Owl's Head Project

The information below was adapted from RMC's grant application, to the State of New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, which administers the National Recreational Trails Fund Program here in New Hampshire. The project was completed in July, 2000.

Bog bridgesDuring the summers of 1999 and 2000, the Randolph Mountain Club's trail crews rebuilt approximately 1.9 miles of the Owl's Head Trail, located on Cherry Mountain, in the town of Carroll, New Hampshire.

This project helped to meet statewide recreation trail goals, by working to stop erosion of an existing, popular backcountry trail. The trail was ranked as one of RMC's highest erosion-control priorities, due to the condition of the trail, and the strong likelihood of erosion damage increasing in the future.

The Owl's Head Trail is used by primarily by day hikers and, in winter, snowshoers. Usage by hikers on multi-day trips is anticipated, with the opening of the Cohos Trail in the summer of 2000. (The Owl's Head Trail is part of the new Cohos Trail network, a long distance trail running the length of Coos Country. The Cohos Trail has been laid out using trail segments from a variety of outdoors organizations, including the Randolph Mountain Club, US Forest Service, Appalachian Mountain Club, and other groups. The organization behind the new trail is the newly-formed Cohos Trail Association.)

Rock staircaseThe Owl's Head Trail leaves from NH Route 115, and provides a scenic route to the top of Owl's Head, a northeastern summit of Cherry Mountain. At the summit of Owl's Head are some of the most dramatic views of the Presidential Range from anywhere in the White Mountains. The true summit of Cherry Mountain, and the Owl's Head summit can also be accessed via the White Mountain National Forest's Cherry Mountain Trail and the Martha's Mile Trail. Together, this combination of trails make for a very enjoyable day hike for hikers of all ages.

The Owl's Head trail passes over private land, and a small parcel of land owned by the US Forest Service. Approximately ninety percent of the trail is located on private land, with the remainder, near the summit of Owl's Head, being USFS. In 1997, the RMC first inquired as to possible USFS funding for the short section of Owl's Head Trail located on National Forest. Unfortunately, the Forest Service indicated that it was extremely unlikely that they would have funds available to assist in this effort, due to continuing budget cutbacks.

Rock staircaseThe RMC believed that usage on the Owl's Head Trail would only increase over time, particularly with the advent of the Cohos Trail. We were concerned that the very thin and fragile soils, combined with the steep slope and intensified hiker traffic, would only worsen the erosion problem. Therefore, reconstruction of the trail began in 1999 thanks to funding from the National Recreational Trails Fund Program, which is administered in New Hampshire by the Bureau of Trails, RMC was able to secure a grant to complete important erosion control work on this trail.

This project will benefit community needs, by protecting an important backcountry trail in the Northern White Mountain region. As usage in the backcountry continues to increase, hikers continue to seek out new regions to hike and explore, such as Owl's Head. Additionally, the Cohos Trail should prove to be a benefit to the region, as it provides another
excellent backcountry experience for local residents and tourists alike. As such, the continued maintenance of the Owl's Head Trail will be contributing, in its own way, to the economic vitality of this region.

Bog bridge using native logsMatching funds for this project came directly from the RMC. RMC funds for trail work, in turn, come from member dues and donations. (Overnight fees at RMC's facilities are designed to only cover the expense related to maintaining and staffing the camps, so as to keep fees as low as possible. They do not contribute to trail maintenance efforts.)

The specific work completed by this project involved erosion control efforts, including the installation of rock and log waterbars, ditching, and installation of rock steps and rock scree. This type of work took place over the entire 1.9 miles of trail, with emphasis on the steep, top 0.5 miles of the trail. In addition, the RMC improved the basic maintenance of the trail, including brushing, blazing and signage.

More Photos

Related Links

State of NH Recreational Trails Program
RMC Awarded Grants