Name: Mount Chocorua (show-KOH-rooah)
Location: Near Conway, NH, it’s the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range in the White Mountains
Elevation: 3,490 ft.
Recommendations: For almost anyone! This hike has a lot of bang for the buck.
There’s a really neat legend about this mountain that I’d like to share before I delve into my experience with it. As most legends go, there are many versions and probably none of them are true. But, alas, my paraphrased version:
“There was a Native American man named Chocorua who had to leave his homeland for a hunting trip. His wife had died, and he had a young son that he could not take with him. He had a decent relationship with a neighboring white family, so he approached them asking that they take care of his son for him. Chocorua gave them goods as payment, and they agreed. So, he leaves his son there and heads off to hunt before the winter hits. While at the white family’s farm, the son has a grand time playing and helping out. Until, however, he one day accidentally eats a poisonous plant and dies. Oops.
So the white family feels super badly. It was an accident! A horrible one, but still…it wasn’t their fault. When Chocorua came back, he was not very understanding and was rightfully PISSED out of his mind. He swears to get revenge on this family. Not long after Chocorua returned, the white man comes home to find his entire family dead. With his rifle in hand, he hunts down Chocorua and chases him up a mountain. At the summit, Chocorua suffers a gunshot wound to the chest, but before the white man gets close enough to finish him off, he utters a curse against the white man and pretty much all of his future endeavors and then leaps from the peak to his death.”
A heartwarming tale to carry in the back of your mind as you climb up that mountain, no? I’m generally not a superstitious person, but I would have been wicked creeped out if we had been hiking on a foggy or dark day. Luckily, that was not an issue.
My boyfriend, two of my friends (who happen to be dating as well), and I climbed into my Subaru early on this October Saturday morning to hit the road by 8AM. It was a hefty drive for a day trip – about 3 hours one way, but Molly brought bagels and I brought music so life was good. There’s something about driving in a car full of friends that just feels like it’s straight out of a movie.
Since it was October, the fall colors were at an absolute peak. And I mean PEAK! Like, damn. The drive up was a beautiful view in and of itself. It was almost sad to get to the parking lot and not be able to see the mountains anymore, but then we stepped out of the car and smelled the mountains and everything was amazing again.
For anyone looking to do the same hike we did (which I’d recommend for people who have at least some recent experience with endurance training and are in decent shape – there are other shorter routes to the peak that are better suited for true beginners), we hiked this exact route. Also, don’t brush off the elevation at Chocorua. It’s not tall in comparison to most of the popular White Mountain hikes, but it starts at a lower elevation than most so there is still significant elevation gain required to get to the top. In any event, I liked it a lot and would describe it as follows:
- First, it’s a loop. Loops rule! You get to see something new with every step you take. After seeing new things every moment I headed north on the AT this past summer, I’m a sucker for loops.
- Starting at the Piper Trail parking lot and finding the beginning of the actual Piper Trail wasn’t as straightforward as you might think. Follow other people if you can! Old forest roads are misleading here.
- The first main section of this loop is mainly a nice walk through the forest without much elevation gain. It was a relaxing way to gear up for the climbs to come.
- Once you start to finally head upwards, you’ll eventually make it to the Middle and First Sister peaks, which are way cooler than you’d expect considering they aren’t the main attraction for this area. The views are beautiful, and it was nice to be rewarded along the way to Chocorua. Check out this view from our lunch spot on Middle Sister:
- Since I’m going chronologically here, it’s time to note that we got totally ambushed by a passing snow/hailstorm. It was teeny and quick, but so thrilling! It was also a reminder that you should ALWAYS prepare for the worst when you’re hiking, especially in the Whites. Here’s a snapshot of the little hail that collected along the trail:
- Between Middle Sister and Chocorua, you encounter increasingly better views for longer and longer stretches. This was some of that awesome pre-summit scenery:
- We finally reached the peak, which was crowded but totally breathtaking. A 360 degree view of fall colors blanketing mountains! How glorious! It was gusty but worth it. Only pictures can come close to describing it:
- The hike down wasn’t too exciting. Doesn’t it always feel that way when you’ve just climbed a mountain? The best sights were usually below eye level:
Have you hiked Mount Chocorua before? Want to share some of your favorite hiking destinations around Boston? Comment below!