- Get the latest forecast for the Presidential Range summits (Mt. Washington Observatory higher summits forecast). This is your best source of information on weather conditions above treeline including visibility, wind, and temperature. It is produced by the meteorologists at the top of Mt. Washington specifically for the benefit of hikers. It is only a 2-day forecast but very reliable.
- Hike the Whites web site is a good resource. The Views from the Top web site gives current trail conditions.
Picture to left: view from Mt. Jefferson, a short but strenuous hike very close to Bretton Woods.
The hiking in Bretton Woods is phenomenal. The area is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest with superb mountain scenery. The trail network is extensive - probably the densest in the country. You will need a good map or guidebook. You can get those right here in Bretton Woods at the Irving gas station or at Drummond's (across from the gas station). The AMC Highland Center (4 miles east of Bretton Woods in Crawford Notch) offers detailed information.
Here are some of our favorite local hikes as well as some general trail advice. For any questions or if looking for hiking partners please email Daniel Jacob. Also check out Daniel's hiking page!
No car necessary (right outside your MWP unit):
- MWP Loop Trail Makes a ring around MWP property. About 2 miles.
- Bretton Woods Resort multi-use trails Walk to the ski area and cross the bridge across the Ammonoosuc river just below the base of the Zephyr lift. There is a network of multi-use trails there winding around the river, ponds, and the resort. You will share the trail with occasional mountain bikes.
- Mt. Rosebrook and West Mountain This is basically a hike of the ski area. It's nicer than you might think, and there is a ridge hiking trail from the top of the Zephyr lift to the top of West Mountain that has wonderful views. At the back of West Mountain is a spectacular view of Zealand Valley. There is a free chairlift that will take you up the mountain to the Top of Quad restaurant and we recommend taking it if it's open since the climb is the least interesting part of the hike.
- Mt. Little Deception This is a 45-minute bushwhack starting from the fire road connecting Stonehill to Dartmouth Ridge. There are orange flags to guide you. There is a great view of Mt. Washington from the top.
Easy (less than 3 h round-trip):
- Zealand Falls: Mostly flat hike with beautiful views, and the AMC Zealand cabin at the end provides lemonade and information.
- Sugarloaf: The best views for the least effort. Middle Sugarloaf is a large mesa with 360o views. North Sugarloaf has more restricted views but very nice too.
- Mt. Willard: A classic White Mountains hike. Little effort, fantastic view down Crawford Notch.
- Arethusa Falls: A 1-hour hike to a beautiful waterfall.
- Ripley Falls. 20-minute hike, spectacular waterfall.
- Thoreau Falls: Flat hike in the Zealand Valley with beautiful views and a nice waterfall at the end. Push a little further to get to Shoal Pond. Or go to Ethan Pond and out to Willey House by spotting a car.
- Zeacliff: 1-h climb above Zealand Falls for one of the best views of the Whites.
- Mt. Avalon: Outstanding views of Crawford Notch and the Presidential Range.
- Mt. Hale - Zealand loop: Up Mt. Hale and down through Zealand Falls. A nice loop. Limited views from Mt. Hale.
- Mt. Crawford: If you don't want to go above treeline this is the next best thing. The views from the top are among the best in the Whites.
- Mt. Martha and Owl's Head: Owl's head has nice views from the other side of Cherry Mountain pass. Martha's Mile joining the two peaks goes through beautiful mossy forest.
- Mt. Webster: by Webster Cliff trail: spectacular views down Crawford Notch
- Caps Ridge to Mt. Jefferson: Starting at 3000' gets you above treeline fast. A few scrambles. After summiting Jefferson you can hike around the extensive trail network above treeline.
- Edmands trail to Mt. Eisenhower: Eisenhower is a beautiful mountain. 360o and a good venture above tree line.
- Mt. Avalon-Field-Tom loop: A nice loop over three mountains offering different types of views (not above treeline).
- The Twins; North and South Twin - beautiful views. From South Twin you can go down to Galehead Hut and out through the Gale River Trail by spotting a car.
- Mt. Washington: up the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail and down the Jewell. Spectacular views and the peak of it all. Ammonoosuc Ravine is a fabulous trail.
