Sunday, November 24, 2019

Mt Roberts - Castle in the Clouds

Location: Castle in the Clouds, Ossipee Range, Moultonborough, NH

Elevation, gain: 2570 ft, 1350 ft gain

Trail: In and out via Mt Roberts Tr

Distance: 4.6 mi - 5.5 mi, depending on your source of info*

Difficulty: Moderate

Hike duration: 3 hours, including stops at vistas - easily a good trail running summit or introduction to hiking.

Management agency: Lakes Region Conservation Trust

Parking: Plenty of parking on the Castle in the Clouds property, some lots closer to the trailhead than others.  *This is where I'm guessing the mileage discrepancy comes in.  

Summary:  Mt Roberts is one of my favorite underrated hikes and checks a lot of boxes for us.  The terrain and distance is very Tango-friendly with gentle footing and elevation gains.  But there's plenty of excitement for the wild one within its open hardwood forest, old stone walls, and ledges.  It's closer than the Whites for us but I don't feel cheated out of a "real" hike - there's appreciable elevation gain, solitude from civilization, and beautiful views that we don't have to share with the hoards like on nearby Mt Major.  Worth noting for owners of doggos like my Tybee is that we always hear distant gunshots on this one and there's always moose tracks near the summit.  The Lakes Region Conservation Trust has a kiosk packed with information and a donation box at the first parking lot. 

The trail starts past the horse barn (moved home for the winter but otherwise a welcome site and yes, we've met them on the lower trails).  I believe most of the trail follows an old  carriage road - it's broad, climbs gently, and has excellent footing. 

At about 1 mile is a short spur (was well-marked but the tree has fallen) to  a view out to Winnipesaukee and the Belknap Range.

Then begins the "climb."  The elevation increase comes more steadily and steeper, though still moderate in my opinion for the grade and duration.  Footing remains good, though a little rockier.  On this day, this where I started seeing a few patches of ice. 

One of my absolute favorite parts about Mt Roberts is the amount of time spent on open and partially open ledges, which begins after about another half mile.  For the remainder of the hike, one gradually weaves in and out of the trees, encountering the only evergreens of the hike, and over gentle rock ledges, offering an array of views.

Left: looking up the ridge, right: looking back down from the top.  Note the granite spine of the trail.

In the patches of woods, the ice became more prevalent and there's some hard, crunchy snow that seems to be sticking for the season.  

The trail pops out on the summit loop, you can go either way to reach the summit but I found keeping right easier for orientating myself.  For the descent, we continued on the loop - be sure to keep left and keep an eye out for the Mt Roberts Trail (signage below the actual junction).

Is it just me or is she looking directly at Mt Washington?

And that's a wrap! Not much to report about the descent since it's via the same trail, though the views are that much more enjoyable since one is facing them!
Hiking and Fishing