NH Family Hikes

Mt. Waumbek

Length: 7.3 miles out-and-back

Difficulty (click for info): Hard

Elevation Gain: 2610 feet (+190 feet on return)

Rating (click for info): 6/10

Elevation: 4011'

Prominence: 1311'

Driving Directions:
Trailhead and parking area are on Starr King Road in Jefferson, NH (summit is in Kilkenny). Starr King Road begins on the north side of Rt. 2, 0.2 miles southeast of the junction with Rt. 115A. Look for the hiker sign at the base of the road, across from a stonewall-bordered access road into the nearby golf course. Drive 0.1 miles up the steep and sometimes-rough dirt road, bear left as Cottage Road goes right, and continue another 0.2 miles to the parking area. Additional parking can be found on both sides just before the main parking area. Click here for a Google map.

About the Hike:
Mt. Waumbek is the highpoint of the Pliny Range. Its lengthy and level summit crest stretches for two miles from west to east and harbors extensive lush forest glades that the Kilkenny Region is known for. Poking barely over 4000 feet in elevation in just one small spot, it is often considered a "viewless" 4000-footer. Many hikers make the mistake of turning around at the summit cairn, but by continuing just yards over the summit, you can enjoy a good view of the Presidential Range from a blowdown patch, although tree growth continues to diminish its scenic potential. The westernmost knob on the summit ridge, Mt. Starr King, also offers a nice look at the Presidentials and is cleared out to keep the view open. The trail to both summits is among the easiest of all the routes to a 4000-footer, owing to the gentle curvature of the whole mountain range.

The Starr King Trail leaves the parking area and heads into the forest, jogging left and then right, joining an old logging road. It ascends gradually and soon passes a circular stone foundation with piping inside, the remains of an old water system. The trail rises at easy grades on a wide pathway with minimal rockiness, approaching an unnamed stream draining down from the slopes of Starr King. After 0.7 miles, the trail makes a noticeable turn to the right and climbs to the crest of a broad ridge. It ascends steadily but easily straight up the crest of this ridge in an open, bright hardwood forest, where the pathway is lined with dense hobblebush and grasses. After 0.7 miles, it bears left off the ridge top and angles across the west side of the ridge, soon passing through a very abrupt transition from hardwood to evergreen forest. Now in a vastly different environment, the trail ascends at a diagonal across rockier slopes amidst lush mosses. After another 0.65 miles, look for a sign pointing to a spring on the left side of the trail, where a small flow bubbles out from underneath one of the many rocks that undergird the footway of the trail. Continuing upward, the trail eventually bears more directly uphill and climbs over some rockier terrain to hit the summit ridge after 0.4 miles. At this point, the trail turns sharply right and ascends straight to the summit of Mt. Starr King, where there is a survey marker in the rock on the right, and descends briefly into the view clearing after 0.15 miles. The views are best seen from the rock shelf at the back of the clearing. By moving around, the entirety of the Presidential Range can be seen. The lower Cherry-Dartmouth Range is seen under the southern Presidentials. Some of the Willey Range, including the Bretton Woods ski area, can be seen as well. On the left side of the clearing is a stone fireplace and chimney from a former shelter; the trail continues back into the woods near this.

The Starr King Trail follows the ridge to Mt. Waumbek. It descends gently along a fern-lined pathway, then drops slightly off the ridge to the south side, reaching its lowest point after about 0.4 miles. It is winding and flat for a while before making a moderate ascent to the summit in another 0.6 miles. Pass the large summit cairn and continue straight onto Kilkenny Ridge Trail, then descend a short distance to the small blowdown patch, where there is a good directional view. The perspective of the Presidential Range is nearly the same as it was from Starr King, but more of the northern end of the range can be seen from here. To the left side, you can also see the Carter-Moriah Range through the trees. To the right of the range, you can see Mt. Dartmouth and Mt. Deception, with the Willey Range and Mt. Carrigain above.

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