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Sunrise over Winnipesaukee

By Jayne Glennon

Foliage brings crowds of hikers to Mt. Major -- actually crowds arrive every weekend, year round! On Oct. 10, Sue and I watched the sunrise at the base of the mountain and scored the front row in the parking lot. When we left at 11:30 cars overflowed the lot by more than a half mile in either direction, making it a hike just to get to the trail head. This mountain is never lonely. The draw -- amazing 360-degree views from the open, granite summit.

Mt. Major sits right on the edge of Lake Winnipesaukee overlooking the Lake, Alton Bay and several mountain ranges. It's not a long hike (depending on where you have to park) and the reward is fantastic, but this is not an easy climb. The summit of Mt. Major can be very unfriendly. I wonder who reads the warning signs at the trail head about preparedness. "Please help reduce the need for numerous rescues..." If I had a scale for rating trails this one would be in the "ankle breaker" category, hiking boots necessary.

There are several trails that reach the summit. We hiked the blue trail all the way up and down. It begins as a nice walk in the woods, then takes a 90-degree left turn and, thereafter, becomes a rocky, eroded and relentless climb. At one point, we stood waist deep at tree roots where the ground had been washed away. The forest around us was colorful with turning leaves, but we did not see the lovely, mossy woodlands found on other mountains in the range, in particular, Piper and Belknap.


Just as I was beginning to wonder if my legs would make it, the forest began to thin, encouraging me along with small peeks of the island-dotted lake below. The climb became more ledgy -- steep enough that in places I had to use my hands for stability and lift.

Luckily, the difficult part was short and quick and soon we found ourselves at a spacious, flat summit, at about 9 a.m. Ahead of us, a couple dozen people braced themselves against the cold wind while taking in the view. Some ate breakfast protected from the wind by the remaining stone walls of a hiking hut built over a 100 years ago.

A significant difference in temperature and wind speed at the summit had me donning the extra clothing I had stowed in my backpack. There are few places to hide from the wind but we found a spot to rest and snack that looked out on Alton Bay. By 10 a.m., we were headed back down and apparently this was the time when many people decided to ascend. One hiker told us there was a train following him up the mountain. He was correct. The flow of hikers was constant and we had to stop frequently to let others pass. It was the busiest hiking trail I have taken. My muscles were sore the next morning and the next, but it was worth it to stand high above Winnipesaukee on a fall day.

Mt. Major

  • Date: Oct. 10, 2015
  • Distance: Approx 3 - 4 miles round trip
  • Weather: 15 degrees warmer at the bottom than top, also very windy at summit
  • Fee: none
  • Pets: We saw many but a few had to be carried up some steep areas along the trail
  • What I liked about this hike: Awesome views of Winnipesaukee and mountains; great exercise; challenging
  • What I didn't like about this hike: crowded; had to carefully concentrate on my footing especially on the way down; walking funny the next day because of stiff legs.