Look at your kingdom, you are finally there! To sit on your throne as the Prince of Fresh Air.
No doubt about it, you’ll feel like the ruler of Belknap Range when you take your place on a stone throne atop New Hampshire’s Piper Mountain, basking under the big sky. The scenery won’t disappoint, and the trees will bough in your presence.
Don’t get too carried away, though, and start digging a moat or trying to boss the squirrels around. This land was conserved by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Gilford Conservation Commission to ensure those splendid trails and magnificent views can be enjoyed by everybody.
The stone thrones are a welcome opportunity to relax as you trek through the woods, navigating creek crossings and mountain ridges. There are two thrones up there—neither naturally occurring. Exactly who did construct these recliners of rock? Heck if I know. But I’d like to think it was gnomes.
There’s more than one way to get to the top of Piper Mountain. My friend Taylor Roberge and I had limited time, so we opted to explore Piper via the Whiteface Trail, a 2.6-mile out-and-back trail that starts at the end of Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford, New Hampshire.
Parking is located at the end of the paved road. The trailhead itself is a bit farther up the dirt road, on the left between two houses. You might second-guess your location, given your proximity to nearby homes. It feels like you’re about to traipse through some resident’s back yard. But never fear, a worn trail sign marks the way. Follow the path and you’ll be into the woods in no time.
The trail begins on the Whiteface Trail and then splits onto the Piper-Whiteface Link. Head left to Piper Mountain. Out and back it’s a total of 2.6 miles, with an elevation gain of 958 feet. It’s plenty to get the blood pumping on a chilly November morning, and the leafless trees make way for more views of the Belknap Range. You can also add extra mileage by tacking on a trek to Whiteface, too.
But this story is about Piper. And those stone thrones.
Piper Mountain sure is pretty on top, with its summit of exposed rock and gatherings of evergreens. Beyond the small crowds of trees, you’ll gaze off onto neighboring peaks and ponds. As a wondrous November bonus, we spotted a tree decked out for the holidays, with big gold and red ornaments.
Is that tree always dressed this way? I have no idea. Perhaps decking the tree is a late-fall tradition for Piper Mountain locals. Maybe the tree sprouted those holiday bulbs of its own accord, like some kind of merry genetic mutation.
It’s on the summit where you’ll find those stone thrones, too. One faces east and one faces west; both are comprised of well-placed rocks that offer ample seats and back support. Sit down and lean back, perhaps with a sandwich or thermos of hot cider, and enjoy the view. And maybe let yourself feel like a master of the mountains, just for a little while.
Shannon Bryan is a writer and outdoor enthusiast who lives in South Portland. Find her at shannonkbryan.com.