What with the new vacation house in Bethlehem, we are trying nearby lesser known hiking trails. Mount Lincoln and Lafayette are extremely popular for good reason. However, there is another way up to the top of Mount Lafayette — the Skookumchuck Trail.
I was worried the trail would stay under the trees with no views until the summit, kind of like neighboring Mt Garfield. We found that, while the Skookumchuck Trail stays in the trees, the last 0.8 miles after turning onto the Garfield Ridge Trail are completely above tree line. The views are gorgeous. To the west, Cannon Mountain. To the south the pointy Garfield-Lafayette ridge. To the east, the northern Pemigewasset wilderness. And to the north, the far horizon of northern NH.
It’s November, so I didn’t expect many hikers. However, the trail bed showed normal wear patterns. By contrast, the wide swath of the Greenleaf Trail is visible when flying by. All told, the Skookumchuck Trail is a worthy alternative to the Falling Waters and Old Bridle Path loop.
The day we hiked was sunny in the morning with afternoon rain/snow showers moving in. The low November sun shone straight in our eyes the entire way up. There was a couple behind us going about our speed. Just as we finished our rest stops, they would catch up and stop to rest also. Their dog, though, didn’t feel like resting. So he would keep hiking, setting pace ahead of. Isaac really enjoyed having a borrowed hiking companion. And Max was a well behaved dog. After 15 minutes with us, he would fall back to his humans. The other notable thing from the day was the temperature change from the bottom to the top. It was pleasantly cool at the bottom. Shortly before tree line, the ground froze. We put on our microspikes for the icy northern slopes. Above tree line, the oncoming storm bought a biting wind that Isaac could lean into. This was Isaac’s first time summiting Mount Lafayette, so he can cross another peak off the NH 4k list.
The guidebook mentioned the Skookumchuck Trail joining the old route at the brook. Where the trail first joins the brook, we spotted what might have been an old foot bed continuing down the brook towards the highway. I looked online, but I can’t find any notes about a trail reroute. Also, at the Jordan Brook crossing, we spotted a wood bridge uphill of the trail crossing. It looked like a snowmobile bridge. However, there are no mapped snowmobile trails there. Maybe it links up with the abandoned snowmobile trails near the Gale River? We need to come back and explore both. And also try the Eagle Cliff and Skookumchuck loop mentioned in several blogs: full loop hike or car shuttle with bushwhacking to views.