Is it worth the nearly 140 miles to climb a 0.8 mile trail to the top of a mountain with some nice views? In this case, yes. A few years ago, I traveled north with my friend Carl to climb Mount Magalloway (3,383 feet), located in the green northern tip of New Hampshire in the town of Pittsburg.
We weren’t making the 52 With a View list, which includes Mount Magalloway and motivates many hikers to climb it today. We just wanted the fun of doing it.
The night before we climbed the mountain on Saturday, we stayed at the Mountain View Cabins in Happy Corner, a neighborhood north of the village of Pittsburg on Route 3.
Also on Saturday after climbing the mountain we did a flat hike along the shallow Connecticut River to the newly built falls on the River Trail. We finished Saturday late afternoon and returned home satisfied.
Going back a day on Friday it was raining when I left Tamworth to join Carl in Jackson and head north, and the traffic was bad. You could say it was a good day to get out of town.
Later, as we drove north, the rain subsided. Next to Jefferson and Lancaster there were blue highlights to the west, and when we reached the quiet section of Route 3 north of Colebrook the late afternoon sun was shining on the low hills and cornfields. It was so green. We saw another car every few minutes.
Finally, we got to Happy Corner and settled into a cabin. Across the street there was a store with everything and a restaurant called Happy Corner Café.
The next morning, there were a lot of cumulus clouds, but also a lot of sun. A brisk breeze blew the leaves up as we drove a bit north of Happy Corner on Route 3 and turned east on dirt road Magalloway Road towards a private forest.
We did 5.3 miles on this well maintained road, although there were frequent shallow potholes filled with water. Then a detour to the right onto the rougher Tower Road took us a few more miles to the small parking lot at the foot of Mount Magalloway.
We started the 0.8 mile Coot Trail, a former firefighter access road that has now mostly eroded into boulders and ledges. We made our way to the lawn-shaped summit area, where there is a fire tower and a watchman’s cabin.
The cabin can be rented. Famous views at the top include the 360-degree view of the tower and views found on a short side trail that leads from the summit to the outlook above the rocky, craggy east side of Mount Magalloway.
Who owns Mount Magalloway and the surrounding area? The summit area and buildings are owned by the state of New Hampshire. The mountainside and much of what you can see from the fire tower (minus the skyline, of course) is part of a 146,000-acre investor-owned parcel. The plot is called Heartwood Forestland Six. It has a conservation easement with the state of New Hampshire that does not allow subdivision. It will remain whole and will be used for recreation and wood.
We ran into a family on the way up. The short trail, although difficult, is suitable for most levels of hiking experience.
We reached the summit green, where another family told us there was a constant cold wind over the fire tower. The summit cabin was closed (the fire guard is only there when there is a high fire risk). We put on some coats and walked over to the platform just below the cabin.
The view from the tower – of three states and Quebec – was awe-inspiring. To the north, above Second Lake Connecticut, rose the long ridge of Mont Mégantic, home to Canada’s largest astronomical telescope. As I looked this way, there was a silver lightning bolt on its top. The view to the south, over the endless mountains of New Hampshire, was superb.
Shortly after on the lawn we took the short trail to the lookouts to the east. It was the highlight for me. The lower lookout was a great vantage point to see the east side of the mountain, which descended steeply past boulders and evergreens to a large gray scree of boulders below. At eye level to the east extended an unobstructed view of Maine. Parts of Lake Aziscohos appeared between the mountains.
Earlier in the summer, I had flown with a friend from the Fryeburg airport north to Mount Magalloway. This steep east slope had impressed me then as we circled around the mountain. It was again now, as I sat and had lunch on the edge.
We made our way back to the top and then descended, taking an alternate forest path halfway called the Bobcat Trail. We later returned to Route 3 and turned north a few more miles to the dam on Connecticut’s second lake. This is where the Falls in the River Trail begins, along the Connecticut River.
It’s like a time machine of sorts – witnessing a juvenile river after familiarizing yourself with its older and wider appearance downstream. The Connecticut at this location is about 30 feet wide and swirls over rounded boulders. Deciduous trees create a rounded canopy above. Fly fishermen come from afar, and this section of the river was caught and released.
The Falls in the River Trail follows the river a few yards into the woods. It was inspired by Kim Nilsen, founder of the Cohos Trail, who over a decade ago walked downstream on old fisherman’s trails, trying to find a crossing route for his trail. A mile and a half from the dam, he came across a nice series of falls into the river.
Hence its name. Chad Pepau from Pittsburg oversaw construction of the 2 mile long trail.
Carl and I hiked the trail to the falls, then I continued to the end, and he turned to retrace his steps, he was so fascinated by the sight and the sound of the flowing water. on this section. We met later at the car.
It was 4:30 p.m. and it was time to head south. Below Pittsburg, the oblique light shone again across the fields, under an azure blue sky. Even though it was Saturday night, we had the highway to ourselves.