Squam Range Traverse

Mountains:  Mt. Squam (2223'), East Doublehead (2158'), Mt. Percival (2212'), Mt. Morgan (2220'), Mt. Webster (2076'), Mt. Livermore (1500'), Cotton Mtn. (1210')
Trails:  Bearcamp River Trail,Crawford-Ridgepole Trail, Cotton Mountain Trail, Sandwich Notch Road, Prescott Trail, Mount Morgan Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Lakes Region
Location:  Sandwich, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summits, views, ledges, rock scrambles, waterfall, caves
Distance:  13.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2900 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 8:00  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 9:15   Typical: 13:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  10/18/2008 (Saturday)  
Weather:  Clear, about 30 degrees
Author:  Mike Dickerman
Companions:  CROPWALKers Roger and Jim Doucette, Steve Smith, Steve Martin, Thom Davis, Candace Morrison

Hikers relaxing on the summit ledges of Mount Percival enjoy a bird's-eye view of nearby Squam Lake (photo by Mike Dickerman)

Route Summary   

This is a point-to-point hike running across seven named peaks of the Squam Range in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. There are ample opportunities for views and lots of walking (and scrambling) on open ledges.

  • Start on Bearcamp River Trail in a westerly direction from Mead Base Camp. Bearcamp River Trail is picked up through the picnic area, as opposed to Wentworth Trail which starts behind the main camp building.
  • Follow the easy Bearcamp River Trail for 0.6 mile, passing by Cow Cave and Beede Falls, before reaching its end at Sandwich Notch Road.
  • Turn right and walk uphill on Sandwich Notch Road for 0.5 mile.
  • Turn left onto Crawford-Ridgepole Trail which you will follow for 11.3 miles until its end.
    • Climb steeply for 0.4 mile.
    • Continue for 1.5 miles on easier grades over an unnamed wooded peak, and then to the summit of East Doublehead.
    • At the junction with Doublehead Trail 100 yards beyond the summit, bear right to stay on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.
    • Continue on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail, down and then up over ledges, for 1.1 miles to reach the summit of Mount Squam.
    • Another 1.4 miles along Crawford-Ridgepole Trail will bring you to the summit of Mount Percival.
    • Upon reaching a junction with Mount Morgan Trail 0.8 mile later, turn right onto Mount Morgan trail to take a short detour to Morgan's summit.
      • Follow Mount Morgan Trail for 90 yards to a fork, then bear right at the fork to follow the trail an additional 50 yards to the summit.
      • Descend by taking the steep path down via caves and ladders which will quickly return you to the main part of Mount Morgan Trail which at this point runs concurrently with Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.
    • Continue on the combined Mount Morgan Trail / Crawford-Ridgepole Trail for about 0.4 mile. When Mount Morgan Trail diverges to the left, keep straight to stay on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.
    • Another 1.9 miles on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail will put you in the vicinity of Mount Webster's summit. About 1.6 miles from the last junction will be an unmarked spur on the left leading to Webster's wooded summit in 50 yards. At 1.9 miles from the last junction, is a very short spur which gives access to a great outlook to the east.
    • Descending from Webster will bring you to a 4-way junction with Old Mountain Road after 2.1 miles. Continue straight across to stay on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.
    • Just 0.4 mile farther will put you atop Mount Livermore's summit.
    • Descend on the combined Crawford-Ridgepole Trail and Prescott Trail for 0.3 mile upon which the Prescott Trail will diverge to the left. Stay straight on Crawford-Ridgepole Trail.
    • After another 1.0 mile, you will arrive on a south spur of Cotton Mountain where Crawford-Ridgepole Trail ends.
  • Descend on Cotton Mountain Trail for 0.7 mile to reach the trailhead parking area on Route 113, where you should have arranged for transportation before starting the hike.

Place         Split
Mead Base Camp (930') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Bearcamp River Trail/Sandwich Notch Rd. (1000') 0.6 0.6
Crawford-Ridgepole Trailhead (1220') 0.5 1.1
East Doublehead summit (2158') 1.9 3.0
Mt. Squam summit (2223') 1.1 4.1
Mt. Percival summit (2212') 1.4 5.5
Mt. Morgan summit (2220') 0.8 6.3
Jct. Crawford-Ridgepole Trail/Mount Morgan Trail (1850') 0.4 6.7
Mt. Webster eastern outlook (2000') 1.9 8.6
Jct. Crawford-Ridgepole Trail/Old Mountain Road 2.1 10.7
Mt. Livermore summit (1500') 0.4 11.4
Jct. Crawford-Ridgepole Trail/Prescott Trail 0.3 11.4
Spur of Cotton Mtn. (1210') 1.0 12.4
Cotton Mountain Trailhead (590') 0.7 13.1


Trail map of hike route across the Squam Range (map by Webmaster)


  Trail Guide   

Well, I made it through another White Mountain CROPWALK hike this month, but I have to tell you, now that I've passed the 50-year-old mark, they don't get any easier one year to the next.

