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

Recommendations:

- 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.

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Summit gets some love!

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