The Mt. Hancock Loop Trail Hike

9.8 miles round trip
5-7 hours
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors

The Hancock mountains, named after our nation’s forefather with the infamous signature, offer an enjoyable day hiking adventure with dual peaks on the White Mountain 48 list of 4,000 footers. Due to numerous brook crossings, this hike is best served after the snowmelt swell has subsided and at times of low precipitation. I found it fits nicely as a fall foliage excursion.

Hancock Overlook View
When this is the view from the trailhead parking lot, it’s going to be a good hike.

This hike begins at the Kancamagus Highway’s notorious hairpin turn on the Hancock Notch Trail. The early going is mostly flat and easy, offering opportunity for tourists who want to stretch their legs and venture beyond the Hancock Overlook parking lot.

Hancock Notch Trail Beginning
The early going on the Hancock Notch Trail is a good nature walk.

Numerous brook crossings put an end to how far the tourists will trek in loafers, if past the parking lot at all. The brooks all feature rock hopping opportunities that can easily be done without getting your feet wet. Bear in mind this is the case when water levels are low—exercise caution when the brooks are really flowing.

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The Hancock Notch Trail approach is largely devoid of the rocks customary of White Mountain hiking. The trade-off here is the mother load of roots. So while this part of the trail doesn’t feature much elevation gain, the going can be slower than expected at times as you really need to watch your footing.

Hancock Notch Trail Roots
Less rocks, more roots.
Hancock Loop Trail Sign
1.8 miles into the hike is the junction with the Cedar Brook Trail. Turn left here onto Cedar Brook, which leads to the Hancock Loop Trail.
Cedar Brook Trail Relocation
A portion of the Cedar Brook Trail was recently relocated to avoid a few of the brook crossings. Kudos to the trail crew. The relocation looked good, cutting through a pleasant stretch of forest.
Hancock Loop Trail Brook 1
Fear not brook lovers, the relocation doesn’t remove all brook crossings.
Hancock Loop Trail Sign 2
Overall the hike doesn’t stay on the Cedar Brook Trail long, turning right onto the Hancock Loop Trail after 0.7 miles.
Hancock Loop Trail Brook 3
The Hancock Loop Trail Features a couple more—you guessed it—brook crossings. The second of which, shown here, looks like it could be hazardous at times of high flow.
Hancock Loop Trail Sign 3
1.1 miles into the Hancock Loop Trail is the split for the North and South peaks.

Ascending to the North Peak (elevation 4,420 feet) first is typically the preferred route because this route is slightly longer and overall more challenging than the South Peak (elevation 4,319 feet) climb. The trail dips briefly into a low washout area before immediately climbing up the mountain.

Mt Hancock Steep Climb
The North Peak climb is only 0.7 miles, but most of it is straight up and steep.
Mt Hancock Loose Rock
There’s also a lot of loose rock on the North Peak side of the trail, which is why ascending this way. is the recommended route.
Hancock Loop Trail Sign 4
The Mt. Hancock North Peak ascent tops out at the turn to the South Peak. Before making the turn, be sure to check out the outlook.
Mt Hancock Outlook View
The view south from the Hancock North Peak outlook to Mt. Osceola and the Sandwich Range Wilderness.

The 1.4-mile connection from Mt. Hancock’s North and South peaks is relatively easy with several ups and downs. Often times in the White Mountains a short distance such as 1.4 miles can seem to take forever. That wasn’t my experience here, as I found myself asking Is that it? when I reached the South Peak.

South Hancock Outlook View
The view from the South Peak outlook. The Mt. Hancock Loop hike is entirely under treeline with the only real views at the peak outlooks.
South Hancock Steep Climb
From the South Peak, it’s a short and steep half-mile descent to the where the loop trail splits for the North and South peaks.

Mt. Hancock Directions

Take exit 32 on I-93 and at the end of the ramp turn left onto Rt. 112 East, also the Kancamagus Highway. Keep an eye out for the signs indicating the hairpin turn. The trailhead parking lot is located on the inside-corner of the turn. It is a pay-to-park lot. Be advised, the parking lot can become a zoo during peak tourist time (the one downside of doing this hike during leaf-peeping season).

Mt. Hancock Overlook Tree
One last image to share from the Mt. Hancock overlook parking lot.
Hancock Loop Trail Foliage
Fall foliage on the Hancock Loop Trail hike.
Posted in
New Hampshire, New Hampshire Trail Reviews, Weekend Warriors
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One response to “The Mt. Hancock Loop Trail Hike
  1. Bruce says:

    Thanks. can’t wait to do this hike in May for my 70th BD.

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