06 09 2015.

hiking: mts. hancock and south hancock

After months and months and months of anticipation, I finally did my first hike of 2015! Hiking was the #1 activity that I missed during marathon training. Now that I’ve hopped back to tri training, hiking is a perfect form of cross-training – so I gathered the troops and we planned a really exciting hike in the Whites.

(Map photo © AMC White Mountain Guide)

Mt. Hancock and South Hancock are two peaks accessible from an official parking area right on the Kancamagus Highway – about 25 miles down the highway if you approach from Conway. The drive from Portland was about 2 hours – we got a relatively late start, leaving at 8. It ended up working out great – it was about 60 degrees and sunny at the base, whereas had we left a few hours earlier, it would have been barely 50.

The hike starts out very gradual on the Hancock Notch Trail. There isn’t a whole lot of elevation gain for those first 1.8 miles. This trail is a great warmup and it follows a river for the most part.

As we began to approach the fork, we encountered a bunch of river crossings – around 6-7. I loved this part! The crossings weren’t challenging – though the guide book does say that when the water is high, it can be near impossible to get across completely dry. Hancock Notch Trail veers off to the left. To continue to the Hancock Mountains, we had to take the left trail (Cedar Brook Trail).

The real challenge actually came after the second fork – the beginning of the Hancock Loop Trail. We veered left, to take on Mt. Hancock first. Since the ascent had been so gradual up until this point, we had .7 mile to make hike the bulk of the elevation – approximately 1,000 ft. It was beautiful. Difficult, yes, but the temperature was so conducive to this kind of hike. We took it slow and drank plenty of water.

Every now and then we’d get a little sneak preview of the views. There were no official overlook points along the way and because the path was wooded, any view of the surrounding mountains was sudden and breathtaking – reminding us of just how high up we were!

Soon enough, the path flattened out, the trees started to thin, and the path narrowed – all signs that we were approaching the summit – and our lunch stop!

The summit itself is marked by a sign that points left to an official outlook and right (1.8 miles) to the South Hancock summit. We made our way to the outlook (30-40 ft.) and took a break to eat some lunch. Surprisingly, we didn’t see a single soul there. It was a gorgeous view, completely open to the warm sun, and had the perfect rocks to sit on.

After about a 20 minute break, we continued on our way to the South Hancock peak. We ridge-walked for the 1.4 miles (though the sides were barely visible to us through the trees) to the next peak and it flew by. The trail had barely any elevation gain or loss, so it was pretty easy, especially compared to the .7 mile ascent prior to the Mt. Hancock peak.

We stopped to take some photos and enjoy the view – as it was facing a completely different direction from the north peak outlook.

The descent from the south peak was steep but we made quick (and careful!) work of it. I love the way the mood and conversation changes on the way down the mountain versus on the way up. Having had a much-needed lunch, we’re usually more chipper and talkative (since it’s not as strenuous).

The hike took us about 4:45 if you don’t include our summit breaks – slightly over 5:00 if you do. It’s definitely a dog-friendly trail as there are no ladder climbs or narrow ridges.

This was definitely one of the better hikes that I’ve done in the Whites. It had much better views than Tom/Field/Willey. I think the balance between easy/strenuous was appropriate – we could knock out some serious mileage at times, and also got a good workout in.


Parking lot to Cedar Brook fork: 1.8 miles
Cedar Brook fork to Hancock Loop fork: .7 miles
Hancock Loop fork to South/North peak fork: 1.1 miles
South/North peak fork to North peak: .7 miles
North peak to South peak: 1.4 miles
South peak to North/South peak fork: .5 miles
South/North peak fork to Hancock Loop fork: 1.1 miles
Hancock Loop fork to Cedar Brook fork: .7 miles
Cedar Brook fork to Parking lot: 1.8 miles
Total distance: 9.8 miles


  1. Gorgeous hike! I am envious. We don’t have views like that in Florida.

    • Kelsey @ Spice & Dice

      Maybe it’s time to take a hiking trip up here! New Hampshire’s White Mountains are AMAZING.

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