No one feature makes Mt. Sunapee State Park stand out above the others. Instead it’s the combination and variety of things to do that make it special. Climbing a mountain? Try Winslow and Rollins parks on nearby Mt. Kearsarge. Swimming? Try Wadleigh park just down the road. But if you can’t decide or just want to do more than one thing, then Mt. Sunapee’s your best bet.
OK, maybe things can get a little pricey but you only live once, right? Besides, the new Adventure Park is a way for the park system to make a little more money, and considering the conditions in some of the lesser known parks, a little investment would be a good thing. So I’m willing to overlook some commercialization when it’s going towards a good cause.
My plan was to go for a long hike and then check out the beach. I would pass on the adventure park for now. I didn’t realize that my visit on Labor Day weekend was actually the closing weekend for the park, which was surprising as the adventure park was open weekends through foliage season. (With global warming and all, I would think it would make sense for the parks to stay open longer too, at least on weekends. But that’s a subject for another blog.) The most direct trail to the top was the Summit Trail, which starts from the main parking lot. It’s only a 1400-foot gain to reach the summit so this is actually a popular hike for families. There aren’t any viewpoints along the way but the summit makes up for that.
Based on the condition of the trail (which was very good), it is apparent that most people hike down the same way they hiked up, but I chose to make a loop of it by continuing on the Lake Solitude Trail, past White Ledges, and following the Newbury and Rim Trails back to the campground. I figured I could find a way back to the parking lot from there.
I was surprised that although the trail from the summit to White Ledges was a mile long, the net loss in altitude was just a few feet. That makes this section of trail quite pleasant, and the view of Lake Solitude from the ledge is marvelous. From there it was a long, gradual descent until reaching the campground access road, where the trail ends abruptly without further signage. I followed the campground road about a half-mile until I found a convenient ski trail to follow back to the parking lot, making the entire loop a little over 6 miles. An added bonus to following the ski trails was the fact that there were dozens of butterflies (mostly monarchs) feeding at the many wildflowers on the trail.
I didn’t actually check out the campground even though I walked right past it. There were just a few cars parked there and based on the lack of signage and condition of the road, it doesn’t appear to be very popular. I’d appreciate some feedback on that if I’m mistaken.
After a hike like that, it would be logical to want to take a dip in beautiful and inviting Lake Sunapee. Conveniently, the park also has a beach, located just across the road from the mountain. For a Labor Day weekend, it was surprisingly uncrowded, as the photo above shows. It looked like a great place for a barbecue, too. Happy travels!