Mount Sunapee and Lake Solitude

This is a great ½ day hike to a cool destination. Not only is there a beautiful, isolated lake at the end of this hike but there’s also an absolutely gorgeous vista from a cliff a short ways above the lake. This path starts in a maple syrup sugarbush and requires a tough mile of hiking before reaching a beautiful coniferous forest that leads to the shore of Lake Solitude. Bring some lunch because you’ll want to hang out at this destination, no matter the season.

My partner and I looked to continue our weekly winter excursions and picked this hike for the potential of a beautiful destination which would be protected from cold winds where we could take a seat and enjoy yummy sandwiches. The shore of Lake Solitude would have provided just this, but we were pleasantly surprised that the cliff that provides excellent views of the lake and the landscape below was protected from the wind and allowed us to fully take in the scene while we took in our delicious food.

We parked at Andrew Brook Trailhead and followed the only path, Andrew Brook Trail, up to the lake. About half a dozen cars accompanied us at the trailhead as we equipped ourselves with gaiters and microspikes to climb the trail with a fairly well packed snow base amid temperatures around 20 degrees.

I didn’t do a great job staying warm while we got ready and hit the trail running to warm up. It started with a gentle climb through the private lands where tap lines criss crossed the landscape to supply the ingredients for maple syrup. At one point we ducked under a tap line. During this section the trail was wide while the packed snow path was narrow.

As the trail narrowed the grade steepened slightly and passed back and forth over Andrew Brook. Most crossings were easy but my boot broke through an ice bridge once and my boot was lucky to avoid the cold water. We passed a trail log inside an unfortunately inaccessible wooden box close to a third of a mile in. By this time my body temperature had warmed to a comfortable level.

From here the trail was at its most steep at a moderately strenuous grade. Our hard work was more than neutralized by the expansive white snow cover. The sun shone bright through the leafless hardwood forest. We pushed on until the grade eased after one last brook crossing from left to right.

After about a mile and a quarter from the crossing, coniferous forest overtook the hardwoods as we entered a real winter wonderland as our decision to venture into the mountains on this chilly day was thoroughly affirmed. Though beautiful views were waiting ahead, this was probably my favorite portion of the hike. A third of a mile later we spotted an opening in the trees.

Lake Solitude was completely snow covered yet we were surprised that the surface was not completely solid. When we walked a few feet off the shore, a thick slush capable of supporting us was below our feet. Though there were other hikers along the shore with us, the beautiful New Hampshire lake does not garner the fame it deserves.

We only stopped at the shore for a minute and turned right at our first intersection at the northeast corner of the lake. We turned left at the next intersection a few hundred yards later and left again for the final climb to the White Cliff Overlook. A handful of other hikers greeted us at this wonderful little spot. We peered down at the beautiful wave patterns spread across the lake’s surface. The view beyond was initially obscured by clouds but it opened up to reveal the land beyond including the peak of Mount Kearsarge. We immediately layered up, opened some hand warmers, and used our trusty seat pads to sit upon a perfectly shaped rock. Our sandwich was extra delicious and our bellies were warmed by washing our meal down with a thermos of hot chocolate coffee blend.

We returned along the same path we climbed and took a moment to enjoy the openness of the lake. When we reached the steeper parts we took a different approach to traction as we removed our microspikes and opted to descend using less friction. I had just bought a set of cheap thin plastic sleds and we were excited to give them a go for the first time on a snow covered surface. Though we did not achieve supersonic speeds we got a real thrill out of sliding down every slope that allowed it.

Unfortunately our backsides quickly attained the same temperature as the ice upon which we slid. To help, our trusty seat pads came in handy again as we improvised extra insulation by stuffing them down the back of our pants. Though our sliding did not improve the overall speed of our descent, it vastly improved our spirits as we giggled down the mountain, ignoring the extra cold our bodies absorbed. Next time I might bring snow pants or invest in some other sort of waterproofing for my bum.

When we returned to our car we quickly out of wet and icy pants and devoured another sandwich during our drive home.

This early spring hike was right after a couple inches of fresh powder in the mountains. Less than two hours from Boston, this hike provided amazing scenery at Lake Solitude and from the view looking down upon it. Don't bother hiking to the ski summit since the views are no better. This was a terrific way to say goodbye to winter.

Click the picture below for a vr experience from the rock in the image