North Percy Peak

Mountain:  North Percy Peak (3430')
Trails:  Percy Peaks Trail, Percy Loop, Nash Stream Road, Cohos Trail
Region:  NH - Northern  
Nash Stream Forest
Location:  Strafford, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, ledges, brooks
Distance:  6.7 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2188 feet (high point minus low point)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 4:00     
Outing Duration:  Actual: 5:45     
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  09/24/2005 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  08/08/2008  
Weather:  Sunny, clear; 55-60 degrees for the hike up; 70 degrees on the sunny summit; 45 degrees for the hike
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

  • Hike up Percy Peaks Trail to the summit of North Percy Peak.
  • Descend to the left via Percy Loop.
  • Walk along Nash Stream Road to return to the Percy Peaks Trailhead.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Percy Peaks Trailhead 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Big Boulder 1.0 1.0 0:41 0:41
First Junction with Cohos Trail 0.7 1.7 0:55 1:36
North Percy Peak summit 0.5 2.2 0:29 2:05
Junction with Percy Loop/Cohos Trail 0.3 2.5 0:26 2:31
Percy Loop Camp Turn-off 0.9 3.4 0:30 3:01
Nash Stream Rd./Percy Loop Trailhead 2.1 5.5 0:37 3:38
Percy Peaks Trailhead 1.2 6.7 0:22 4:00

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  Trail Guide   

This was a fun hike with 360-degree panoramic views at the top. The hike up was mostly steep; the hike down was a breeze. Warning: Don't do this hike during wet weather - the rock slabs on North Percy Peak will be too slippery and dangerous.

Percy Peaks are located in the "North Country" of New Hampshire, in the Nash Stream Forest. These double-peaks are a standout landmark for those traveling in this vicinity. South Percy is mostly wooded and North Percy's bare rock slabs can be seen from quite a distance. I was a bit intimidated as I viewed my destination on the drive to the trailhead as the steep, bare rock looked rather forbidding.

I started up Percy Peaks Trail, with Slide Brook keeping me company to the right of the trail. The trail was a comfortable moderate for the first mile and was lined with hemlock and beech trees. A BIG boulder serves as the 1-mile marker. The trail bears left and skirts around the boulder and immediately becomes steep and rough, and stays that way for most of the remaining climb.

About five minutes after the boulder, there is a BIG tree in the trail. A beech tree I think judging from the leaves but this isn't a smooth-bark beech tree; its bark is rough and I estimate the tree to be about 200 years old.

Soon after this, rock slabs are visible to the left (and the towering rock summit of North Percy looms above). Be sure to stay on the trail, which keeps to the right-hand side of the slabs; the slabs themselves are too dangerous and slippery to walk on. At one point, the trail breaks out of the woods just for a short time and goes up the very right-hand side of the slabs. Later on, it may appear that the trail ends at the slabs. At this point there is a small slab in the wooded section that needs to be climbed and the trail veers towards the right at the top of this little slab. After walking through the woods for a short distance, you will come upon a big slab that must be traversed. The trail goes on a diagonal line, from left to right, to climb this slab; it basically follows a fault line so that footing is pretty good.

There are pretty much no trail blazes or signs for the climb up. And at times the trail really doesn't look like a trail at all, but you should just follow the most obvious route, taking care to avoid the slabs except as noted.

Finally as you approach the col between North and South Peaks, the trail grade becomes easier. At one point, there will be an unsigned path leading to the right; this just makes a little loop and connects back up to the main trail that you have already traveled. Shortly after this you will reach a signed "T" trail junction. Signs! How refreshing!

The top of the "T" is part of the Cohos Trail. For those unfamiliar with what the Cohos Trail is, check out their website. The Cohos Trail is a long-distance route that runs from the northern section of the White Mountains, all the way to Canada.

Taking a right, would put you on Old Summer Club Trail/Cohos Trail. After a short distance on this trail, look for a spur trail to the right. This trail leads to South Percy Peak. Unfortunately I didn't have time to check this out since I started too late in the day. It used to be an unmaintained bushwhack but is now a fully functioning trail, although it's probably rough. I've read that it's short and steep and leads to the largely wooded summit of South Percy, yet there are many good viewpoints from the top.

To get to North Percy Peak, take a left on Old Summer Club Trail/Cohos Trail. After a few minutes, there will be a sign for "Percy Loop" (my descent route), and "North Percy". Here you make almost a U-turn to the left at a cairn, to follow the trail up to North Percy. This section of trail starts out fairly easy yet still has a couple tough spots that require the use of hands.

