Mileage: 3.2 miles RT (about 2 hours)
Elevation gain: 1200'
Trailhead: Zealand Road, parking lot approximately 1 mile from Route 302.
Lesson learned: Move over, Mts. Willard, Avalon and Elephant Head - these peaks are also a short hike to fantastic views!
As a hiking info volunteer for Appalachian Mountain Club, I volunteer four weekends a year at their front country destinations Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Highland Center. I arrive on Friday night and work through Sunday 'til about 11:30. This weekend Rich and I worked our stint at the Highland Center with Sandy. This was Sandy's first volunteer stint at the Center and she was having a great time helping the guests plan their hike.
On Saturday we get a 3-4 hour break in the afternoon. The break is a perfect time for a short hike and we decided to hike Middle & North Sugarloaf, two peaks off of Zealand Road (8 miles from Highland Center). VFFT, my favorite blog on trail conditions www.viewsfromthetop.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=13, indicated that the bridge was still out on the Trestle trail due to Tropical Storm Irene. The Trestle trail leads to the Sugarloaf trail from the Zealand Road parking lot, which is the lot one mile from Route 302. We decided instead to walk down Zealand Road from the parking lot directly to the Sugarloaf trailhead, avoiding the now bridgeless river crossing on the Trestle trail.
|Parked at the parking lot and walked to the trailhead you see here past the guardrail.|
The trail offers a gradual ascent with good footing. The woods were so serene and we barely broke a sweat as we headed toward the top of the "T" where the Sugarloaf trail ended and the summit trails went left and right. As we got closer there were occasional patches of snow and icy leaves but the trail was dry for the most part.
|To the left of Sandy and Rich is the trail - wide and mellow.|
|"And she's buying a stairway to the summit!"|
|Fantastic view of Mt. Washington from Middle Sugarloaf|
As we were heading down, the air changed and we could tell snow was coming. We were back down to the junction in no time and headed down the Sugarloaf trail to the car.
|The top of the "T." "Of course, some people do go both ways!" Scarecrow|
|Darkness soon fell and the snow came.|
|Bench at the Highland Center.|