NH – Mt. Martha and Owl's Head
We hiked Mt. Martha long before we started logging our hikes. As Mt. Martha is on 52 With A View, we decided to hike it once again, on a beautiful mostly sunny day with reasonable August temperatures.
Cherry Mountain is a mountain ridge in Carroll, west of the northern Presidential range. The highest peak is Mt. Martha at 3,573 ft, and the peak with the best view (from a ledge near the summit) is Owl’s Head at 3,258 ft (not to be confused with the 4000 footer with the same name located in the Pemi Wilderness).
There are three trail routes in – from the west, north, and east. The most popular is the one from the west – the Cherry Mountain Trail on Rt. 115 in Carroll, with the trailhead 1.9 miles north of the junction with US 3.
The out-and-back route is to follow the Cherry Mountain Trail for 1.7 miles, turn off the Cherry Mountain Trail to the spur path to Mt. Martha, continue 0.2 miles to Mt. Martha, and from there 0.8 miles on Martha’s Mile to Owl’s Head. Our total mileage was about 5.1 miles roundtrip, rather than 5.4 miles, so the numbers don’t quite add up, but it’s close enough.
The hike starts at 1650 ft, with the summit at 3573 ft, after 1.9 miles. This is a moderately difficult grade at about 1000 ft a mile.
The signpost at the trailhead. It’s actually wrong. It’s 1.7 miles to the spur path to Mt. Martha, not to Cherry Mountain. The Cherry Mountain Trail continues another 3.5 miles, over Cherry Mountain, finishing at Cherry Mountain Road.
Entering the White Mountain National Forest at about 0.7 miles.
Hiking to the junction with the Mt. Martha spur. At about 1.3 miles, the trail narrows and gets rockier. The 1.7 miles was steadily up, with no scrambles.
This is where we leave the Cherry Mountain Trail and take a left turn to the spur trail. Note that someone wrote 1.55, rather than 1.7, which is much closer to our GPS reading.
Reaching Mt. Martha, there is a limited view of the Northern Presidential immediately on the left through a clearing, and a sharp right turn for Martha’s mile. But by going straight, there is a beaten path which leads to an old firetower site and a good view southwest. This panorama spreads from Bretton Woods to the east (left) to Cannon to the west (right).
Returning to the summit, we turn to Martha’s Mile, which descends about 400 ft. to a col and then does a steep 80 foot ascent to Owl’s Head at 3,258 ft.
The col is quite pretty, filled with ferns and more Clintonia (Blue-bead Lily) than you can imagine.
There is a pretty good steep section just before reaching the ledge on Owl’s Head.
The hardest scramble.
The Northern Presidential Range in the background –– notably Jefferson, Clay, and Mt. Washington. We could also make out the Lake of the Clouds Hut (not pictured here) between Mt. Washington and Mt. Monroe.
Looking back at Mt. Martha.
The Trip: 5.1 miles including side paths, 3:38 moving time, 1:14 stopped time.