Waterville Valley in New Hampshire is surrounded by majestic mountains and beautiful streams. It is part of the White Mountain National Forest. For the avid hiker it is an outstanding destination because of its proximity to many of the New Hampshire 4000 foot peaks. Just to the south and west of some of these peaks, namely The Tripyramids, Mt Whiteface, Mt Osceola and Mt Tecumseh, all 4000 footers, lies another peak, not quite as famous. This is Sandwich Mountain or to some, Sandwich Dome. It lacks the notoriety of the other peaks because it is just a few feet shy of 4000 feet and is therefore not on that exclusive list of hiking destinations. The official elevation for Sandwich Dome is 3980 feet.
For me, what it lacks in elevation it truly makes up in mountain views. There are at least (7) different trails that will take you to the summit, which makes it a great hike from almost every direction in the southern Whites. One of the features that draws me back to hike this mountain often is the views, not only from its summit but from two other locations along the way. The Sandwich Mountain trail that begins about a ½ mile from the village at Waterville Valley takes the hiker past Noon Peak and then Jennings Peak before reaching Sandwich Dome. These three spots provide excellent opportunities to view many wonderful White Mountain scenes. If you combine this trail with the Drake’s Brook trail you can make a nice 8 mile loop hike.
This past weekend when I hiked Sandwich I was truly rewarded with some of the best scenery in the Whites that I can recall. This was made possible by the generous amount of snow that had accumulated on the branches of the trees throughout the entire White Mountain region. This highlighted all the features of the mountains and made them stand out.
Earlier this fall, I had hiked the Sandwich Mountain trail to Jennings and Noon Peak, but did not go as far as Sandwich Dome. This time I intended to go all the way to Sandwich’s summit. I had heard from other hikers that the Sandwich trail was icy and dangerous in spots, so I decided to hike Drake’s Brook both to the summit and back. This makes the hike longer but much safer, especially when going alone in winter weather conditions. Did I mention that the temperature was zero degrees! I got to the trailhead at 0800 and immediately put on my microspikes. There was 4-6 inches of snow on the ground and signs of ice underneath, so it was best to use traction control for the entire hike. It took me just under three hours to hike the 4.4 miles and 2400 foot elevation rise to the summit of Sandwich Dome. The scenery at the top almost took my breath away. You could clearly see a cloudless Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range in the distance to the north-east. To the north-west was Franconia Ridge and Cannon Mountain. Straight ahead was the entire Pemigewasset Wilderness. There were so many 4000 foot peaks in my view it was hard to count them all! And the view of the Waterville Valley ski area, highlighted by all that snow on the trees was just spectacular. After soaking in the sights for 15 minutes I started my journey back. I completed the 8.8 mile round trip hike in 5 hours. Even though this hike is not to one of the New Hampshire 4000 footers, I highly recommend it for its outstanding views and variety of trails. And don’t forget to stop at Jennings and Noon Peak along the way.