Wednesday, July 1, 2015


On a long summer day I traversed two valleys and two peaks on one of the most interesting mountains in the Whites. I took the Smarts Brook Trail up through its beautiful five-mile valley, enjoyed extended stays on Sandwich Dome and Jennings Peak, then took the Drakes Brook Trail down the other side of the mountain, where Carol graciously agreed to pick me up at the end of the 10 1/2 mile trek.

I started out from the Smarts Brook trailhead on Rt. 49, a popular spot for shorter hikes involving the Smarts Brook, Pine Flats, Yellow Jacket and Tri-Town Trails.


This cascade and pool on Smarts Brook, a bit more than a mile in, is a popular destination for a short, easy hike.

The trail passes this beaver pond at the 1.5 mile mark. There was good birding here, including a pair of the uncommon Rusty Blackbird.

The Sandwich Range Wilderness boundary is at 2.5 miles.

The cliffs of Sachem Peak tower above the Smarts Brook valley. A break in the trees provides this view from the trail at 3.3 miles.

A suitably wild trail as it leads deep into this quiet valley.

A bank has washed out at a crossing of a tributary brook.

Beautiful mossy woods.

 Lush interior forest.

Stark spruce woods in the broad upper valley, with a back-of-beyond feeling.

Dual cascades on Smarts Brook.

I chose my lunch spot where the trail crosses Smarts Brook, nearly four miles in. Here I met the only other hiker I would see all day.

One of an assemblage of large boulders in the upper valley.

A delightful section of trail.

An overhang deep in the forest.

Last look at Smarts Brook before the trail pulls away to climb the ridge.

The trail climbs to the ridge by a long switchback on old tote roads with mostly easy grades.

Approaching the crest.

Simple trail signs.

On the Sandwich Mountain Trail, heading for the summit.

The north view from the summit of Sandwich Dome. 19th century guidebook editor Moses Sweetser called it “one of the grandest and most fascinating panoramas in New England.” In those days the summit was more open and probably commanded a 360-degree vista, but the view is still impressive today. You can see 33 NH 4000-footers from here.

Looking along the Sandwich Range, with the NE summit knob of Sandwich in the foreground.

The Bonds, South Twin and more through Mad River Notch.

Jennings Peak, Tecumseh and the Kinsmans.

This bolt was placed by the U.S. Coast Survey station in 1873. Sandwich is an almost-4000-footer, measuring 3993 ft. on the 1931 USGS Mt. Chocorua quad and 3980 ft. (by contour interpolation) on the more recent quad. Click here for much more stuff on Sandwich Dome.

Clouds rolling in from the west over Mount Moosilauke.

A nice angle on the Tripyramids and the South Slide.

A short herd path leads to an eastern view from a fir wave, with a spur ridge of Sandwich in the foreground.

The gentle stretch of the Sandwich Mountain Trail between the Smarts Brook and Jennings Peak junctions is a longtime favorite.

There is lots of moose activity on the ridge.

The sign marking the spur trail to Jennings Peak - a side trip not to be missed.

Despite now-gray skies and some light rain showers, I still enjoyed the marvelous views of the Sandwich Range from the east side of Jennings. Here you look down into the Drakes Brook valley.

Looking up at the great bulk of Sandwich Dome.

On the south side of Jennings the cliffs overlook the broad Smarts Brook valley, with the two Black Mountains on the left and Sachem Peak on the right.

Sachem Peak, a great bushwhack destination, sometimes visited by rock climbers.

The Drakes Brook Trail was my route back down to the road.

After dropping fairly steeply by switchbacks off the ridge, the trail reaches Drakes Brook here.

An old (1940s?) USFS mileage marker on Drakes Brook Trail. I've seen these occasionally in the eastern Whites, but don't recall any others on the western trails.

One of several attractive scenes along Drakes Brook. A very pleasant way to come off the mountain.


  1. Nice report, Steve. I've hiked all around that area and up to Jennings Peak, but I haven't made it up to the Sandwich Dome summit yet. It looks like a great hike, and I hope to get there soon.

    1. Thanks, BC. Sandwich is one of my favorite mountains with its various ridges, valleys and trail approaches. Because it comes up 20 feet shy of a certain number it gets overlooked by many hikers.


  2. Yessah! One of the greats in the Whites for sure. One of my repeat go-to Hikes all year long. It has it all going on: scenery, geology, haunting spruce corridors, quietude and all the solitude one can handle. Acteon Ridge makes for a fun Whack as you know. Thanks again for the report and Inspiration.

    Mark, Madison NH

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment and your neat listing of the charms of Smarts Brook. One of the greats, indeed!

  3. Prompted by your report on Sandwich Dome - my late father's favorite mountain - and imagining that the "back of beyond" might even be enhanced by dark weather, I picked the Smarts Brook Trail for my hike last Sunday. No views, but gloomy and enchanting! I saw only two trail runners, close to Rte. 49, so had some six hours of solitude. I liked weaving among the mossy boulders. With no wife in state, I returned by Smarts Brook as well. Many thanks!

    Will Scott
    Columbia, MD

  4. Thanks for your comment, Will. Glad you had a rewarding trek up Smarts Brook. It certainly is enchanting! And just one of many charms of Sandwich Dome.