Hancocks in Winter

Hiking the Hancocks in Winter

Hike Date: February 14, 2021

Spent Valentine’s Day hiking up North and South Hancock in the White Mountains.

Stats

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Route

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Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Mt. Hancock parking
1.8 mi1.8 miHancock Notch Trail to Cedar Brook Trail
0.7 mi2.5 miCedar Brook Trail to Hancock Loop Trail
1.1 mi3.6 miHancock Loop Trail to the loop juncture
0.7 mi4.3 miHancock Loop Trail (left at the fork) to the summit of North Hancock
1.4 mi5.7 miHancock Loop Trail to the summit of South Hancock
0.5 mi6.2 miHancock Loop Trail back to the loop juncture
1.1 mi7.3 miHancock Loop Trail back to Cedar Brook Trail
0.7 mi8 miCedar Brook Trail back to Hancock Notch Trail
1.8 mi9.8 miHancock Notch Trail back to the parking lot

Map

Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using the White Mountain Guide and Trail Maps.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s Day than spending time with the person I love most in a place that we both love so much: the White Mountains. We got to the trailhead earlier than usual and were delighted that Mt. Hancock Parking was almost empty, meaning we were in for a hike of solitude. The hike starts by crossing the road at a hairpin turn to get to Hancock Notch Trail. We put on our microspikes (which were sufficient for the entire way) and started the extremely mild first few miles through the snow-covered woods. When we got to a trail juncture, we turned left to take Cedar Brook Trail for less than a mile before we came to the next trail sign. There, we turned right on Hancock Loop Trail and began climbing very gradually.

Hancocks trailhead
Hancock Notch Trail
Hancock Loop Trail sign

When we got to the loop, we opted to turn left to take the longer and steeper route up to North Hancock first. We’ve hiked this before and knew that hiking up the steeper section feels safer and more pleasant than hiking down it. The trail initially dropped down a great deal then started the incredibly steep 0.5 miles or so to the peak of North Hancock. Kevin, always extremely steady and consistent on the ascent, set a solid pace. I placed my foot in every boot mark he made in front of me, which made the traction and footing slightly easier. On the way up, we chatted briefly with two people who happened to live in our neighborhood in Boston (what a small world!), but generally, did not take any breaks during this section.

Turned left to go up North Hancock first
Steep climb up North Hancock
Almost to North Hancock

Hiking into the clouds, the wind started picking up and the trail started flattening out. When we got to the summit sign, we turned left to go to the “viewpoint” which was completely socked in. We laughed at my frozen gray hair, said hello to an adorable gray jay, and took a brief break.

Trail sign on North Hancock
Frozen gray hair!
Gray Jay in the trees

Then, we made our way through the 1.4 mile col to South Hancock. Just as I remembered, the section between North and South Hancock was incredibly gentle and enjoyable. Passing through the beautiful snowy landscape, we arrived at the summit of South Hancock before we knew it. The peak was completely shrouded in clouds, so we did not stay long at the summit or the viewpoint. We butt slid almost all of the 0.5 miles down to the loop juncture. Then, moved quickly on the flat sections out to the road. Even though it was completely cloudy the entire day and we didn’t see any views this time around, it was more enjoyable than any of the other times we’ve hiked the Hancocks. The snow can make the mountains so magical and I loved spending Valentine’s Day hiking with Kevin in a place that means so much to us.

Trail in the col between peaks
Trail signs on South Hancock
Flat trail out

And, just like that, we are over halfway through our winter 48 4000 foot list! 25 down, 23 to go.

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