NH Family Hikes

Mt. Cube

Length: 5.2 miles out-and-back

Difficulty (click for info): Hard

Elevation Gain: 1620 feet (+110 feet on return)

Rating (click for info): 8/10

Elevation: 2915'

Prominence: 857'

Driving Directions:
Trailhead and parking area are on Baker Road in Orford, NH. Turn south onto this road from the south side of Rt. 25A in a field 8.2 miles west of the junction with Rt. 118 in Wentworth and 6.2 miles east of the junction with Rt. 10. Drive 0.8 miles up this dirt road and look for a space to park on the right, across from a driveway. The trailhead is 0.1 miles further up the road. Click here for a Google map.

About the Hike:
Mt. Cube is one of the first major mountains encountered by Appalachian Trail hikers traveling north into New Hampshire. Enclosed by a narrow strip of the White Mountain National Forest that extends south just to conserve the area around the AT, Cube rises somewhat alone in a pastoral region dotted with lakes. Long-distance views are found from its two ledgy peaks. Of the three trail approaches, it is most easily approached for a day hike from the west, climbing up a segment of the Cross-Rivendell Trail, a long-distance hiking path connecting mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. This route offers plenty of views along the way from open ledges.

From your parking space, continue further on the road for 0.1 miles, and turn left at the trail entrance, where there is a kiosk and blue Cross-Rivendell sign. The trail weaves through mixed forest and begins to ascend gradually. It climbs straight up the hillside, starting to make switchbacks as the terrain gets steeper. A large swath of logging is regrowing off to the left of the trail, and the trail approaches the top of this clearing about 0.6 miles from the road. It then weaves through some boulders and gets steeper. In 0.3 miles, the trail makes a defined turn to the right and angles diagonally up the mountainside. Soon the environment transitions into stunted conifers all around, and the ground underfoot becomes very rocky. The uphill side of the trail is impressively steep as you follow the tight pathway. After a quarter mile, the trail makes a long switchback back to the left and continues through the same sort of terrain to reach a cleared-out viewpoint in another 0.1 miles. From here you have a nice view of little Sunday Mountain across the way and the distant Green Mountains. The trail continues upward and makes several more switchbacks, then climbs up some steep ledges, reaching a wide open one after a quarter mile. From here, you take in a much wider view out to the west, stretching across the Green Mountains from Killington to Camel's Hump. You can also see the Signal Mountain grouping off to the right, as well as Mt. Ascutney way out to the southwest over nearby small hills Stonehouse and Mousley Mountains.

The trail continues beyond the ledge and pauses the climb for 0.2 miles, running level across the hillside just below a southwest shoulder of the mountain. After crossing a little stream, it starts climbing again. After a little bit of ascent, ledges begin to intersperse with the woods, and after 0.3 miles the trail comes out at the base of the rippling ledges that crown Mt. Cube. Hike just a bit further out in the open, with spectacular views. At the junction with the Kodak Trail, you'll find the most open location to take in the vista.

At the top are wide areas of pretty ledges, made of a rock called quartzite, a type of compact quartz. From these expansive ledges, views extend a great distance into southern NH and eastern Vermont. Many small hills and towns are seen in the flat areas of Vermont, while mountains dominate in the NH view. In the distance are Mt. Cardigan, Mt. Kearsarge, and Croydon Peak, but the most noticeable feature is the massive wooded ridge of nearby Smarts Mountain. If you look closely, you can spot its fire tower. After enjoying these thrilling views, continue 0.1 miles on the trail past the summit and drop down into the woods to a trail junction with the Mt. Cube Trail. Continue straight across onto North Cube Side Trail. This inexplicably less-used spur path leads 0.3 miles across the ledges to the open north peak, where there are tremendous views over the countryside to the north. The trail descends through the woods briefly, with some rough terrain, into a scenic sub-alpine area. Watch for trail markings carefully as the trail bears right across the first ledge and continues through another patch of forest out to the vast open ledges. Follow the narrow path through the low bushes and climb up to the highest ledges to find a great spot to take in the scenery. In the center of the view is lofty Mt. Moosilauke, seen over Upper Baker Pond. Far to the west is Piermont Mountain, with the Benton Range in the distance. Cliff-faced little Webster Slide Mountain is seen under Moosilauke, with Mt. Clough above. To the east of Moosilauke, many of the high White Mountain peaks can be found, including Mt. Osceola, in the center. Off to the east is the long ridge of Carr Mountain. You may want to spend more time here, as you are likely to find it far less crowded than the summit of Mt. Cube.

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