Via. The northern approach. Oliverian Brook Trail, Passaconaway Cutoff Trail, Square Ledge Trail and the Walden Trail 10.2 miles Round trip 2,800 feet elevation
Mount Passaconaway is located in New Hampshire’s Sandwich Range and can be accessed from both the north and the south by various networks of trails. It is a densely wooded mountain and proves to be quite a rugged hike. Named for a legendary chief of the Penacooks, who was believed to have ruled when the first white settlers came to New England. The name Passaconaway (anglican version) was thought to mean child of the bear. As a sachem of multi national tribes he was thought to possess magical powers and was asked for counsel by the new settlers in Northern New England various times. His name and the names of several of his children are found widely in the area. The Kancamagus highway was named for one of his grandsons.
It is popular to combine Mt. Passaconaway with its neighbor Mt. Whiteface for a longer loop hike, this is the southern approach via NH 113a. Looking for a more secluded day hike I chose to approach from the northern trail network located just off the Kancamagus. There is a dirt forest road pullout about 1 mile west from Bear Notch Road, it is signed with the familiar brown hiker sign as well as Oliverian Brook Trail. There is a nice parking area about .1 from the Kancamagus and a network of cross country ski trails are located here as well. While a day use permit is required for parking there are no facilities in this location.
The Oliverian Brook Trail connects the Kancamagus to the Lawerence and Kelly Trails as Pagus Pass. It is a pleasant, easy trail that follows the brook that shares its name. The first 1.9 miles are flat and are akin to a stroll though the forest. On the way to the junction with the Passaconaway Cutoff Trail there is ample water and an old beaver pond where there is evidence of past activity. Some stealth camping spots along the brook are visible as well. This would make a great spot for an overnight trip.
The junction for the Passaconaway Cutoff Trail is located 1.9 miles from the parking area. It continues 1.7 miles to the next junction with the Square Ledge Trail. It is easy walking to start and crosses over the brook several times before leading southwest and away from the water. Footing is solid for this section of trail and there are a few steeper sections but nothing that is too daunting or challenging. There are some views of Mt. Passaconaway across the valley as the trail continues to gain elevation.
The Square Ledge trail junction is reached at mile 3.6. Here the trail turns sharp to the left and dips down, passes through an old logging camp site, and crosses a small slide area. There is some left over evidence of the logging camp, mainly rusted out large metal pieces of scrap. From the slide there are views of the valley and in good weather Mt. Washington can be seen with a small climb up the slide. This section of trail is short .7 miles but it is where much elevation is gained, this section climbs up about 850 feet so it is slower going but still without much for challenging terrain. At mile 4.3 the Walden Trail junction is reached.
Walden Trail is named for Arthur Walden, the founder of the Chinook Kennels, a well known handler and breeder of Husky sled dogs. This trail is a longer and rougher approach to the summit from its lower junctions with the Old Mast Rd. and Lawerence Trails. From the junction with Square Ledge it is a steep climb up to the summit. Along the way there are several viewpoints to the south that offer fine valley views across to Chocoura and the Sisters. This section of trail to the summit is by far the most physically challenging. There is solid footing but some small areas where you have to scramble a bit up the rocks. There are not views from the true summit, but there are several viewpoints along the way to the top and if you continue down the Daicy’s Mill Trail a gorgeous view to the northwest. We descended the way we came up. Going down the footing is a little loose and can be slippery if wet. Other than that there were no places where the dogs needed much assistance. It should be noted that after the Square Ledge trail is reached there is no water so pack accordingly.
Distance from Parking area on Kancamagus (1,240):
Oliverian Brook Trail: 1.9 miles (1,500 feet)
Passaconaway Cutoff: 3.6 miles (2,550 feet)
Square Ledge Trail: 4.3 miles (3,300 feet)
Walden Trail to summit (4,043 feet): 5.1 miles (2,800 feet)