EASY Dayhike: 2.2 miles (2 hours) — 13 miles from Hanover
Holt’s Ledge is a precipitous cliff with fine views to the east. The cliff edge is fenced off not only to protect unaware hikers on foggy days, but also to protect the peregrine falcons who nest on the cliff. Before being protected by the Endangered Species Act, peregrines were driven out of New England by the ravages of DDT, which thinned their egg shells and caused the eggs to break before the chicks were mature enough to survive. Holt’s Ledge was one of the first sites in New Hampshire where peregrines were successfully reintroduced. The gentler northern slope of Holt’s Ledge is home to the Dartmouth Skiway, and also the route of this dayhike.
How To Get There:
Take Route 10 north from Hanover into Lyme. Coming around the green in Lyme, bear right at the white church and follow signs for the Dartmouth Skiway. After passing through Lyme Center 1.8 miles from the Lyme green, the road winds around for another 1.3 miles before reaching a fork in the road . Turn right and continue to park in the Dartmouth Skiway’s lot (during winter an area may be established for non-skiers to park in order to make it easier for the staff there to see if anyone is still on the mountain). Walk back to the fork and head left into the woods on the Appalachian Trail.
The trail leaves from the west side of the road (0.0 miles) and ascends through northern hardwood forest.
At 0.3 miles, entering a stand of gray and white birch trees, the trail levels out, reaches a stone wall, and crosses over.
At 0.5 miles, cross over a two-rut ski area access road.
At 0.6 miles, reach a trail junction. The blue-blazed side trail leads right to Trapper John Shelter (named after the M*A*S*H character who allegedly graduated from Dartmouth). Water and a privy are available at the shelter 0.2 miles away. Continue straight on the AT south, which soon swings right and slabs across the hillside.
At 0.8 miles, descending into a drainage, the trail crosses the brook, turns left, and starts uphill more steeply.
At 0.9 miles, reaching a log footbridge, the trail turns sharply left, crosses a small side drainage, and slabs uphill to the left.
At 1.1 miles, at the top of a wide draw, the trail reaches a T junction at the edge of the cliff line. To the right, the AT south continues uphill to the wooded summit of Holt’s Ledge. Turn left, onto an orange-black-orange blazed side trail that follows along the cliff edge to a clearing, 200 feet away.
At 1.2 miles, reach the open ledges and fine views. Respect the privacy of the peregrines by not venturing to the very edge of the cliff. Peregrines in flight somewhat resemble ravens, but are larger, have swept wings, and are the fastest bird residing in New England.
On a clear day, the view from Holt’s is extensive. Winslow Ledge, also part of the skiway, is to the north. Smarts Mountain is behind Winslow, with Mount Cube behind and to the left of Smarts. Straight out to the east is the rocky summit of Mount Cardigan. Swinging to the south are Ragged Mountain, Mount Kearsarge, and Mount Ascutney.
To continue the hike, either retrace your steps back down the AT, or follow the grassy two-rut road down from the ledges towards the top of the chairlift, 100 yards away. Before reaching the lift shack and shelter, turn left at the white birch trees and follow the wide ski trail known as “Papoose” down the mountain.
At the top of the chairlift is a three-sided log shelter. Morning enthusiasts interested in catching the often-spectacular sunrise from atop Holt’s may be interested in camping at this shelter. Because of its proximity to the road, this shelter also makes for a good first-time backpacking experience. Either bring water with you, or fill up water bottles at the log bridge on the hike up.