Lime Kilns and Black Mountain
The journey up Black Mountain is a hike that I make as a monthly favorite in all seasons, partly because it is so near to my home, but in larger part due to its two very different choices of trails. One can opt for an easier woods walk or a fairly difficult (rocky and steep) trail, both of which meet at the top of Black Mt. The trail I will describe begins on the southern side of Black Mt. (The easier woods trail or “Black Mt. Trail” begins at the end of Howe Hill Rd. a right turn off Rt. 116 in Benton, NH, about seven miles east of the North Haverhill junction with Rt. 10. This hike goes from north to south and is fairly easy and uneventful until one reaches the open summit. It’s a favored winter hike with snow shoes, or if the trail is already packed down, regular boots and climbing spikes (if necessary).
The Chippewa Trail begins in a tiny parking area two miles down the Lime Kiln Road which is nearly 3 miles east of the junction of Rt. 10 and Rt. 116 East. (parking on the side of the road is acceptable year round, but might be a problem during the winter months due to plowing).
The trail immediately descends from the parking area into a marshy/swampy area, winding in and out of boggy spots, between downed trees and finally crossing a small brook on a gigantic fallen pine. The trail comes up and out of said marshy area and connects to an active logging road.
An interesting side trip (left hand turn) should be made here to view the Lime Kilns. (These three photos.) In years past limestone was mined from the surrounding area and prepared in the giant kilns which still stand today. These amazing and massive rock chimneys are an awesome physical presence out in the middle of the woods.
After emerging from the low area, the Chippewa Trail turns right on the logging road, continues on for 200 yards, and then via markers diverges left into the woods towards Black Mt. From this point the trail gradually turns into a moderate climb for perhaps a half-mile. An old homestead’s cellar hole is passed on the left signaling the more rugged part of the climb. Here the trail drastically steepens from the moderate walk and doesn’t relent until one nears the upper reaches of the mountain, approximately ¾ of a mile. I’d liken it to climbing an endless ladder upwards, making many rest stops necessary even for experienced hikers.
Fortunately on this steepest part of the trail there are many easy to reach rocky ledge lookouts to the south offering great views of the small valley you have just come out of. After climbing for close to an hour, the worst of the steep part ends with a beautiful cliff top view south to the oddly shaped Sugarloaf Mt. and Mt. Cube beyond. The final ½ mile is far easier and takes one in and out of the woods while traversing many open ledges with fine views just prior to reaching the summit.
The top of the mountain is physically interesting with its elongated spine and open, glacially scarred rocky ledges.
|Summit south in winter.|
|The author at tipping rock.|
One isn’t limited to the southerly view either, as the knife-edge like top (not too visually severe as the trees have grown in over time) is perhaps a quarter mile long with the southern end allowing views south and west towards the North Haverhill plain, and the northern end of the ridge (featuring Tipping Rock) facing the Kinsman Mt. Range, Cannon Mt. and finally Mt. Lafayette.
|Kinsman Mt. Range, Cannon Mt. and Mt. Lafayette|
|East to Mt. Moosilauke|
At all points along these open ledges there is a wonderful view to the east over a high altitude valley leading ones eye eventually to Mt. Moosilauke.
Written by Brian Markee