Hancock Notch Trail | 7/12/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Impending thunderstorms, less than 1000 feet of elevation gain, and something to occupy our full afternoon. With this criterion at hand, Ryan and I entertained the several ideas- until he suggested the Hancock Notch Trail, something that surely neither of us would ever bag without each other's company due to the obscurity and need for an hour-long car spot.
We left one car at the end of (the very long) Sawyer River Road and headed to the hairpin turn on 112 where we left the other car. We cruised the first mile of Hancock Notch, which both of us had done to bag the Hancocks a couple of years ago, and then the skies opened up on us bad before we hit the Cedar Brook junction. With just 20 minutes of heavy rain, we remained soaked and soggy for the rest of the day.
The portion of Hancock Notch in between the Cedar Brook junction and the height of land was delightful. We were shocked to find what nice shape it was in despite its remoteness and lack of travel. As we approached the height of land, the trees briefly opened up to reveal the gorgeous slides on Mount Huntington- slides we would soon find out well-traveled down into the Notch and had been made into the trail we were traveling. For a long time, as we worked carefully over wet boulders, the trail was unforgiving on my recovering ankle but nonetheless a good challenge that didn’t warrant any further injury. To put it simply, this section wasn’t hard- it was just “the kind of thing that makes a trail runner stop running” sort of difficulty.
Before we knew it, we had left the center of the Notch and were back to regularly scheduled programming as the trail resumed its lack of difficulty. We had a handful of large crossings of the Sawer River, four I believe, but they were all rock hops. Towards the very end of the Hancock Notch Trail, there was a handful of great tenting sports before we reached the junction that would take us the last mile to the car on the Sawyer River Trail- this brief section was a breeze and felt good underfoot.
The hike came out to 9 miles and just under 4 hours with just 721 feet of ascent! Frankly, on a day with a lot of out-of-staters on the road- this means of connecting 302 and 122 may have been faster than driving Bear Notch Road! Just kidding. Maybe.