Mount Jackson (White Mountains, NH)

Located at the southern end of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, Mount Jackson’s treeless granite knob offers a stunning look at iconic Mount Washington. With a roundtrip distance of just five miles, it’s also one of the shorter hikes you’ll find on the AMC’s list of 4000-footers. Despite its length, the trail is still steep, gaining 2300 feet of elevation over just 2.5 miles; however, it wouldn’t be a bad choice for those looking to get started hiking in the Whites.

A subrange of the northern Appalachians, the White Mountains are considered the most rugged mountains in New England. The Whites include more than seven hundred named summits, but the Presidential Range boasts the highest peaks. Named for the first U.S. president, Mount Washington is the tallest of the Presidential’s thirteen peaks at 6,288 feet.

As you’d probably guess, most of the range’s summits are named after former U.S. presidents. However, a few peaks – including Clay, Franklin and Webster – honor other notable figures from early American history. Similarly, 4,052-foot Mount Jackson is not named for controversial president Andrew Jackson. Rather, the moniker celebrates Charles Thomas Jackson, a 19th-century New England naturalist who conducted geological surveys around New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island.

With some rare rays of sunshine in the forecast, we were able to bag Mount Jackson in a quick, post-work outing in mid-April. There was still some substantial spring snow that slowed us down a bit, but we were still able to hit the summit in an hour and fifteen minutes (with a round-trip moving time of just two hours).

Other than the panoramas from the top, there’s not a lot that’s particularly noteworthy about the trail. Like every trail in the Whites, much of it is wooded with very little in the way for views. There’s a short, steep clamber up a primitive trail of rocks and roots (again, typical Whites), before a short section of slabby granite near the top.

Once we popped out above tree line, we were treated to a lovely view under beautifully blue skies. For us, both the views and sun were equally thrilling. We’d seen the sun maybe three or four times since we arrived at the beginning of March; and, after a handful of summits with peek-a-boo views, we were finally treated to some unobstructed, 360-degree vistas.

Surprisingly, less than half of New Hampshire’s 48 4000-footers have unobstructed summit views. A shockingly large number never – or only briefly or partially – break tree line. Consequently, Jackson is a great option for a bluebird day. The north-facing view offers a great look at Mount Washington and the surrounding Presidentials.

After hanging around the slabby highpoint for the better part of an hour, we headed back down the snowy trail to the highway. Rejuvenated by our afternoon dose of vitamin D and wholly satisfied with the scenic summit, we hit the parking lot in just 45 minutes. As such, we even had enough daylight for a quick detour on the way out (about a half-mile drive down Route 302) to check out Silver Cascade, a picturesque set of falls that tumbles down the southwestern side of Mount Jackson.

If you’re looking to get started hiking in the Whites and are keen to start out with one of the tamer (and scenic) Presidential peaks, Mount Jackson makes a great jumping off point (neighboring Mount Pierce is another good option).

Note: With our protracted sunbathing break at the top, our total time was three hours. However, we do hike fairly quickly. The average time for this peak is around four hours, so expect to spend at least half a day hiking this one, especially if you’re new to the Whites.

Total distance: 4.9 miles
Elevation gain: 2,290 feet

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