The trailhead parking areas in far Northern New Hampshire, even on this busy holiday weekend, only had a car or two. The roads were empty and the leaves were more bright and colorful than they were a few hours south back home.
Bryan and I met in the Gorham Wal-Mart parking lot and I drove us straight up Route 16 and somewhere past Errol he directed me to turn into a logging road smack in the middle of a wildlife refuge. The rig bounced up the road and after few miles I pulled it into an old log landing area rather than risk getting stuck.
After looking at the map and taking a reading, Bryan adjusted his compass. then we donned our packs and headed up the road. We bushwhacked our way up the west side of Mount Dustan to its summit. The woods were mostly open and we went across a few wet areas but we still made good time. This peak is on the New Hampshire fire tower list and the whole fun adventure took us just under two hours (a bit more than 3 miles round trip). We only saw moose tracks and great displays of foliage.
Next we continued up Route 16 and stopped by the Magalloway River Trail for a quick jaunt out to a viewing platform on the edge of the river. The well graded handicap accessible path is about one third of a mile in length one-way. The covered platform has built in benches and offers a dreamy view of the big river. This place is dedicated in the memory of Warren Pearson the long-time manager of the old BALSAM resort.
Back in the rig we drove on Route 16 a couple more miles north and then turned left and drove a quarter mile on Dead Diamond Road to the gate where we parked. From this point on we had to walk to access Dartmouth’s Second College Grant to reach the Diamond Peaks Trail.
I learned from Dartmouth College’s website that “by act of the New Hampshire legislature in 1807, Dartmouth acquired the Second College Grant, a township of nearly 27,000 acres”. The college uses the land for recreation and continues to harvest timber and manage wildlife habitat.
As we started walking towards the gate a car with a pair of mountain bikes on its roof pulled in and parked. Then as we went around the gate a pickup truck pulled up and a man dressed in hunter orange unlocked the gate and then drove through the gateway. He relocked it before driving up the road and out of sight.
The 2.2 mile road walk to the trailhead was a pretty walk. We enjoyed the view of Mount Dustan’s east flank colored gold and red that shined above a small pond and boggy area. We crossed the Dead Diamond River on a single lane bridge and the road now followed along the bank. As the road followed the river up stream, it climbed higher above the river. Soon from the road’s edge the bank went straight down into a gorge. We passed by a few cabins all painted the same—dark red with green painted trim around the windows.
When we neared the trailhead there was a sign post with multiple signs attached with information and arrows pointing in all directions. I marveled that the Hell Gate Cabins were 9 miles straight ahead.
The Diamond Peaks Trail is only 1.1 miles to its end at the ledges near its East Peak’s high point. The trail has bog bridges over a short wet area before it begins to climb steeply. In a short while we took an unsigned but blazed side path to the top of Alice Ledge. (I did not discover why or who the ledges are named for but they are marked on the USGS maps as such too). Just a third of a mile up the trail the crag offered for our a little effort a fine view down the valley.
Half ways up outlooks open over the side of Linda Ledge. We continued on and we noted that a recent re-route of the trail went around a steep area taking out a section of old trail that required scrambling up ledge. More outlooks open and we stopped to admire the view of the ledge and that we would be hiking along its ridge.
Great care must be taken near the ledges because they are high steep ledges. We enjoyed the wide vista that had remarkably little to no sign of man. We could see the waters of the Magalloway River too and look down on Diamond Peaks’ third pointy peak that has no trail to its summit.
On our way back down we stomped around in the woods to find what we believed to be the actually high point. Bryan reminded me that Diamond Peaks is on the NH fire tower list too. The walk back out seemed shorter because it was following the river downstream.
A trip to the far Northern New Hampshire is well worth the drive.