Friday, January 10, 2020

Family Friendly Winter Hikes in the White Mountains

I am a monthly contributor to the website Seacoast Moms.  My writing for this site mainly focused on outdoor experiences for families of young children, however, my last two posts are useful for anyone thinking of starting to get into winter hiking!  

Artist Bluff in Winter, Franconia Notch
White Mountain Winter Hikes:

My recent post - Try a New Family Adventure: Winter Hiking in the White Mountains 
provides three great winter hike for anyone looking to see gorgeous views in a White Mountain winter. Check it out!
Me hiking Artist Bluff Trail in December 2019

Prepare with this Gear:
Also, if you haven't tried winter hiking before, check out my advice here  Although it's titled 

What You Need to Winter Hike with Baby - the footwear is critical for anyone taking that first step onto a snowy path.

Matt and son on a Crawford Notch trail - December 2019

Other Winter Hiking Posts:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Mount Washington in Fall

We weren't planning on summiting that day.  My parents had agreed to watch the kids while we took an "adult hike".  I let my husband choose - knowing he would pick something around Mt. Washington - his favorite peak.  We started from Pinkham Notch Joe Dodge in the clouds and fog.  The visibility in Tuckerman Ravine was awful, but wanting to get a little more exercise we decided to climb the Boot Spur Link up to Boot Spur Trial.  As we continued along the ridge, I heard Matt call "LOOK!".  The clouds parted and we were soon looking at Mt. Washington with a backdrop of blue.  Below us the under-story of clouds provided a blanket over the valley.  It was then we decided to go for the summit.
Boot Spur to Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Mt.Washington summit loop via Tuckermas, Boot Spur, Davis, Tuckermans, Nelson Craig, Alpine Garden, and Lion's Head.

Getting there: Our adventure began at AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  To get there, take Route 16 north out of North Conway.  At the 302/16 intersection, turn right to stay on Route 16.  About 11 miles from the intersection you will reach the visitor center on the left.  There is a large parking lot, AMC visitor center/dining hall and Joe Dodge Lodge.  The Tuckerman Ravine trailhead is located directly behind the main visitor center building with a well marked sign and is the starting point for many of the other trails that come off it.
Crystal Cascade on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail near Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

Trail: This hike involved many trails.  There are numerous stories of people who have gotten lost in this region.  It is important to use a AMC trail map (available for purchase in the visitor center) and familiarize yourself with it before departure.  Below is the way we took...

Part 1: Visitor Center to Hermit Lake Shelter
We started by taking the Tuckerman Ravine trail from Pinkham Notch.  This trail is wide, a steady uphill, and uneven terrain.  My mom once asked "Is this a dried up river bed?" and that statement perfectly describes the trail.  Along the way, enjoy views of Crystal Cascade - a photogenic waterfall.  This section is 2.4 miles one way and ends at a shelter deep in Tuckerman's Ravine.

Part 2:  Hermit Lake to Boot Spur
From Hermit Lake Shelter, we took the Boot Spur Link...up.  I've taken this trail with Matt a few years ago, and we took it down.  It's one of the steepest trails I've ever done in the White Mountains and not for the weak knees.  When you get to the ridge, the link meets up with Boot Spur Trail.  Continue up the Boot Spur trail until you at the Davis Path intersection. This section is 1.3 miles.

Part 3: Davis Path to Tuckerman Junction
From Boot Spur, take the Davis Path toward the summit.  This exposed rocky trail is marked with cairns.  Turn right at the Lawn Cutoff and continue towards the summit.  Clear days provide stunning views of Mt. Washington's summit and surround ridges.  The Lawn Cutoff ends at Tuckerman Junction where five points of trail meet. This section is 1.0 mile.

Part 4: From Tuckerman Junction, take Tuckerman Ravine Trail the last half mile to the summit.  This steep climb is covered in boulders and extremely exposed and steep.  Emerging at this peak can be somewhat anticlimactic since the Auto Road and Cog railway brings non-hiking tourists to the summit it can be crowded and busy.  This section is 1.0 mile.

