Belknap Range Hike 1: Mount Major Sunset Hike

Mt. Major - Sunset Hike

Hike Date: April 10, 2021

After a late afternoon hike in the lake region of New Hampshire, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the top of Mt. Major.

Stats

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Route

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Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Mt. Major Parking Lot
0.7 mi0.7 miMt. Major Trail to Brook Trail
1 mi1.7 miBrook Trail to North Straightback Link
0.5 mi2.2 miNorth Straightback Link to North Straightback Mountain
1.2 mi3.3 miDave Roberts’ Quarry Trail over East and West Quarry Mountains to Marsh Crossing
0.4 mi3.7 miMarsh Crossing to Belknap Range Trail (also called Main Trail or Blue Trail)
1.7 mi5.4 miBelknap Range Trail over Straightback Mountain to the summit of Mt. Major
1.6 mi7.1 miBoulder Trail back to parking lot

Map

This Belknap Range Trail Map should help you pick your own route on the extensive trail network if you choose.

Spring in New England is here and we opted to do a sunset hike on a perfectly clear 70 degree day in early April. We picked Mt. Major because it is only about 2 hours from Boston, has a great view of the lakes region, and has a relatively short and mild descent from the summit to the parking lot that we could easily do in the dark. Mount Major is quite popular – the rewards are high for a short hike. Almost always craving more miles, we made this a longer loop, but you could hike Mt. Major on its own as an approximately 3 mile loop of Mt. Major Trail and Boulder Trail.

We pulled up to a very full Mt. Major parking lot with cars also lined up along the road. Since we started in the late afternoon, most people were on their way out so we got a spot in the lot and hiked against the stream for most of the way up. We started up Mt. Major Trail, which was wide from a lot of use. It started to climb, flattened out, then started to climb again. We decided not to hike up Major first so that we could extend the hike into a longer loop to go over more peaks. As soon as we got off the beaten track, it was really quiet and lovely. Energized by the warm weather, we moved quickly, got our heart rates up, and saw the trees change from deciduous to evergreens. We gained almost all of the 2,000 feet of elevation in the first 2 miles up to North Straightback Mountain.

Wide trail start
North Straightback Link
North Straightback Mountain

After reaching the summit, we walked a short bit the wrong way on Dave Roberts’ Quarry Trail and caught a couple of pretty views of Mt. Major, then doubled back to take that trail the other way towards East Quarry Mountain. It immediately dropped down a very steep, but short, section and then leveled out.

View of Mt. Major
Quarry Trail past North Straightback
Steep section off North Straightback

From there, we climbed East Quarry and West Quarry Mountains before taking the Marsh Crossing to meet up with the Belknap Range Trail for the loop back. We absolutely loved the soft and undulating sections between the peaks. The air was filled with the sounds of frogs in nearby ponds. As we trekked through the marshy areas, we enjoyed the sun on our faces, shining brightly through the still leafless trees. Once we joined the Belknap Range Trail, we began climbing up to Straightback Mountain.

East Quarry
Marsh Crossing
Trail climbing Straightback Mountain

Atop Straightback Mountain, we paused at some beautiful open rock slab sections. Then, we looked up and saw the sky starting to turn pink and knew we needed to start moving quickly to get to Mt. Major in time for sunset. Once the trail opened up to more rock slabs, we knew we were close. The summit is an open rocky area that offers incredible views of Lake Winnipesaukee below and the White Mountains beyond. As we sat on the bald peak, we watched the setting sun light the sky and lake up with pink, orange, and purple hues. It was a perfect way to end a really beautiful hike.

Open rock slabs
Sign on Straightback Mountain
Approaching Mt. Major
Sunset from Mt. Major

After the sunset, it got dark very quickly. We waved goodbye to Mt. Major’s summit and decided to take Boulder Trail down to the parking lot. This was a different trail than we came up, so we were very careful to pay attention to blazes as we were not familiar with the route. The path was well-travelled, with several different hiker-made offshoots, making it difficult to figure out when we were following an actual trail or just a well-trodden path towards a view. However, prepared with headlamps and GPS, we were able to tell very quickly if we got off track. We made it back to the parking lot as the darkness took over feeling happy and full after another great day in the mountains.

Mt. Major summit
Descending under a darkening sky
Back to the parking lot in the dark

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