Hike Stats & Info
Distance: 5.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,400'
Total Duration: 3 hrs. 50 min.
Trails Used: White, Old Piper, Piper-Whiteface Link and Whiteface Mountain Trails
Water Availability: None
Directions to Trailhead: Take Belknap Mountain Road from Route 11A in Gilford, NH to Carriage Road which is on your left. Follow Carriage Road until it ends at the upper parking lot (loads of parking). Gear up and then walk back down the Carriage Road from the parking area a little less than .2 miles to the trailhead (blazed white).
About this hike: Starting on a short segment of the White Trail you will soon reach the orange blazed Old Piper Trail. After a total of only .7 miles with at best 400' of elevation gain you'll reach the summit of North Piper. As you proceed towards the summit there are at least two great viewpoints before you come upon a large open area with many cairns and stone seats. From here there are views of several lakes and Belknap Mountain. You'll likely find yourself wanting to just sit and take it all in for some time. We did so, both on our way in and out.
Continue .2 miles from these open ledges along the blue blazed Piper-Whiteface Link trail to find the actual summit of North Piper Mountain which is marked only by a large cairn. There are no signs indicating that this is the summit but it is clearly the height of land so you should be able to recognize it.
We continued from North Piper along the same trail and it eventually became/merged with the Whiteface Mountain Trail. From here you will begin to descend along many ledges with great views all around. After reaching the low point you will cross a small field where the trail then joins a rough jeep/ATV road. Follow this road to the left until you reach the open ledges on the north side of the summit. There are more excellent views from here. As with Piper, the true summit is about 150 yards past this point in the middle of a large open field.
We merely reversed our direction to return. Here are some photos:
This is a beautiful spot where the Piper Mountain and Old Piper Trails meet. The open ledges 'feel' like the summit but the true summit is about .2 miles further along.
Here is the cairn marking the true summit of Piper Mountain.
Lake Winnipesaukee stands proud and if you look closely that white spec is the Mount Washington cruise ship.
This is the summit of Whiteface. The best views are just shy of the summit on the open ledges.
Lake Winnisquam is the furthest lake away from us. I believe Opechee Bay is the lake closest to us on the right hand side.
Gunstock (background) and Belknap Mountain (foreground).
One of the things I did not mention in the text above was just how cool it was today. Temps were only in the mid-to upper 60's for much of our hike, the air was very dry and the wind was blowing which made it feel even cooler. Even though it is officially summer and the end of June, it was one of those days where you stop and want to add a layer because you felt cold. Heading down the ledges towards Whiteface from Piper we ran into this trail squatter; Mr. Snake. Mr. Snake was very lethargic which I believe was due to the cold. He would barely move when the ground around him was moved about.
How cold was it? Well, here is some evidence. On our return from Whiteface Mr. Snake was in the same spot and all he had done was wiggle his way down into the pine needles for cover. Is he ill or is he cold? I hope the latter.