View of the Mount Washington summit from the top of Boot Spur

After a warm beverage and bathroom break in the summit's visitor center, we headed back down a different way.

Part 5: Nelson Craig Trail to Alpine Garden
From the summit, we took the Nelson Craig Trail which parallel's the Auto Road.  At the Huntington Ravine Trail, we turned right for a short distance until it met with the Alpine Garden Trail. Huntington Ravine Trail is dangerous and never recommended for decent. We decided to take the Alpine Garden trail which cuts back along the ravine and reconnects with Lion's Head trail and Tuckerman Ravine Trail. This section is 1.9 mile.

Part 6: Lion Head Trail to Tuckerman Ravine Trail
After 0.9 miles of the Alpine Garden Trail, it reaches Lion's Head Trail.  From here we took the steep and sometimes technical Lion Head Trail down the mountain.  At 1.1 miles, it reconnects with Tuckerman Ravine trail just below Hermit Lake.

Part 7: Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
We finished the hike by retracing steps down the river-bed-like Tuckerman trail back to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  This is about 2 miles. Done!

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Photo of Map. All hikers should have a purchased AMC map.
Difficulty: Strenuous and Challenging

Distance: 10.7 miles using this path.

Fall Foliage at its best on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail


- Each year there are tragic stories of injury and even death on Mt. Washington. This peak boasts the most extreme weather in the world and hikers often underestimate the challenge because its relatively low elevation.  Plan ahead and be prepared.  Matt and I each packed multiple layers including base layers, rain layers, and multiple poly blend warm layers - plus warm hats, gloves, and scarves.  We carried 2 L of water a person, food, and a large first aid kit.  We also carry the AMC map. Be prepared to scrap your plans based on weather.

- Parking is available at Pinkham Notch visitor center but is very popular and crowded in summer.  Plan ahead by getting there early.

Although Mount Washington wouldn't have been my choice of hike that day, I cannot imagine a better day to summit.  We were lucky with weather, visibility, and trail conditions.  Less than 48 hours later - the entire peak was covered in ice and snow.  Be safe out there!
Views from Alpine Garden Trail

You might also enjoy...

- Mt Osceola via Tripoli Road

- Mt Carrigan Loop

- One Night on Mt Liberty

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Little River Loop Hike - River, Ridges, and Playground

I try to take my children - age 1.5 and 3.5 - on a hike once a week.  The perfect "hike" for my preschooler is easy walking, has points of interest, and a playground at the parking lot.  I've found that there are actually quite a few that fit these specifications in the Seacoast including Great Bay Discovery Center, Hanson Pines, and Stratham Hill.  One of our other favorite spots is Little River Park in Lee, New Hampshire which offers a network of trails, ample parking, picnic area, sports fields, and playground.  Sometimes, we visit for the park alone, but this is also where I first started taking my son hiking out of a pack when he was two years old.  My favorite path is to make a loop out of the river, ridge and forest trails.

Looking down at the playground from the Ridge trail.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:

Adventure: Little River Park Loop

Getting There: A large sign and parking lot marks the park and trailhead to Little River Park.  It is located on North River Road (Rt 155) about four miles south of Rt. 4.  The physical address is 34 North River Rd in Lee.

Trail: When looking at the playground from the parking lot, there is a large painted trail sign on the right by the hill.  This shows the short loop Forest trail to the right (.4 miles), the River trail (.52 miles) on the left side of the parking lot, and the ridge trail (.28 miles) straight up from the sign.  While I have done all of these separately, my favorite choice is to combine them all in a loop that is about two miles.
Trail map near parking lot

To do this, start with the River Trail (red) which starts from the left side of the parking lot.  This trail skirts the edge of the park and eventually dips down to Little River.  It ends with a moderate climb up to a residential street (Lee Hill Road).  To continue the loop, turn right and walk along Lee Hill Road about 0.1-0.2 miles until you reach the trail entrance on the right.  The trail will skirt private property and dump you back into park boundaries on the Ridge trail.  This is my favorite part of the trail.  From elevation, you see the park below as it winds along the ridge.  As it turns back down towards parking, hikers have the option to veer left into the Forest trail.  This offshoot, takes you into hemlock and pine forest before winding you to the parking lot.   It is an easy trail with some gradual elevation changes that make it more interesting.  For such a short loop it's nice to experience river, ridge, and forest views.