After breaking out of the woods, the trail gets harder to follow and is quite scary in places. There are cairns delineating much of the route but at times it seemed that there were none in sight. When in doubt, I basically followed the groove in the slabs so that I would have something to help my footing. The slabs are steeply pitched with no flat walking surfaces. The rocks are good and rough and I didn't slip at all but there's no way I would attempt this if the rocks were the slightest bit wet. I also proceeded very slowly and cautiously. There were a couple spots that were very scary and I even had to put the "don't look down" rule into force even though heights generally don't bother me. A misstep here could send you tumbling down the open, steep slabs. The view was incredible but quite dizzying without solid footing. Up higher, the footing was better; or seemed to be better because there were many patches of scrub which you could hope would break your fall and "catch" you if you did trip. Being caught by prickly spruce trees would be far preferable to an endless tumble.

I finally attained the summit and had it all to myself. There's a sign marking the summit and also an elevation marker. There were pretty scrub "islands" all around. And there were amazing views in every direction. There were mountains and lovely green woods just about everywhere I looked. Nearby to the south, I could see the small town of Groveton; and off in the distance to the southeast, I could make out the many buildings of Berlin. Other than that, it seemed like I was in vast sea of wilderness.

Immediately to the south was South Percy. At 3,234 feet, it is about 200 feet lower than North Percy. Beyond South Percy were the White Mountains marching across the horizon. To the right of South Percy was Mount Lafayette and Moosilauke. To the left were Mounts Eisenhower, Washington, Adams, Madison, and many, many more. To the east you could see to Maine; to the west, the mountains of Vermont, to the north, you could see all the way to Canada.

Looking down to the south is the nearby Christine Lake - a long oblong of glistening, inviting water. And down below, running along Route 110, the sinuous curves of Upper Ammoonsuc River could be spotted.

It was a beautiful sunny day, postcard blue sky, and not a cloud in sight. As far as foliage goes, there wasn't very much color. There was a little bit of golden yellows on the trail and some dead leaves underfoot but still mostly green leaves on the trees.

After basking in the sun and taking in the views for a while, I headed back down. The descent wasn't quite as scary as I expected, but I took wimpy little baby steps and even did the sit on my butt/crabwalk in a couple places. Better safe than sorry!

Upon regaining the Cohos Trail, I took a left (at the "Percy Loop" sign) to follow a longer, but more gradual route back to the car. Although this trail is named Percy Loop, it is also part of the Cohos Trail. This trail was prominently marked with yellow blazes the whole way. The trail started out soft and spongy and was a welcome change from all the rocks encountered during the climb up. But shortly the trail became littered with odd jumbles of boulders that made the descent slow in the tricky spots. Cohos Trail creator, Kim Nilson, writes that this section of trail is a soil-covered scree field and cautions that there are many sinkholes ready to snag an inattentive hiker. I saw a LOT of moose scat along this section.

After about a mile of this, the trail makes a sharp right-hand turn (marked by double blazes on a tree, and painted angle-blazes on a rock) and becomes very easy with good footing. Just below this point, on the right, is a spur path that leads to Percy Loop Camp (marked with a sign and a triple blaze on a tree). Also at this point, Long Mountain Brook runs along the right-hand side of the trail. All along this easy section of the trail, I saw many moose prints. The trail was mostly very gradual with great footing.

Upon reaching the Percy Loop Trailhead, at Nash Stream Road, I turned left for a 1.2 mile walk along the gravel road to return to my car at the Percy Peaks Trailhead. The walk was pleasant with low traffic (only two cars went by) and on the right-hand side of the road is the roaring Nash Stream.

When I started out, there were only four cars at the Percy Peaks Trailhead and none at the Percy Loop Trailhead. All four parties hiked up and down Percy Peaks Trail and missed out on the great Percy Loop section that is a fairly new trail. And none of the other people hiked up South Percy either. Upon my return, there was one car at the Percy Loop Trailhead. I'm guessing it was someone that had hiked up to the Percy Loop Camp since I didn't encounter anyone at all on that trail.
 

 


NH - Northern

  Driving Directions   

  • From Groveton, NH, take a right off of Route 3 to get onto Route 110 East.
  • After 2.6 miles on Route 110, take a left onto Emerson Road.
  • Follow this road for 2.2 miles until the road makes a sharp right-hand turn.
  • At this point, turn left onto Nash Stream Road and follow it for 2.7 miles to a small, signed parking area on the right.
  • The Percy Peaks Trailhead is 50 yards farther up, on the right, and is signed.
  • The Percy Loop Trailhead is 1.2 miles beyond the Percy Peaks Trailhead, on the right, and is signed. Parking is on the left next to a driveway to a camp. Be sure not to block the driveway.

Other Notes   

Nash Stream Road is seasonal and is generally open from May to December.
 
 

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