- Mt. Guyot and Mt. Bond: up through Zealand and back. Get an early start on this one. Fantastic,
Multi-day hikes: these involve staying at AMC huts or bringing your tent.
- Presidential Traverse: The classic hike of the Northeast, above treeline most of the way. Stay at Madison, Lakes of the Clouds, Mitzpah huts, or hop below treeline to pitch your tent at one of the campsites. You can also do it in 1 excruciatingly long day.
- Bonds Traverse: Up to Galehead hut or Guyot campsite, then the Bond range and Bondcliff. Return by Zealand valley.
General Trail Advice
- Never go on a hike above treeline without checking the Summits Forecast first. The forecasts are for 2 days and updated around 5 am. They're from the forecasters at the top of Mt. Washington and they are extremely reliable. They will tell you if the peaks will be in fog ("mostly in clouds", "in and out of clouds") and will also tell you about the winds (more than 40 mph is bad news).
- The biggest problem for hikers in the White Mountains is being unprepared for the cold. Even when the valleys bask in warmth, the mountaintops above treeline can be unbelievably cold and windy. Never go above treeline without packing gloves, hat, extra layers, and quick-energy food even if you don't think you'll need them - there's a very good chance that you will.
- Wear waterproof hiking boots - you will be miserable in sneakers. Many trails are steep and rocky and the boots give you better traction and ankle control. Another big reason to wear hiking boots is mud! Even after a dry stretch of weather, expect a lot of wet areas on trails.
- A lot of snow can persist in the woods at high elevation until the end of May, even when the mountains above treeline are bare. The snow is usually well packed and manageable with good hiking boots, but you may want to carry in-sole crampons and hiking poles.
- Bring bug repellent (with DEET) from May to August. The bugs are usually not bad, but if they are the DEET will keep them at bay.
- Bring a quart of water on all but the shortest hikes. The guidebooks tell you not to drink the water of streams, but the water is in fact very clean and there's very little risk in drinking it.
- Getting lost is a common but misplaced concern with beginning hikers. Most trails are well defined, receive quite a bit of traffic, and give you little option as the woods are thick on both sides. Large tracts of the Whites are wilderness areas, and when you enter one you will see an ominous sign about "expect rough conditions and trails that may be difficult to follow" but this is just an exhortation for you to stay aware. Many trails are not blazed or only sporadically so, but the route is obvious from the trailwork. Learn to read the trailwork - it's unmistakable. White Mountain trails do not peter out - there's no risk of going a mile on a perfectly good trail only to see it vanish. Keep your senses alert and be on the lookout for any indication that you may have gone off-trail - path becomes unexpectedly rougher or thins out. That has often happened to me when mistakenly following a drainage ditch- I follow it 100 feet and then ask myself what's going on? Again, have your wits about you - that's part of the fun of hiking,. If this happens retrace your steps. Another frequent occurrence is a tree blowdown masking the trail ahead - just learn to recognize it. Above treeline there's visual range to help you, except when it's foggy. The trails above treeline are marked by cairns, spaced cloesly enough to allow navigation in fog - make sure you see the next cairn before leaving yours. If you're really lost, the standard advice is to go downhill, find water, and follow it downstream. This makes sense to me as you will in this way necessarily find civilization. But I've never found it necessary. Again, just keep your wits about you and you will be just fine.
- Above treeline is a very dangerous place to be when the weather turns bad. You can get thick fog and blizzard conditions any month of the year. Guidebooks will tell you to go below treeline when the weather goes bad but that's easier said then done - you can't really go below treeline off-trail because the bush is so impenetrably thick. It's best to keep your senses alert when you're above treeline - look out on the horizon for any indication of bad weather, and plan accordingly to get below treeline in short order.
- Cell phone service in the mountains is unreliable - bring it with you but dont count on it.
- Always carry a headlamp on big hikes - they're light and cheap and will avoid any panic about getting down before sunset. Light in the woods extends from about 30 min before sunrise to 30 min after sunset. Night hiking by headlamp is generally not difficult, at least below treeline where the trail between the trees is well defined, but take extra care to follow the trail.