River Views


Distance: Total loop including road portion and forest loop is approximately 2 miles, but you can make this shorter than a mile by just doing one portion.
Playground and pavilion at Little River Park


- While this park is usually sparse, when youth leagues are using the fields, the parking area can be crowded.  That said, I've never seen it fill. 

- Dogs are allowed on leash.

- The picnic pavilion can be reserved, so don't be surprised if a birthday party is using it on a sunny summer day.

- There are no permanent bathroom facilities but often port-a-potties in the parking lot.

- The playground is perfect for age 2-5.  It has the most epic sandbox I've ever seen, complete with trucks and sand toys that have been donated to the park.

This is a perfect destination for a family with small children or someone looking for an easy neighborhood nature walk.  For awhile it was located next to my children's daycare and we visited multiple times a week.  It is a well kept park hidden in a quiet country town.

Enjoying Little River with my kids.

You might also enjoy the following adventures:

Great Bay Discovery Center and Hike in Greenland, NH

Winnie the Pooh Hike in Barrington, NH

Hanson Pines Hike and Playground in Rochester, NH

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

WM Gonic Trails - River Views and Waterfalls

I've blogged this one before. The Gonic Trails on the Waste Management land in Gonic (Rochester), New Hampshire is probably my most hiked trail in the Seacoast.  It's about 5 minutes from my house and provides river and waterfall views, easy to moderate walking, and limited mileage - perfect for a quick after work dog walk or Saturday family morning stroll.  I also love doing it as a winter hike or snowshoe.  After posting photos of it on my Instagram stories this week, I realized that the only post I had about it was for deep snow and winter walks.  It's a slightly different experience when there's no snow on the ground.

Waterfall views on the Gonic Trail.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:

Adventure: WM Gonic Trails in Summer/Fall

Getting there:  The main parking lot for this trail is located on Rochester Neck Road.  Take Rt 125 to Rochester Neck Road (across from 1st City Motors Auto Dealer).  The parking lot is located on the right about 0.7 miles down Rochester Neck Rd.  Park in the gravel lot.  There is a sign in the parking lot that says WM Trails.  Parking is free but there are no restrooms.
Trail Sign in parking lot (with map)
Trail: There are three trails in this system - blue, red, and yellow.  There are multiple opportunities to take a loop (see map).  My favorite is to start by taking the yellow trail toward the waterfall.  When facing the parking lot from the road, this trail starts to the far right.  This path is wide and easy.  It travels through hemlock forest on the outskirts of the waste management land.  There is a slight decline and a fairly straight stretch.  When you reach the Isinglass river, you can see remnants of a bridge or damn.  The trail curves left and goes down a moderate rocky area, past a rock wall to low area where you can approach the waterfall. 

After enjoying the waterfall, continue on the yellow trail (trail markers on trees).  It will wander up and down with small elevation changes until it drops back to the river and it meets the Red Trail.  Here I continue with the river on my right until I get the second offshoot of the red trail.  If you continue straight here on yellow, you will go multiple miles more to a different parking lot.  There is a sign present which warns that the red to the left is the last option to loop back. 

Take Red up a steep incline.  After about 20 feet, the trail levels off again and you will enjoy an easy walk back to the parking lot through hardwood forest. 
Trail Map available here.

Difficulty: Easy with a few short/steep portions.

Distance: The yellow to red loop is about 1.5 miles.
Yellow Trail

Recommendations/Additional Information

- There usually is ample (free) parking in the dirt lot.  At times it can get crowded on hot summer days. 

- Leashed dogs are allowed.  Be prepared to see them on trail.

- There are no bathrooms available at the trailhead.

- For an even longer hike (or different approach), hike the out and back yellow trail.  You can also access this trail further down the Rochester Neck Road on the right.  It's labeled Isinglass River Park.
Yellow/Red Trail right before taking red back toward parking lot.

