Friday, March 6, 2020

White Ledge Loop in Winter: Moderate White Mountain Hike with a View

It's hard to get much better than this.  White Ledge loop trail is one of my go-to hikes.  Last weekend I finally hiked it in winter, and like every other season - it was perfect. This 4 mile hike has everything you need for a convenient and worthwhile trek: shorter drive, loop trail, moderate/dog friendly trail, and mountain views.  I've enjoyed this trail in every season.

White Ledge Loop Summit in Winter, White Mountains, NH

Here's how to recreate this adventure...

Adventure: White Ledge Trail in Winter
Trail Sign at Junction for loop.
Getting there: The trail is accessed from the White Ledge Campground on Hwy 16 in Albany, New Hampshire.  It is only 5 miles south of Conway, NH.  In winter, the campground entrance is blocked and not plowed.  We parked on the side of the highway, not ideal, but there aren't many options.  We saw another hiker park in the business lot across the highway, then walk across but I'm not sure if that's technically "allowed".  I love that this trail is only one hour from my home in Rochester. In camp-season months, hikers park just inside the campground entrance on the right and there is a WMNF fee associated with parking (currently $5). 

Trail: Walk straight through the campground entrance to the clearly marked trailhead sign at the back of the campground.

The trail starts straight and flat. There is a small stream crossing in the first quarter mile.  Follow the yellow blazes for 0.3 miles until you reach the trail junction and start of the loop.  I have only ever gone counterclockwise.  This choice will lead to a longer and more gradual incline and your descent steep and shorter. 

The first third of the hike is a gradual incline through hardwood forest with the shadow of White Ledge summit on your left.  Be careful to stay on the trail.  In winter, we discovered it was easy to lose your way as there were no fresh tracks or path to follow.  The trail will take a left turn and start to increase steepness as you climb up the ledge.  In winter, footing with traction was easy as all the rocks and slab were covered in snow.  Around 2 miles, the blazes turned to cairns and for a couple minutes we had trouble finding the buried rocks.  Eventually we found the trail and continued up to the ledges.  As you climb, look behind you!  We were gifted with gorgeous clear views! 

At about 2.5 miles, you will reach the official summit - a partially clear view on your left of southern Whites.  Past the peak, you continue on the loop and get some excellent views of Mt Chocorua on your right.  There are a few steep parts on the early descent but nothing I'd label as difficult by White Mountain standards.  MicroSpikes and trekking poles helped keep our footing.

Winter proved to be another great season to hike White Ledge loop trail.  As usual, even on a gorgeous weekend, we only saw one other hiking pair here.  This is the perfect hike for someone looking for a sweet solitude hike with some great views.
Keep an eye out for Blazes.  It's easy to lose the trail.
Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 4.1 mile loop plus extra walking through the campground to road.
Winter afternoon light.  Can you see the trail?  Look for blazes!

- Trail can be icy or snowy in winter.  I recommend preparing with traction.  I personally prefer using MicroSpikes and trekking poles to keep my footing but saw the other hikers with snowshoes. 

- If hiking in winter, you'll have to park on the side of the highway.  There is no access to bathrooms and no parking fee required. The campground is open late May - labor day weekend.  During these months, park inside the gate and expect to pay at the self service area.

- Dogs are allowed on the trail. 

- Careful to stay on the trail.  The yellow blazes are easy to lose and the trail is not well worn.  Use an AMC White Mountains Trail Map #3 to find location and trail information.

View of Mount Chocorua from White Ledge Loop Trail.
You might also enjoy these similar experiences:

- South Moat Mountain in Winter

- Boulder Loop Trail

- Liebeskinds Loop in Winter