9.8 miles round trip
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).