There is really only one way to dayhike these peaks, aside from some very long approaches from Lincoln Woods or the Sawyer River Valley. Therefore, I would not be getting any new sections of trail checked off on this hike, but that is perfectly fine with me. The hike would involve the Hancock Notch, Cedar Brook, and Hancock Loop Trails. Just under 10 miles, with 2700 feet of elevation gain, but nearly half of that gain is after the Hancock Loop Trail splits, with a 0.7-mile, 1100-foot climb (all in 0.6 miles) to North Hancock, or a 0.5-mile, 900-foot climb to South Hancock. Thus, this hike really isn't too hard, the approach is flat and easy, just a short, stiff climb and descent in the middle of the hike.
It was a warm, but not terribly humid day, already 65 degrees when I left the trailhead at 8:40 on the Kancamangus Highway, at the hairpin turn. The Hancock Notch Trail mostly follows old railroad grades, and so is flat, wide, and mostly empty of rocks. The 1.8 miles flew by, despite me not trying to break speed records, and I reached the Cedar Brook Trail in roughly 35 minutes. Just before hitting this junction I came upon a group of SCA (Student Conservation Association, or something to that effect), a volunteer student trail crew group working on putting a rock staircase in an eroded section of the trail (due to Hurricane Irene last fall). Thanks again to all those that do trail work out there!
|Stream crossing near the Hancock Notch/Cedar Brook Trail junction|
Cedar Brook is also flat, but crosses a stream numerous times, and was heavily impacted by Irene. While passable, there are many eroded spots that will eventually need to be addressed. Also, there are several bog bridges in this stretch, and one was apparently moved mostly off-trail by the excessive water from the hurricane.
|The trail is to the left, this bog bridge got moved!|
|Cedar Brook Trail past the Hancock Loop Trail to the wilderness - path less traveled|
|Cedar Brook Trail towards Kanc from Hancock Loop Trail|
I hit the Hancock Loop Trail in a mere 55 minutes from the road, at the 2.5-mile mark and ~800 feet of elevation gain for the day. Now the trail gets a little rockier, but still not bad. 2/3 of the way to the split in the trail I ran into Phil, a local hiker whom I'd had a long conversation with on the summit of Moosilauke back on St. Patty's Day. We had another nice chat before we parted ways, as he too was on the way out.
After hitting the fork and taking a short snack break, I descended the 100 feet on the North Branch of the Hancock Loop Trail and began the steep climb. Nothing fancy here, it is all in the woods with reasonable footing most of the way. Just steep at 1100 feet gained in 0.6 miles. I saw a couple of people descending as I slowly ground my way up, but it only took about 45 minutes to complete this climb, which is not bad.
|An eroded section of the North Hancock Branch|
|Rock staircase heading up to North Hancock|
|Scaur Peak and the Tripyramids|
|Next destination - South Hancock on the right|
|Sandwich Dome on the horizon, Osceolas to the right|
South Hancock is also viewless, and has only a small overlook towards the Sawyer River Valley.
|Moat Range, Chocoura on far right|
|South Hancock summit|
Peaks: North Hancock (4420', NH4K), South Hancock (4319', NH4K)
Mileage: 9.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2700 feet
Time Taken: 5 hours (6:15 is book time) which includes 3 15-minute stops.
13 left for a 2012 NH48 finish!