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Livermore & Cotton Mts, Squam Lake NH


• 3-star hike
• 1.4 to 4.3 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 580 to 1,340 feet
• Lakes Region | Holderness, NH
• Driving Directions: Trailhead


View from the summit of Mount Livermore.

Close to the town of Holderness on the Westernmost shores of Squam Lake, these woodland trails are the best way to reach Cotton Mountain and its taller neighbor Mount Livermore. Typical of the region these narrow trails make for moderate hiking, with rocks and roots underfoot - particularly as you climb closer to the peaks.

The Cotton Mountain trail leads to a sign at the top indicating an elevation of 1,200 feet and a few more steps will bring you to a vantage point with views of the lake through gaps in the trees. The trail doesn't reach the highest point of the mountain however - for that you'd be looking at around a half-mile of off-trail bushwacking each way to the true 1,260 summit, assuming there are no posted signs to prohibit you from doing so (we haven't tried this).

Mount Livermore is around three hundred foot higher and offers better views of Squam Lake. The saddle trail between the two mountains is a continuation of rocks and roots, with an occasional minor downward scramble. Livermore is lush with evergreen forest on the Southern flank, carpeting the switchback trail to the summit with pine needles. As well as great views, close to the peak we also found a couple of century-old granite boundary markers etched with the initials of their former owners.

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Cotton Mountain
Mt Cotton-Livermore Out & Back
Mt Livermore & Cotton Loop

If you're returning from Mount Livermore on a looping route you'll want to follow the Prescott Trail directly East and downhill. The pine needle carpeting continues here, so much of your descent is easy going. Hang a right when your reach the abandoned Old Highway South and follow it back toward your starting point, passing a cemetery on your right along the way. It's been a long time since the old highway saw any wheeled traffic - in places the road is washed out, so there are small informal diversionary bypasses in these areas.

We also recommend visiting the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center close by in Holderness. The facility houses and exhibits many native wild animals including mountain lions, bobcats and river otters - most of which are orphaned or injured and are unable to survive without intervention. They also feature public gardens and lake cruises. A link to their website is at the bottom of this article.


Carpet of pine needles underfoot on Livermore Mountain.

Trail descriptions:

Cotton Mountain | 3★, 1.4 miles, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 580 feet | Moderate trail that gets rocky and a little steeper towards the 1,200 foot summit. Limited views at the top. If you're looking for a short hike in this area then we'd only recommend this if you've already hiked Old Bridle Path on Rattlesnake Mountain (link).

Mt Cotton-Livermore Out & Back | 3★, 3.8 miles, Out & Back, Gain 1,540 feet | This is the shortest route to bag both summits. Since you'll be retracing your steps on this out & back route, consider the looping trail which is just half a mile longer and does not require you to hike 200 feet back up Cotton Mountain.

Mt Livermore & Cotton Loop | 3★, 4.3 miles, Loop, Medium, Gain 1,340 feet | This is our favourite route that bags both mountains and returns down Prescott Trail and the old abandoned Old Highway South, passing by the Prescott Cemetery which includes grave markings dating back to 1826. The last part of the return journey requires a brief hike along Route 113.


Livermore Mountain garter snake. | Cemetery on the abandoned old highway.

Tangents:
• AllTrails Public: Cotton, Cotton-Liv O&B, Cotton-Liv Loop
• External Links: Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
• Facebook Group: Comment on this article

Trailspotting YouTube
We spotted this garter snake on Mount Livermore in the middle of the trail. Chill, 99.9% of NH snakes are non-venomous.

Squam Lakes Association
Trail maintained by the Squam Lakes Association. Conserving the natural beauty, peaceful character & resources of the watershed.
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