I had planned to take the day off Monday, June 5th, and go hiking. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the weather forecast called for rain. So instead I went for a hike on Sunday after grocery shopping. The goal for the day was mainly to get outside and hike quickly, since I didn’t get to go hiking the previous weekend and I didn’t get outside much during the week due to rain.
This was my first time hiking from the relatively new (last summer/fall) Quarry Mountain Forest trailhead on Reed Road, managed by the Forest Society. Having seen several recent hike reports and photo albums in the Belknap Mountain Hikers group on Facebook, I was very surprised to find the trailhead parking lot completely empty just shortly after 9:00 AM on a beautiful, sunny Sunday.
I parked, loaded myself up with bug spray, and headed up the long gravel road to the hiking trail. To get to the trail, walk out of the parking lot and make a left, following the gravel road up, up, up the hill. Keep going until you reach the green gate with the Forest Society sign on it, then go around the gate to the other side and continue following the gravel road. There’s actually a tiny parking area on the left side just before the gate, enough room for two cars at most. About 150-200 yards past the gate, there is a clearing to the right and the gravel road continues to the left – keep following the road here. Soon you’ll come to an area with a large meadow to the left, with an awesome view north to the Sandwich range.
Just past the meadow, a stream passes under the road, and a short walk later you’ll see the beginning of the hiking trail up ahead on the right, marked by a set of stone steps leading up from the road. Be sure to turn around at the top of the steps and take in another amazing view, with Mt. Belknap, Gunstock, and Mt. Rowe to the far left, the Sandwich range straight ahead, and the Ossipee Mountains to the right. On an even clearer day, I expect you’d be able to see Mt. Washington from here – but on this day, it was hiding in the clouds as usual. It felt like it took forever to get to the hiking trail, and just when I began wondering if I had missed it, I realized I was finally there. In reality, it was only a 15-minute brisk walk up the gravel road.
From here, it’s a steady and at times steep climb up to the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail, emerging just slightly west of the eastern summit of Quarry Mountain. The trail is mostly dirt, pine needles, and grass, with occasional rocky spots and roots. It was also quite muddy with all the rain we’ve had recently.
Originally I had planned to take the Quarry Trail west to Mt. Klem and Round Pond, but when I realized the trail from Reed Road would lead me to the eastern end of the trail, I opted to loop around Straightback and Marsh Crossing instead. The climb up to East Quarry has some steep areas and short rock scrambles.
At its eastern end, the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail meets the Belknap Range Trail just west of the southern peak of Straightback Mountain. I decided to take the short out-and-back to the summit, since I was already so close. After getting a little turned around and forgetting which direction I came from, I figured out which part of the trail I needed to take to retrace my steps and continue on to the Marsh Crossing Trail.
Marsh Crossing can be hard to spot. I didn’t remember seeing a sign at the junction, but there’s a large rock right smack in the middle of the trail, with a tiny cairn (like 2 rocks) on top of it). Coming from the east, Marsh Crossing is a right turn here. The trail is blazed in yellow. Once you hike in a bit, say 50 yards or so, you’ll see a tiny white sign labeled “Marsh Crossing” on a tree.
The trail is relatively flat until you cross the marsh at about the halfway point. After that, there’s a steep climb with a little rock scrambling until you reach the Quarry Trail at what appears to be the western summit of Quarry Mountain – since there’s a tree with a sign reading “West Quarry” with the elevation. However, this is not the true summit. To get to the true summit, follow the herd path straight ahead (not the Quarry Trail) several yards to a cairn. I ended up taking this short walk to the true summit, because I missed the Quarry Trail immediately to my right. After an initial steep descent from West Quarry, it’s a relatively easy ridge walk back to the not-yet-named trail that leads down to Reed Road.
The bugs could have been bad, but I didn’t have too much trouble with them since I made sure to keep moving. The couple of times I briefly stopped, they did begin seeking me out before I quickly made my exit. Amazingly, I escaped without any bites, even though I took off my long-sleeved shirt about 30 minutes in, and hiked in a tank top with fully exposed arms (AKA mosquito and black fly smorgasbord) the rest of the way.
In addition to my surprise at seeing an empty parking lot when I arrived, I was even more surprised that I didn’t see one single other person on the trail (not even at the South Straightback summit), and my Jeep was still the only car in the parking lot when I returned just a little after noon.
Reed Road is right on the Alton town line, on Route 11A just west of Route 11. To get to the parking area, be sure to follow the paved part of the road where it makes a right about 1/10 of a mile in. Eventually the pavement will end and it becomes a gravel road. Just keep following it past lots of houses until you reach the large parking area on the left, with a “Quarry Mountain Forest” sign at the entrance.