Trip Report: The Hancock Loop and the Osceolas

I was unsure of whether to count this as a single trip or multiple trips.  Technically I hiked between the two trailheads (even if it was along a road), so it sort of was a single hike.  But for the usefulness of the information and tracks, it’s probably only useful separately.  So I’ll do it in a single post, but separated out into sections.

I’ve been trying to cut up the rest of my 4000 footers into as few days as possible.  Given my young baby daughter, it’s not the easiest to get into the Whites to hike or to have multiple days when I do.  Last time I was here I noted that the trailhead for the Hancocks and the trailhead for the Kanc approach to the Osceolas was really close.  So why not make a single day out of them?

I bought a lunch from Lincoln and left it hidden by the parking area at the Hancock Trailhead.  It was nice to have a real lunch and not have to carry it up the mountain.  I’m not a big fan of hanging out or eating on peaks anyway, I usually prefer the gentle glade next to the running water.

I started off with the Hancocks and then did the Osceolas after my stop for lunch.  The Hancocks were a longer hike so I wanted to knock them off while my legs were fresh.

The Hancock Loop

Trip stats
Distance: 9.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2650 ft
Total time: 3 hours (roughly 7:45am-10:45am)
Weight: 9 pounds (1.5L water, dried food/candy, jacket and shell, sleeping bag liner, Tyvek square, phone, headlamp, kit, Gossamer pack w/ pad)
Peaks: South Hancock, Mount Hancock
Water Consumed: 1.5L total
People Seen: 4-6 groups – 1, pairs – 6, solo – 3

Super flat on the bottom Hancock
Notch Trail

This climb is a classic White mountain climb in my opinion.  You start off on the Hancock Notch Trailhead.  It’s a very pleasant, gentle climb along the water.  Then you take a right onto the Cedar Brook Trail and the trail gets slightly more rugged as it crosses the brook back and forth.  The trail suddenly got very squishy and well-marked and I became concerned that I was going down a wrong trail.  I eventually realized that it was probably a detour and I went back and took a picture of the the split in the trail.  It used to cross the brook, but now it follows the right side for a while.

The detour leads away from the water,
up and to the right

Finally, when you reach the junction of the trails to the North and South Hancocks, that’s when the real fun begins.  I chose to go to the smaller peak first but both paths are very steep to the summit, though not too much distance.  The top of the South peak is unforgettable without a real clear view.

Then you walk along a ridge between the two peaks.  It’s a pleasant ridge walk without too much terrain.  According to, there’s also a smaller peak in the middle, but I barely remember this as a false peak that I knew couldn’t be the main peak.  The main peak itself has a sign pointing to an outlook with a decent view to the north.

View from the outlook on the main peak

On the way down, I realized I was going to be close to doing it in 3 hours, so I even tried to run the bottom part but didn’t quite make it.  Still a pretty easy trail if I could do it in less than half the book time.

Osceolas – Main and East Peak
Trip stats
Distance: 9.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2650 ft
Total time: 4 hours (roughly 7:45am-10:45am)
Weight: 9 pounds (2L water, dried food/candy, jacket and shell, sleeping bag liner, Tyvek square, phone, headlamp, kit, Gossamer pack w/ pad)
Peaks: Osceola – East Peak, Mount Osceola
Water Consumed: 2L total
Great view on the rock near the top of
the Osceola east peak climb

After having a quick lunch, I marched down the Kanc to the Greeley Ponds trailhead.  There I taped up one of my toes that was getting hot and walked a small ways in to the stream running across the trail and filled up on water.  As I was walking away my Garmin watch beeped that it had disconnected from my phone.  My phone had fallen out of my belt pouch and was sitting by the stream.  I kissed my watch and determined that I would never turn off my Bluetooth connection again. 🙂

The walk to the start of the Osceola trail was pretty easy going up Greeley Pond trail, barely over a mile.  I had met a couple that were on their 7th and 8th 4000 footers with the Osceolas and we chatted a little bit before heading up.  They said the trail had been listed at moderate, but my watch said we would be climbing 1900 feet in 1.5 miles.  That’s pretty tough regardless of the distance.  The trail immediately became steeper as I started up and escalated from rooty to eventually large boulder climbs.  The first good view was right on the side of that first climb on a big rock slab.
When you get to the top of the steep part of the climb there’s a false summit of sorts.  If you hang a right you get to a little hidden grove where there’s a great view across at the ridge you’re about to climb across to get to the main peak.  Back on the main trail, there’s a couple more hundred feet of climb to the East peak summit, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the part I had just climbed up.  The top of peak is a viewless cairn of rocks.
Cute scramble between the peaks
Moving on across the ridge to the main peak, there is a decent sized drop (maybe 300 feet) between the two peaks.  Near the gap, there’s an awesome chimney climb that required me to throw my poles on the way down and go one handed on the way up.  There’s a bypass on the side if you happen to have pets or don’t want to descend the steep rocks.  When I finally made it to the main Osceola peak, it was well worth it.  The ledge there was definitely the climax of the day and I was super glad I had done the peaks in the order I had.  Most people walk up from Tripoli Road, which I heard was much easier of a trail but a little bit longer.  It might have made my afternoon a little less painful on my legs, but to end the hike with a great view like that was an awesome treat.
The ledge at the top of Osceola peak

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