Mount Major Trail Project Underway This Summer

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Paula Tracy photo

Carrie Deegan, reservation stewardship and engagement director for the Forest Society shows the heavily eroded Main Trail on Mount Major which is being retired and naturalized and no longer be used by hikers.

Building a new trail on Mount Major requires some blasting of granite. Erin Amadon is pictured detonating the blast. Video by Paula Tracy


ALTON – A small section of one the most popular hiking trails in the state has been closed for good while another trail is being rebuilt nearby on Mount Major as part of a long-term sustainability upgrade.

The family-friendly, 4.6-mile loop climb attracts more than 80,000 hikers a year to its rocky summit overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, with views of the White Mountains. But the lower and steep section of the main trail has been practically loved to death, is deeply eroded and is essentially being buried.

The mountain will still be able to be enjoyed during the project this summer with hikers directed to a well-marked alternative trail (the Boulder trail with its orange blazes) lined with orange plastic construction barriers around both the old and the new trail. The majority of the trail above the construction area is unchanged and not impacted by the project.

Hikers this summer may also hear an occasional “boom” through the woods which sounds a bit like gunfire as trail crews blast through granite, as they did Monday, or see excavators and workers through the woods who will be lifting large granite steps into place, for a more sustainable hike in the future.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which purchased the property in 2013, began the ambitious effort with a mixture of public funds and donations and is still trying to raise about $80,000 for the $300,000 upgrade.

On Monday both the Forest Society’s Anna Berry and Carrie Deegan came to the trailhead to check on progress being made during the first week of work.

The parking lot at the base of the mountain, which normally hosts about 68 cars and is almost always filled on summer weekends, is now gated off as a staging area for the construction.

Parking is still allowed on the same side of Route 11 as the mountain and the path to get around the construction zone is also accessible on the south side of the parking lot.

Berry and Deegan climbed the lower portion of the mountain around the area where the work is being done. It’s about a third of a mile of the old trail being capped and filled and the new trail, a bit longer and a little more gentle grade, is being carved through a series of boulders and glacial till. 

Near the top of the work zone, they met with Erin Amadon, owner of Town 4 Trail Services who is also working with OBP Trailworks on cutting a new trail and the filling and closing of the old trail. Working with her was Josh Moore, who said his title is “backcountry stone mason.”

“We’re going to make something go boom,” she advised as the black flies descended on the stopped hikers. 

“We have a lot of tools in our toolbox that we use and we will pick the best tool and the most efficient tool for the job. So it may be the hammer, it may be the feathers and wedges like on that rock you can see the drill holes, or it may be the Sierra Blaster on a stone that we can’t split or you can’t hammer with the excavator because it is so hard. So essentially, we drill a series of holes and we put charges in those holes and then we hit the ‘boom’ button.”

“And that is going to blow like the top of that rock off?” Deegan said.

Amadon said, “That is the hope. Then we can start filling.” 

Deegan and Berry backed off the area behind the excavator for the explosion.

“Arming….firing in three, two, one…” and the crack of the rock was a success, to be used as part of the subsurface of the new trail.

In addition to cutting and filling a new, longer and less steep main trail, the workers are also filling the eroded v-shaped foot path nearby using ground-up stumps and slash left from logging projects in the state. 

In some cases, the erosion is so bad on the old main trail that it has created indentations as deep as four to six feet with hikers passing at face height trees with their roots exposed.

On May 13 that trail closed forever, and the project began. It is expected to continue through August.

Portable toilets remain available at the trailhead and there is a carry-in, carry-out requirement including dog waste. Owners are asked to keep their dogs on leashes during construction.

There are also iron ranger boxes for cash donations.

Deegan noted that the Forest Society has a number of hiking trails which are popular with Mount Monadnock being perhaps the most hiked mountain in the nation with an estimated 100,000 annual visitors.

She bent down on the trail and picked up a handful of loose, pea-sized rocks which are the base of the old trail and the root of the trail problem.

“It’s rotted rocks,” Deegan said. For decades, the soil erosion from these areas has been washing down the trail, into streams and directly into Lake Winnipesaukee across Route 11 from the Mount Major parking area. 

She said the new trail section will also require much less maintenance over time and will reduce runoff and silting into Lake Winnipesaukee.  

The Forest Society has been able to raise more than $200,000 to date thanks to a grant from the NH Recreation Trails Program and gifts and grants foundations and more than 100 individuals. 

Donations can be made on the Forest Society’s website or deposited in iron rangers at the Mount Major trailhead.

The All Trails guide to the hike is here–3

Clarification: This version clarifies that only a small section of the old main trail at Mount Major while another is being rebuilt nearby.

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