Well, it’s finally upon us- the final days of the wedding season. I am about to head back to Chicago and thought I would write a post about the epic White Mountains and a few of the hikes that I have done this summer and fall.
In the past, I had always gone west when seeking adventure. To the Beartooths of Montana, the Alaska Range in Denali park, and The Tetons of Wyoming. I had never explored the Appalachians or had any inclination to- despite all I had heard about the AT. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived, which is generally a perfect situation for having your expectations blown out of the water.
The White Mountains, with their vast and exceptionally well-maintained trails, dramatic weather changes, and steep, rocky ridges will forever remain in mind. There is so much to do and see in the Whites- and I am already excited to return and explore them further.
Crawford Notch State Park
The first hike I went on when I got out here was in Crawford Notch State Park. I hiked up Crawford Path toward the Mitzpah Spring Hut and then over to the summit of Mt. Jackson. From there, I hiked the Webster Cliff Trail to Mt. Webster and had lunch on the steep cliff side overlooking the valley. From Mt. Webster I headed down the Webster-Jackson Trail back to rt 302 where I had parked on the other side of Saco Lake. What a great loop hike! It was about 8 miles long with good amounts of climbing, waterfalls, great visibility and warm sunshine on my shoulders. The trail was busy with happy AT hikers and locals eager to get out on that perfect August afternoon.
Franconia Notch State Park
The Franconia Ridge loop hike is probably the best day hike in the area and is only 20 minutes from Bishop Farm. I was lucky enough to do it on another perfect New Hampshire day. It’s a loop hike that starts and ends at the lafayette campground off of rt. 93. I started the loop on the Old Bridal Path up to the AMC Greenleaf hut. From the hut, I took the Greenleaf Trail to Mt. Lafayette and then the Franconia Ridge Trail along the ridge line to Mt. Lincoln. and then down Falling Waters Trail to back to Lafayette Campground. This is an incredible hike- the view from the ridge line is truly epic and the 360 views last for about a mile and a half as you walk from one peak to the next. The hike down Falling Waters is incredibly beautiful too, with birch trees all the way down with beautiful red and blue undertones of the wet wood under the peeling bark. About half way between the ridge and the campground, there is a huge waterfall (hence the name of the trail) which I sat beside while I ate a grapefruit and did some bird watching for over an hour. I would highly recommend the Franconia Ridge Loop to any visitor with a day to spend out in the woods. The hike is considered a “difficult” 9 miles and includes some steep climbs and a lot of rock-hopping and would not be suitable for children- but if you are in hiking shape and want a lot of bang for your buck as far as time spent hiking and quality of view, do yourself a favor and check out Franconia Ridge. Be sure to bring extra layers, food, and water- the weather can change dramatically up on the ridge with high winds and very low temperatures so be prepared!
The last big hike I did out here was with my boyfriend, Joe who was visiting me from Chicago. Joe is a photographer (check out his site here!) so we got some really wonderful shots of our AMAZING trip. We did a 19 mile backpack trip in 2 days starting at the Zealand Trailhead off of rt. 302 in White Mountain National Forest, through the Pemi Wilderness, and ending at Lincoln Woods Visitor Center near Lincoln-Woodstock. We had a friend leave a car for us at the Visitor Center and she did the hike in the opposite way and took our car when she arrived at Zealand.
From 302, we took Zealand road to the trailhead and took Zealand Trail up to Zealand Falls hut. From the hut, we headed up Twinway to Mt. Guyot and the Guyot tentsite where we camped out for the night. It was a beautiful day- with a great ridge walk around Mt. Guyot where we were surrounded by hip-high trees stunted by the high winds. Strangely, however, even in early October, we had hardly any wind and incredibly mild temperatures for the duration of our trip- it was amazing. Guyot tentsite was empty on this night, which apparently is almost as rare as perfect weather. As a result we were able to stay in the lean-to cabin which included an east-facing porch and two log chairs, creating the most perfect place in the world to watch the sunrise while sipping hot Intelligentsia coffee (which Joe brought all the way from Chicago) and snuggling warmly in our sleeping bags.
Rising with the sun enabled us to get an early start on our second day of backpacking, which was certainly a plus. We made it to the top of Mt. Bond by 8am with perhaps 100 miles of visibility in every direction- If only I could start every day like that. From Mt. Bond, we hiked the Bondcliff Trail to Mt. Bondcliff and down until we hit the Lincolnwoods trail which was a flat and calm end of an otherwise very steep and dramatic 2 day trek. The trip really was perfect, we hit the tail end of fall foliage, had warm weather, no wind, and a car waiting for us at our end site- I could recommend it more highly. We were pooped when we got to our friend’s car- and I can’t imagine how much more exhausted we would have been had we been battling high winds, sleet, snow, or any of the other factors so common in the alpine zone of the Whites. Even so, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was an awesome way to end the season out here in New England, a trip I will never forget. I LOVE THE WHITE MOUNTAINS!!!!!!