Ascent of Sandwich Mountain on 2020-07-24
|Others in Party:||Aimee Bouchard|
|Date:||Friday, July 24, 2020|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Location:||USA-New Hampshire|
| Elevation:||3960 ft / 1207 m|
Ascent Trip ReportBy virtue of staying in Conway for the week prior, we elected an eastern approach to Sandwich Dome, starting at the Bennett Street Trailhead. This approach is much less popular than the western approaches, and our experience here confirms that. We saw exactly one other person on the trails.
These directions will be written so folks coming from multiple directions can use them. Take NH-16 to the junction of NH-113 in the village of Chocorua. Take 113 west to the junction of NH-113A, in Tamworth. Stay on 113A, enjoying the scenic drive, until you see Whiteface Intervale Rd. on your right. Shortly past this turn is a small memorial spring we discovered accidentally when we missed the turn the first time. Bennett St. is an almost immediate left off Whiteface. Bennett St. goes from paved to dirt to bumpy dirt before you arrive at the parking area. In winter or mud season, this road may be impassible. The parking area is not on national park land, so there is no fee for parking.
From the parking area, there are multiple routes up the mountain, but one of the trails on the maps is highly not recommended, as our report will make clear. We elected to partially follow the route Roy Schweiker used in his trip report on cohp.org.
Regardless of how you plan to get to the summit, you must start on the Flat Mountain Pond Trail. After about a quarter mile, you pass Joses (Joe-ses) Bridge, open only to pedestrian traffic, but you don't need to use it. At a half mile from the parking lot, you are faced with your first choice. The Bennett Street Trail, on the right, promises a four mile walk to the summit. The Flat Mountain Pond Trail continues west (mostly) for about another half mile to the junction of the Guinea Pond Trail. It then turns north and after a total of 2.1 miles, it meets Bennett again, 1.5 miles along its length.
We decided to go up Bennett from the first junction. Bennett follows a beautiful stream, with multiple cascades and waterfalls along the 1.5 mile walk to the second junction with Flat Mountain. After about a half mile on Bennett, you cross a junction with the Gleason Trail. This is theoretically another way up Sandwich from the east, but be warned. The trail is officially decommissioned, and has not been maintained since 2012. And from what little we saw, it shows. The bottom half mile, which connects Bennett and Flat Mountain, appears passable and is signed on both sides. Taking this detour cuts off a small bit of distance and elevation changes along Bennett, but also cuts out some of the best of the waterfalls along it. More about Gleason later. Also note that the topo maps on our watch did not include the section of Bennett from Gleason to Flat Mountain, but it is definitely on all the maps you'll find online. We stuck with Bennett; we're suckers for waterfalls.
From the second junction of Flat Mountain and Bennett, follow the blue-blazed Bennett up the mountain. At times, the blazes are few and far between, but the trail wasn't that hard to follow. There are spots where the trail goes relentlessly uphill (two in particular are very steep), but then other sections follow old roads and are quite nice to hike. Those sections earned this trail our unofficial nickname, "The Blue Moose Poop Trail". Bennett crosses and re-crosses multiple mountain streams, so replenishing water is not a problem here. In times of higher water, this trail might present a more difficult challenge.
About a half mile from the top, Gleason supposedly reconnects to Bennett. We found little evidence that a trail ever existed here at all. There is no sign, no blazes, and what we think might have been the trail had two blowdowns in the first fifty feet. While this trail is still on the maps, do yourself a favor and pretend it's not.
The official distance is 4 miles, but our watches told us it was nearly five. The views from Sandwich Dome are wonderful. We clearly saw Lafayette, the Tripyramids, and the mist-shrouded Presidentials, among many others. As highpointers, our goal was the county line, and we did easily find the cairn that "marks" the highest point in Carroll County. If in fact it does. Every map we found online says that the county line passes just south of the summit, if not right over it. And since the county line goes through the highest contour anyway, this spot seems as good as any.
After we descended, we took Flat Mountain all the way back to the parking lot. This trail was once the bed of a railway last used before WW1, and some of the old ties are still in place. After all the ups and downs of the day, it was very nice to enjoy a mostly flat final two miles, with only one small up and down to cross yet another stream. We also wanted to see where Gleason used to ascend the mountain. As we discovered above, there was no sign, no blazes, and the trail was obviously in a very neglected state. The connector again appeared passable from the north side, so future visitors can likely use that to cut a bit of distance and elevation from this approach.
Total distance: 10 miles, exactly, from stepping out of the car to getting back in. Elevation: 2860. Cutting out the lower portion of Bennett would reduce that, as there is a bit of loss following the river. Total time: Just under five hours of hiking. Add approximately 30-45 minutes for food, rest breaks, a bit of searching for signs of Gleason, and pictures along the way.
|Summary Total Data|
| Quality:||7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)|
| Route Conditions:||Maintained Trail|
| Weather:||Pleasant, Calm, Clear|
| Route:||Bennett to Flat Mountain|
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