I had been looking at North and Middle Sugarloaf mountains near Twin Mountain in northern NH as a possible place to fly in and hike. I could find no map with a clear and reliable trail on the west side of the mountains near the Twin Mountain airport. However, bits of information from various sources seemed to suggest that there would be a trail on the west side. …or at least at some time in the past there had been. The only way to find out was to go look. Emilie and Isaac were away for an extended weekend attending a wedding in CA, so it was just me which made a risky exploration trip a lot easier.
The data I could find suggest that there were current trails around the west side base of the mountains. Older USGS topographical maps showed a trail that went from Zealand road over the saddle between North and Middle Sugarloaf and then down toward the town of Twin Mountain. Recent maps showed the trail going up the east side to the the summits, but not continuing on the west side. Open Street Maps on my phone suggested that it did come down the west side, but might not quite reach the trails at the bottom.
I took my folding bike with me to expedite the mile or so of roads from the airport to trails. I made a quick stop in Woodstock to meet up with a friend who had some AMC jackets for Emilie and myself and then continued through Franconia Notch to the Twin Mountain Airport. I had no trouble finding the trails at the base of the mountains and stashed the bike behind a stump. These lower trails are snowmobile trails in the winter, so wide and easy to follow.
About where I was hoping to find an unmapped trail or road that would take me to the track on Open Street Maps, I found exactly what I was hoping for. It was an old abandoned road that would never be noticed if you weren’t looking for it. It had plenty of blow-downs across it, but it was easy to follow and took me exactly to the start/end of the track I was trying to get to. …and when I got there, instead of continuing on the mapped track, the old road ended. Nothing. Where there was nothing on my map, a road that took me to the thing on my map. When I reached the thing on my map. Nothing.
I continued bushwhacking up the hill, zig-zagging back and forth across the line on the map/gps/phone in hopes of picking up the trail again. After numerous attempts to imagine that there might be an old abandoned path in the woods, I finally stumbled across what I needed. …but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and rather than looking like an abandoned road or trail, it appeared to be a relatively new one that saw light but regular use.
Following this trail took me to the regularly mapped trails that come up the east side and go to the summits. I hit the north summit first, then traversed the saddle to the middle summit and ate my lunch there. The Sugarloafs appeared to be a popular destination with a steady flow of hikers coming and going.
It was getting to be past 12:00 and I had been concerned about rainy and stormy weather that might move in, so I headed back and to find out where the trail I had found would meet up with the trail network at the base. A moose had recently left tracks as it headed down the lower parts of the trail. In some places the trail was very easy going. In a few spots it was quite muddy and a bit swampy. Eventually it reached intersected the snowmobile trail I had been on, but a bit further in than where I had left it in the morning.
As I hiked out the snowmobile trail, a light rain started, but the clouds still appeared to be high with good visibility. It was dry at the airport which made loading gear easy, but I flew through a few light showers on the way home.
The above screenshot shows the map database as it was on the day I hiked. I have updated the database using my GPX track, so the interactive map below with eventually show my updates rather than what I was using for the hike.