Boulder Loop Trail - Kancamagus Highway
The route. 3 mile loop with 950 feet of elevation gain
Sunday I had another relative want to go for a hike with us, this time it was my brother in law and his girlfriend. Neither of them are what you'd call hikers, but he has done a few trips with us in the past, and he has a mini beagle that was also coming along for the ride. Taking all that into consideration as well as my familys status at the moment I decided that Black Cap was going to be the one for the day. I had read on the NHDOT website that they were planning to open Hurricane Mt. road last Tuesday so figured it would be perfect. Well, after lunch we headed up that way only to find the gate still locked two miles from the trailhead. @#!%&*!#!!
So as a public service announcement, just like the forest road status page says, the road is still closed.
From there I had to figure out another spot, as the natives were getting restless. I looked at the maps and thought about Eagle or Iron Mountains but figured being a bit farther north and with north facing trails we could hit some snow/ice I was trying to avoid. I couldn't come up with much else nearby that was under 1000 feet and had good views and gentle grades that a pregnant lady and a 4 year old could handle, and the nearest thing I knew of for sure was the Boulder Loop on the Kanc, so off we went in that direction. There are a couple other reports in the archives around here about this loop, but all three seem to have lost the pictures that were linked to them so I'll put this up with a few pictures of my own if anyone ever wants to see the thing.
The cliffs the loop runs over and around seen from the Kanc
A covered bridge crosses the Swift River to get to the trailhead
View from the bridge
The trail starts just over the Albany Covered Bridge near the appropriately named Covered Bridge Campground. There's a sign for the again appropriately named Boulder Loop trail and it heads off into the woods among the giant boulders that seem to have fallen off the 1000 foot high cliffs surrounding the area. After .2 miles the trail splits and makes its lollipop loop, which we chose to do counter clockwise, climbing the slightly rougher rockier trail and descending down the pine shaded rooty earthen side. The woods are still leafless and very dry, so with the 70 degree sunshine beating down on us it was pretty warm in there. The leafless trees, while not providing shade, also didn't block the views so we got some views through the trees that otherwise would have been blocked of the cliffs and surrounding mountains, most notably the backside of the Moats.
Appropriately named trail running among the boulders
Able to see the cliffs and boulders through the leafless trees
Even while running through and around a good collection of large boulders the trail was never rough or tricky. Footing, as you'd expect for a touristy trail, was excellent and trailwork made easy climbing on stone steps wherever it was even a little steep. We moved pretty slow and took a lot of short breaks, so it took us about an hour and a half to reach the spur to the clifftop views. If you do the loop don't miss it. It's at the height of land in a shady little section of pines. Without it there's hardly any views to speak of on the loop. With it however there are some great ones, and might even be better ones than we saw as we chose not to follow the spur to the very end and just relax and enjoy from what seemed to be the high point of these nameless cliffs.
Top of the cliffs where the views open up
Makes a good spot for a snack break
Chocorua and The Sisters across the street
Great views of the Sandwich Range from the cliffs
After a half hour rest to soak up the views and afternoon sun we headed down. As I mentioned before the trail down if you go counter clockwise is slightly more earth and root and less rock, so it was easy well graded footing. You pass one more clifftop viewpoint about halfway down I'd guess and get a view back up where you came and down the Swift River valley to the east around to Chocorua again. Then it's back down to the trail junction in the boulder section and a short walk back to the trailhead along the road and across the bridge.
The trail down had a lot more shady pines and smoother footing overall, but neither was is very rough
Restricted view back at the cliffs on the way down
View east down the Swift River valley where the Kanc goes
That's that. Nothing tough and nothing fancy but some interesting boulders and terrain, unique views of Chocorua, the backside of the Moats and a nice panoramic view of most of the Sandwich Range were the reward for the modest effort. Three miles total with 950 feet of gentle elevation gain and good footing made it just what we were after. Maybe not worth the trip for everyone, but if you're in the area anyways, have smaller kids or a pregnant wife or even just want to add it on as part two after another hike it's definitely worth it.
As usual, if that's not enough there's a few more pictures here if you'd like to see more.