There are a few different mountains in New Hampshire with the name “Sugarloaf”, originally named for the conical shape of a bread loaf so called a sugar loaf. These two Middle Sugarloaf (2,539) and North Sugarloaf (2,310) are part of the Little River Mountain Range. They are located between the Zealand River and the Little River, and have some spectacular views. For good reason Middle Sugarloaf appears on the NH 52 with a view list in the 51st spot . This list is made up of mountains under 4,000 feet in elevation that offer some comparable views that you would get on higher mountains. From FR 16 or Zealand Road, this round trip hike is only 3.4 miles and 1,100 feet in elevation gain, making it a favorable distance and degree of difficulty for a beginning hiker or a family. It is also a great hike for people who are not sure if they like it because it is quite easy and the views are rewarding without being too strenuous.
Sugarloaf trailhead is located just south of the bridge over the Zealand River, where there is a small parking area about a mile from US 302. Leaving the road, the trail follows the river and swings left as the Trestle Trail continues along the river. After this junction the trail crosses both a snowmobile trail and a logging road it continues to climb to the notch between Middle and North Sugarloaf at an easy moderate grade. At mile .9 the trail reaches the top of the notch and the trail splits left going .5 miles to Middle Sugarloaf and right .3 miles to North Sugarloaf. The right branch swings around to the West side of North Sugarloaf and climbs easily to its scrubby and ledgy summit with decent views over to the Twin Range. The left branch is relatively flat for the first .2 miles and then ascends more steeply toward the summit. This section of trail also includes a ladder but it is easy to negotiate. The summit of Middle Sugarloaf is reached in .5 miles. It has a huge open summit with 270 degrees of open ledge. Mt Washington is easy to see from its open ledges, as well as Mt Jefferson, Mt Deception, Mt Hale, Mt Rosebrook, North Twin, and across Crawford Notch. You can hike both peaks any way you would like to but I would recommend going up North Sugarloaf first, and saving the views for last.
Once you have finished enjoying the summit it is an easy 1.4 mile descent back to the Zealand Road parking area.
This trail is moderate and fun with rewarding views. On the way up and down you cross through a boulder field with huge granite remnants from the last glacial period. There are no places where dogs would have difficulty hiking and there is no water to cross once you break away from the Zealand River. I would highly recommend this hike for anyone. It took us about 3 hours but we started on US 302 from the winter parking area, so we had to walk an extra few miles on the road to get to and from the trailhead.
Distances from Zealand Road
Middle Sugarloaf 1.4 miles, 900 feet in elevation
North Sugarloaf 1.2 miles, 700 feet in elevation
Round Trip to both summits 3.4 miles, 1,100 feet in elevation