By Sam Killay
I started hiking after moving to this area. Look around us, after all — everywhere, scenic beauty too good to miss! Naturally, nearby Mt. Sunapee (2,726 feet) was one of the first mountains I hiked. It’s a fairly low-key hike, easily managed in an afternoon and suitable for the whole family. I go about once a year. But I nearly skipped it this summer. I’ve hiked a couple of different trails on Sunapee. It was feeling a bit stale. I couldn’t muster any excitement for it.
That is, until I remembered being told about this trail that starts from the heart of Newbury. I’d heard this legend from several folks. That brightened me up: I was going to go exploring. I started driving, not knowing exactly where I was going. I would figure it out when I got there, I decided.
As I pulled into town, I was starting to wonder where I was going to find my answers. Lo and behold, Newbury maintains a staffed information kiosk on Route 103 beside the lake. That was promising. They had all kinds of informational brochures. I bought a map displaying trails all around Newbury and asked the attendant how to find the particular trail I wanted to climb — whereupon, she pointed behind me, almost directly over my shoulder. Yup, that knowledge cost me a dollar. So you’ve just recouped the cost of this newspaper. You’re welcome.
The Newbury Trail (3.4 miles) starts off Lake View Avenue. Heads up, there’s not a lot of parking at the trailhead. The trail itself was well marked and easy to follow. The first third of the hike was an easy go. Early on, you have the option to take a spur out to Eagle’s Nest, a ledge looking down on the lake. The trail got a little steeper after that point, but it compensated with a couple more terrific viewpoints along the way. Hard to beat, looking down on Lake Sunapee from a ledge halfway up a mountain. At about its midpoint, the Newbury trail joins up with the Rim Trail, leading over to a camping area in the state park.
Hard to beat those views I mentioned, but not impossible. At about 2,500 feet, you’ll find what is arguably the finest feature of Sunapee, Lake Solitude. “Lake” is probably overly generous as a term. “Pond” is more accurate (but less poetic). Above it at 2,700 feet rise the White Ledges, a gorgeous viewpoint looking down on Lake Solitude where you can also enjoy expansive views stretching away south.
Other route options are the Summit Trail (2.4 miles), which begins from the ski area on the north side of the mountain; and the Andrew Brook Trail (2 miles to Lake Solitude, then Solitude Trail to summit), which starts from Mountain Road south of the center of town.
As for the summit itself, it has its pros and cons. As Sunapee is a skiing mountain, the views from its summit are partially obstructed. Some people dislike that, but it doesn’t bother me. The ski trails offer tempting glimpses to the north, but the real gems are to be found looking down over Lake Sunapee. Away to the east, Sunapee enjoys a grand view of its neighbor, Mt. Kearsarge. I do wonder why nobody has bothered to put an observation tower up there, though. Seems like an oversight. But nobody asked me.
I meant to write this piece last week, but I got sidetracked. That happens. I’m glad for the delay now. Yesterday, I happened upon a friend who shares the love of hiking. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He hikes Sunapee often, so we chatted about that. He told me about another trail approaching Sunapee from the west, the Goshen Trail (2.3 miles to Solitude Trail). I had seen it marked on my brand new map, but I knew nothing else of it. He said it had the feel of an old logging trail. It starts off easy for that reason and gets steeper later on. Its trailhead is off Brook Rod, just where it crosses Gunnison Brook. He said to be careful, though, as the trail isn’t well marked and there are numerous dead-end side trails into the woods.
Sounds like a challenge. Now I won’t need to search for a reason to go back next year.