NH Family Hikes

The Belknap 12: An Introductory Guide


In the world of casual mountain climbing, hikers endeavor to climb all mountains on a list like the famous 4000-footers. Many hikers complete lists for the sense of accomplishment, or because they want to compete with friends, or because it's a fun way to get outdoors and exercise. Here at NH Family Hikes, we believe in all of these reasons, but more than anything we believe you should work through a list simply because each step will be a memorable experience of mountain grandeur. We believe it's better to pursue a hiking list more for the places it will take you than for the list as a whole. Given that perspective, the Belknap 12 is an essential. Simple and easy to complete in just six hikes, this mini collection displays the shamefully underrated and unrecognized hills of the Belknap Range and its sensational trail network. Throughout this small-scale journey, you will discover the surprising variety of the Belknaps and experience the tranquility of Round Pond, the sweeping views from the Belknap Fire Tower, the forest glades of Quarry Mountain, the extensive open ledges of Straightback Mountain, and the exciting number of isolated locations to experience on these hills which many hikers have never heard of.

You can find all of the Belknap 12 here on NH Family Hikes, but you will find them grouped in a neater arrangement on this page. In addition to our suggestions on how to get started with your quest, you will find three tables with varying information on each mountain. The first table lists statistics for each hike required to collect all 12 and has clickable rows to bring you to each one's separate guide. This is by no means a complete reference, but we think it's a suitable reference for beginners. Please note that you may fashion nearly unlimited different routes to each peak, but we present our one recommended route for each one.

Working on the List

Unlike many other popular hiking lists, the Belknap 12 does not require exceptional amounts of endurance, but none of the hikes are pleasure strolls either. The longest one is eight miles and ascends (not continuously) 2000 vertical feet. You should begin by trying out one of the easier treks, such as Belknap Mountain or Mt. Anna. Remember, you only need to visit the Belknaps six times to complete the list. You could easily complete them in a row and flip between the three western-end hikes (Belknap, Gunstock/Rowe, and Whiteface/Piper) and the three eastern-end hikes (Anna, Mack/Rand/Klem, and Quarry/Straightback/Major) for variety. Or, you could casually visit the Belknaps over a longer amount of time, since even without the award at the end, all of these hikes are worth visiting on their own.


Please visit the Belknap County Sportsmens Association website for information about how to receive your achievement patch when you finish.


The following table lists route statistics for each hike to one or more Belknap peaks. Everything listed here describes the particular routes we recommend for climbing each one. Each combination of mountains or route to such can always be altered by consulting other guides. Difficulty listed here is subjective and relative to the set of all Belknap peaks; it is not a general classification. Click on any row to view our guide for that hike.

Mountains Round-trip Distance Elevation Gain Difficulty Special/Unique Features
Belknap2.2 mi700 feetEasierViews from clearing near parking area. Fire tower. Ledge outlooks.
Gunstock/Rowe4.7 mi1500 feetMediumMultiple viewpoints. Ski area.
Piper/Whiteface5.6 mi1140 feetMediumGrassy clearing with views. Open ledges.
Klem/Mack/Rand7.5 mi1600 feetHarderBeautiful remote lake. Excellent views in different directions from two peaks.
Quarry/Straightback South/Major7.7 mi1950 feetHarderForest and marsh scenery and scattered outlooks on Quarry Mountain. Panoramic views on Straightback and Major. Many beautiful open ledges. Interesting boulders.
Anna3.8 mi850 feetEasierMarsh with views. Interesting cave. Ledges with views.

This table provides an overview of the character of each hill's summit.

Mountain View Type View Rating Summit Type Summit Structures/Markings
BelknapOpen in all directions8/10Forested and ledgyFire tower
GunstockDirectional view from ski area7/10ClearedSki area
PiperDirectional views from multiple open ledges6/10Forested and ledgyA cairn
KlemDirectional view from clearing7/10ForestedSign on a tree
MackDirectional view from ledges5/10ForestedCell towers
QuarryLimited directional views from multiple viewpoints4/10ForestedSign on a tree
Straightback SouthWide views from ledges7/10Mostly open and ledgySignpost
RandVery limited view from trail3/10ForestedSign on a tree
MajorOpen in all directions8/10Mostly open and ledgyStone foundation
RoweDirectional view from clearing6/10ForestedCell tower
WhitefaceWide views from clearing7/10ClearedNone
AnnaDirectional view from ledge6/10ForestedSignpost

This table provides quantitative information about the mountains.

# Mountain Elevation Prominence* Isolation** Town
1Belknap Mountain2382'1852'15.6 miGilford
2Gunstock Mountain2250'240'0.6 miGilford
3Piper Mountain2044'244'0.7 miGilford
4Mt. Klem2001'471'1.5 miGilford
5Mt. Mack1945'175'0.5 miGilford/Gilmanton
6Quarry Mountain1894'144'0.5 miAlton
7Straightback Mountain, South Peak1890'60'0.4 miAlton
8Rand Mountain1883'193'0.3 miGilford
9Mt. Major1786'196'0.7 miAlton
10Mt. Rowe1690'195'0.9 miGilford
11Whiteface Mountain1670'220'0.8 miGilford
12Mt. Anna1670'80'0.3 miGilmanton

*Prominence is a measure of how much a mountain stands out. If a mountain has a prominence of 500', that means if you are standing on the summit and you want to walk to a higher place, the very minimum vertical distance you must descend in order to climb up to another place higher than the summit is 500 feet.

**Isolation is a measure of how alone a mountain is. If a mountain has an isolation of 0.5 miles, that means the nearest place that is higher than the mountain is half a mile from the summit.

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