Monday, February 8, 2016

Liebeskind's Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge in Winter

View from Lila's Ledge of Pinkham Notch, NH

I guess I should apologize... I've been off the blog for a few months.  For those of you who don't know, I'm in the third trimester of a pregnancy and that, combined with the poor snow season, has kept me out of the White Mountains and instead exploring hikes near home.  This weekend however, I did manage to get up north for a birthday hike.  Due to my current preggo-state, I opted for a shorter hike that still promises awesome views and a moderate challenge.  This approximately two mile loop provides great views of Wildcat Mountain, Pinkham Notch, and Tuckerman's Ravine.  In winter, you have the additional benefit of little to no crowds and clearer views between leafless trees.

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Leibeskind's Loop, Lila's Ledge, and George's Gorge
Trail through George's Gorge

Getting there:  The trailhead is located at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on Rt 16.  From North Conway, take 16 North.  At the 302/16 light, turn right to continue on 16.  Drive 20 minutes and the visitor center will be on the left.  Walk past the visitor center to the main trailhead sign and continue straight onto Old Jackson Road/AT.

Trail:  From the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, take Old Jackson Road (AT) 0.3 miles to the junction with the Crew Cut trail.  This is a wide, gentle incline and popular trail.  After the small footbridge, take a right onto Crew Cut trail.  The Crew Cut is a narrow offshoot.  It winds up for 0.3 miles passing the left hand entrance of George's Gorge trail.  Continue straight and follow signs to Lila's Ledge.  It is a 0.1-2 offshoot from Crew Cut.

From Lila's Ledge, you can see Wildcat Ski area, Pinkham Notch/Rt 16, and Mount Washington via Tuckerman's Ravine.  It's a GREAT view for such a short little hike.  Return back to Crew Cut and from here, take Liebeskind's Loop Trail to start looping back.  This 0.5 mile section winds up and down along tall rocks and on narrow trail.  You will pass a viewpoint named Brad's Bluff that give more magnificent views of Mount Washington before reaching the George's Gorge Trail.  From here, you can either continue 0.3 miles uphill back to Old Jackson Road trail or take a left and return via George's Gorge (0.5 mi) to the original Crew Cut/Old Jackson Rd section.
Icy Trail

On this day, we decided to get back to Old Jackson Road quickly since many portions of the narrow loop were very icy.  Back on Old Jackson Rd, we enjoyed the leisurely, wide trail back to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

Difficulty:  For this area of the White Mountains, this trail is Easy-Moderate.  However, on this day, there had been little snow and the trails were sheets of ice in many places which made it increasingly difficult even with proper traction.  Be sure to come prepared with proper winter gear.

Distance: 2-3 miles (depending on which offshoot/loop you do)


- This is a great little hike near the visitor center.  In the summer, it's a perfect stroll for families or someone looking for a short hike with a great view.

- Lila's Ledge is a dangerous overlook - especially in winter.  Watch your dogs, children, and yourself when navigating onto the ledge.

- In winter, weather conditions can change quickly in the notch with little warning.  Even for a short hike, plan ahead and be prepared for ice, snow, wind, and rain.  We wore multiple (non-cotton) layers, winter boots, microspikes, ski poles, and packed a winter emergency kit, AMC Presidential Map (#1), water, and snack.

- Warm up afterwards in the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center with some hot chocolate or coffee. Get advice from the AMC guides and employees on winter conditions.

This was a great way to spend my birthday and finally get up to the White Mountains for a little adventure.  Even 7 months pregnant, I was able to get great views of notch and some of my favorite peaks.

Visit to Sabbaday Falls later that day

You might enjoy these winter hikes as well...

