Tecumseh: The Little Mountain (That Could)
At just over four thousand feet in elevation (4,003 to be exact), Mount Tecumseh is tied with Mount Isolation for the shortest of the New Hampshire four thousand footer club, a distinction which potentially diminishes the appeal of this Waterville Valley gem, a mountain appealing in its accessibility, varied terrain and surprisingly satisfying views.
Although there are some varied approaches to ascending Tecumseh, the main trailhead begins off Tripoli Road (at the base of Waterville Valley Ski Area), cutting across a brook and up a logging path to another water crossing before ascending through a meandering trail surrounded by white birch trees and modest elevation for a total elevation gain of 2,400 feet and just over five miles round trip by the time you're done. While these water crossings offer no real challenge in the fall, they invariably pose a watery consideration in the spring and early summer as water levels are still relatively high in the northern part of the state. By fall, the water is reduced enough to serve as only an interesting feature on an otherwise moderate start to later elevation gains.
Don't be fooled--Tecumseh often gets glossed over as an "easy" 4K ascent because of its relative accessibility in relation to Waterville Valley and straightforward trail to the top, but the later half of the climb is virtually all steady trudging uphill which will surely challenge your leg muscles more than any gym stair climber could ever do. The views are much better this way, trust me.
After making your way through the virtual trail just under the halfway point of the ascent lies a beautiful visual diversion, an opening to the surrounding mountain range and ski trail leading back down the mountain to the base lodge site. This is the last stop before the real climb begins, a lengthy but attainable progression of challenging rock slabs and stone "stairs" leading to a fork in the trail, both choices eventually looping upward and around two tenths of a mile to the partially tree covered summit.
One distinct difference between Tecumseh and its much loftier 4K siblings is the increased hiker "traffic", especially on a nice fall day with moderate temperatures and clear skies, as the area brings more visitors to the state than the more northerly Presidential Range peaks (Washington, Adams, Madison, etc.). One can pack light (especially on a moderate, dry day) and be back before noontime with an early start. The steady influx of dogs hiking with their human companions bolstered this mountain's reputation as an "equal opportunity" climb, as a veritable parade of furry four legged mountaineers passed by us during our ascent and descent. Additionally, the summit offers views of a myriad of neighboring peaks, many of which belong to the NH 4K Club (see picture below for a more detailed visual taken from the $4.99 App Store gem PeakFinder).
Tecumseh will never provide the same epic feeling of sheer visual bliss one gets heading to the top of Mts. Adams, Lafayette or Moosilaukee but it's well worth the climb as both a great workout (it's essentially a long trail walk combined with an extended rock scramble) and visual buffet with several scenic vistas. Tecumseh also serves as a good entry point to climing the state's 4K peaks, its relatively moderate elevation and terrain making for a good first choice for those looking to start their own run at hitting all 48 peaks in the NH 4K Club. As breathtaking as the aforementioned mountains are visually, their physical and mental focus demands can dampen the spirits of less experienced hikers or those looking to "build up" their mettle over time. Tecumseh is the "smallest of the biggest" mountains in New Hampshire but worth the effort in every way. If you're a veteran hiker, you'll get a great workout and be back down in time for a beer or two that afternoon. If you're a beginner, bring a friend and get cracking on the NH 4K Club checklist. Or better yet, bring your dog along too.