Hike: Mount Cube


After a quick hike up Mount Major for a sunrise that never really showed its face, I headed to Orford, New Hampshire to meet a couple friends and hike Mount Cube. I thought that Mount Cube would have a square shape to it, but in fact its name is a local corruption of Mount Cuba. As legend has it, the mountain was named after a dog that fought a bear on its summit.

I first caught sight of the mountain as I drove around Lower Baker Pond on Route 25A, its rocky north summit stood high above the water. I passed by our starting point, the roadside parking for the Appalachian Trail and hooked around the northern side of the mountain. I was meeting my friends on the dirt Baker Road on the west side of the mountain at the Cross Rivendell Trail head, where we would be completing our hike.

They arrived soon after I go there and we headed back to the Appalachian Trail in my friend’s truck. We got to the start of our hike at 9:15 am. There were two other cars parked off the road and the weather was in the 40s and overcast. We started up the trail following a couple with a dog, and we were followed by a guy and his dog. We soon lost the trail and we all convened in a clearing slightly befuddled. In short time we discovered that we were on a logging road, not the Appalachain Trail. We headed back out to the road and found the trail on the western end of the parking area. It was signed and pretty obvious once we looked for it.

The approach to Mount Cube from the east was flat and muddy. It cut through the woods behind some farmland until it crossed Brackett Brook, when it finally started to climb the mountain. Things were going fine until the water crossing. One of my hiking partners slipped on the final rock while crossing the brook and bashed his head off a tree on the far side. He had quite the egg on his head and, as head wounds do, it began to bleed profusely. We patched him up and he threw on his hat to hold the bandage firmly against the wound. He appeared to be fine so we continued on.

After the brook the Appalachian Trail climbed moderately and switchbacked often. The trail insistently crossed and recrossed the many streams feeding the Brackett Brook and as we climbed higher things became icy. As we closed in on the summit the trail became steep and sections of the trail were completely layered in blue ice. We put on our microspikes and carefully continued up the mountain.

Near the top of the mountain the terrain flattened out and we came to the junction with the North Cube Spur Trail. We took it as snow started to fall listlessly from the sky. At 12:00pm we broke out of the trees and onto the rocky north peak. I was stunned by the color of the rock that made up the summit. The entire summit was glistening white and upon further inspection I realized that it was made entirely of quartzite. I had never seen so much in one location.

Smooth white quartz rock that makes up the summit

The entire summit is quartzite

We had a snack and checkout out the view that we could perceive through cloud and snow.

Clouds, mountains and a lake

Cloudy view from Cube’s North Peak

Rocky peak with mountains and a lake below

Panorama from the North Peak

After our snack we retraced our steps back to the junction and continued the short way to South Cube. We arrived there at 12:45 pm and like its northern brethren, it was formed out of white quartzite.

A mountain touching the clouds

Mount Smarts from Cube’s South Peak

Another interesting feature of the south peak of Mount Cube was that it was covered in old etchings.

Someone's name carved into the rock

An etching in the quartz on South Peak

After a short stay on the breezy and cold south peak we started to head down the other side of Mount Cube. The trail we followed was maintained by the Rivendell Trail Association and was part of the Cross Rivendell Trail. The Cross Rivendell Trail goes from the summit of South Cube in Orford, NH to Vershire, VT and focuses on trail use for elementary students.

Partway down the trail we hit a vista looking west toward Vermont. On the horizon we could just make out all of the Vermont 4000 footers. Killington’s ski trails, still white with Spring snow, just glistened through threatening weather on the horizon.

Mountains on the horizon under clouds

The Vermont 4000 Footers on the horizon

After a short break we continued down toward our vehicle. At some point the AMC stopped maintaining the trail from Mount Cube to Baker Road, and the Rivendell Trail Association took over its maintenance. One change that they made was to switchback the straight and steep trail, something I definitely appreciated while hiking down. We got back to my car at 2:45 pm and all other cars were gone. We drove back to our starting point to pick up my friend’s truck and then headed to North Woodstock to get a late lunch at Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery.

Aside from the injury during the brook crossing and the slippery ice flows near the summit, the hikes up and down Mount Cube were not overly exciting but still pleasant. Mount Cube is on the New Hampshire 52 with a View list and afforded some good perspectives, but I was most impressed with its quartzite caps.

Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling, with a heavy pack, is easier than it sounds; you just can’t fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.
—Jack Kerouac


Video of Mount Cube hikeVideo of Mount Cube hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “A Human Being” by Andy G. Cohen


Trail map

Map of hike (interactive map)

Date Hiked: 02 April 2016
Temperature: 40°s
Trail Conditions: mud, blue ice, slick rocks
Weather: overcast, flurries
Wind: NW 15mph

Highest Elevation: 2909′
Elevation Gain: 2000′
Distance: 6.6 miles
Book Time: 4:05
Actual Time: 5:30

Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Mount Cube Trail
North Cube Side Trail
Cross Rivendell Mount Cube Section

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