Carter Notch Hut in Winter

Skiing the Sherbie

Cold Night on the Mountain

Please leave comments or questions below or visit our Facebook Page.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Welch-Dickey Loop - Amazing Views in the Heart of the White Mountains

View of Mt. Welch from Mt. Dickey on Welch-Dickey loop
I've been wanting to do this hike for a long time.  I mean - this is one of the most popular hikes in the White Mountains - and I'd never tried it!  So when my friend Sarah suggested we take the dogs for a late fall hike on the Welch-Dickey loop, I jumped at the chance.  It is easy to see why this trail is so popular - the 4.5 mile hike is a true loop that includes amazing mountain views without the need to go to 4,000 ft (the peaks are in the mid - 2000ft).  Late fall was a great time because the crowds were low and the weather still mild enough that we didn't need traction on our boots.  Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Welch-Dickey Mountain Loop
Leaf-covered trail in November

Getting there:  The trailhead is located off I-93 near the town of Waterville Valley.  To get there, I took I-93 North to exit 28.  Drive East on Rt 49 toward Waterville Valley.  Turn left onto Mad River Road then turn right onto Upper Mad River Road.  Follow the "hiking" sign and turn left onto Orris Road.  The parking lot with be on the right with a well marked sign.

Trail:  The trailhead is at the end of the parking lot.  This is a true loop.  Just walk 0.1 mile down the trail and you'll come to the fork.  We decided to do a counter-clockwise loop by taking the right fork first.  This appeared to be the more popular direction, but hikers could enjoy either way with equal challenge-level.
     We followed the yellow blazes up a gradual and moderate climb.  Soon we popped-out onto a ledge and viewpoint.  I could see the Sandwich Range to the south and behind us, the summits of Welch and Dickey. We continued up granite slab, all-the-while enjoying the views.  We were lucky to hike the trail on a dry day, but I imagine this trail could be very dangerous if it was wet or icy.  From the summit of Mt. Dickey, we descended down a slab ridge.  This is your last time above the trees.  We enjoyed a snack and staring at the loop hike that we had almost completed.  Continue down the trail and in no time at all, you'll be back at the parking lot.
      The dogs handled this trail with no problems at all and we came across many other dogs on the trail.

Be prepared to walk up slab near the summit of both peaks.
Difficulty:  Moderate-  This trail starts out easy and turns to a moderate slab climb near the summits.  That said, if it's wet or icy, this trail could quickly become dangerous above treeline.  The granite slab is great for open views, but hikers should be careful when climbing.

Enjoying the view of Mt. Dickey from Mt. Welch
Distance: 4.5 mile loop


- Get there early!  Even in November, the parking lot and trail is very popular. At 9 am the parking lot was mostly full.

- You will need a National Park/Forest parking pass or $3 per vehicle to park in the lot. Bring exact cash or check.  There are envelopes to deposit your money in near the trailhead sign.

- There are pit toilets at the parking lot.

- There is no cell service in the lot.  Plan accordingly.
Final ridge walk down from Mt. Dickey

- Remember that the Whites have their own weather.  It might be 70 and sunny in Boston, but icy trail conditions up north.  For late fall hikes, bring microspikes or other traction options just in case.  A warm coat, gloves, and hat are a must.

I loved this moderate loop.  It would be wonderful to try it in every season.  I can see why it's a favorite for hikers in the area.

You Might Enjoy These Hikes As Well...

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Summit gets some love!

Please leave comments and questions below.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mt. Carrigain Loop - 4000 footer and more

View of Mt. Carrigain summit as you approach from Signal Ridge Trail

A perfect fall day was improved by a White Mountain hike with two of my favorite girls.  We started the adventure with a plan to summit the 4700 ft Mt. Carrigain as an out-and-back hike.  Once on the summit, the ideal weather made us long for more, so we continued down Desolation Trail to Carrigain Notch Trail - making a sweet 13.5 mile loop.  It was a great way to enjoy the mountains, views, and friends.

Adventure: Mt. Carrigain Loop

Trailhead across from parking lot.
Getting There: From southern New Hampshire, we took Highway 16 north to North Conway.  Here we took Rt 302 North/East towards Crawford Notch State Park.  Just after the town of Bartlett, take a left on Sawyer River Road (closed in winter).  The road is across from Fourth Iron Tentsite and if you enter Crawford Notch State Park, you've gone too far.  Drive up Sawyer River Rd about 2 miles.  A signed parking lot is on the left and the trail is on the right.  There are no bathrooms and no cell service at the trail head.

