Monday, August 10, 2020

Morgan and Percival Loop: Ladders, Caves, and Amazing Views

Morgan Percival Loop has ladders, caves and amazing views

Somehow I'd gone this far being an avid New Hampshire hiker without even hearing about the Mount Morgan and Mount Percival peaks.  Then, thanks to social media, I've been seeing photos of people climbing ladders, pushing packs through narrow rock holes, and enjoying stunning views on these lakes region peaks.  The first chance I got, I wrangled two work friends into joining me and we thrilled at the Morgan and Percival loop hike.  

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Mount Morgan and Mount Percival Loop 

Getting there: These lakes region peaks are located near Squam Lake in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.  To get there from the Seacoast, I took 101 West to 93 North.  From there, take exit 24 onto Route US-3, NH-25 toward Ashland/Holderness.  Follow US-3 for 4.5 miles, then turn left onto NH-113.  The trailhead will be on the left after 5.5 miles. There is an overflow parking lot across the street, however, be warned - this trail has been extremely popular this summer and even on a weekday morning, my friend and I got the last spot open at 10 am.  Weekday hikers should plan for 9 am or earlier and weekend possible earlier!
crawling through caves on mt morgan
After ladders, hikers crawl through cave on Mount Morgan
    Both peaks can be hit in a loop.  It was recommended to travel clockwise - hitting Mount Morgan first.  To do this, from the trailhead, hike about 0.1 mile to the junction where the trails meet.  Veer left on the Mount Morgan trail.  The trail ascends consistently through hardwood forest with moderate terrain.  The trail leads to a set of three ladders that allows you to climb a rock face.  THIS IS OPTIONAL!  My friend Kaley and her dog took the bypass while Danielle and I took the ladders.  Footwork is a little tricky on the third ladder.  Once up the ladders, the trail continues through a short and narrow cave.  Crawl through the rock and you will climb out onto a beautiful ledge with stunning views of the lakes and peaks below.  I really enjoyed this experience but those who are afraid of heights, struggle with mobility, young children, dogs, and large packs should take the bypass.  
    After the ledge, there is a short and somewhat difficult slab with high exposure to get to the near-summit view.  We spent a good half hour on this ledge view where the two trails meet up again.  From there, you will head back into the woods and pass the official summit of Mount Morgan (no view).  Continue onto the Crawford-Ridgepole trail through short, dense forest to Mount Percival.
    Mount Percival's summit has even more expansive views of lakes and peaks below.  The challenging portion of Mount Percival is directly below the summit - where hikers quickly descend into a boulder field followed by caves and rock outcrops.  At one point, we all had to remove our packs (even my small one) to descend a vertical drop into a hole.  I felt like Indiana Jones!  Looking at the map, there is a bypass for this as well, however we didn't take it.  This would be impossible for a large dog that could not be carried, a large pack (like baby carrier), or those with mobility issues.
    After the exciting caves, continue a moderate/steady descent on the Mount Percival Trail.  To get back to the parking lot, take the Morse Trail at the junction (unless you parked at the Percival parking lot), to return to your car.  
Caves and Rocks on Mount Percival
Crawling over boulders and caves on Mount Percival
Difficulty: Moderate with (optional) sections of difficulty - ladders, caves, and rock ledge/boulders

Distance: Entire loop is 5.1 miles
Enjoying the view on Mount Morgan
Enjoying the view on Mount Morgan, New Hampshire

- Take the clockwise loop with Mt Morgan first. This way you will be going with the flow of other hikers and also won't have to go down ladders.

- Parking is limited and fills fast on this popular hike.  Also, we did not have cell service in the parking lot.  Plan ahead and have a back up plan if the parking lot is full.  Street parking is prohibited. 

- There are no bathroom facilities available.

- Dogs are allowed on the trail but it is not advisable to take dogs on ladders and caves.  Take the optional bypass.  

- I do not advise carrying a baby-carrier on this hike.  The cave crawling is narrow and tight.  It would be extremely challenging and possibly unsafe to travel with a baby.

- Weather watch - ladders and caves are dangerous when wet.

- Practice LNT, practice social distancing, and wear a mask.

- Want to see what I packed for this hike? Check it out at my IGTV.

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