The 20th edition of this annual fund-raising hike, held Saturday, October 18, saw seven hikers (myself included) tackle the deceptively rugged Squam Range on a picture-perfect mid-autumn day. All told, we walked more than 13 miles, beginning at the historic Mead Base Camp near Sandwich Notch Road in Sandwich and ending at the Cotton Mountain Trail off Route 113 in Holderness.

Crawford-Ridgepole Trail signpost (photo by Mike Dickerman) Being in somewhat less than ideal physical shape this year, I admit I was hoping this year's tramp would be easier on the body than in years past, and that's what I anticipated when I set foot on the trail, knowing ahead of time that our high point of the day would only be 2,200 feet above sea level. As a veteran of more than a quarter-century of New Hampshire hiking, I should have known better, though, so it wasn't altogether surprising that our traverse of the Squam Range was a far more difficult venture than one would expect from such a low mountain range.

Our merry band of hikers, which this year included veteran CROPWALKers Roger and Jim Doucette, of Whitefield, Steve Smith, of Lincoln, Steve Martin, of Woodstock, Thom Davis, of Thornton, and Candace Morrison, of the Plymouth area, set off at 8:48 a.m. on a sunny, but cold morning that saw the thermometer hovering just below the freezing mark.

From Mead Base Camp, which is used each summer by trail crew members of the Squam Lakes Association and the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, the start of the hike found us following the northernmost section of the Bearcamp River Trail. This 0.6-mile section of path, which connects Mead Base to Sandwich Notch Road, provided a nice warm-up for our group, and saw us pass by two interesting natural features. The first was a large rock overhang known as Cow Cave (where legend has it a cow once sought refuge during the winter); the second was Beede Falls on the Bearcamp River, a nice waterfall with a deep pool at its base.

Once we hit Sandwich Notch Road, we steered right and walked uphill for a half-mile to the northern terminus of the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail, which we would follow for the next eight hours as it traverses, in a little more than 11 miles, the multiple peaks of the Squam Range. The initial mile or so of this path provided the toughest going of the day as we ascended close to a 1,000 feet in elevation, eventually making it to the ridgetop near a wooded unnamed peak at the east end of the ridge.

Descending the ladders below Mount Morgan's summit (photo by Mike Dickerman) For the next few hours, or until we reached the summit of Mount Morgan, the path rose and fell over a seemingly endless series of ledgy peaks and sub-peaks. It was surprisingly difficult and quite rugged, but as we were all still relatively fresh, we made good time as we passed over the summits of Doublehead Mountain, Mount Squam, Mount Percival and Mount Morgan.

The ledgy nature of the ridge, while somewhat hard on the feet and legs, was at the same time a delight for those who enjoy ridgetop views. Here and there we were treated to interesting vistas north toward the westernmost peaks of the Sandwich Range and to the peaks of the Waterville Valley region. From the various summits, meanwhile, there were delightful vistas south toward nearby Squam Lake and the more distant waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. With the last vestiges of the fall foliage season still evident on the lower mountain slopes and along the shores of the lakes, the bird's-eye views were quite impressive.

After reaching the top of 2,220-foot Mount Morgan at around 2 p.m., we bade farewell to two of our CROPWALKers, as Roger and Jim had other commitments. Before separating, however, our entire group opted to tackle one last obstacle just below Morgan's summit, that being a precarious scramble through a narrow boulder cave followed by a tricky descent via three sets of steep ladders. To get through the cave you had to remove your pack and either push it along ahead of you or drag it behind you, while negotiating the ladders required a few gymnastic-type maneuvers. (Hikers headed up Morgan can avoid the ladders and cave by following an easier alternate route to the summit. It's also a lot easier to ascend via this route than to descend it as we chose to do.)

The trek westward from Morgan over Mounts Webster, Livermore and Cotton Mountain would thankfully prove much easier on the legs than the first half of our day's journey and we made excellent time throughout. The section of the trail between Morgan and Webster was especially gentle, while the 350-foot climb up Mount Cotton, our final summit of the day, felt tougher than it probably should have given that we'd already hiked 12 miles. The summit viewpoints along the southern portion of the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail also provided convenient resting spots and served as meeting points for our group, which by now had become somewhat splintered, with the faster hikers moving at a much quicker pace than the lingerers.

