Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hiking Mount Tom in the White Mountains

Last year it was 90˚F here on my spring break.  
One year later, and it is snowing.  
I decided to make the most of it.

Immersed in snow and fog at the summit of Mt. Tom.

The falling snow and hard packed trail created an almost surreal adventure when Matt and I took a hike up Mt. Tom in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire on a mid-April day.

Even in mid-April, the trail is hard packed snow.
Even though I spent years working out of Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center in Crawford Notch, I had never hiked up the 2.8 miles from the front door to the summit of 4,051 ft, Mt. Tom.

Matt and I left the Highland Center parking lot at 10 am and were back down by 1 pm.  The hike was entirely on packed snow and I was glad I had microspikes and trekking poles.  Matt did it without the boot traction, but it was more challenging (and exhausting).   The trail wound through mainly hardwood forest and over a couple of tranquil streams.  Even in snow, the trek was challenging due to the constant uphill grade.  At the summit, we were immersed in a cloud, so we weren't able to see the view.   Instead, we experience the eery calm of silent snow falling on a windless summit as we gazed into the frozen fog.

It was a unique experience, being immersed in winter so late in the year, and I was glad to get in my first hike of spring.

Here are more details for those adventurers looking for a similar experience....

Snowy conditions on Mt. Tom
Adventure:  Mount Tom Hike in Crawford Notch State Park, White Mountains, NH.

Getting there:  From North Conway take 302 Northwest into Crawford Notch State Park.  Park at the AMC Highland Center or at the Crawford Train Depot.  The trailhead is just on the other side of the tracks from the depot.  You should see an opening in the trees.

Trail:  Take the Avalon Trail up 1.2 miles to the A-Z trail junction.  Then take the A-Z trail 1 more mile and you will come to the Mt. Tom spur.  The spur takes you 0.6 (or 0.5 depending on your map/sign) to the summit of Mt. Tom.
To follow our path, take the trails back the way you came.

Difficulty:  Moderately Difficult to Difficult.  Like any 4,000 footer in the White Mountains, your experience will entirely depend on weather, trail conditions, and skill level.  With packed snow and boot traction, this trail was a nice smooth packed trail and a moderately difficult hike.  I'm not sure (yet) the challenge level it is without snow, and I know it would be infinitely more difficult had there been ice on the trail.  Be smart, plan ahead and be prepared for all kinds of conditions.

Distance:  2.8 one way.  5.6 round trip.  It should take 3-5 hours.

Take the Avalon Trail to A-Z Trail to Mount Tom Spur
Recommendations:  I always recommending carrying multiple warm (non-cotton) layered clothing, waterproof hiking boots, a first aid kit, food, water, an AMC White Mountain trail map (Crawford Notch Range one), and in this case propper traction for shoes (MicroSpikes or Yak Tracks).

I also recommed parking at the AMC Highland Center.  You can use their bathrooms, buy a snack in the gift shop, and ask advice from the their adventure guides.

It was another wonderful adventure up in the Whites.  We ended our day with a cold beer and a warm meal at the wonderful Moat Mountain Brewpub in North Conway.

Please contact me or leave a comment if you have questions, comments, or concerns.