Trail:  The adventure starts with Signal Ridge Trail.  The trail parallels a brook and is relatively flat for the first couple miles.  It winds through beautiful hardwood forest.  At 1.7 miles, you reach the junction for Carrigain Notch Trail.  Stay left to summit.  As we continued, the trail rapidly changed to a steady uphill climb.  The hiking isn't difficult (no slab or boulders), but the constant up can be very tiring and strenuous.  From the junction, continue 3.3 miles until you reach the summit.  Hikers can climb the fire tower for a 360 degree of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

Summit of Mt. Carrigain
After enjoying our lunch in the sun, we decided to continue our adventure by making our hike into a loop (adds 3.5 miles to the previously planned out-and-back).   Desolation Trail was a steep grade - narrow, mossy rocks made for a slow and cautious decent.  At 1.9 miles Desolation reaches Carrigain Notch Trail.

Continue along Carrigain Notch Trail over a relatively flat path.  We crossed streams and were surrounded by more hardwood forest.  There were few other hikers on the remote trail and we enjoyed the solitude and easy hiking.  After 4.1 miles on Carrigain Notch Trail, you meet back with Signal Ridge Trail.  Take the 1.7 flat trail back to the parking lot.   It was a wonderful long loop and I highly recommend it!

Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult.  The trails themselves aren't too bad (although Desolation had it's difficult moments), but the long trail and sustained hiking makes this day hike for experienced hikers only.

Descent on Desolation Trail
Distance:  13.5 miles for complete loop.  10 miles for an out-and-back to Mt. Carrigain.


- Even though half of this loop is on flat ground, two of us ran out of water on the last couple miles.  Bring over 2 liters when traveling over ten miles.

- There was no cell service at the parking lot or along the hike.  Make sure loved ones know where you have gone and when to expect you back.

- There are no water or bathroom facilities at the trailhead nor along the hike.  Plan ahead and be prepared.

- Sawyer River Road is closed in winter.  Be aware of road conditions if planning your hike for late fall - early spring.

Summit the Dog on Carrigain Notch Trail

I LOVED this hike with my friends Courtney and Ingrid.  I'm so grateful to have friends who share my love of nature and the great outdoors.  Consider this for your next big day hike!

Please leave comments and questions below.  Don't forget to visit us on Facebook at

Best of Friends on the Mt. Carrigain Fire Tower!

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Mt. Pierce in Late Spring

Sunday, September 20, 2015

One Night on Mt. Liberty

Summit of Mt. Liberty
With my big trip to Iceland, I didn't go on my usual summer backpack trips, and I've been aching to sleep in the woods.  With the weather turning cooler, I decided I better get out before I lost my opportunity for the year.  Fortunately, my friend Jenny, took me up on a last minute invite to spend the night near the summit of Mt. Liberty at the Liberty Springs Tentsite.  We were rewarded with early fall weather, summit sunsets, and a pleasant hike. Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: Mt. Liberty Overnight Backpack
Jenny on the Liberty Spring Trail

Getting There:  Mt. Liberty is located along the famous and often visited Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains.  To get to the trailhead, I took I-93 north into Franconia Notch State Park.  You can park at either The Flume or The Basin parking area.  I choose The Basin.  Both parking areas are free to park and have pit toilets.  To access the trail, walk south on the paved bike path about 0.8 miles until you reach the Appalachian Trail/Liberty Springs trailhead.  Your hike starts here.

Trail:  We took the Liberty Springs Trail from the bike path all the way to the tentsite and summit.  This is also part of the Appalachian Trail and is marked with white blazes.  The first 0.6 miles gradually rises through a hardwood forest.  At 0.6 miles, you reach the junction of the Flume Slide Trail with the Liberty Spring Trail.  Many hikers choose to take this offshoot to the ridge at Mt. Flume and then loop back to Mt. Liberty.  I've tried it in the past and while it's enjoyable and fun, the Flume Slide Trail is challenging and difficult.  I decided it wouldn't be as fun with my large backpacking pack.

