The Belknap Mountains offer many opportunities for hiking. Mount Major is certainly one of the most popular peaks to hike in New Hampshire due to its wide ledgy summit and sweeping lake and mountain panorama.
To reach Major’s summit it requires hiking 3 miles and climbing over a thousand feet of elevation. Lots of people of all ages and abilities do it and I hope someday you might get the chance.
But there is another fine perch that is shorter and less challenging to reach. It’s not far from Mount Major and it offers a splendid vista of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Ossipees and the White Mountains too. That’s Lockes Hill—a miniature Mount Major!
Lockes Hill was the 280 acre estate of Boston and Montreal Railroad President Benjamin Kimball. In 1897 he built a castle overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee on the property. His heirs established a trust for the study and enjoyment of wildlife habitat and the Town of Gilford was appointed the trustee. The public does not have access to the castle, it is privately owned.
The Lockes Hill trailhead right off of Route 11 in Gilford about 3 miles east of the Laconia Airport. The parking lot entrance is marked with a brown hiker icon highway sign.
Charlie and I knew we would be driving by the Lockes Hill so we planned to do the short hike. We decided to make a 1.8 mile counter-clockwise loop by going up the Lakeview Trail and coming down the Quarry Trail.
The Lakeview Trail begins on the right just as you enter the parking lot. There is a sign and be sure to take a trail guide from the mailbox here. The Lakeview Trail switchbacks as the trail climbs up the slope, there are many rock steps. Along the trails are interpretive stations that are fun to read to learn about the Kimball Wildlife Forest and its inhabitants.
Nearing the top of the hill we reached “The Glade” –a cleared area for wildlife habitat and to open the vista. We had only hiked half a mile with less than 500 vertical feet of climbing and we were wowed by the view. Plus the area just off the trail is rocky and people have stacked the rocks to make chairs or maybe I should call them stone thrones.
We looked down at the Big Lake and over its broad water and islands to the mountains. There is a distance viewer mounted here and Charlie and I used it to peek at boats on the water. Hiking to just here and back would be a worthy outing.
We continued to the top and there was a spur path to a distance viewer and another fine vista. This perch allowed us to see further to the west.
The Lakeview Trail meets the Quarry trail at the Lockes Hill beacon, a light on top of a utility pole for the benefit of warning airplanes headed to the Laconia Airport. We poked around the top and found yet a third distance viewer at an opening with a good view of Gunstock and Belknap Mountains.
We headed down the Quarry Trail and it was less rocky and had a softer footbed. The hemlock forest turned into a hardwoods as we got off the ridge. We passed by an area that had been recently logged and we decided to leave the trail and check out the view from newly opened area. We looked west and could see a hazy view of Mount Cardigan.
We descended some rock steps and went across stepping stones past a pool that was part of the old quarry site where the stones were cut for the Kimball’s castle.
From here we followed an old logging road back to the parking area.
The trails are well marked with blue blazes and are easy to follow.
This was a super hike and Lockes Hill is treasure.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.