Even though it was going to be a hot, sunny day, I was determined to cross Belknap’s Boulder Trail off my list. Due to the boulder scrambles, it’s one that needs to be done on a dry day in summer or fall. It looked like I would have time to squeeze it in before the possibility of thunderstorms rolled in, and I did.
With this loop, I was also able to redline the bottom section of the White trail between the Carriage Road and Old Piper trail, as well as the western half of the Piper-Round Pond Link. I had to start out later than I usually like to, since there was no way I was going to hike up the Carriage Road before even starting my actual hike. So I had to wait until after 9 AM when the gate is open in order to drive up to the trailhead. (I also had to make a trip to the Wine’ing Butcher first – which opens at 9.) I hit the trail just before 10 AM.
The hike started off pretty quickly – only about 10 minutes to get to the junction of the White trail and Old Piper trails. I was only on the Old Piper trail (blazed orange) for a short little bit, just enough to get to the end of the Piper-Round Pond Link (blazed green). I had been on the Piper-Round Pond trail for about five to ten minutes, when I noticed the trail looked like nobody had used it all summer. There were still a ton of dried, brown leaves left over from autumn, covering the trail and partially hiding some of the rocks. Plus, there were newly sprouted trees coming up in the path. I was on the trail, since I was seeing green blazes (which looked pretty fresh). I pulled out my phone and checked the handy-dandy interactive PDF map… which showed a dot not on the trail, but a little bit to the north instead. I just figured the GPS was a little off or something.
Soon, though, I heard some rustling. I couldn’t tell if it was human or animal. After hiking another 20 feet or so, I saw a person up ahead on the trail. As I got closer, I could see he was trimming back brush and branches. Here I met Gordon. We talked a little, and I found out this was a brand-new reroute, and I was the first hiker to use it! (That is, other than Gordon, Steve, and any others who had made the trail.) I also met Reuben, the sweetest golden retriever, who was frolicking through the woods and occasionally coming over to be petted. A little further down the trail, I met Steve, who was painting green blazes on the trees to mark the new trail. From this point, I would have to follow the pink surveyor’s tape in the trees to stay on trail. This new trail eventually rejoins the old trail at a point just a little more than halfway to the junction with the Boulder trail.
The Boulder trail wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t disappointed. Somehow I was thinking the boulder field was the majority of the trail, but it’s really just a couple small sections of it. The trail, blazed in blue, starts off steep and rocky, with lots of rock steps set into the trail. Here, it’s wooded and shady. When I reached the first boulder scramble, I put on a pair of work gloves. It was a very short (and fun!) section to climb. Here’s where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I think I was in the woods for a little bit again before hitting a second boulder scramble. This one was maybe a little longer, but still pretty short (and again, fun!). After that, there were some more steep, rocky, wooded sections, and eventually some open ledgy areas as I approached the junction with the East Gilford trail.
I had to check the map to make sure I was going the right way on the East Gilford trail. And I’m glad I did, because for some reason my instinct was to turn right – which would have taken me away from the Belknap summit! Making a left turn instead, I followed the East Gilford trail (blazed yellow) about a quarter-mile or so to the junction with the White trail. This is the same White trail I started on, just the upper portion of it, which I followed to the summit of Belknap Mountain.
The fire tower was a bit crowded, so I didn’t climb up today. There were already at least four people up on the top level, and a group of four or more plus a dog standing under the tower. I just kept going right over the summit and onto the Red trail.
The trip down was uneventful, and quick. While it took me two hours to reach the summit, it only took me a half-hour to get back down to the parking lot. The lower third or so of the Red trail is a very nice hike, since there has been quite a bit of maintenance done to improve drainage and repair erosion. There are lots of rock steps, stepping stones, water bars, and drainage ditches, as well as some raised footbeds. There was just one little blowdown near the bottom of the trail, a tree about 4″ in diameter, fallen across the path.
After reaching the garage at the trailhead, I took a short walk over to the view. Couldn’t really see much with the trees in full leaf, though. There’s a better view from late fall to early spring when the trees are bare. From the overlook, I took the short Wayne’s Way trail over to the parking lot.
All that’s left for me to redline on Belknap is the East Gilford Fire Road and the bottom 1/10th of the East Gilford trail. I’ll pick those up when I eventually hike out to Round Pond.