I have climbed Smarts Mountain many times, by many routes – including some now-abandoned routes and by bushwhacking Grant Brook – but I don’t think I have ever hiked the Daniel Doan Trail.* Finally, today, we did.
So today Andy and I dusted off a guidebook and found our way through Orford to the north side of Smarts – opposite the side most commonly visited by hikers, and indeed the location of my hike there last month. We found the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) sign marking the trailhead where the public road ends, and walked up the private road that reaches deep into this remote section of forest. We passed a junction with Smith Mountain Road – which looks worthy of exploration another day – and then came across an off-the-grid homestead, one with two aging but friendly dogs, and an impressive variety of vehicles parked here and there.
The route follows an old woods road for the next mile or more, still apparently used by ATVs and, it appears, a goodly number of hikers. The area is still logged, and we passed an active log landing, quiet now on a Sunday morning. Soon the old road faded and the trail crossed Mousely Brook, becoming a true trail and beginning to climb.
As we gained elevation, and the trail became steep, the thin soils had eroded from years of foot traffic, leaving us to creep up the slick, mossy rock backbone of the mountain. Finally we emerged onto the summit ridgeline, first encountering the old Ranger Cabin and then heading up to the steel fire tower for some views and a lunch break.
Overall, a fine route and well worth a return visit. Indeed, looking at the map, I think next time I’ll try to make a loop of it, including the A.T. north and some connector trails back.
* Formerly known as the Mousely Brook trail, it was renamed by the DOC about twenty years ago “in recognition of his efforts ‘to stimulate interest and involvement in hiking the the out-of-doors’.” (Quote from the excellent book by Daniel Doan, now co-authored and maintained by his daughter Ruth Doan MacDougall, 50 More Hikes in New Hampshire.) Doan spent his career writing books and guidebooks about hiking in New Hampshire, and grew up in the shadow of Smarts Mountain, so it seemed only fitting.
Check out the photo gallery.
Time: 2h56m including 25m lunch at the summit