Boulder Loop Trail along The Kancamangus Highway- White Mountains, New Hampshire
The biggest and more popular fall activity in the White Mountains is driving on the Kancamangus Highway / Kancamangus Scenic Byway / “The Kanc”. This highway is the spot for fall foliage viewing and often named one of the best in the country. It is 34.5 miles of beautiful views including overlooks, trails, and stops of all sorts that benefits from the almost 3,000 ft elevation. There are several longer trails and the second hike we completed was first the Boulder Loop Trial.
I read so many great things about this trail so I was so looking forward to it. The trailhead is actually off The Kanc Highway and over the Albany Covered Bridge which is a bit of a safety hazard since so many people climb into the bridge for photos and block traffic. Anyway, reinvigorated from the power of grilled cheese, we were ready for another climb to the top. The Boulder Loop Trial is moderate 2.8 mile loop trail that takes hikers through the forest, up the mountain over 900 ft, and on top of boulders to give an incredible view of the valley.
Since the trail is a loop, you can go clockwise or counterclockwise. I do not think it was intentional but we ended up going counterclockwise. The trail starts off through the forest which makes for lovely fall foliage viewing but it was a bit tricky to find the trail markers indicated by yellow paint. Be mindful as we saw many off trail accidentally. It is probably a harder to see the trail on the ground with all the leaves covering it so just keep an extra eye out for the trail markers.
Near the top, the rocks got a bit more intense starting first as carved stairs then switching to boulder navigation. This part was fun, I would not call it a scramble but you had to work at it. Once at the top, there was a clearing so I knew we had to be close. There was a sign that the top of the boulders was an additional section outside the loop but only for a few steps. We climbed the final portion and stood stunned at this epic view from the top.
We spent a lot of time up here enjoying all the views. And do not stop at the first overlook – continue to move across the boulder to see the entire valley. What a very rewarding view for the climb. In order to get back on the loop trail, you go back down the way you accessed the top of the boulder and then continued around the loop. So for us, we made a left and continued down the loop. The way down was very enjoyable, even passing a few additional viewpoints along the way.
The second half of the journey mirrored the first half with a gradual decline into the forrest and through the trees.
The entire journey took us two hours to complete which made it an ideal stop on the drive while accomplishing all the other stops. I can understand why this trail is popular and it definitely lived up to all the great reviews I read. The journey was calm and peaceful though a good challenge to feel like you earned the spectacular view at the top.