What is a Belknaps Range Hiker? I asked this same question a few short months ago. Not being a native of the Granite State, I had no idea that there was a formal mountain range down by Lake Winnipesaukee. Although, smaller, these mountains provide beautiful hikes and great training grounds to prepare for larger mountains up in the Mount Washington Valley and North Country Regions of New Hampshire. A Belknnaps Mountain Hiker is a person who successfully hikes all 12 mountains on the list and one receives a patch for doing so. A few months ago, I set out with a friend to do all 12 mountains for a patch. Crazy right? Well, I’m now a hiking addict who puts my body through a lot of wear and tear to earn crazy patches! This patch will be my first in what will hopefully be a long line of patches.
My story began in November of 2018. We had purchased our log cabin in 2014 and between all the work of remodeling, I was beginning to do some easier hikes to get in shape. I joined an online hiking group to climb Mount Major, one of the more well travelled trails in the Belknaps Range, although I wasn’t aware of this at the time. I hiked it somewhat successfully, although I remember being quite exhausted after the hike. Two years later, I would tackle these in much better shape.
Fast forward to 2020, Covid 19, lockdowns, killer hornets, global warming and the like! I tend to turn lemons into lemonade, so I decided that I would get some extra hiking in. One day a friend contacted me. She was conditioning at the time and needed a hiking buddy climb Mounts Piper and Whiteface in the Belknaps Range. She explained to me where it was and asked if I would hike with her. Although it was quite a long ride, I hadn’t actually hiked in a few weeks and a couple of smaller mountains were just what I needed.
During this hike, we took the time to talk and get to know each other a little better. She told me all about the Belknaps Range and asked if I would be interested in hiking all 12 mountains for a patch. I was already working on two other patches as well as learning more about backpacking, but I figured WHY NOT? There was nothing to lose, some additional conditioning and a patch to gain. She told me to look up these mountains when I got home and read about them. Reading about them made me realize that I had already hiked Mount Major, so I stood at 3/12 mountains. Nine to go!
For various reasons, we weren’t able to hike together again until the end of October. The weather was cool and crisp. We had sunny days and beautiful foliage. Over the next few weeks I would hike with her and sometimes another friend or my son. We would hike Belknap and Gunstock, Mount Rowe, Mounts Straightback and Anna, Mounts Mack and Klem and finally, West Quarry and Rand for 12 mountains total. I experienced hiking through ankle deep leaves, mud, ice, rain, flurries and snow squalls. It’s a wonderful time of year to be outside!
If you would like more information on hiking the Belknaps Range in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire go to belknapsrange.org, the website of the Belknap Range Coalition. Most of the hikes in this range are of moderate difficulty and are great for families.