some of the best hikes are those where you have to retrace old long forgotten trails and maybe use a topo map and compass on occasion. When trails are brought back to life and then loudly publicized via our modern means of communication - it seems that a lot of what made those hikes special and unique is then lost. This is certainly the case with the hikes publicized here. I was born and raised in Shelburne and have many fond memories following the remnants of the trails up both Middle Mtn and Mt Ingalls. I enjoyed the solitude and the fact that only die hard hikers/bushwhackers were making the journey to these special peaks. Later in my life , long after I had moved out of the area, I would make occasional special trips up there, taking with me girlfriends that had no ties to the area. Our destintion would always be Mt Ingalls. I did this on no less than two different occasions with two different girlfriends. This hike would end up becoming a testimony as to how serious I was with a girl. If we made a special trip to hike Mt Ingalls we were pretty committed. In fact the later of the two women I brought up there ended up becoming my wife. I used these hikes to show my serious girlfriends how special these mountains are and how being raised in their shadows made me the type of person I am today. Oh well now these hikes are being made aware for all the world to see. Sort of bitterwseet but I can say with confidence that despite the privacy being lost, and the hordes descending, the views none the less will still be spectacular.

  9. Thank you for posting your thoughtful comment. It's wonderful when certain mountains have special meaning and memories in our lives. I have several such places myself.

    I do feel that your fear of hordes of hikers heading to the newly reopened Shelburne trails will not come to pass. Both the Scudder Trail and Middle Mountain Trail had been described in the AMC White Mountain Guide for a number of editions. Often they were reported to be "obscure," due to lack of use. When I first hiked Scudder in 1992, my notes indicate that it was almost a bushwhack, despite the description appearing in the guidebook. When I went back to check on Scudder around 2005 for the latest edition of the guidebook (which I co-edit), the bottom of the trail was totally lost in a maze of skidder roads. I think the Shelburne Trails Club - a local volunteer group - has done a great service to both residents of the area and visitors in reopening these two fine trails. The concern I see is that with so many trails to choose from in the White Mountains, not enough people will use them to keep the treadway well-established. There are plenty of places to bushwhack to in the Shelburne area, such as Bald Cap Peak and several other ledgy spurs on the Bald Cap range. A friend and I just bushwhacked to Bald Cap Peak and found some traces of the old trail up there, but no one is proposing re-opening that one. Incidentally, Dick Lussier of the Shelburne Trails Club gave us copies of a 1958 trail map of Shelburne by Thorn Dickinson, which shows a number of other former trails. It certainly is a wonderful area for hiking.


  10. Thanks for the post, Steve. Checked out scudder/blu/yellow loop yesterday after hiking Peabody Brook Trail. Such a great and little visited area.

  11. Thanks, Peter - it really is a nice quiet little range of interesting peaks. The walk along the ridge of Ingalls is especially fine.