Trip Report: Mt Waumbek, via Starr-King

Mt Waumbek. Jefferson, NH. 2019-08-01 (Thursday.)

Via Starr-King Trail, Approx 7.2 miles, out and back. (Includes Mt Starr-King.) 

80 dF +/- at the trailhead, with negligible winds in the trees and at the summit. 

Sunny. Slight haze. 

Trailhead: 1530; Starr-King Summit: 1715; Waumbek Summit: 1745; back at car: 1930. (Approx. 4 hours.)


Waumbek is one of those gems. It’s not committal, like Owl’s Head (which admittedly, is on the extreme end.) It’s a peak that I’ll gladly recommend to anyone testing the waters, wanting to bag a four thousand footer but not entirely sure of themselves. Like Cabot, it’s a wonderfully broken-in pair of jeans. You shouldn’t think a lot about this one. Just savor it. The neat thing for the newbies is that you pass over Starr-King on the way. And OK, maybe you get to Starr-King, and decide you’re tired and need to turn back. Great! You’ve bagged a peak in the Whites. Isn’t that pretty cool?

And for those whose resumes have a bit more depth? We don’t need to kill ourselves on every single outing, right? Right!

We got started quite late in the day. I had an appointment that took me through the morning, and by the time me and my companion hit the road… yeah, we were going to enjoy late afternoon sun. And that’s fine by me. Again, this is a relatively short trail, with an easy grade and sure footing. I’ll be fine going up by headlamp, let alone down.

And so it was, we headed up the trail. For the most part, the way going was on packed dirt and the usual leaf litter. The first section travelled up an old logging road, past a dry well. A few drainages crossed the trail, and we met a trail crew from Randolph Mountain Club. I’m always thankful for those hardy souls who wrangle the trails back into shape with little more than mattock, shovel, axe, and chainsaw. Today, they had a cable and pulley system set to get large stones put in place. They do yeoman’s work, and it’s always a good feeling to be able to express thanks directly.

(If you’re interested in doing more for the trails than just cutting a cheque, check out the RMC’s volunteer website:

We carried on through a lush forest. There were abundant ferns, broadleaf trees, conifers as we ascended, and occasional wood sorrel. There was one point were we found a large-ish tree that had broken a few feet from the ground. I recalled coming down from Waumbek’s summit, and being at around this point last year, when a branch spontaneously broke off, and fell to the ground within arm’s length of me. Yep, that brought back memories.

Continuing upward, the trees thinned out, and we were on Starr-King’s summit. A small cairn, and a USGS benchmark marked the high point, but I think of the fireplace from the old shelter as being the signal that I’ve arrived. And, strangely, that tiny little sign nailed to a tree that reads “PATH”, off to the side. It’s a curious little place, with its own character. I love it!

And so yeah, we went down that path, to the col. An uncomplicated walk down a modest grade (not quite mild, but certainly not strenuous) and about 30 minutes took us to the summit of Waumbek. While we had a nice view of the Northern Presidential range from Starr-King, the summit is treed-in on Waumbek. One can walk a couple dozen yards or so down the trail on the other side, and there’s a small section of blow-downs that yield a similar view, but neither mountain gives up the goods willingly. At just over 4,000 feet, you’re not going to see much. By bobbing my head around, I could see Lafayette and Garfield, but my biggest problem was that the other, well known summits were indistinct — they blended in, and it was hard to separate out which was what. Oh well.

Returning to the car was an easy walk. The moderate grades we enjoyed on the way up also meant we weren’t crushing our knees on the way down. Again, this isn’t a hard mountain, and while the views aren’t as dramatic as, say, on Adams or Cannon, at the same time, I don’t mind giving my joints a break from the hard stuff. Sometimes an easy walk is all you need.

And in the parking lot, we found the answer to a quizzical sight from the hike up. There was a vehicle with what looked like a restaurant table strapped to the roof. I remember thinking “at least these people will never say ‘y’know, I wish I brought along a restaurant table.'” On the return, we saw the trail crew, all seated around a delicious feast, with tablecloths and everything, reflecting on a productive day’s work. And I’ll say they certainly earned it. On the way down, we saw new drainage logs, expertly laid, with cross hatching for bombproof footing. Dirt drainages freshly cut, and some cleaned up sections of trail. It makes a huge difference, and is greatly appreciated. And y’know, seeing them having that much fun makes me want to give it a go sometime. They say that once you work on a trail, it becomes yours in a small way. I can see how that works…

Fallen Tree
Near Starr-King summit
Starr-King summit cairn
USGS medalion
Fireplace from the old Starr-King shelter
A clear view
Cairn on Waumbek
Summit sign

Nuts and Bolts: From Twin Mountain, follow Rte 3 north, and then turn onto 115 and follow to 115A. Hard right onto Rte 2 heading east, and just after, turn left onto Starr-King Road. You’ll see a brown hiker sign as well. Park at the trailhead.

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