Morgan and Percival

A beautiful hike through fall foliage to summits that overlook Squam Lake.

The trail sign gave me two choices to reach the summit – via the caves or via the cliffs. Well, I picked the caves of course! Little did I know that the trail would in one place make me squeeze through a passage so narrow I’d need to remove my pack, and that in another place the trail would actually cross over itself like a corkscrew. Read on and check out the gallery for more photos of Mount Morgan and Mount Percival, during fall-foliage season!

View from Mt. Percival, with Mt. Morgan at right and Squam Lake below..

It’s fall-foliage season in New Hampshire, which always brings thousands of tourists to clog the roads and trails. One might think that the pandemic restrictions would reduce the numbers this year, but we’ve experienced the opposite… so many people are heading for the outdoors in hopes of a healthy, socially-distanced activity that the summits and parking lots are busier than ever. So I’ve been avoiding weekends and the highest peaks, and seek to visit lesser peaks on weekdays.

Descending Mt. Percival.

I thus found myself at a trail new to me, a beautiful 5.7-mile loop over Mounts Morgan and Percival just outside Holderness. These twin peaks barely top 2,000′ but they offer grand views across Squam Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee beyond, and are obviously popular among visitors to the lakes district. What I did not expect was to be challenged by some exceptionally interesting caves and cliffs.

As the trail nears the summit of Mount Morgan, a sign indicates a route up the cliffs to the left – with a daunting sequence of three wooden ladders – or a more conventional trail around to the right. I chose the ladders. 🙂

Ladders climb the cliffs to Mt. Morgan.

The ladders were quickly dispensed. Soon after, however, the trail had me crawl under a jumble of huge boulders, then loop around to walk over those same boulders… a trail crossing over itself!

The trail passes through narrow passages on Mt. Morgan.

The views from the summit were spectacular, with a grand view of Squam Lake (also known as the location where the film On Golden Pond was filmed).

View from Mt. Morgan, with Squam Lake below.

There were about ten other people and dogs enjoying the sunny view from this summit, but with a brisk breeze and lots of granite, there was plenty of room to keep a safe distance. After a few photos, I was soon rambling along the ridgeline to the next peak in the range, Mount Percival. Its granite-done summit has similarly beautiful views.

View from Mt. Percival, with Squam Lake below..

To descend, the trail sign gave me a choice between cliffs or caves. I chose caves… and was soon finding myself in a tight squeeze. I had to remove my pack and crawl feet-first through two especially narrow spots. Below is actually the larger of the two passages.

The trail passes through narrow passages on Mt. Percival.

Check out the photo gallery for more, full-res photos, and be glad I’m not still stuck in the spot below.

The trail passes through narrow passages on Mt. Percival.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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