Weeks State Park and Prospect Mountain
Five trails are associated with Weeks State Park, including the 1.4 mile Mountain Road Scenic Byway which is popular with walkers. The Park entrance is on Route 3, 7 miles north of Whitefield, NH, and 2 miles south of Lancaster. Reed Road - which offers the northern trailhead for the Heritage Trail -- is 0.6 miles north of the park entrance. The Around the Mountain Loop trail can be accessed from the ski area parking, 0.3 miles north of the Weeks State Park entrance. The Around the Mountain Loop Trail can also be accessed from the main entrance parking lot via the auto road. The trail junction is located just on the other side (east side) of the gate.
Around the Mountain Loop Trail: This wide, 3 mile, multi-use trail was designed for hikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. Skiers will want to ski in a counter-clockwise direction to avoid a steep downhill section on the east side of the mountain.
From the ski area access road, the Loop Trail heads south and rises moderately to join an old woods road. It passes by an old apple orchard on the right and then crosses the auto road. The Heritage Trail is reached in 0.1 miles and the Loop Trail enters a stand of large white spruce trees. The trail opens to views of Martin Meadow pond and Cherry Mountain, then gradually descends through an area of interesting northern white cedar trees.
The Loop Trail soon reaches the junction of the Davidge Path; a fine overlook with views of the Franconia and Kinsman ranges. In the foreground is a Christmas tree plantation owned by the Davidge family. (This section of the trail is on private land.)
Beyond the Davidge Path junction, the Loop Trail continues along a stone wall and through a beautiful grove of red oak trees. The trail gradually ascends the side of Mt. Prospect crossing several small streams. Look for a paper birch and a yellow birch growing together in a small meadow, along with hawthorn and apple trees.
Soon the trail climbs steeply for a short distance to an old road, which it follows before dropping down into a maple sugarbush. (Take care not to damage the tap lines.) Rising and falling several times, the trail passes by a long-since abandoned sugarhouse before reaching the junction of the Old Carriage Path.
The Loop Trail continues west and passes an old cellar hole (right), a ski slope (left), and then enters a grove
of large white pine trees. The trail ends at the ski area parking lot.
The NH Heritage Trail: The Heritage Trail is a 230 mile walking path through NH from Massachusetts to Canada; rich in history, culture and natural beauty. The section of the Heritage Trail within Weeks State Park is 1.3 miles and is maintained by the Lancaster Heritage Trail Committee.
The Heritage Trail coincides with parts of the Loop Trail and the Old Carriage Path. The trail enters the park from Route 3, south of the main Weeks Park entrance, passing three cellar holes, a small stone quarry, an apple orchard and a ski slope. The Heritage Trail provides a walking connection with the village of Lancaster in the valley below.
The Mountain Road Scenic Byway: this historic auto road, built between 1911 and 1912, leads to the summit of Mount Prospect and was designated as a NH Scenic Byway in 1995. The paved road is open to vehicles in the summer but is popular year round with walkers.
The road begins at the park entrance on the east side of Rt. 3 and is 1.4 miles to the summit. The eastern viewpoint at 1.1 miles (shortly after the first hairpin turn at 0.7 miles) offers views of the Pilot Range, Jefferson Valley, the Presidential Range and Mount Washington. Continuing on there is another hairpin turn carved out of the rocky hillside. Continuing up, the open summit area provides parking, the carriage house, a magnificent fieldstone fire lookout tower, and a short nature trail. Visitors can climb to the lookout level when the watchperson is present or when a park guide is on duty in the tower.
Beyond the tower, on the very top of the mountain, sit the lodge and visitor center. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the historic house museum for a small fee and the front lawn and tables provide welcome picnic sites. Visitors are greeted with a spectacular 360 degree view of the Presidential Range, the Franconia Range, the Connecticut River, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.
The Davidge Path: connects the auto road and the Loop Trail. The path starts on the auto road, 0.6 miles from the park gate. It descends to the south, passing through stands of white spruce and red pine, and it ends at the junction with the Loop Trail. The Davidge Path is 0.25 miles long, short but steep. The path is suitable for hiking and snowshoeing but too steep and narrow for skiing.
The Old Carriage Path: constructed in 1859 to provide horse-drawn carriage access to the (now gone) summit hotel. This 0.7 mile path starts just below the upper hairpin turn on the auto road at a small parking area. The path descends through a beautiful stand of sugar maple, beech and ash where wildflowers abound in May. The path crosses the Loop Trail in 0.4 miles and ends at Reed Road in 0.3 miles.
In the reverse direction, look for the Heritage Trail sign on Reed Road (0.3 miles from Route 3). Follow a woods road south, bearing right in 50 years at a junction. The upper section of the Old Carriage path is suitable for hiking and snowshoeing but is too steep for skiing.
Weeks State Park is managed as a state historic site by NH Division of Parks and Recreation. It honors Congressman John Wingate Weeks who sponsored legislation in 1911 to create national forests in the eastern United States. The Weeks Act allowed the federal government to buy the White Mountain National Forest in NH, now over 780,000 acres.
Congressman Weeks built his summer home on Mount Prospect in 1912 consisting of an impressive lodge, a carriage house, an observation tower and a scenic auto road. In 1941 the Weeks family donated the estate and 420 acres to the "people of New Hampshire." The lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and the lookout tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Lookout Towers in 1992.
The John Wingate Weeks House Museum is open late May through mid-October and offers guided tours, an impressive bird collection and free weekly educational programs. The stone observation tower serves as an active fire lookout and is open to the public when the watchman is present. The Mt. Prospect Ski Area, located off Route 3, has been popular with area residents since 1938 and is managed by volunteers from Mt. Prospect Ski Club.
Weeks State Park's trails traverse through a variety of terrain and habitats. The forest consists of white spruce, red oak, sugar maple, paper birch and many other species of trees including the threatened butternut. Hawks are commonly seen soaring over the summit and many neo-tropical songbirds favor this mountain in the summer.
For more information, please contact:
New Hampshire State Parks
172 Pembroke Road
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-3556
Check for nearby geocaches to Weeks State Park and Prospect Mountain.
Leave No Trace Principle
Leave What You Find
Leave the trail work to the pros: they will add or remove blazes, cairns (stone trail markers), structures, and trail improvements as deemed necessary.