Smarts Mountain – 12/20/2015

Smarts Mountain summit from the Lambert Ridge Trail
Smarts Mountain from Lambert Ridge Trail

You know when you’re sick for a few days, and all you can think about is getting onto a nice mountain?  That was me earlier this week.

Rich had been talking about Smarts (and Mt. Cube) for a while – it was time.  We started late, at 10:50am up the Lambert Ridge Trail, maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC).  The plan was to eat lunch in the fire tower at the summit at 3,240′, and then head down via the Ranger Trail.  7.6 miles round trip.

Lambert Ridge Trail starts off steep, but you’re rewarded with some fine views pretty early on, and these continue.  Smarts is one of the more prominent mountains in New Hampshire, and the views of it’s summit from Lambert Ridge are nice.  It’s profile from this point reminded me of an ultra-mini Kilimanjaro seen from the town of Moshi.

The plant life and the rocks on this trail were also varied and beautiful and in some ways reminded me more of local hiking trails at home in Newburyport than they did the trails just a bit to the north.  Don’t miss the quartz, it’s everywhere!  Even if you have to brush some snow aside to find it.

Plant life on the Lambert Ridge Trail, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire
Ferns (buried but there!) and well spaced hardwoods on Lambert Ridge Trail

Once you see the summit from the trail, Lambert Ridge Trail starts to give you some breaks here and there, but throws the steep sections in once in a while the entire way.  We had to move slowly and carefully up the final push to the top – there was lots of steep, hard ice.  MICROspikes worked, but I wish I had sharpened mine before the hike.  I think our slow pace prevented the relentless uphill grind of this section from affecting us.

Boots with light traction ascend an icy trail, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire
MICROspikes walking the line between light traction and crampon territory
A hiker on an icy section of trail, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire
Rich on an especially icy slab

Bad news folks – the fire tower is currently closed!  Disappointing, but the views along the way helped soften the blow.  We ate a quick lunch at the summit, and then headed down the icy trail.  .6 miles from the summit, Ranger Trail breaks away from Lambert Ridge, and off we went.  This is an easy, easy trail, but it’s very wet.  You’ve been warned.  We were moving around 4 miles per hour almost the entire length of the Ranger.  Good times.

Fire tower on top of Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire
The summit fire tower – currently closed

I was trying hard to guess our pace and how it was averaging out on our way down.  Surely there was some luck involved, but I was dead on.  We arrived at the car at 2:58, and I had been predicting 3:00 on the dot.  I’m getting good at this!

Smarts Mountain has a lot to offer.  If you’re coming from the south, it’s a nice fast drive with it’s location in the southwestern corner of the White Mountains.  The views from the Lambert Ridge Trail are nice, and if you’re looking for an easy day, the Ranger Trail will be right up your alley.  I’d like to see Smarts in more seasons and a variety of conditions.  I’ll definitely be going back when the fire tower is reopened!


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