Monday, July 18, 2022

White Mountains One Night Backpack: Mount Isolation

Want to check off another 4,000 footer while spending the night in the Presidentials?  So did I!  Tackling Mt. Isolation as an over-nighter turned out to be the perfect one night backpack in the White Mountains.  

Here's how to recreate this adventure...


One night backpacking trip on Mt. Isolation in the White Mountains

Getting there

This hike starts from the Rocky Branch Trailhead on Route 16 in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire.  To get there, take Route 16/White Mountain Highway north through North Conway.  Where 302 and 16 split, take a right and continue on NH-16 into Pinkham Notch.  After about 8 miles, turn left onto Popple Mount Trail.  The parking lot is a good size and is free to park.  It is possible that it will fill on busy summer weekends so plan accordingly.  

Many river crossings on Isolation Trail


The total mileage for this backpack is 13.3 miles and 3,503 ft of elevation gain.  It is an out and back hike that includes three different trails to summit. Overall, this hike is moderate difficulty. Terrain is not technical.  Although there are many river crossings, in July of 2022 when I did it, water was generally low and it was easy to rock hop across. It is possible to do a similar hike by making it an *almost* loop.  See below under recommendations for this alternate.

Part 1 - Rocky Branch Trail

The first part of this backpack is a stead climb up the Rocky Branch Trail.  The trail is well marked (yellow blazes) and climbs through deciduous hardwood forest.  We saw moose scat and even saw a moose!  I startled it by accident about 20 yards away and never got another look. There is no real water access along this portion of the trail.  At 3.7 miles from the trailhead, Rocky Branch reaches a junction with Isolation Trail.

Part 2 - Isolation Trail

Rocky Branch trail crosses the Rocky Branch River at 3.7 miles.  Immediately after, there is a well marked trail junction sign.  To continue to Mt. Isolation, turn right.  Over the next 2.6 miles of trail, hikers parallel the Rocky Branch River and cross it many times. The trail is well marked and easy to follow will only slight elevation gain.  It is this section of trail that is best for dispersed camping. I noticed many impacted dispersed sites along this section of the trail as well as trodden spur trails that led to other sites.  One of the largest was just after the second river crossing on the opposite side of the river.  Further on, there was an official sign indicating a spot to disperse camp on the west side of the river.  My friend Kelsey and I scoped multiple sites along the way, planning on picking one that would best fit our needs on our descent. 

Part 3 - Davis Path

After 2.6 miles on the Isolation Trail (6.3 total), the trail reaches an intersection with the Davis Path.  From here, take a left and climb the moderate climb 0.9 miles to the summit of Mt. Isolation. The spur trail to the summit is on the right and not marked so don't miss it!  Climb the sport spur and enjoy expansive views of the Presidentials including Mt. Washington.  

Water break on Isolation Trail

Part 4 - Descend and Find Camp

As we descended, we discussed our favorite places we had scoped to disperse camp.  We ended up deciding on a small plateau about 300 feet off the final river crossing of the Rocky Branch river on the Isolation Trail.  This spot was chosen due to it's proximity to a deep "swimming hole" next to a massive boulder.  My hiking companion, Kelsey, loves to swim when hiking and she was excited to chill out here.  We found an already impacted site and evidence of an old fire ring off trail and a flat spot just big enough for our tent.  We set up camp and did our cooking (using a backcountry stove) down by the river to keep food smells away from where we slept.  At night, we put all food, smelly toiletries like toothpaste, and trash in my Ursack Bear-proof bag and hung it down by the river away from our tent.  In the morning, we had breakfast, packed up and hiked out.

Dispersed campsite on Isolation Trail

Rules and Regulations

Disperse Camping

You do not need a permit to hike and camp in this region. Disperse camping is camping outside a designated campground or tentsite.  It is not allowed everywhere so make sure you know the rules and regulations of the area you are planning to camp.  The section of trail we camped (Isolation Trail) is in the Dry River Wilderness that is part of the White Mountain National Forest.  Rules for this area are:

  • Limit group size to 10 people
  • Camp at designated sites OR at least 200 feet away from trail, water source, or campground.
  • No mechanized equipment is allowed
You can learn more about these rules on the US Forest Service Website.

In addition, it's important to practice Leave No Trace including the proper disposal of human waste and removal of all toilet paper and trash.

Water was easily accessible from the river, but it is important to treat water since it can harbor pathogens and bacteria - even in the wilderness.  I used the Sawyer Squeeze as my main form of water treatment.  

Lastly, I recommend purchasing and carrying a New Hampshire Hike Safe Card.  For $25 a year, you are covered financially if you need to be rescued.
Swimming hole near camp * It was very cold*

Gear and Apparel

For a summer one night backpack in the White Mountains I brought the following:

For questions about gear, DM on my instagram and I'm happy to provide guidance!

Summit of Mt. Isolation

Final Recommendations/Things to Consider

  • This was a great one night backpack for someone who wants a quick escape.  Although I list this as a moderate climb, it is still a 4,000 footer in the White Mountains and challenging compared to flatland hiking.  Be prepared and turn around if you are above your ability level.
  • Always tell someone your plan.  For safety, carry the 10 essentials.  You will not have cell service for most of this hike although I did have 2 bars on the summit of Mt. Isolation.
  • To make this a sort of loop, hikers can ascend via the Glen Boulder Trail and descend on Rocky Branch.  This would mean either having two cars or having a couple mile road walk up NH-16 back to your car.
  • In order to reduce weight while summiting, you can set up your camp and then ascend with a "slack pack".  We originally planned to do this but then changed our minds in case we found a better campsite on the Davis Path.  Now we know that all the good camp spots are along the Isolation Trail near the brook.
  • Be aware of wildlife.  We startled a moose!