Squam Lake as seen from Cotton Mountain (photo by Mike Dickerman)

Even though the grades were easier over most of the second half of the hike, I did not find much personal delight in the journey as a shooting pain gradually developed in my left leg and it only worsened as time went on. The pain was especially sharp when I was headed downhill, and it reached extreme levels on the way off Cotton Mountain, when we had to descend 600 feet in less than half a mile. At times I was unsure I would be able to continue on, the pain was so severe, but just in the nick of time the trail flattened out as we reached a gravel pit 0.3 miles from the Cotton Mountain trailhead. From there the going was much easier on my leg and we finally reached our waiting vehicles just after 6 p.m.

All told we covered approximately 13.1 miles, and our total elevation gain was somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 feet. As always, funds raised through this event will benefit the worldwide anti-hunger programs of Church World Service, while one quarter of the contributions received will go directly to food banks in the western White Mountains region.

For the record, the CROPWALK has raised more than $43,000 in its first 19 years of existence, and we expect to pass the $45,000 mark this year. Readers wishing to send in a monetary contribution in support of the White Mountain CROPWALK may still do so by sending their donation to coordinator Steve Smith at P.O. Box 445, Lincoln, NH 03251. All checks should be made out to "Church World Service". For more information on CROPWALK see www.churchworldservice.org/CROP/.

Mike Dickerman has been writing the column, "The Beaten Path" (for which this trail report was written), for 21 years. The column appears in The Littleton Courier which is published by Salmon Press. Among other publications, Mr. Dickerman has also co-authored with Steve Smith, the book The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains: A Guide and History - a hiker's favorite.

Bondcliff Books, owned and operated by Mr. Dickerman is located at 4 Eames Way in downtown Littleton (across from Nautilus). The store is open by chance or appointment. Mr. Dickerman may be reached at 1.800.859.7581 or 603.444.4880 or via e-mail.

Hikers atop Mount Morgan. Bottom row from left are: Mike Dickerman, Roger Doucette and Jim Doucette. Top row: Thom Davis, Candace Morrison, Steve Smith and Steve Martin. (photo by Mike Dickerman)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The starting point for this hike is Mead Base Camp in Sandwich, New Hampshire and the ending point is the Cotton Mountain Trailhead located in Holderness, New Hampshire. You will need to spot cars or arrange for transportation before leaving on your hike.

Mead Base Camp:
  • This is the start point of the hike.
  • Take Rt. 113 to Center Sandwich.
  • Take Grove Street northwest from the village.
  • After 0.4 mile on Grove Street, bear left onto Diamond Ledge Road which will later turn into Sandwich Notch Road.
  • After traveling 2.4 miles from the village, turn right onto Smith Street.
  • Follow Smith Street for 0.5 mile until it ends.
  • Park in the field below the camp buildings.

Cotton Mountain Trailhead:
  • This is the endpoint of the hike.
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 113 in Holderness, get on Rt. 113.
  • Follow Rt. 113 northeast for 1.1 miles, then turn left into a pull-off where the trailhead is located.
  • If traveling on Rt. 113 in a southwesterly direction, then turn right into a pull-off approximately 4.5 miles beyond the trailheads for Mount Morgan and the Rattlesnakes.

Although you don't need to drive to the following parking areas for this hike, access information is provided in case you want to shorten the hike a bit.

Sandwich Town Park:
  • This is the western terminus of the 0.6-mile segment of Bearcamp River Trail.
  • Take Rt. 113 to Center Sandwich.
  • Take Grove Street northwest from the village.
  • After 0.4 mile on Grove Street, bear left onto Diamond Ledge Road which will later turn into Sandwich Notch Road.
  • After traveling 3.1 miles from the village, you will find the Sandwich Town Park on the right.

Crawford-Ridgepole Trailhead:
  • Take Rt. 113 to Center Sandwich.
  • Take Grove Street northwest from the village.
  • After 0.4 mile on Grove Street, bear left onto Diamond Ledge Road which will later turn into Sandwich Notch Road.
  • After traveling 3.6 miles from the village, you will find the Crawford-Ridgepole Trailhead on the left where there is limited parking.


Picnic area and restrooms at Mead Base Camp.

More Doublehead, Squam, Percival, Morgan, Webster, Livermore, Cotton Trail Reports   


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