View from Table Rock in Grafton Notch State Park
I have been asking myself recently why I have not gone hiking more since I now live in the land of abundant mountains and trails. The White Mountain National Forest is practically in my back yard and Grafton Notch State Park is just a short ride to the north. So I kicked my lazy butt out of bed this morning, laced up the hiking boots, threw some water and trail mix in a day pack and headed to Grafton Notch State Park with the purpose of climbing the Table Rock Loop Trail. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this trail and it did not disappoint. You get a lot of bang for the buck on this particular trail (okay it’s a 2 buck honor system fee). They have a nice parking lot at the trailhead where you cross the road (Route 26) and begin hiking the Appalachian Trail for a very short while (0.1 mile) before you have a decision to make which is:
a) Do I go counter-clockwise and take the steep and rocky trail up? This is the orange blaze trail, or
b) Do I continue up the moderately steep Appalachian Trail for about one mile and then branch off to the right on a relatively easy trail toward Table Rock? (Blue blaze trail)
I chose option B and reached Table Rock in about 45 minutes. The views here are spectacular looking at Old Speck Mountain directly ahead, Sunday River Whitecap to the south and the Eyebrow to the north. Although the weatherman last night said a high pressure system would make this day sunny it was cloudy enough to keep the top of Old Speck hidden from view.
So I continued the loop which is 2.4 miles taking the orange blaze (steep and rocky) trail back down which is hard on the legs. I met a couple who said they have done this hike many times and think it is easiest to do it the other way. I have to agree with them so unless you only want to take the blue blaze trail back and forth I would recommend taking the steep (orange blaze) trail up and the (blue blaze) trail down. If you’re in pretty good shape this is really a worthwhile hike.