Pine Mountain & Chapel Rock (2,405 feet)

Via: Pine Mountain Trail up and back 5.4 miles round-trip

Pine Mountain is located just outside of the downtown Gorham, New Hampshire business district. It is a lower peak, but it offers some fantastic views of Mt. Washington, Mt. Moriah, Pinkham Notch and out to the Mahoosuc Range from a bare outcrop known as Chapel Rock (on the AMC map it is designated as Pulpit Rock). Views from the true summit are obscured by trees, but there are some remnants of an old fire tower still present and .1 miles further to the south there are some fine views from the cliffs. This is a fun short day hike that can be done in combination with a longer hike of the Pine Link Trail if you have two cars to leave at each respective trailhead. By itself it is a great way to enjoy a few hours outside and soak up some amazing views with less effort than larger hikes.

Chapel Rock, Mt. Washington obscured by clouds in the background.

Chapel Rock, Mt. Washington obscured by clouds in the background.

Finding the trailhead is challenging. This section of trail was reopened in 1990 to join the Pine Link Trail to an old section of the Appalachian Trail and the Northern Presidentials via Pine Mountain. To get to the trailhead from NH 16 North, take a left onto Promenade Street, .2 miles before the junction with Route 2. From Route 2, go down any of the side streets to the south of the road, between the junction of 16 and 2, and west to Church Street. These all end on Promenade Street, just take a right or park on the side street. Go to the end of the road, passing a few cemeteries, an equipment shed and residential homes. It looks (at least it did to me) that the road dead ends and turns into a gravel path. This is where you want to go, although I would recommend parking on one of the side streets or in the lot off Church Street. Higher clearance vehicles would probably do just fine utilizing the dirt road that leads into an old gravel.

Once in the gravel pit, the trail is located to the left and is signed. It rises out of the area and at .2 miles crosses a snowmobile trail that follows the natural gas line clearing. Reentering the woods about 100 yards on the far right of the clearing, signed, and follows an old road for .3 miles, bearing left twice. The trail turns right off the road and passes through a logged area, then swings left up a small ridge (arrow) and ascends for 1.3 miles. From here the trail descends into a swampy saddle before climbing the northwest slope of Pine Mountain. At mile 2.1 there is a spur path to the left offering limited views to the north. The Douglas Horton Center, occupies 100 acres on the summit of Pine Mountain. This is a place for renewal and education, operated by the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ. There are six buildings and an outdoor chapel located on the so aptly called “Chapel Rock”. As you gain elevation, the buildings and a large transmission tower appear through the trees. A junction is reached at mile 2.4, where you can go .1 mile up to the Chapel Rock or continue on to the summit of Pine Mountain. I recommend that you take some time to enjoy the views from Chapel Rock, as they are spectacular. If there are ceremonies or religious activities occurring, please do not disturb worshippers. It would be a sad to lose access to this peak, due to disrespectful people. Once done meditating on the sights of Pinkham Notch, the Presidential Range, and the Androscoggin River valley, go down the way you came and continue another .5 miles to the true summit of Pine Mountain. There are some views from side paths to the east near the summit, but other than that it is viewless. From the summit, you can turn around and return the way you came, or if you have another vehicle or a ride, continue along the Ledge Trail and down the Pine Mountain Road. The entrance to the Pine Mountain Road is located on Pinkham B (Dolly Copp) Road, and is not opened to vehicles in winter. There are some interesting and fun combinations of ascents of Pine Mountain. We chose to return the way we came, back down the Pine Mountain Trail and back to our car in Gorham.

Map of the Pine Mountain Trail (note Pulpit Rock & Chapel Rock names are used interchangeably)

Map of the Pine Mountain Trail (note Pulpit Rock & Chapel Rock names are used interchangeably)

 

There are some moderately steep sections of the trail, but it is overall a very easy and fun hike. Water is plentiful, so the dog was able to stay hydrated on her own. We hiked this in early spring, before the roads had reopened from winter, so there were no activities going on at the Horton Center. It made for a relaxing, peaceful, afternoon. I imagine in summer and early fall, that Chapel Rock is likely a much more active place than it was when we experienced it. That being said I would be wary to bring a dog up there during peak hiking season, unless you have it well trained and/or leashed. Otherwise, there are no obstacles to worry about. For the height, this offers some breathtaking scenery, with less physical effort than some of the taller peaks in the area.

From the gravel pit on Promenade Road:

Pine Mountain summit (2,405 feet): 2.7 miles (one way)

Book time 2 hours 10 min.