One hike in particular stands out as being very strenuous yet absolutely beautiful on the list of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 foot mountains. The hike of the Bond Mountains is 19.5 miles and goes over three or four of the 4,000 foot mountains depending on the route taken. With limited time off we rarely have two days in a row to hike, so the 4th of July holiday weekend was perfect for a backpack of this hike. A great forecast of unseasonably cool weather for July and little chance of rain we knew there wouldn’t be a better time for the best hike in New Hampshire!
After dropping off a car at what would be the end of our hike we grabbed some lunch in town. Knowing I was heading into the woods for a couple of days I ate well. The parking lot to the trailhead was full and cars lined the road, I had concerns that the campsite we were heading to would be full.
Starting at Zealand Trail is a pleasant easy walk for the first 2.5 miles. We enjoyed sparkling streams, walked over a boardwalk passing picturesque beaver ponds and visited a refreshing waterfall.
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After a quick steep scramble we were at Zealand Falls Hut. The hut is run by Appalachian Mountain Club, sleeping 36 people in shared bunk rooms. The bunk rooms which look to be recently redone were sparkling clean and very inviting. I wished we were staying the night for delicious meals and comfortable beds!
We refilled our water containers for our meal we would have miles later in the day. From the hut we joined the Twinway trail (part of the Appalachian Trail) which had many flat sections of beautiful trail.
Only about a mile from the hut is one of the best views in The White Mountains, Zeacliff. A wonderful large ledge with views of nearby mountains and a perfect spot for relaxing.
We continued on towards our shelter and reached Zealand Mountain before sunset. The summit is completely wooded unfortunately but Grey Jays (friendly mountain birds) visited to add some excitement to the view-less summit.
Shortly after Zealand Mt. we stopped on trail to have dinner. Normally I’d look for a view or wait until we got to the campsite for a meal but we were too far from either and still had daylight to cook by. Despite the full parking lots at each end of our hike we did not see one person on trail in the evening.
With extra energy from dinner we were off again. Once the trail was dark we turned on headlamps and continued towards our stop for the night. Along a straight stretch of trail we were startled by a loud growl and huffing sound very close to the edge of the trail. Sadly we didn’t see anything and I won’t know if it was a fellow wildcat or a bear! We were careful to move along quickly and loudly, banging our poles and turning around frequently.
We went up and over the summit of Mt. Guyot in the dark with substantial winds that blew us around the rocky trail a bit. Though Guyot is over 4,000 feet it is not on the NH list as the rise from the ridge of the neighboring mountain is not high enough for the rules of the list.
We arrived at Guyot campsite well after most hikers were asleep. The caretaker explained the shelter, the tent platforms and even the overflow tent sites were completely full. Fortunately we were not turned away but had to get creative. We set up our tent in the outdoor kitchen right next to the two bear boxes!
Around 4 am hikers awoke to see sunrise on the nearby mountains, clang, clang went the bear boxes all morning! We eventually gave up on sleep when more campers woke to make breakfast in our creative tent location also known as the kitchen. The general attitude of a group of people truly appreciating nature and the mountains is something I love to be around. People discussed what they were having for camp breakfast and their hiking plans for the day. Being in the middle of the wilderness with so many mountains and trails in every direction is absolute bliss to me!
From the campsite the summit of West Bond is less than a mile away. The trail to the summit is a quick half mile off the main trail so we were able to leave our heavy packs at the trail junction. Without packs we were light on our feet and much quicker! West Bond has a small rocky summit and excellent views of both Mt. Bond and Bondcliff which we would visit next.
Next we hiked onto Mt. Bond only another mile away. This hike can spoil a hiker with so many views that are so close together! Mt. Bond has a larger flat summit which allowed for more snacking and great photo opportunities. Perfect views of the trail to Bondcliff and the ledges of Bondcliff led to an extended summit break for many photos.
The trail from Bond to Bondcliff is a rocky ridgeline with amazing views into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Not a house or structure in sight just layers of mountains everywhere you look!
Finally we arrived at Bondcliff, my favorite of all New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 foot mountains! In addition to jaw dropping views, many spots to sit and relax Bondcliff has a famous ledge that is picture perfect.
Frank had been thinking (worrying) about this ledge ever since he heard of it years ago. Despite being rather tall Frank has a fear of heights! I’ve always admired his attitude towards his fears though, he continuously pushes himself to face and conquer them. Without any coaxing he went right out onto the ledge with me for photos. Then to my surprise went out again even closer to the edge to get a video with the GoPro camera! It was a great memorable experience full of roar moments!
Reluctantly we left the summit and started the almost 9 mile hike back to the car. Unfortunately the hike after Bondcliff while going through pretty woods and fairly easy terrain is rather boring. After 2 days with a heavy pack and going up and over four 4,000 foot mountains, long and boring is not welcome. Lincoln Woods Trail is an old railroad bed that never seems to end. I see why many hikers choose to start and end at Zealand Trail despite having more elevation, the views on that route are more rewarding. By the time we reached the parking lot our feet were very sore and our bodies were exhausted.
Celebrating our amazing adventure at dinner we reflected on the 19.5 miles we hiked and the privilege of seeing such natural beauty. There is no doubt that The Bonds are the best hike in New Hampshire! May there always be more wilderness to explore and mountains to climb! Share your favorite hike in New Hampshire with us!
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