Difficulty: Moderate (steep and rough especially on ledges)
Directions: From Alton, NH take Rt. 11 West and follow it for about 6 miles. Trail head parking lot is on the left (blue sign)
Report: With no ambition to tackle the Northern peaks or the drive there and with the pending windy, rainy forecast for later in the afternoon Scott and I decided to stay close to home. So we packed lightly and headed for Mt. Major with the hope to explore some of the other trails that I have been hearing about. Growing up climbing Major I never ventured off of the main trail and didn't know just how much hiking there is to do on the Belknap Range. We started out on the Main/Mt. Major trail at 8:15am, the regulars already there, Art being one of those. I noticed a basic trail map on a tree that I don't think I ever looked at before and noticed that I have had my trail names mixed up. I always thought the Main/Mt. Major trail was the Boulder trail and thought Boulder trail was the Brook trail...But the Boulder trail leaves the left side of the parking lot, Mt. Main/Mt. Major trail the right side and Brook trail stays on the logging road where the main trail breaks right.
Back on to the trip report here, the sky was overcast but the sun managed to peak through the clouds quite a bit today. Winds were certainly blowing, right through the trees even. The trail went back-and-forth from crusty packed snow to bare ground and taking a left at the Brook trail junction the snow took over with only some rock hopping on the trail and bare sections of rock on the lower an middle ledge areas, all barebootable but spikes wouldn't have hurt. Trash was showing up under the melting snow which was a bit depressing. I picked up wht I could particularly a Pringles can. Also I tried to fix the strings blocking the re-vegitation areas but some were still under frozen granular. We scaled the snow covered ledges and made Mt. Major (1786') summit around 9:30 (first stopping on some ledges below to take pics in a more wind protected spot). We took some more pics of Lake Winnipesaukee thawing out, the clear sky's North to Mt. Washington and continued on to the West side of the mountain and picked up the blue and yellow blazed trail that I had never know about!
Down some easy, pretty ledges we dropped back into the trails passing the Brook trail junction (where a small beech tree branch nearly took my eye, there were many on these on the back trails at eye level) then the Quarry Spur trail junction. Onward keeping left at both of these junctions we passed through some woods, past a small boulder and up and down some very minor PUDS. Soon we climbed opening up into an open knoll dotted with small pine trees. Then reached the cairn topped rock summit of Straightback Mt. (1890') just after 10am. Pictures taken we headed back down (removing a small blow down) the way we came and took a left onto Brook Trail. Here we passed a group of three men with Full packs, GPS units and a metal detector. I asked what they had planned and they said they were doing Major and Straightback...a bit overboard I thought and what do they plan on finding with a metal detector? But I'm not judging anyone. Down we went reaching the brook then down the logging road back to the Main trail and parking lot, finishing at 11:30am.
This was a pleasant loop hike that I plan to do more often. And I am certainly looking forward to checking out the trails and mountains around and beyond this area in the future.
Total Mileage: 4.6 miles
Total Elevation Gain: Approx. 1,450 ft.
Total Trip Time: 3hrs, 15min.
Weather/trail: Overcast with some sun. Temps in low 40's? Moderate winds on South side of Major and on the summits. Trail well packed, light traction recomended.
Pics of this hike HERE