You might also like these adventures:

- One night on Mt Liberty
- Carter Notch One Nighter in Winter
- Mt Garfield One Night Backpack

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Ogunquit for Families

Ogunquit for Families: Check out places to stay, dine, beach, and activities in Ogunquit, Maine.

Back in my twenties, Ogunquit was my go-to hot spot.  It has great nightlife, dining, theater, and fabulous beach. Now, in my thirties with a couple little kids, "good beach" requirements have changed.  However, Ogunquit still is one of the top!  It's an inclusive, safe town with tons of awesome shops, family-friendly restaurants, and multiple great beaches.  I recently had a short stay with my kids and it did not disappoint.  Here's Ogunquit for families.


Although I live 40 minutes from Ogunquit Beach, I've actually stayed in town a half dozen times.  Bachelorette parties, girls trips, and family getaways has found me in multiple hotels, bed and breakfasts, and motels in town.  This time, I totally lucked out.  My friend has two new airbnbs that just went live (July 2022) and offered me a stay before she did!  Her properties are next to each other and a short, 15 minute walk from Footbridge Beach.  We stayed in her larger airbnb that had a kid room with two twin beds, a room with a queen, and in the basement - two futons and another room with a queen.  Her smaller property next door had a queen and a pullout couch in an apartment.  The houses are really cute and in a quiet neighborhood just off bustling Route 1.  The rental house came with an awesome beach cart to bring our stuff down as well as beach towels and mat.  We brought our own tubes to float the river (see photos below).

Our airbnb near Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit, Maine

Sun room at our airbnb in Ogunquit

Kids room at our airbnb in Ogunquit

My room in airbnb in Ogunquit


Ogunquit has awesome beaches.  This rental was near one of the most kid friendly.  Footbridge beach is named for the long footbridge that crosses, over the tidal Ogunquit River to an expansive sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  The first day, we spent on the sandy beach along the river side.  The kids liked floating on inner-tubes, catching little green crabs, and playing in the sand.  The next day, we crossed over to the ocean-side beach where the kids could jump the waves, build a sandcastle, and look for seashells.  We walked from our rental, but there is a public parking lot that is $4 an hour or $25 a day.  Get there early to find a spot!  The parking lot was empty at 8:30am.

Ogunquit also has the impressive large Ogunquit Beach, Main Beach, and North Beach.  Learn more about the various beaches on the town website!

Footbridge beach has a river beach as well as ocean beach with walkway connecting them
We enjoyed both beaches

You can float the tidal river at Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit

For our one night, I wanted the kids to feel like they really getaway.  I took them to Ogunquit Lobster Pound.  It is just one mile from the house rental, so definitely walkable.  However, we were burnt out from the beach and there's plenty of free parking at the restaurant.  We arrived around 5:45 pm which was still early enough to get in without a wait. The fun of this spot is its a working lobster pound, so if you order a whole lobster, you get to pick it out (live) and they will steam it on the spot.  Seafood not your thing? No problem.  They have wings, burgers, and more.  My son got a hot dog off the kid menu.  

A few other restaurants within walking distance of the airbnb are Beach Fire Bar & Grill, Angelina's, The Napoli's, and Egg & I.  

My daughter loved the experience of picking out her own live lobster at the Ogunquit Lobster Pound.  They have other food besides seafood as well.

While my trip was short, some of my other favorite dining experiences are:

Ice Cream: Scoop Deck Ice Cream   and Sweet Peas

Pizza: Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza and Beer

Deck Drinks and Fast Casual Seafood: Barnacle Billy

There is also great fine dining, cocktail places, and nightlife in Ogunquit if you're out without the kids.

Other Things To Do

Ogunquit has a ton to do besides beaching.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Marginal Way - This is a cliff-side walk between Ogunquit Beach and Perkins Cove.  Watch the crashing waves, smell the beach rose, and listen to the seabirds. (free)

Beach Plum Farm - Walk the short loop trail of Beach Plum Farm right on Route 1.  Kids can check out a discovery backpack for free and look for critters and plants. (free) It is the home of Great Works Regional Land Trust.  Learn more on their website.

Kayak or SUP - The Ogunquit river is a great place to float - whether it's a tube, SUP, or kayak.  Visit Liquid Dreams Surf Shop to get geared up.

Mini Golf - Take a break from the beach to visit Wonder Mountain Fun Park on Route 1.

Ogunquit Playhouse - See a Broadway-caliber show at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

The kids loved chilling in the house.  It had Roku.

I enjoyed my morning coffee in the sun room of our airbnb

Ogunquit for Families

Ogunquit is one of the best beaches and beach towns in southern Maine.  Many families plan their summers around their weekly trips here and for good reason.  Whether you're going to float the river, scarf lobster, sunbath, or have a rum punch, it's the place to plan your next family vacation.  For more video and photos of the trip, check out my instagram and follow along for other New England adventures, and beyond. 

We loved our 24 hour vacation to Ogunquit, Maine.

Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:

Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine

Spring Family Weekend in the White Mountains

3 Family Friendly Nights in Acadia National Park

Enjoying the surf at Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit Maine