Loving Nature on the Franconia Ridge
From the junction, the trail gradually meandered up through the forest, crossing over a moderate river crossing (not bad in fall).  As we crossed into the boreal zone of conifers and evergreens, the trails steepness increased and the last 1.5 miles was like a long rock staircase.  The challenge of the hike came in the consistent steady uphill, but I would categorize it as fairly moderate since there was little to no slab or technical hiking involved.

At around 2 miles, we reached Liberty Springs Tentsite.  We checked in with the cartaker (still manned through September), paid our $8 a piece fee and were assigned our platform.  Due to to the high numbers of campers, we had to share a platform with another small tent.  Our AMC caretaker warned us of increased bear activity and reminded us to cook in the assigned area away from the tentsites and to keep all food and food-related materials in the bear boxes.
Rainy hike down...bring the right gear!

Jenny and I set up camp and left again to reach the summit.  Back on the trail, it was another 0.3 miles or so to the ridge junction.  From here, we turned right on the Franconia Ridge trail.  We hiked through low trees on a gradual rise until we popped out on the rocky summit of Mt. Liberty (about 0.3 miles from junction).  We reached the summit around 6:30 pm - just in time to admire the sun setting behind the western mountains.

We returned to camp, made our delicious dinner of burritos and settled into our tent for a cool night under the stars.

In the morning, we packed up and returned the same way - 2 miles back down the Liberty Spring Trail to the bike trail and 0.8 miles back up to The Basin parking lot.

Difficulty:  Moderate in fair weather

Bear Watch at Liberty Spring Tentsite
Distance: 5.2 miles on the trail (including summit) plus 1.6 miles on the bike path to the parking lot = 6.8 miles total.

AMC Liberty Spring Tentsite: The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains shelters and tentsites in the White Mountains.  During the busy season, a caretaker is there to help assign tent platforms, maintain the privy, and aid hikers.  There is an $8 fee per person.  This gives you access to the privy toilet (bring your own toilet paper!), bear boxes, and a water source.  In the summer the tentsites and shelters fill quickly, especially on weekends.  Make sure you get to your site early.  Even through it was mid-September, Liberty Spring Tentsite was completely booked by the end of the night.  We got there around 5 pm and there were still spots (although we had to share a platform).  This is a great way to backpack through the Whites with limited impact and guaranteed water/tentsite.


- Check the Weather - Franconia Ridge is notorius for high winds and variable weather.  Although it was easily 80 F in The Basin parking lot, it was a cool 40 with windchill at Mt. Liberty summit.  We experienced hours of downpour overnight and woke up to drizzle in the morning.  Fortunately, we had checked the weather and were prepared with rain gear and warm layers.
View of Mt. Lafayette and Cannon Mountain from Liberty.

- Gear - Know what you need for an overnight.  Besides a tent, sleeping bag, and pad - overnight hikers need to be prepared with extra water, water purifier, stove, food, warm layers, and extra first aid materials.

Experiences sunset on the Franconia Ridge was a magical experience.  By spending a night up at Liberty Spring Tentsite, Jenny and I got to enjoy some of the best views and camping in the White Mountains at the beginning of fall.  I highly recommend a night near the ridge.

Please leave comments and questions below.  Don't forget to visit us on Facebook at

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Pemigewasset One Night Backpack

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Happy hikers on the AT!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lonesome Lake - The Perfect Family Hike

View of Cannon Mountain from Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake is a perfect hike for kids!
There are a million hikes to choose in the White Mountains - long, short, steep, flat, wet, dry - the list goes on and on.  But if you are planning a hike for a three-year-old, you need to choose wisely.  In my most popular post "5 Best Family Hikes in the White Mountains", I suggest this jaunt up Lonesome Lake Trail to mountain views, bog-bridge trails through meadows, and a comfy lunch spot at the AMC Hut.  It was time to put it to the test. On this perfect summer day, my friend Ingrid and I took her two kiddies - one-year-old Georgie and a three-year-old Ilsa to this iconic spot in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch.  Read below to replicate our adventure...

