Overall this was a moderate hike with both easy and steep sections. The trails were easy to
follow. There were quite a few people on the trails but not enough to make it seem
Mount Pisgah overlooks scenic Lake Willoughby. Lake Willoughby is a long narrow lake with steep
cliffs on much of two of its long sides. Other than the highway that runs along one side, and
several residences at one end, the lake is largely undeveloped.
Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:
Descent and Return
I started out on South Trail and shortly came to Swampy's Pond which is crossed by a nice,
long, wooden bridge. There were lots of dead snags in the water to the right-hand side of
the bridge; and the water to the left was mostly open. Just after crossing the wet area, I
came upon some pink lady's slippers ( Cypripedium acaule).
The trail climbs, at times steeply, through pretty woods with lots of interesting boulders
ranging in size from small rocks to those the size of a small cabin.
I spotted a couple Jack-in-the-pulpits ( Arisaema triphyllum) . This is an unusual plant where the bloom sits under
the shade of the plant's large leaves. The bloom itself is very unique: it is long and
tubular with part of the tube arcing up over the opening and curving down the other side,
leaving an opening for "Jack", the club or spadix which protrudes from the tube, to preach
from his "pulpit". The color of the bloom is green and purple striped.
There was also lots of trillium along the trail. Although most were past their blooms, I saw
a few vestiges of red trillium flowers. In bloom were starflowers ( Trientalis borealis), bunchberry ( Cornus canadensis), a plant that may have been false Solomon's seal, and
another plant that may have been baneberry – all of which have white or whitish-colored
flowers. was also blooming with fairly large yellow flowers – they seemed
to be much bigger here than the ones I've seen in New Hampshire. Not in bloom were goldthread ( Yellow clintonia Coptis groenlandica) which is an early bloomer, and common wood-sorrel ( Oxalis montana), which had a couple buds, and partridgeberry ( Mitchella repens) – a creeping
plant with very small dark green leaves. I saw the evergreen, Christmas fern ( Polystichum acrostichoides), along with
many more plants.
The trail, for much of its ascent, paralleled the edge of the steep cliff that constitutes
the western flank of Mount Pisgah. The ledges are largely wooded but still views could be
glimpsed between the trees and reduced the feeling of vertigo that one would otherwise
likely have walking this trail if it was wide open. After some steep climbing, I reached
Pulpit Rock which is a small outlook. Knowing that the cliff below me plunged down about
500 feet, I didn't get too close to the edge. The outlook provided a lovely view of Lake Willoughby, along with Mount Hor rising sharply above the water on the opposite shore.
After leaving Pulpit Rock, the trail veers away from the cliffs to climb to an opening on a
rock slab, where there are good views to the south of the White Mountains, Victory Basin,
Newark Pond, Burke Mountain, and some of the Green Mountains.
Shortly beyond this open slab is the summit of Mount Pisgah, where there is a sign that indicates the elevation is 2,751 feet. The summit is the dividing point
between South Trail and North Trail.
Descent and Return
I continued downhill for a bit until I reached a sign directing me to the first of three spur
trails that provide outlooks to the lake and the surrounding peaks. All of the outlooks
were fairly small, with the first two providing the best views. My favorite was the
middle one. I could see Lake Willoughby of course, but also Lake Memphremagog from a
standing position (or by getting quite close to the cliff edge). Also in sight where peaks
in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec: Mount Moosilauke (NH); Jay Peak south to Camel's Hump (VT); and Owl's Head and Bear Mountain (Quebec). It was wonderful to see such a seemingly endless stretch of
wilderness and mountain peaks.
Unfortunately the black flies were out so I didn't stay at the outlooks as long as I would
have liked. They really weren't too bothersome as long as I was in motion but became worse
whenever I stopped.
The first spur path was signed "East Outlook", then simply "Outlook" for the second one, and
the final one was signed "North Outlook". Along the spur for the North outlook, I saw some
rose twisted stalk ( Streptopus roseus) which has delicate pink flowers hanging from the underside of its leaves
so that they are barely noticeable.
Back on North Trail, continuing downhill, I encountered a patch of painted trillium ( Trillium undulatum). The
first bloom I saw was absolutely perfect but the others looked like they were on their way
to wilting. Near these was an old, brown, stalk of Indian pipe ( Monotropa uniflora) left over from last year.
North Trail was also steep so I took my time descending.
After a while, I reached a series of stream crossings. All of the crossings were on railroad
ties – some of which were rotted and/or wobbly but I managed to cross them without mishap.
The main brook was beautiful and the trail follows along its edge for a short while. After
the last crossing, the trail descends at a comfortable slope through lovely woods. The brook
would be a good place to come up to from the North Trailhead and hang out and have a picnic
(provided it's a day without black flies). The brook crossings are about a
mile from the road.
Upon reaching the road, I headed south to return to my car. I walked along the road, which
has a good shoulder, with the cliffs on my left and the lake on my right. Traffic was fairly
light and did not take away from the beautiful scenery.
There were a few places along the road with wonderful cascades falling down the steep cliffs
in big steps. One of the cascades had a pull-off area for cars at its base and there also
seemed to be a spring there: I saw someone filling up bottles from a
Getting closer to the south end of the lake were some residences built on the very narrow
strip of land between the road and lake. And at the south end is a public beach from which boats
can be launched. The signboard indicated that the water was infested with Eurasian milfoil,
which would require thorough washing of your boat before entering
another water body, so as not to spread the infestation.
Most of the road walk was easy and flat, but after leaving the lakeshore, there was a short
uphill to traverse before once again reaching the South Trailhead.