The Harriskat Trail, Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down Trail hike in Hancock, New Hampshire is a moderate 4.7-mile loop featuring mountain summits and beautiful vista points.
Trail Names: Harriskat Trail, Thumbs Up Trail and Thumbs Down Trail.
Location: Harris Center for Conservation Education, 83 Kings Highway, Hancock NH in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire.
Allowed activities: walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, birding, geocaching, foraging.
Forbidden activities: No fires, no hunting, no camping, no smoking.
Hours: Trails are open daily even when the Harris Center building is closed. Hikers can enter the vestibule for maps. There are no times for opening or closing posted at this trailhead parking area. The Harris Center is open Monday thru Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. The Harris Center offices are closed on: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the Friday following Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Parking and fees: There is plenty of parking at the Harris Center with three lots; one small one dedicated to vehicles with handicap permits, the other two on either side of the Center building. There is no fee to use the parking or the trails, however if hikers would like to make a donation, there is a “donation log” inside the building.
Pets: Dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are leashed and waste is carried out with the hiker.
Accessibility: Hikers will encounter very rocky and uneven terrain on this hike with multiple trip hazards.
Sanitation: Restrooms and trash bins are available to visitors when the Harris Center is open to the public. There are no restrooms or trash bins outside of the Harris Center building. Please carry out any waste.
Trail information: There is a Trail kiosk with posted maps and trail information at the trail head parking area. Inside the center are trail maps in the vestibule. The trail blaze on the Harriskat trail is a white rectangle. The trail blaze marker on the Thumbs Up trail is a white triangle and the trail blaze marker on the Thumbs down trail is a yellow rectangle. Hikers can also print a map before heading out by going to the link below.
Length and features: This hike on the Harriskat and Thumbs up/down trails is a moderate 4.7 mile journey that was done as a loop hike. The highlights of this hike were to reach the summits of Skatutakee and Thumb Mountains. "Skatutakee" is an Abenaki Native American word meaning "Fire swept by here". Both summits offer lovely views of the surrounding mountains, with Thumb Mountain offering a nice view of Mount Monadnock. The Harriskat trail starts at the Harris Center through a stone wall, then down a small hill to a section of road. Cross the road to continue on the trail. Use caution as vehicles use this road as well. The trail to Skatutakee is winding and has a steady upward ascent with several switchbacks. This section of forest showed a lot of downed trees off to the sides, possibly due to previous wind damage. The forest is made up of Oak, Maple, Birch, Ash, White Pine, Spruce and Beech. Some of the trees are massive. The summit of Skatutakee Mountain is well marked and even has a fun “throne” for hikers to have a seat and take in the views. This section of the trail had an abundance of high bush blueberries in bloom, with a promise of fruit to follow in the coming months. There is a geocache in this area. The connecting trail to the Thumbs up trail is off to the left and is well marked and easy to follow. The trail descends at first through the forest and then begins to ascend. There are fewer switchbacks on this trail than the Harriskat trail. The summit to Thumb Mountain is very steep and very rocky; however it is well worth the effort to the summit area for a great view with a cairn and stone benches marking the spot. This is an excellent place to enjoy a picnic or a snack before heading back down to finish the hike. The Thumbs Down trail has a steady descent, along a mostly white pine forest. There are some steep sections and care needs to be taken not to lose your footing on the slippery pine needles or moss carpeting the forest floor. The trail winds down crossing some old stone walls and leading the hiker to Jacks Pond. A geocache can be found in this area. There are some rudimentary wooden benches down by the pond and the area was covered in Lady Slipper blooms. Thumbs Down trail continues away from the pond and back into the forest, hikers will pass over Bailey Brook and along a wide flat road like section, eventually leading back to a narrower trail to re connect with the Harriskat trail and then back to the Harris Center Trailhead.
The Harris Center offers great hiking with well-maintained trails in part because the Harris Center is a land trust, protecting more than 35,000 acres of land in the Monadnock Region. They are a “Super Sanctuary” caring for lands in the towns of Antrim, Dublin, Greenfield, Hancock, Harrisville, Nelson, Peterborough, and Stoddard. “The philosophy for the Super Sanctuary is that bigger is better, and the key is not who protects what, but what gets protected.”
The Center offers multiple education opportunities for all ages throughout the year. There is a pollinator garden and beautiful grounds to explore and enjoy. The building itself is an education in “green building” with composting toilets, solar panels, and energy efficiency highlighting how sustainability can be accomplished. The Center is a non-profit, whose mission is stated below:
“The Harris Center for Conservation Education is dedicated to promoting understanding and respect for our natural environment through education of all ages, direct protection and exemplary stewardship of the region’s natural resources, conservation research, and programs that encourage active participation in the great outdoors.”
For more information about this amazing organization, please visit their website:Explore 80 trails near Hancock, NH
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