Mt. Willard: A Short Hike with a Sweet View
There are many hiking lists in NH some more difficult than others, but the 52 With a View list has had some of the best short hikes so far. Mt. Willard is one of the easiest 52 With a View peaks, but it boasts one of the best views I've seen so far. It's an extremely popular spot, so doing it on a weekday is ideal.
Luckily my afternoon class was cancelled so I was able to sneak out of school early on Friday and head up to NH around noon. There's nothing I love more than a quiet weekday hike, so the anticipation was killing me all morning. The drive up to Crawford Notch was gorgeous but long, so I was worried that I wouldn't have enough time to make it up and down Willard before dark. I'm totally fine with night hiking usually, but my dad had agreed to come with me so I wanted to make sure we had enough time.
Leaving the Highland Center at 3:15 had me a tad nervous because I wasn't sure of my dad's pace, but I was relieved to figure out he hiked at a relatively brisk pace. The trail was very gentle with two minor crossings at the beginning. It was so gradual it felt like walking up the sidewalk on the hill to my house in Boston! We casually moseyed up the wide path until we got to a small cascade. In the interest of timing we passed by it quickly and continued to the summit.
Although the entire trail was wooded, the rocky summit outcrop had breathtaking views of Crawford Notch. From here I could see all of the southern Presidentials plus Mt. Washington. I also admired Willey slide from afar, thinking about how exciting it would be to climb it in the winter. The view was endless with warm colored leaves lining the valley. I actually prefer the views from a bit lower down during peak foliage because instead of a sea of color you can really distinguish the reds from the oranges and yellows. We sat for almost an hour taking it all in.
Because it was a weekday hike there weren't too many people, but it was still busier than I would have liked. I pondered the possibility of taking some of my non-hiking friends up here on Sunday, but quickly thought better of the idea. On the way back down I thought about what a great hike this is for people of all ages and abilities. At the summit I saw toddlers and senior citizens, all coming up for the view. This would be a great introductory hike for someone just getting into hiking. That being said I would probably avoid this one like the plague on a beautiful weekend day unless you were to do it for sunrise!
Mt. Willard (2,865 ft) via Mt. Willard Trail [3.44 mi, 940 ft, 2:20].