Belknap Range Hike 3: Gunstock, Rowe, Belknap, Piper, and Whiteface

Over three weekends from April to May, we hiked all 12 peaks in the Belknap Range in New Hampshire.

After winter ended, all we wanted was to enjoy the spring weather and walk among the blooming trees and flowers. We hiked a couple of peaks in the Belknap Range, beginning with Mount Major and fell in love with the region. As we started mapping out another route to hike in the area, we found out that there is actually a Belknap Range Hiking List that consists of 12 peaks that we were already a quarter of the way done with. So we decided to spend the next two weekends hiking all 12 peaks in this range. 

Mts. Gunstock, Rowe, Belknap, Piper, and Whiteface

Hike Date: May 8, 2021

This 12 mile hike with just over 3,000 feet of elevation gain completed our Belknap Range Hiker list.

Stats

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Elevation Gain
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Route

Segment Distance

Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Belknap Range Trails on Carriage Road
1.1 mi1.1 miGunstock Mountain Trail to Ridge Trail
1.7 mi2.8 miRidge Trail to Mt. Rowe
2 mi4.8 miRidge Trail back to Gunstock Mountain
0.2 mi5 miBrook Trail to Saddle Trail
0.1 mi5.1 miSaddle Trail to Blue Trail
0.6 mi5.7 miBlue Trail to Belknap Mountain
1 mi6.7 miWhite Trail to Old Piper Trail
0.4 mi7.1 miOld Piper Trail to Piper Mountain
0.9 mi8 miPiper Whiteface Link to Whiteface Trail
0.8 mi8.8 miWhiteface Trail to Whiteface Mountain
0.8 mi9.6 miWhiteface Trail back to Piper Whiteface Link
0.9 mi10.5 miPiper Whiteface Link back to Piper Mountain
1.5 mi12 miPiper Mountain Trail down to parking area

Map

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

This was the longest hike we’d done since our last winter hike in the White Mountains, and it felt great. Since we wanted to hike the last five peaks of the Belknaps Range list, the route we took for this hike was a little bit strange and creative! We parked at the Belknap Range Trails parkin on Carriage Road and took Gunstock Mountain Trail first. Immediately, this trail started climbing. It was fairly rocky and steep and we felt our hearts pumping as we hiked about 1,000 feet of elevation in 1 mile.

Parking and start of the trail
Gunstock Mountain Trail
Gunstock Mountain Trail

Before the summit of Gunstock, we turned left to hike the Ridge Trail over to Mt. Rowe. This section was really pleasant. The rocky path turned to a packed down dirt trail surrounded by emerging green buds on the bushes and the trees. We passed over some open ledges and caught our first glimpses of Gunstock Mountain, the ski slopes, lakes, and the other mountains we were going to summit later in the day. 

Ridge Trail
Ridge Trail
Views of the lakes
Views of the lakes
Views of the mountains
Views of the mountains

The actual summit of Rowe left something to be desired — just a radio tower at the end of a flat section. Luckily, we had already enjoyed some great viewpoints on the way. We doubled back towards Gunstock and decided to stop for a lunch break about a quarter of a mile from the summit at a scenic view with a picnic table that we had passed on our way up. From there, we hiked up to Gunstock, which is the top of a ski resort with some great views of the surrounding lakes and the White Mountains in the distance.

Top of Gunstock Mountain Resort
Top of Gunstock Mountain Resort
View of the White Mountains from Gunstock
View of the White Mountains from Gunstock

Then we made our way towards Belknap Mountain, taking Brook Trail to Saddle Trail to Blue Trail. The route was rocky in some sections, but nothing unexpected for hiking in New Hampshire. At the summit of Belknap Mountain, there is a pretty large area with a picnic table and a fire tower that boasts great views of the lakes region! The stairs up the tower were pretty narrow, but worth climbing up. From the top, we could see Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast covered in snow in the distance.

Rocky trail up Belknap Mountain
Rocky trail up Belknap Mountain
Fire tower on Belknap Mountain
Fire tower on Belknap Mountain
View of Mt. Washington from Belknap Mountain
View of Mt. Washington from Belknap Mountain

From Belknap Mountain, we continued on towards Piper Mountain. Before getting to Piper Mountain, which has a really nondescript summit, just a cairn along the route, we passed by some beautiful open ledges. One of the cairns there was shaped like a throne, so naturally Kathy had to take a Queen of the Summit picture. 

Trail heading to Piper Mountain
Trail heading to Piper Mountain
Queen of the summit!

Past Piper, we headed for the last peak of the day and of the Belknap Range Trail list, Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface Mountain is about 500 feet shorter than Piper, so we had to drop a decent amount of elevation before climbing up a slight bit to its summit. The descent included a lot of rock slab sections and the ascent included some very wide and rutted gravel trails, clearly used by ATVs also. 

Descending from Piper
Descending from Piper
Wide trails to Whiteface
Wide trails to Whiteface
Rutted spots became ponds
Rutted spots became ponds

The summit of Whiteface is a very large open area with expansive views of the area. It was a great place to pause and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment having hiked all 12 peaks in the Belknap Range.

Summit area on Mt. Whiteface
Summit area on Mt. Whiteface
Views from Mt. Whiteface
Views from Mt. Whiteface

After celebrating hiking all 12 peaks, we made our way back to Piper Mountain. Ascending the open rock slab at the end of a day of hiking was tough on our calves. Taking some side steps and walking some zig zags up these sections helped! We passed Piper and then turned left on Piper Mountain Trail to hike back to the parking lot.

Climbing back to Piper
Climbing back to Piper
Descending Piper Mountain Trail
Descending Piper Mountain Trail

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