Headed down to the great trail network in the Belknap Range on the SW side of Lake Winnipesaukee to check out some trail relocations and some new-for-me trails. It was a cold day with grey skies and a biting wind - classic November.
I parked at the Gunstock Ski Area lot and headed up the gravel service road that is the first part of the Ridge Trail, leading up to 1690-ft. Mt. Rowe.
Not the most exciting climb, but it gets you up on the ridge.
The summit of Mt. Rowe, with limited views and a giant communications tower, is not a place to linger. It is, however, on the list for the "Belknap 12" patch offered by the Belknap County Sportsmen's Association: http://www.belknapsportsmensclub.com/hiking.html
This was peak #11 for me, only Mt. Anna to go.
Once headed across the ridge towards Gunstock, the trail was delightful, soon emerging in an open grassy area with views ahead to Gunstock and Belknap Mountains.
Along this stretch was a monitoring station that is part of a national earth sensor network.
A hardy Hermit Thrush flitted ahead of me on the trail for a while.
At 1.7 mi., where the Ridge Trail used to move out onto Gunstock ski trails and service roads, it now follows a new (in 2013) relocation that leads up through the woods with many short switchbacks. A fine effort by the BRATTs (Belknap Range Trail Tenders), an extremely dedicated volunteer group led by Hal and Peggy Graham. Great work!
In a section where the new route contours through spruces across the west slope of Gunstock, there's a nice outlook to the north.
The relocated Ridge Trail meets up with the Gunstock Mountain Trail just 0.1 mi. below the summit. I went a few yards down the Gunstock trail and out to a south-facing ledge for a lunch break.
A view of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Range from the ski trails at the summit of Gunstock.
New trail signage and blazing placed by the BRATTs. They maintain more than 20 different trails on the Belknap Range.
From Gunstock I followed the Brook, Saddle and Blue Trails across to Belknap Mountain. Near the summit of Belknap was another northern outlook, this one with a convenient seat.
A weathered survey marker on the Belknap summit ledges.
A tall new communications tower has been built to the south of the summit and fire tower.
I went 0.2 mi. south on the combined White and East Gilford Trails and followed the lead of this message on the ledges.
A short way down the East Gilford Trail an expanse of relatively wind-free ledge offered great views and a good place for a break.
Here there's a neat view of the many eastern peaks of the Belknap Range, all the way out to the rocky top of Mt. Major peering over.
My favorite vista here was beautiful Round Pond nestled at the base of Mt. Mack.
It's easy to end up on the wrong side of the mountain if you don't pay attention.
I paid a brief and frigid visit to the top landing of the fire tower. In this southerly view Crotched Mountain and Mt. Monadnock can be seen on the horizon to the L, and rounded Lovewell Mountain on the far R.
Mt. Kearsarge (L) and Ragged Mountain (R).
Late afternoon light on Lake Winnipesaukee.
I descended via the well-designed Overlook Trail, which meanders down the NE slopes of Belknap Mountain at mostly easy grades. Near the top there is some mature hardwood forest.
The overlook for which the trail is named, at 1500 ft. The totals for today's loop, including a couple of side forays, were 8 1/2 mi. and about 2200 ft. of elevation gain. There are many possibilities for rewarding loops in the Belknaps. Click here for a great new trail map of the Belknaps produced by Weldon Bosworth and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition.