York Pond Trail - Bunnell Notch Trail - Kilkenny Ridge Trail
Distance: 9.30 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft. (overall) 2,877 ft. (total)
Time: 3:09 (Cabin) 3:24 (Summit) 5:57 (Total)
Today's hike felt like it has been a long time coming. The weather was great today. It was only 8 on the summit, but the sun was shinning all day and there were almost no clouds most of the day. I haven't had a day this clear on a big mountain since last June (that's right, 9 months). Great weather like this certainly helps with the motivation to get out hiking more.
This hike starts off pretty easily getting you warmed up slowly. The woods roads the trail follows to start don't gain elevation very quick, but do slowly get you some of what you will gain for the day. The snowshoe track was well packed out and I was hoping it would be like that all the way to the summit. The only odd thing in here was that I thought at a few times that I could hear someone coming up behind me, but there was never anyone there. The only other time I have hiked here, I had the same feeling and never saw another hiker. Thinking about this today, I also realized that the last time I hiked here was the day after we set the clocks back and today was the day we set the clocks forward.
Early piece of trail
After a good distance of easy trail, you finally mark the left turn that starts the climb up into Bunnell Notch. The trail goes back and forth from short uphill climbs to mostly flat sections. Another good way to warm up since it isn't too strenuous yet. Once the trail gets down into the saddle of the notch and mostly follows the brook, there are a few sections where the trail crosses over wet spots or other water paths from when water levels get higher. Nothing too bad today, but I do remember some mud from my last hike here during the fall.
Following near the edge of the brook
The only thing I don't like about this portion of the trail is that the top of the notch never looks that far away. Not being able to see much through the trees ahead of you, you keep thinking you must be getting close. Probably about half way up into the notch, I finally put on microspikes. There were a few brief steeper sections where one of the last hikers coming down butt slid, making the trail smooth and a bit slick. It was easier to put the spikes on than try to carefully place my feet. After a couple more sections like this, I started coming into the spruce a little more and I recognized this as nearing the top of the notch. Soon I was at the intersection with the Kilkenny Ridge Trail.
Height of land in the notch
The trail stays mostly level here for a bit before dipping down on the other side of the height of land. Things open back up as you do this and you get some decent views through the leafless trees. The trail starts working to the right and you begin the climb up to the cabin. This section is a bit steeper than the previous incline, and also seemed to last longer than I remembered The trail makes a switchback to the right and soon gets to a spot with some limited views through the trees. Just after this it turns left and the viewpoint at Bunnell Rock is on your right. Views from here were great and I could easily make out Franconia Ridge and Cannon Mountain in the distance.
View from Bunnell Rock
Above Bunnell Rock, the trail gets a little tighter with the trees trying to reach into the trail some more. It continues at about the same grade as before, but with smaller more gradual switchbacks. Pretty soon though you notice the trees are getting shorter and the trail levels out some. There's an outhouse and the right and the cabin is just to your left. Personally, I love Cabot Cabin. I think it is a great spot for this little shack with a great view too. I look forward to some day spending the night here and hopefully watching the sunset from the porch. Today though, it provided a nice spot out of the wind to re-layer with dry clothes before the last quarter mile to the summit. I spend some time changing, having a drink/snack, and just enjoying the views and the day so far.
The view from the porch
Back in dry layers (I sweat too much), I headed for the summit. The trail here seems to wander a bit along the ridge top. There were a couple blazes along it today, so I'm guessing the snowshoe track is following it. The first time I was here, there was not a very defined path in the snow and I followed what I could for hiker and moose tracks to the summit. You dip down from the cabin just a bit before an easy climb back up to the summit. It's a quick quarter mile between the two places. After some photos and another break, I headed back from the summit. Last time here I headed over The Bulge and The Horn back to the car. I'm glad I wasn't today as there wasn't much for tracks that had been that way (although trail conditions reports show some other did this today).
The summit of Mt. Cabot
Miles proving he made it to the summit (even if he was in the pack most of the time)
Before I knew it, I was back to the clearing next to the summit. Time for some pictures here and a nice pause to enjoy the great weather and views. Sadly, eventually I had to head back down. A few more hikers were headed up after I passed the cabin and we all commented about how nice the day was. It seems we've all been looking forward to this weather.
A great view towards the Mahoosucs
View to the west towards Lancaster
The hike back down went quite quickly and smooth. The trail was still packed well and staying firm. The sun made it so I could enjoy the scenery while paying just enough attention to not fall down the trail. As I hiked down, I kept switching to lighter layers on my upper half until I was finally just in a couple lightweight layers. I was still warm, and I could tell the sun was certainly having an effect shinning off all the snow. I was starting to think I was going to get a tan from this hike as my face was feeling a little warm. Sure enough, I did. By the time I got back to the car I was still pretty warm and it was feeling quite comfortable out. But when I checked the thermometer in the car, it was still only 25 degrees. I guess all the near 0 temps we've had this winter would make 25 and sunny be quite warm.
Today was a great day for a hike and conditions couldn't have been much better. I just wish I hadn't carried my snowshoes since I never even took them off my pack. I enjoyed the hike so much today, that I stopped in Conway for a longer meal than normal on the drive home and made sure to take multiple "scenic routes" through the mountains even though it was going to make the drive home longer.
Coming down the trail
Down near the brook
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE