This report is an account of our climb of two New Hampshire 4000-footers: North and South Hancock.
The Hancocks (or, as the USGS likes to call it, Hancock Mountain) are mostly wooded summits not far north of the scenic Kancamagus highway (NH112) that cuts across the White Mountains from east to west. It is a moderate 15km (9 mile) semi-loop hike. We did these peaks on the first day of our 10-day summer vacation to the Maritime provinces of Canada
, and the reason we chose to do the Hancocks was that the trailhead was right along the highway route leading from Ottawa to the ferry terminal in Portland, Maine -- where we were going to be catching the ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia (and also the fact that it wasn't too long of a hike). What better than to combine a long drive with an invigorating side-hike?
The trailhead ot the Hancock Loop hike is at the first sharp hairpin on the Kancamagus Highway (NH112), east of Lincoln.
The first part of the route follows relatively flat terrain and with little roughness. As a result, we made very good time along this section. This section of trail is known as the Hancock Notch Trail.
There are several (I think around five) brook crossings further along on the trail. They were very easy for us, but they were fairly wide and if the flow was high enough, these probably would be tricky to cross. About partway through the brook crossings, a junction is reached with the Cedar Brook Trail. We took this trail (i.e. we turned left), and headed north.
Eventually we come to a junction with a connector trail leading to the Hancock Loop Trail (the trail we are on now is the Cedar Brook Trail). We veer right onto the Hancock Loop Trail. This leads via a slightly steeper and rougher grade to the Junction marking the start of the Hancock Loop Trail itself. Going left leads counterclockwise up to the North Peak, then the south Peak, and heading right does the reverse. We notice that going left requires a descent of about 150 feet to cross a drainage, then a climb to North Hancock's 4400+ foot summit, whereas the going right is a direct climb to South Hancock's 4200+ foot summit. We wanted an easier ascent, so we chose the clockwise route.
Even with the easier ascent, it was reasonably steep. Jenn's recent heavy studying and light exercising meant she felt the effort a bit more than she usually does.
We began to get limited views of the surrounding terrain, and soon we topped out on South Hancock's summit ridge. The summit itself is treed, but there are some through-the-tree views to North Hancock. Just off to the east of the summit is an unobstructed viewpoint looking east. We now looked forward to a pleasant ridgewalk over to North Hancock.
The ridgewalk was indeed pleasant (which is often the case with these trails linking multiple-summits-on-a-ridge) -- windy, with soft footing, and a pleasant thick conifer forest. After descending to a lowpoint of just over 4,000 feet, we climbed a somewhat stiff 400 feet to North Hancock's summit. The summit itself is a junction sign with a small bit of open rock and no views to speak of. However, a short distance off on a side trail leads to a very nice 180-degree southern-facing viewpoint, with good views of the Osceolas and South Hancock. The weather was partly cloudy, and we had some nice sunshine for the few minutes that we were there.