I've hiked this trail in every season and really enjoy all that it offers in such a reasonable loop.  It's one of the many short, yet beautiful scenic hikes in Seacoast New Hampshire.  
Isinglass River in September

For similar experiences, check out:

Winnie the Pooh Hike in Barrington, NH

Hanson Pines in Rochester, NH

Pickering Ponds in Rochester, NH

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Summer 4000 footer - Mount Osceola via Trail on Tripoli Road

Back in May of 2015, I headed up to Tripoli Road to solo hike Mount Osceola.  Unfortunately, I discovered that in early May, the Tripoli Road is still "closed for winter" and I couldn't hike it.  I ended up taking the nearby multi-use Livermore Trail for a day hike and blogged about it.  It's now over four years later, but I decided to try again.  This time with my friend Kaley and her two dogs.

When looking for a hike to tackle today, I wanted something with a good view that wouldn't break us - neither had been doing strenuous hiking in the last couple months.  My choice was perfect! This moderate 4,315 footer is a steady out and back climb without any major slab or technical difficulty.  If you can just keep climbing up for 3.2 miles up and then back, you're in for the reward of spectacular views of the Sandwich Range. 

View from Osceola summit.  Photo taken by my friend Kaley.

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  Mount Osceola via Mount Osceola Trail on Tripoli Road

Getting there:  We followed cell navigation to the trail head.  It took us a slightly different way than some websites but made good time and wasn't hard to find.  From I-93, take exit 28 for NH-49 toward NH 175/Campton/Waterville Valley.  Then turn right onto NH-49 E/State Hwy 49 E. In 10 miles, take a left onto Tripoli Rd. 

Tripoli Road is only open in summer and is in moderately-poor condition for a paved road.  We dodged pot holes while slowly driving the couple miles to the Mount Osceola Trailhead.  There is a parking area but even by 9:00 am on a Sunday, it was full and we parked along the road with other vehicles.  There are outhouses at the trailhead as well as a parking fee (currently $5 a vehicle - bring exact change or check).
Roots and Birches

Trail: This is a moderate climb - especially for a White Mountain 4,000 footer.  The trail starts with a gradual climb and continues going up for the entire trek.  The ground cover changes back and forth from rocks to roots and packed dirt.  We were able to keep a steady pace without involving climbing or grabbing trees for support.  I really fell in love with the mossy rocks lining the trail in the hardwood forest.  As we gained elevation, we were able to see glimpses of the view through the evergreen branches.  The last mile of the trail was the most challenging - with slightly steeper grade and short slabby sections which were wet from the previous nights storm.  Still, nothing too intimidating.

Love these moss covered rocks
The view from the summit was beautiful!  The lookout is an open slap that gives you about a 180 degree view of the mountains south of the Kancamagus Highway called the Sandwich Range.  It was a moderately trafficked trail and there were probably 4-5 other groups up there enjoying the sunshine and view.  After a sun and snack break, we headed back down to the car the same way we had come up.  Some hikers decided to continue and bag "East Osceola" - another 4,000 nearby, but since it doesn't have a view, we weren't interested. 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.2 miles one way, 6.4 out and back


- This would be a great hike for someone wanting to try their first 4,000 footer.  Although it was a steady climb with rocky trail, there were no technical skills needed.

- Remember your $5 for parking envelope.

- Don't make my mistake and assume the Tripoli Road is open in May. Summer only!

- This was a moderately trafficked trail and very dog friendly.  About a forth of hikers had dogs off leash.  Few asked if we wanted them to leash them.

Although I actually summited this mountain back in my guiding days, I had never taken the approach from Tripoli Road.  As a mom of a one and three year old, I don't get the opportunity often to take a full day to drive to the White Mountains and do a day hike.  I have to choose carefully!  This was the perfect hike for a summer day.

Please leave comments and questions below.  Follow us on Facebook at The Freelance Adventurer. or on Instagram @freelanceadventurer.

Steady uphill climb gave these rewards
Kaley's dogs - Dexter and Cooper

You might also enjoy the following:

- Mt Carrigain Loop - 4000 Footer and More

- Mount Pierce in Late Spring

- Advice For Hiking in the White Mountains