Sunrise Hike: Mount Major

Trail Report

A friend of mine and I made plans to hike Mount Cube the first weekend in April, but one mountain was (of course) not enough for me. So I left home at 3:30 am in order to hike Mount Major for sunrise before meeting him and his brother at Mount Cube.

I arrived at the Mount Major parking at 5:15 am and there were already two cars in the lot. I was slightly concerned about doing the hike in the dark as I had never been to Mount Major. This hadn’t stopped me in the past, but then I’d had the descriptions from the AMC White Mountains Guide to help me. I started up Boulder Loop Trail anyway.

My concerns ended up being unfounded. The trail was easy to follow in the dark as it was wide and well used. I followed the orange blazes south at a gentle incline until the path wrapped around the southern approach of the peak. At that point the trail became less defined as it climbed moderately up a field of large boulders from whence the trail got its name. I greatly enjoyed this part and although it was April and had been an icy winter there was no ice to slip upon among the boulders.

At the top of the bouldery scree the trail became gentle again and made its way across the granite dome between a scattering of trees and bushes. I lost the orange blazes as I explored the ledges about me, but stuck to the obvious paths that many feet had trodden and headed generally north.

As my surroundings were slowly being revealed by the rising sun I stopped at the sound of the nearby shrubs rustling. To my surprise two porcupines waddled away from me as fast as their stubby legs could go. I attempted to take a video of the critters, but it proved to be too dark and they could not be made out in the footage.

I reached the summit at 6:00 am. It was cool and there was a bit of a breeze from northwest, but I explored the summit anyway.

View of lake from mountain top

Sunrise over Lake Winnipesaukee

There was a young couple hunkered down in the stone foundation crowning the summit. They were taking photos and had a GoPro set up on a small tripod (I assumed it was taking a time-lapse of the sunrise). I wandered around taking photos and made my way into the foundation when they cleared out for a minute. The foundation was the remains of a stone hut built by the then property owner, George Phippen, in 1925. He intended the hut to serve as an overnight shelter for hikers, but when the roof blew off two times it remained as more of a wind block.

I sat down in the lee of the eastern face of the summit and had a snack. Two other people showed up while I was snacking, but all had left before I finished. The sunrise was underwhelming, just a lightening of the sky with a mild purple coloring. But, I enjoyed having the summit to myself and watching a few boats cruise around Lake Winnipesaukee.

At 6:45 am I headed down the Main Trail toward my car to meet my friend at Mount Cube at the agreed upon time. The hike out was an interesting one. It first led down the granite cliffs on the north side of the summit (there was an easier side trail that bypassed the cliffs), and then through sparse evergreen forest. Once the Main Trail met the junction with the Brook Trail it followed a wide trail that was once a lumber road.

I got to the parking lot at 7:15 am as planned. There were many more cars then and I could tell that the mountain would be crowded by mid-morning due to the mild Spring weather. I hopped in my car as sped off to the next mountain.

With the coming of spring, I am calm again.
—Gustav Mahler


Video of Mount Major sunrise hikeVideo of Mount Major sunrise hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “The Encouragement Stick” by Doctor Turtle

The Numbers

Trail map

Map of hike (interactive map)

Date Hiked: 02 April 2016
Temperature: 30°s
Trail Conditions: mud, dry
Weather: overcast
Wind: NW 10mph

Highest Elevation: 1786′
Elevation Gain: 1135′
Distance: 3.0 miles
Book Time: 2:05
Actual Time: 2:00

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3 thoughts on “Sunrise Hike: Mount Major

  1. Pingback: Hike: Mount Cube | Maine Wanderlust

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Photographs of 2016 | Maine Wanderlust

  3. Pingback: A Look Back on 2016 and Ahead to 2017 | Maine Wanderlust

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