When I drove past the office this past Tuesday because my mind had wandered and I was thinking about hiking, I knew I had to head for the hills this weekend.
I couldn’t convince the hubby to go hiking on Saturday (we went for a long walk around Lake Opechee instead), so I went hiking on my own on Sunday.
About a month ago, we had hiked part-way up to Bald Knob from Castle in the Clouds, via the Shannon Brook trail and Bald Knob cutoff trail. The cutoff trail was a bit steeper than we were ready for, but offered a nice view halfway up. However, instead of continuing to the summit when we reached the Bald Knob trail, we instead decided to head back down via the Turtleback Mountain trail. This is when we discovered the Turtleback Mountain trail is ridiculously easy to hike – it’s an old carriage road, and part of it serves as a snowmobile trail in the winter. We decided next time we hike Bald Knob, we’d do this same hike in reverse and include the summit.
Bald Knob is one of several peaks in the Ossipee mountain range, a ring of mountains formed around an ancient volcano. From the 1,801-foot peak, there’s a 180-degree view (maybe slightly more) from the southeast to the northwest, encompassing Lake Winnipesaukee to the south, and Red Hill and Sandwich to the west. You can even see Castle in the Clouds when looking west towards Red Hill.
On December 20th, central New Hampshire was dusted with a powdered-sugar coating of snow, which quickly melted in the sun. But this dusting of snow remained through most of my hike, except at the very top of Bald Knob, which is an exposed granite peak. It was cold, high 20’s at the lower elevations, but it felt a lot colder at the top, exposed to the gusting winds.
Clockwise from upper left:
Map of today’s hike | MapMyFitness data of today’s hike | Snow on the Turtleback Mountain Trail | Peak selfie | Panorama from the peak | View of the Castle and Red Hill to the west from just below the peak
Follow the directions to the Ossipee Park Road entrance of Castle in the Clouds (586 Ossipee Park Road in GPS) – the first left from the intersection of Routes 109 & 171 in Moultonborough coming from the northwest, or 1.8 miles past the main Castle entrance coming from the southeast. At the top of the hill, go straight ahead between the stone pillars to the parking lot on the right. Continue walking along the driveway toward Shannon Pond, straight ahead. Follow the carriage road along the right side of Shannon Pond to get to the trailhead, and you’ll arrive at another map kiosk on the other side of the pond.
The Turtleback Mountain trail is immediately to the right of the kiosk (marked in yellow). Follow this up approximately 2.74 miles to the intersection with the Bald Knob trail on the right (Turtleback Mountain trail continues to the left here). The Bald Knob trail is marked in white, and from here it’s approximately .75 mile to the peak. Just below the peak, you’ll have a great view to the west and northwest, looking over the Castle grounds.
For the return trip, you can go back down the way you came up, or take the Bald Knob cutoff trail to the left, about a third of a mile below the peak, follow the cutoff trail for a mile to its intersection with the Shannon Brook trail, and take the Shannon Brook trail to the right to return to the kiosk below Shannon Pond.
There are other trails that branch off from the Turtleback Mountain trail, including the Faraway Mountain trail, Oak Ridge trail, and a connector trail over to the Shannon Brook trail.
This is my new favorite hike. I loved being able to get in a good amount of distance in a relatively short time, while maintaining more of a walking pace (about 3 mph) instead of a slower hiking pace (about 2 mph). There was some ice on the trail, but mostly crunchy instead of slippery. This section of the Ossipee range is rich with natural springs, so there is potential for wet/muddy/icy areas. I brought microspikes with me, but didn’t need to use them. People far less clumsy than me might enjoy trail running here in the summer.