Adventure: Day Hike to Lonesome Lake

Ilsa crosses a small brook near the campground.
(Photo by Ingrid)
Getting There:  The trail-head for Lonesome Lake is located in the popular Lafayette Campground in Franconia State Park.  The campground is only accessible from a southbound exit on I-93.  If you are coming from the south (like I was), pass the area and take the Cannon Mountain exit, where you can get back on I-93 South.  The parking lot fills quickly on weekends, so plan to get there early.  If you can't, you can park on the I-93 north side at the Falling Waters Trail and take the under-highway tunnel to the campground.

Trail: From Lafayette Campground, take the Lonesome Lake Trail (yellow blaze).  After about 0.4 miles, the trail reaches a junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail.  Continue on Lonesome Lake Trail through hardwood forest.  The trail is uphill but moderate - giving hikers stone steps to help them up steep sections and even a few switchbacks (unusual in the Whites!)  Continue another 0.8 miles (1.2 total now) to the east side of Lonesome Lake.  Take a left and travel Around Lonesome Lake Trail- getting glimpses (and sounds) of the lake and shore.  After about 0.4 miles, you will pass over a bridge that gives clear views of Cannon Mountain mirroring on the clear lake before reaching the platform/beach area and the stairs to the hut.
Ilsa enjoys a swim at Lonesome Lake (photo by Ingrid)
In the summer months, the beach area is a perfect spot to rest or swim in the summer time.  On a hot weekend day, plan on sharing the area with 10-20 people who share your love of nature.  From the swimming area, visitors can get a clear view of Franconia Ridge in the distance.

Bog Bridges Around Lonesome Lake Trail.

Don't forget to visit the hut for a cookie or cup of hot chocolate (and possible bathroom break) before continuing around the lake.  From the swimming area and hut, continue on the Around Lonesome Lake Trail another 0.4 miles onto a path of bog bridges that travels over fragile meadow and wetlands.  Sneak a peak in the small streams and you might see some small trout swimming in the shallows!  As Ilsa informed us, "It looks like a fairyland!"

Soon, you'll return to the junction with Lonesome Lake Trail.  Return the way you came.  If you are a lucky little girl, you might have your Auntie Lindsey carry you down so you can rest your little legs.  Back at the campground, use the restroom before returning to the car for the ride home.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Distance: 4.2 miles round trip including doing the perimeter of the lake.

Summit gets a swim in too!

- Set up your children for success.  Get them excited about their hike - tell them what they might see, what the trail will be like, etc.  Bring trail snacks, treats, a toy, and a change of clothes and towel (for swimming).

- Young children should not carry a backpack (unless they ask to).  Make the experience lighthearted and fun.  Give positive affirmations for good hiking behavior.

- Bring a back up carrier for little kids.  Our three-year-old hiker rocked the hike up (with a couple candy bribes and many stops), but was pooped for the downhill.  We were prepared with a backpack child carrier.

- Take advantage of the hut bathrooms and rooms to allow children to comfortably change clothing.  You can also refill potable water here.

- There is no charge for parking.

- Get to the parking lot early on summer weekends.  It fills quickly!

- Check the weather - the White Mountains are prone to afternoon thunderstorms and variable weather.  Plan ahead and be prepared!
Kids hang out at base of AMC hut.
(Photo by Ingrid)

It was a PERFECT day in the White Mountains -  clear, sunny, warm (but not hot), and not humid.  We all enjoyed our hike up the shaded trails of Lonesome Lake Trail to the sunny swimming beach at the hut shore.  If you are looking for a great kid-friendly hike or just a moderate hike of your own, you won't regret spending your day in Franconia Notch's Lonesome Lake.

You might also enjoy the following posts:
-  Sugarloafs - 2000 footers with Outstanding Views
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Please leave any questions and comments below.  Don't forget to like The Freelance Adventurer on Facebook and on Instagram @FreelanceAdventurer.

View of Franconia Ridge from west side of lake.