Tuesday, June 28, 2016

White Ledge Trail - Solitude and Views near North Conway

Views from White Ledge Trail
My quest continues to try new hikes in the Whites.  Now that I'm carrying a baby as well as a pack, I need to be a little more strategic about where I hike.  Since carrying a baby on your front limits visibility and stability, I've been picking out trails that have relatively easy footwork but still have amazing views.  So far I've taken baby Lucien up Mt. Major, Mt. Willard, and Mt. Kerasarge North (as well as multiple shorter nature walks).  All these peaks had great views and I was able to tackle it easily with the added weight and constraints of a newborn on my chest and a backpack on my back.

Slab portion near summit of White Ledge
Scouring my AMC White Mountain maps, I stumbled upon a 4.1 mile loop hike just off Highway 16 south of Conway.  After reading the trail description, I decided it was worth a try.  White Ledge Trail did not disappoint!  It was a great hike- a good combination of flat, hills, and slab hiking.  The views of the lower White Mountain range and neighboring lakes was stunning.  What's also surprising was that for such a family-friendly hike, on a nice summer day, we only ran into one other hiker.  Gretchen (a local from Albany) informed us that the hike is never crowded- a gem in the Whites!  It was a great way to spend the day with my son and mom.

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: White Ledge Trail Loop

Getting there: White Ledge Trail is located in the White Ledge Campground off Highway 16
Trail sign at back of campground. Park at front where marked.
in Albany which is about 15-20 minutes south of North Conway.  Unfortunately, the campground sign had been removed or broken when we came (June 2016), but fortunately I had a map.  Coming from the south, the campground is past the Piper Trail on the left.  Once in the campground, pass the campground pay station (apparently day use does not need to pay) and park on the right where it says 'Day use and Picnic Parking'.  There is an outhouse and picnic area.  To access the trail, walk up the campground loop.  The trail is located 'in the back' of the campground before the the road loops around.  There will be a sign marking the trail.

Mom enjoys White Ledge Views.
Trail:  The trail begins by walking through some hardwood forest.  The trail here is easy with a small stream crossing.  Follow the yellow blazes for 0.3 miles until you reach the trail junction for the loop.  We decided to take a right and do the trail counter clockwise.  If you go this way, you will reach the best views at the last mile of the hike.  The loop part itself is 3.5 miles.  The first part was relatively flat.  There was a little elevation gain here and there and then the trail would level out.  I could tell it was not frequently traveled as a few times, I grew concerned we had lost the trail.  Be careful and watch for the blazes!  Around 2 miles, the trail increases elevation and includes some slabby climbing.  Blazes turn to carens as you get out of the trees and onto rock.  Nice views start to appear behind you and various ledge poke out with glimpses of the surrounding forest and mountains.

Around 2.5 miles (traveling counter clockwise) you will reach the summit.  Someone has spray
Spur Trail on the way down has gorgeous view!
painted "VIEW" onto the trail with an arrow so it's tricky to miss.  We enjoyed our lunch on the summit before taking the the rest of the loop down.  Our one hiker encounter, Gretchen, gave a tip that past the summit about 15 minutes, a spur trail on the left will take you to a great view of the glacier-scraped lakes below.  It was a great tip and a beautiful view.  We returned to the fork and then hiked out the 0.3 miles to the campground.  It was a beautiful easy-moderate hike.  It would be great with families or just someone seeking solitude and an awesome view.  I can't wait to go back!

Difficulty:  Easy-Moderate.  There is no difficult footwork (by White Mountain standards), but the mileage makes this a moderate hike since it takes 3-4 hours.


- Use your AMC White Mountains Trail Map 3 to find the location of the hike.  When we visited
(June 2016), the White Ledge Campground Sign had been removed off Rt. 16.

- Although the hike is relatively easy, weather and conditions can change rapidly in the White Mountains.  Bring plenty of water (at least 1 L a person), snacks, map, rain gear, and a first aid kit.

- Watch carefully for the Yellow Blazes.  The trial is not very worn and it's easy to mistake a deer trail or spur trail for the actual trail.  At one point, my mom and I retraced our steps backwards to make sure we were still on the trail.

- There are pit toilets available at the trailhead.  From what I could tell, it did not cost anything to park as a day visitor.

My mom, baby Lucien, and I really enjoyed this quiet and enjoyable hike.  It was a treat to find solitude in the woods and experience a new view.
Lucien and I enjoy the view

You might also enjoy these hikes...

- Mt. Major is a Major Treat!

- Liebskinds Loop in Pinkham Notch

- Welch Dickey Loop

Selfie on Summit of White Ledge