Mount Waumbek is the highest point in the small Pliny Range in northern New Hampshire. It is the 46th highest peak in New Hampshire, just big enough to earn a place on the official New Hamsphire 4000 footer list. The mountain itself has no outstanding features, but it is a popular hike among locals and peak-baggers. It is invariably climbed with its neighbor, Mt. Starr King (3907 feet). There are some peek-a-boo views from Mt. Starr King and from openings on the trail, but otherwise this is a walk in the woods.
Mt. Starr King, and the Starr King Trail, are named for Thomas Starr King, a Boston and San Francisco Unitarian minister and author of The White Hills (1887), an important book about the White Mountains.
A shelter had once been located near the summit of Mt. Starr King. All that remains is its fireplace.
Northern New Hampshire was orignally populated by the Abenaki Indians. "Waumbek" is an Abenaki word for "white."
The Starr King Trail is located just off Route 2 in Jefferson, NH, at a lot at the end of Starr King Road. Starr King Road is located about .4 miles east of Jefferson, between NH Routes 116 and Route 115. This is northeast of Franconia Notch and west of Gorham. On Starr King Road, bear left at every junction or driveway until you reach the lot, which holds about 8 cars.
There are two trails to the summit of Mt. Waumbek.
The Starr King Trail runs from the parking lot at Starr King Road, over the summit of Mt. Starr King (2.6 miles) to the summit of Mt. Waumbek (3.6 miles, 2500 foot ascent). "Book time" for this hike is about five hours round trip. This trail is maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club (whom we thank for such a beautiful trail!). The trail climbs consistently but moderately to the top of Mt. Starr King, and between Mt. Starr King and Mt. Waumbek the trail is basically a ridge walk, which you can picture perfectly by checking the signature photo above.
The Kilkenny Ridge Trail connects the summit of Mt. Waumbek to the summit of Mt. Cabot, to the north, and traverses Mt. Weeks in between. Note: The Kilkenny Ridge Trail is not shown on the Topozone maps. The trail runs 20.6 miles in total length, from Mt. Waumbek to the South Pond Recreation Area.
It appears that no parking pass is required (however, other sources suggest USFS rules may apply. To be safe, carry $3, or your season pass. Click here for more information on the passes which are good throughout the White Mountain National Forest.)
In winter, or if the lot is full, you may need to park off of Route 2 in Jefferson and walk the .3 miles to the trailhead.
The Pliny Range, including Mount Waumbek, lies within the White Mountain National Forest. Camping in the White Mountain National Forest is governed by Forest Service rules. Forest Protection Areas, near trailheads and accomodations, which are clearly marked, are heavily restricted. Check the rules and trailhead postings for other restrictions.
In general: No camping above treeline, except in winter and then only when there is two feet of snow on the ground. No camping within 1/4 mile of established huts, campsites, trailhead, or certain roads. Bring a campstove and avoid open fires. Camp away from water.
When To Climb
As with the other White Mountains, Mount Waumbek is a four season experience. Spring brings mud and high water; early summer means bugs; winter means bring snow shoes and crampons and the rest of your usual winter gear. The summit is not exposed. You may find some large sheets of ice on the trail in a few places in the winter. As always, prepare for changing weather.
There is a spring about half-way up Starr King, and there are occaisional stream crossings on the way up. There are no major streams to present high-water obstacles.
Primitive campsites are available to the north at Unknown Pond, which is reached by the Unknown Pond or Kilkenny Ridge Trails.
Back country camping is permitted, subject to the rules discussed in the Red Tape section.
Mt. Waumbek is an easy drive from other camping areas in Pinkham notch, Crawford Notch, or Franconia Notch. See pages on Middle and South Carter, Willey, or North and South Kinsman for much more information.
Current conditions are available from the Mt. Washington Observatory. Check the Higher Summits Forecast.
Current New Hampshire Trail Conditions: Views From The Top.
Numerous White Mountain resources: Appalachian Mountain Club
Further information should be available from the Androscoggin Ranger District Office in Gorham, NH. 603-466-2713.