Via the Nancy Pond Trail and an Unmaintained Summit Trail (10 miles total)
Mount Nancy is just shy of making the 4,000 footers list for New Hampshire, topping out at 3,926 feet. This interesting mountain does make the New England hundred highest, and offers hikers and their pets a few different experiences and views. From the parking area there are shorter hikes to the Nancy Cascades as well as Nancy Pond and Norcross Pond, both pretty higher elevation drainages with some views into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. If you are lucky you could spot some beavers, as there is ample evidence of their activities along the shores of both ponds.
Nancy Pond trail is located off NH 302, just north of the Fourth Iron tent site and the Sawyer Brook Road. It is a small turnout with no fee station and no restrooms, and can be hard to spot from the road. Leaving NH 302, the trail follows an assortment of old paths and logging roads, but it is very well maintained and easy to follow. Yellow blazes mark the trail as it moderately gains elevation up towards the Nancy Cascades. Along the way there are several crossings of Nancy Brook, most of these are fairly easy but could be difficult in high water. At mile 1.8 there are the remains of an old mill called Lucy Mill, it was built after the hurricanes of 1938 to aid in the salvage of downed trees in the area. Above the mill the trail becomes steeper, re-crosses the brook and arrives at the foot of the Nancy Cascade 2.4 miles from the parking area. There are some great views of the waterfall and a few pools, which provide a worthwhile place to rest and soak your feet. From here the trail ascends more steeply for a time before leveling out in a swampy area before reaching the ponds. Nancy Pond (3.4 miles from the parking area) is the smaller of the two at 4 acres in area, it and Norcross Pond are the drainages that separate the Saco from the Pemigewasset. Along the shore of Nancy Pond the trail is fairly flat and easy to follow, there may be some beaver flooding in the area so watch for trail relocations and beaver dams along the shore. At mile 4.3 the natural dam of Norcross Pond commands an impressive view to Mt. Bond, the Twin Ranges and the Franconias in the distance. It is also in this area (before the dam) where there is an area of obvious disturbance and some improvised campsites. The unmaintained trail to the summit of Mt. Nancy is located in the back of the camping area. It is not an officially sanctioned trail in the wilderness, so it is illegal to blaze or improve it. It is a rough .7 miles to the summit over steep and slippery terrain. However, it is quite easy to follow as the trail has become obvious, due to human use. It does provide a quick way to the summit of Nancy but use caution both on ascent and descent because it is a rough trail. At mile 5 the summit of Nancy is reached, there is a small outlook across the Crawford Notch to Stairs Mountain and Mt. Parker across NH 302. On clear days you can see Mt. Washington in the distance. Once you are done enjoying your accomplishment and the gorgeous views offered from the summit you descend the same way back down the unmaintained trail to the Nancy Pond Trail and back down to NH 302.
This is a great hike for any experience level, because there are many different viewpoints and scenic areas along the way.
An easy-moderate hike to the Nancy Cascades is just a 4.8 mile round trip with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Perfect for a family or a person new to hiking. The waterfall is worth the trip alone, falling 150-300 feet, depending on where it is measured.
Longer and more challenging is a hike to the ponds. Both Nancy and Norcross Ponds have some pretty views from their shores and provide a nice area to have a picnic. There are also a few viewpoints on the way up across Crawford Notch to Stairs and Mt. Parker. This is an 8.6 mile round trip and a bit more difficult as the trail roughens above the cascades. The view from the west end of Norcross Pond of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and the surrounding mountain ranges is fantastic and can be appreciated by most anyone with moderate hiking experience.
Any of the options for trail use in the Nancy Pond area are great choices for hikers of all abilities as well as their companions. Water is abundant at most parts of the hike, with the exception of the last .7 miles to the summit. The dogs had no trouble at any point of the hike, but it is a long day if you complete the entire trip. Keep in mind your dog’s ability and endurance while you plan your trek. If at any point during the hike you or your dog gets tired, there are other options for views without summiting the peak.
Parking Area NH 302 (940’)
Nancy Cascade (2,400’) 2.4 miles
Nancy Pond (3,100’) 3.4 miles
End of Norcross Pond (3,120’) 4.3 miles
Mt. Nancy Summit (3,926’) 5 miles