52 With a View: Mounts Welch & Dickey, NH
Located about half-way between Interstate 93, New Hampshire’s North-South highway, and the beautiful village of Waterville Valley are twin mountains called Welch & Dickey. These twin peaks, separated by less than a ½ mile are a very short distance from Highway 49. Their exposed granite slabs are easy to see from the road and offer an invitation to an outstanding hike. This is a very popular destination due to the mountain’s proximity from the road, their intermediate elevation (2605’ & 2734’) and their outstanding views. If you hike the entire loop trail it is just 4.4 miles.
This was our destination for the weekend hike in the mountains. It is a perfect length in that it doesn’t take more than a few hours to complete the loop. It is a moderate to sometimes strenuous hike, but is not nearly as technical as some of the other hikes we have undertaken in the White Mountains. Amy’s shoulder is not in the best of shape and Jayne’s knee was sore, so this hike was a good alternative to trying to hike a 4000 footer. Amy and I have hiked this loop a few times in the past, so we knew what to expect. Jayne, on the other hand, had never been here, so she was in for a bit of a surprise when we started to hike the technical portions. We hiked in the counter-clock-wise direction, because we did not want to hike down the steep slabs on the south face of Welch Mountain.
The trail starts in the woods and climbs slowly for about the first mile. This portion is completely in amongst the trees of the forest. That is, there are little to no views, except one quick view of some exposed slabs south of Dickey Mountain. You are quickly rewarded, after that first mile, to a large granite outcropping and some outstanding views up the valley toward The Tripyramid Mountains and Sandwich Dome. From this location you can see Highway 49 below and if you listen very closely you can hear the Mad River some 1000 feet below. You might be tempted to quit your hike here and just spend the rest of the day at this great and peaceful spot. But as we already knew, the views just keep getting better and better as you go up Welch Mountain.
After you leave those first slabs, you start climbing at a much steeper rate than you did during that first leg. The trail passes exposed granite slabs that appear to be almost at a 45 degree angle. You gain elevation very quickly! The trail will duck into the woods for a hundred yards, then reemerge on another steep slab. At one point in the ascent you have to climb through a rock passage that was made when a large granite section split in half. Whenever you were on one of the steep slabs, you just had to turn around to be treated to an unobstructed view of some magnificent mountains or valleys in the distance. After climbing steep slabs for a good ½ mile you come to the summit of Welch Mountain. Here you will be treated to about a 300 degree view of the White Mountains and beyond. Dickey Mountain obstructs that last 60 degrees of view.
After leaving the summit, you have to descend the north face of Welch Mountain. This portion, though not very long, took a bit of time, due to the snow and ice that remained on the trail, shielded from the sun. It was very slippery, especially after all the foot traffic had packed down the snow. After successfully negotiating this section, you walk again through the woods for a short distance before starting another ascent to Dickey Mountain. The exposed slabs on the south face of Dickey Mountain are not as severe or long as those on Welch Mountain. So, before long you are standing on the summit of Dickey Mountain. In addition to some of the shared views it has with its twin, Dickey has one outstanding feature that Welch lacks – views of the Franconia Ridge and Cannon Mountain. Since there had been snow recently in the White Mountains, the white tops of Mounts, Lafayette, Lincoln and Cannon could be clearly seen. And a scan of the horizon further to the west revealed the snow covered summit of Mt. Moosilauke.
Leaving the summit of Dickey Mountain, you have to travel down granite slabs as you descend the summit cone. However, these slabs are not nearly as steep as the ones on Welch Mountain. After about a 3/4 mile descent you come to the final portion of exposed granite. This time the trail is not steep and you walk along the upper ridge with nice views of both the summits of Welch & Dickey off to your left. The trail makes a sudden right turn and you climb off the granite and head into the woods. When we hiked this past Saturday we were treated to some beautiful immense icicles hanging from the granite stone that slightly overhung the trail where it transitioned into the woods.
The final mile of the hike is a steady downhill in the forest back to the Trailhead and parking area. This is always a nice hike, with great views and doesn’t take up the whole day.