Originally written for Wildland Trekking, 2022
There are several reasons that hikers have been climbing New Hampshire's Mt. Chocorua since its first ascents were made in the mid-1800s. For some it's the mountain's rich history, legend, and lore. For others it's the spectacular panoramic views and rugged terrain. I appreciate all aspects of Chocorua, and it's the one of the few summits in the White Mountains that I reserve the term "magnificent" for. At 3,490 ft. in elevation, Mt. Chocorua doesn't stand quite has tall as the state's more famous 4,000-footers, but it still provides the same big mountain experience.
I've climbed Chocorua many times, but on an early morning in mid-May of 2022, I set off from my car on a route I hadn't hiked before, which would involve steep, exposed scrambling up Brook Trail combined with a more gentle descent via Liberty Trail. Throughout the day I was treated to beautiful forests, babbling brooks, and unmatched scenery from open ledges. Everything a hiker could want, in my opinion.
I chose this route because it was new me and I was looking forward to the challenge, but the mountain is fortunately blessed with a myriad of routes for all abilities. Hikers seeking a more wilderness-like experience can opt for the gradual Bolles Trail and then connect to Bee Line, Brook, and Liberty trails. For a bit of added heart-pounding exhilaration, adventurous trampers can ascend via Carter Ledge Trail, which offers exposed ledge walking and tricky scrambles to negotiate. Beginners and hikers with dogs may want to opt for Champney Brook Trail, a wooded and mostly gradual route from the north. Traveling this trail also allows for a short side trip to the beautiful Champney Falls and Pitcher Falls, best seen in the spring or after heavy rain events.
No matter the route, every hiker will be greeted by extensive views once they break above treeline for the final push to the summit over open ledges. An 1815 forest fire burned over the top of the mountain, exposing vistas to the north toward the White Mountains, south over New Hampshire's Lakes Region, west toward Vermont, and east into Maine. Sitting atop the sharp horn of Chocorua and taking in the views is a fine reward for the effort undertaken to get here.
My hike on that warm day was another amazing trip on the mountain, just as all of the previous ones have been. Traveling new paths this time added to my appreciation and respect for Mt. Chocorua, and also scratched that itch to explore new terrain, something I imagine the first visitors to the mountain felt. If you are someone who is working up to the higher 4,000-footers, or are simply looking for a spectacular hiking experience, Mt. Chocorua will leave you in awe.
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