Corrie and I had been planning an overnight hike in the Adirondacks for the weekend but then the forecast called for rain all day Sunday. We decided to do a long day hike on Saturday instead and I knew just the one. I’d seen the Westmore Mountain Challenge coming up – 5 mountains in the Northeast Kingdom in one day – but I’m not really into organized hikes like that. Looking at the map, I could see it would be easy to do the route ourselves. So we wouldn’t have to both drive all the way up to shuttle cars, I asked in the Green Mountain Club: NEK Section facebook group if anyone would be around who could shuttle us from one trailhead to another in the morning and John could. We got a later start than planned in order to take the ride, but it was definitely worth it.
Corrie was unsure about the length of the hike so we left a car at the Long Pond Trailhead in order to have the option of doing three, four, or five mountains. We would have already done Moose Mountain, Mount Hor, and Mount Pisgah by the time we got there, Haystack Mountain would have been an out-and-back hike anyway, and Bald Mountain could be an out-and-back hike instead of hiking through to Mad Brook Road.
We met John just before 9:00 and he drove us over to the Moose Mountain Trailhead. Google Maps took us down some town roads west of Lake Willoughby as it was the shortest distance, but the Wheeler Mountain Road turned into Class 4 for a bit. Luckily, John’s truck could handle it. I get a reminder every once in a while that Google Maps cannot necessarily be trusted in Vermont.
We found some excellent blackberry bushes at the trailhead, ate some, said goodbye to John, ate some more, then finally we got started up the Moose Mountain Trail.
It was nice trail, and it wasn’t long before we were at the Wheeler Pond overlook and then the summit of Moose Mountain at 2339′.
We continued down the Moose Mountain Trail, then connected onto the Brookside Trail and the Mount Hor Trail. We stopped at the intersection with the Hawkes Trail to eat lunch before summitting Mount Hor. The trail took us to a view of some ponds to the south but we made sure to also bushwhack up to the highest point for the actual summit at 2648′.
Then it was back down the Hawkes Trail to the CCC Road, a nice gravel road we had to walk for a couple miles to get to the next trail. We passed some easy-looking xc ski trails so I plan to come back and try them out this winter.
We hadn’t seen any people at all until we saw a few climbing Mount Hor from the CCC Road. However, when we crossed Route 5A, there were tons of cars in the parking lots on both sides of the road, and lining the road as far as I could see. So there were also tons of tourists heading up Mount Pisgah. I had no idea the mountain was so popular, and it’s a nice Saturday on a holiday weekend to boot. Oops. We joined the hordes going up the South Trail and then stood in line to walk out onto Pulpit Rock with its view over Lake Willoughby.
The trail was pretty steep in most places, with a few more level stretches in between the steeps. When we made it to the summit of Mount Pisgah at 2751′ there were people everywhere so we kept moving down the North Trail.
We tried to stop at the first of multiple overlooks but there were too many people. We stopped at the second one to eat a snack and try to enjoy the view with a bunch of other people, and we skipped even trying the third one.
We made it down the mountain a little farther and switched to the East Trail and thankfully only saw a few people there. Once out on Long Pond Road, it was a short walk to the car at the Long Pond Trailhead, where we took a break to eat and drink and sit for a few minutes. I also boiled some water to add to a dehydrated meal I planned to bring up Bald Mountain for dinner on top.
After the first three mountains, we decided we would definitely do one more, but the fifth one was up in the air. We chose Bald Mountain first since it’s slightly longer and left the shorter Haystack Mountain for last in case it was getting dark.
The Long Pond Trail started on a wide road bed but soon turned off onto hiking trail. It was fairly level for the first half and then turned steep in the second half. Corrie, who has a botany degree, was teaching me how to identify trees from their bark all day, so I tried to put it into practice. She also showed me snail teeth marks on some trees. Who knew snails had teeth?
We got to the summit of Bald Mountain at 3315′ and explored the fire tower and cabin there. The fire tower has great 360 views of the area. The cabin is apparently open and free to use and it has a few bunks, a table and benches, and even a woodstove.
After climbing around for a bit, we ate dinner and headed back down the way we’d come.
It was getting close to sunset when we got back to the car. Corrie didn’t want to hike in the dark and I didn’t care if we got the fifth mountain at that point since my feet were tired so we decided to just leave it. We went to the boat ramp at the top of Long Pond to watch the sunset but it didn’t have a great angle so we kept going to the top of Lake Willoughby and a pullout there.
We still climbed four mountains in 15.9 miles today, which was a pretty good hike.