Hiking with Kids - Mount Chocorua Albany NH
Mt Chocorua - Albany NH
This past Memorial Day weekend my husband had a surprise for us! He had us up and out of the house at the crack of dawn so that we could travel to Albany NH for the early morning.
Before turning onto the Kancamagus Highway (most people commonly mistake the spelling as Kangamangus) we made sure we hit the restrooms at a fast food restaurant because we knew this would be a long hike. There are rest stops on the Kanc but not all of them have running water. The Kanc itself is beautiful but we came all this way to take a trip up to Mt. Chocorua via Champney Falls Trail which is about 10 miles in, off of Route 16 on the left. Here is a link to the trail map that we used. Here is some more narrative useful information from the US Forest Service.
There is a parking lot for this trail head and you do need to display a parking pass in the window of your vehicle. Stopping at designated areas to visit the Swift River does not require the pass but parking at most trail heads does.
This particular hike is labeled as 3.8 miles, and hiking time of approximately 3 hours. If you are new to hiking, keep in mind these are distances and time are to the summit, NOT round trip. We started this hike at 8am and we finished around 4pm taking us a total of 8 hours. We did spend a little time at the waterfall, and a few stops along the way to take pictures of pretty flowers, and cool spider webs.
I recommend taking plenty of water, and starting early. As we were descending there were families ascending with little to no water and it was late in the day. It didn't seem like a wise choice.
There is no doubt about it that this was a long and challenging mountain for us. I do suggest that you try local hikes that are a bit shorter to build up your endurance and to find out what your own limitations are. After doing this hike we found this to be at our current limit as a family and we will keep working to improve that.
In times past my son and my husband like to be in the lead. When they got too far ahead, they would stop and wait for my daughter and I. When we caught up they would be ready again, and we would still be tired. It made for some really grumpy attitudes. What we tried this time seemed to work really well. We didn't take too many stops, we decided on consistent constant movement but here's the trick.... We put the person who was most fatigued in the lead. When we noticed someone starting to trip we would stand aside and let them go to the front. We did have to stop briefly a few times but it was generally only because the kids were hungry not because they were over tired. By the end of the hike we were all dragging but it felt good.
If you do take this trail, the loop off to the left for Champney and Pitcher Falls should not be missed. It's only .3 miles and it's worth it. The main trail is pretty consistent in it's incline. There are a lot of roots, and rocks. The trail has been very well maintained. Where there are muddy sections there are generally enough rocks to step on to stay out of the mud. There are some stream crossings but our hike was after days of rain and there were still rocks to step on. I have read that it can be pretty buggy during the summer. Although there were quite a few mosquitoes in the lower elevations, there we no signs of ticks.
We were hoping for the fog to clear off by the time we got to the summit but it never happened. We could see the precipitation from the fog in the air and feel it on our skin. When you come out of the tree line onto the rock and junipers you think you are almost there, or at least we did because we couldn't see that far. When you get to the top of this rock outcropping, you look across a dip and there is another rock outcropping that is higher, this is the summit. The yellow trail markings are harder to find on the rock but we highly recommend trying to follow them. After reaching the summit and coming down from the rocky areas my husband and I were grateful for the fog. All you could see over the edge was fog. If the kids had seen what was over the edge they may have freaked out from the height. We showed them pictures when we got home and their eyes bugged out! We intend to do this hike again for a couple of reasons. First we want them to see the 360° view from the top. Secondly, we want them to see that there is no need to fear because they already did it once.
After hiking last year in the heat, we learned a valuable lesson. Don't hold back on the water. I tried to ration the water especially with my daughter because she does NOT like to use the woods as her restroom. Scrimping on the water only leads to major headaches, literally! I think she was more afraid of getting something on her clothing. This time we came up with an action plan that seemed to work well. For girls, look for trees that have fallen down and have them sit far enough back so that everything stays back there and remember to bring tissue paper and a Ziploc baggie to keep it in until you can find a waste can to put it in. I am happy so say that she did not get a headache this time because she had plenty of water to drink! My kids also have water packs this year. I will explain more about these in a later blog to help you in choosing one for kiddos.
Footwear is another biggie when it comes to long hikes. I have always had best luck with old sneakers where the rubber that still has good grip on the bottom. My husband prefers his Teva hiking sandals with a heavy pair of socks, my son prefers his sneakers or his Keen hiking sandals. My daughter is more different than anyone I know! She only likes to wear her crocs. Crazy, I know. No ankle support and you would think they would be slippery. Yes, she does need to take special care when she is on rock faces that there is no sand on the bottom but there is no blistering or hot spots for her. Also another benefit for her coming down the mountain when she was getting tired was that when we came to a stream, instead of trying to stay dry, stepping on rocks, she would step on sure footing and have a refreshing stream of water on her toes. She should be the poster child for Crocs! Anything I can do for my kids, even if it is unconventional, as long as it is functional and cuts down on complaints and increases happiness, bring it on! I will mention this though, I do believe that my daughter has strong ankles and balance. I would not recommend using crocs for just anyone unless you have tried them on shorter walks/hikes first.
After we were done with the hike, we stopped at a spot along the Swift River to put our feet in the ice cold water. It is generally cool all through the summer and is very refreshing! My husband lovingly refers to me as a polar bear when frolicking in the water! I absolutely love it in the heat of the summer! The water doesn't come any cleaner than this!
As long as you are prepared for the hike ahead with time and supplies it should be a great family time!
Until next time, have fun out there!
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