It was a beautiful, chilly fall morning. Started off a little foggy and frosty, but as the fog lifted it became the perfect hiking day.
I parked at the end of Alton Mountain Road, and hiked out Old Stage Road (an old logging road which is used as a snowmobile trail in winter) to the Mt. Anna red trail (Anna-Goat Pasture Hill trail). My initial plan was a little more ambitious: starting from this trailhead and using the Precipice Link trail (purple) to reach the Precipice Path trail, I would climb up the steep western side of Precipice Path to the Anna-Straightback Link trail (part of the Belknap Range Trail), then follow that eastward to Straightback Mountain (south peak), then take the Quarry Spur trail to the north peak of Straightback, continuing on Dave Roberts’ Quarry Trail to the east and west summits of Quarry Mountain, looping back to the Anna-Straightback Link via the Marsh Crossing trail, then heading west on the Anna-Straightback Link to the summit of Mt. Anna, and finally descending via the Anna-Goat Pasture Hill trail.
Unfortunately, I got a later start than usual today (9:45 AM) due to early-morning grocery shopping and a half-hour drive to the trail parking. Additionally, hiking up the western end of Precipice Path to the Anna-Straightback Link took me just under an hour and a half, and I really needed to be home before 1:00 PM. So I decided to cut my hike short, eliminating the loop over Straightback and the Quarries, and just head over to Mt. Anna.
When I arrived at the parking area at the end of Alton Mountain Road (a short way beyond where the pavement ends, and the dirt road takes a sharp turn around a short row of small trees), there were a few cars already there. I quickly parked and began the walk on Old Stage Road to the trailhead.
To find the trail, you really have to be paying attention to find the teeny-tiny arrow-shaped sign that says “Anna”, pointing to the right and mounted atop a three to four-foot-tall post. I headed up this trail a short way, then took the Precipice Link trail (blazed purple) to the right, and quickly reached the Precipice Path trail (also blazed purple). To the right, it ascends the east side of the trail, and to the left, the west. Both ways take you to the Anna-Straightback Link, with the east side being closer to Straightback, and the west being closer to Anna. I ascended the west side, since I wanted to climb the steep bouldery section. This side normally has a waterfall flowing through the trail; however, with the drought we’ve had this summer, there isn’t a single drop of water flowing. You can’t even hear any hiding under the rocks. Beyond the rockfall, a narrow trail traverses the steep southern slope above a cliff. Though you’re well back from the edge in most places, careful footing is needed since the trail slopes downward (steeply in some spots). But there are some great views from open spots along the cliff, looking southward over Hills Pond.
Closer to the top of Precipice Path, the trail takes a turn and begins climbing upward again, reaching the Anna-Straightback Link in approximately 1.3 miles (this does not include the approximate .7 mile along Old Stage Road to the trailhead). Here, I took a left toward Mt. Anna, following the Anna-Straightback Link about another .2 miles to the summit. There’s no view right at this point, just a sign and cairn marking the summit at a four-way junction. Continuing straight ahead or to the left will return you to Old Stage Road; taking a right leads to Mt. Mack, Mt. Klem, Round Pond, and the western end of the Belknap Range Trail. I took a left again, following the Anna-Goat Pasture trail (blazed red) back to Old Stage Road.
By the time I had returned to my car, two of the cars were gone and one still remained. Through my entire hike, I didn’t see another person on the trail, though I knew there were others from the Belknap Range Hikers Facebook group hiking today. Unfortunately, our paths didn’t cross, probably due to my later start!
I’m now 2/3 of the way done with my Belknap Range redlining, and have climbed seven of the 12 Belknap Range summits needed for the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association’s hiking patch.