A VIEW OF YOUR OWN
WANTASTIQUET MOUNTAIN NATURAL AREA AND PISGAH STATE PARK, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Mine Ledge, all bare angles and gray lines, breaks through the forest like a breaching whale. I pick my way to the outcropping and gather my courage, inching forward until I’m peering over the edge. It’s just one of this trail’s many highlights, and I’ve got them all to myself—at least for now. I’m on the western section of the new Wantastiquet-Monadnock Trail, a 50-mile path that links the two eponymous peaks in southwestern New Hampshire. It took more than 20 years for it to come together, officially opening to hikers last April. Out here on the lesser-known western section, I appreciate the effort. It’s wild and perfect for a remote leaf-peeping getaway. On the edge of the outcropping, my gut clenches involuntarily: Some 500 feet below me lies a ravine strewn with the remnants of an ancient rockslide. I raise my eyes, and a different primal reaction takes hold at the sight of the rich palette of reds, yellows, and oranges exploding across the landscape. When I hear my hiking partner approach through the brush, I can’t help but shout: “You’ve gotta come see this.”
TURN-BY-TURN FROM THE WANTASTIQUET MOUNTAIN TRAILHEAD 1)
Follow the Wantastiquet Mountain Trail 2 miles along gentle switchbacks to the 1,322-foot summit for a view across the Connecticut River into Vermont.
2) Continue east to a junction just beyond Indian Pond, near mile 3.4.
3) Stay right, veering south on Ann Stokes Loop, which follows the ridge for .9 mile.
4) Peel north onto the Daniels Mountain Trail, crossing the forested, 1,214-foot summit to an intersection at mile 5.3.
5) Near Moon Ledge, turn east (hiker’s left) onto the Bear Mountain Connector and go 2.5 miles to Pisgah State Park.
6) Proceed 1.6 miles north on the Davis Hill Trail to the spur for the Dort Shelter, a .2-mile detour north.
7) Retrace your steps to the trailhead.
DORT SHELTER (MILE 9.6)
This three-sided, Adirondack-style lean-to can fit six comfortably (firstcome, first-serve). It’s in a grove of birch, ash, and low-lying ferns and has a fire ring. Since the W-M Trail doesn’t appear on topos yet, chances are good you’ll have the shelter all to yourself. So far, it’s the only designated (read: legal) site on the entire W-M Trail.
The W-M Trail connects many smaller, intersecting trail networks, and there are a lot of junctions and different markers to follow. Brush up on your map and compass skills before heading out, and, as a good rule of thumb, keep your eyes peeled for blue diamonds outlined in white, denoting the longer W-M Trail toward Mt. Monadnock in the east.
This itinerary ticks off just the westernmost piece of the new, 50-mile W-M Trail. From the Davis Hill Trail (step 6), you can continue 20 or so miles along a patchwork of trails to reach Keene, New Hampshire. From there, a bike path and a repurposed railbed connect you with the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which leads to the path’s end at Mt. Monadnock. For maps and information, visit chesterfieldoutdoors.com.
Fall color here typically peaks in the first two weeks of October. Most hikers flock to the big-ticket views on the eastern half of the W-M Trail (like Monadnock), so you’ll likely score those to yourself on this trip: Overlooks at Mine Ledge (mile 2.6), Indian Pond (3.4), and Moon Ledge (5.3) are all worth short detours.
The only reliable water source on this route is Indian Pond near mile 3.4. Be sure to get enough to last the rest of the night before continuing on. Or, if you prefer, you can tack on about .7 mile from the shelter to reach Baker Pond.
DO IT TRAILHEAD 42.8529, -72.5485; 3 miles north of Guilford, VT, on Mountain Rd. SEASON May to October PERMIT None CUSTOM MAP bit.do/BPmapWMtrail ($15) CONTACT bit.do/w-m-greenway