8 Ways to Celebrate the White Mountain National Forest Centennial

March 27, 2018
White Mountain National Forest Centennial
Amy Schoonmaker/AMC Photo ContestCelebrate the White Mountain National Forest centennial with a hut-to-hut hike along the Presidential Range.

A 100th birthday only comes around once, and when it does, a major blowout is in order. This year, 2018, marks the White Mountain National Forest centennial, and knowing a little of the forest’s history will make your celebrations all the sweeter. (Don’t worry: We’ll get to the party part in a minute!)

When the 20th century dawned, AMC had already been campaigning for years to protect the White Mountains, which had suffered from overlogging and devastating forest fires in the 1800s. So AMC and like-minded friends were thrilled when the Weeks Act passed in 1911, allowing the federal government to purchase and protect land. Then, in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson designated 7,000 acres of woodland as the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). Fast-forward a century, and the WMNF now spans nearly 800,000 acres in New Hampshire and western Maine, including some of the most iconic natural areas in New England—with many miles of trail, in addition to air, water, and view quality passionately maintained by AMC.

That much history and future deserves an adventure of the century! But why stop at one? Here are eight multisport itineraries—from hiking to biking and beyond—for celebrating the White Mountain National Forest centennial.

Mount Carrigain | Livermore, N.H.

If you’re looking to tackle one of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, consider hiking Signal Ridge Trail up Mount Carrigain. The view from the summit is one of the finest you’ll find in the White Mountains. Located on the eastern cusp of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, this out-and-back hike covers 10.8 miles, starting at the trailhead on Sawyer River Road. You’ll climb gradually for the first few miles before powering up a steep, rocky ascent to the top. Scale the fire-tower-turned-observation-deck for sweeping views, from Crawford Notch in the north to the Sawyer and Swift River valleys to the south.
Distance: 10.8 miles round trip
More info: White Mountain Guide, 30th ed. (AMC Books)

Presidential Range | Crawford Notch, N.H.

The iconic Crawford Path, as well as AMC’s White Mountains Huts, predates the creation of the WMNF. For an unforgettable three days and two nights in huts filled with views of the Presidential Range, begin your journey on Crawford Path in Crawford Notch. Known as the oldest trail still maintained in the United States, Crawford Path lets adventurers hike their way through history: Abel Crawford and his family settled the land in 1790 and opened the trail in 1819. Crawford Path (which joins the Appalachian Trail, or AT) runs 6.8 miles, passing Mount Eisenhower, to AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut, on the shoulder of Mount Washington.

After a hot breakfast at Lakes, begin day 2 on the AT/Gulfside Trail to Madison Spring Hut, originally built in 1889. This stretch covers 6.7 miles and traverses the summits of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams en route. After a night at Madison, hike out via Valley Way. It’s a steep, 3.8-mile trail descending 3,500 feet, so be prepared to take your time. (To return to Crawford Notch, spot a car at the Appalachia trailhead or arrange to take AMC’s hiker shuttle.)

A shorter, family-friendly itinerary follows a similar route, with overnights at Mizpah Spring and Lakes of the Clouds huts. From Crawford Notch, take Crawford Path 1.9 miles then turn right (east) onto Mizpah Cutoff and follow it 0.7 mile. This trail meets Webster Cliff Trail 100 yards from AMC’s Mizpah Spring Hut. Get a good night’s sleep then continue along Webster Cliff Trail 0.9 mile to Crawford Path. Follow Crawford Path 3.9 miles, all the way to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. On day 3, take Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail downhill 2.7 miles to the trailhead and arrange to catch AMC’s hiker shuttle back to Crawford Notch.

Full-service hut season runs May 31 to September 15; request a reservation early.
Distance: First route, 17.3 miles one way; second route, 10.1 miles one way
More info: White Mountain Guide, 30th ed. (AMC Books)

Glencliff to Lafayette Place Campground | Warren, N.H.

For those looking to escape civilization, try this 19.1-mile section hike of the AT, from the Glencliff trailhead near Benton State Forest to Lafayette Place Campground. You’ll find regularly spaced shelters along the way, making for three days of comfortable backpacking, and there’s plenty of parking at the Glencliff trailhead, off High Street in Warren.

At 3.7 miles, you’ll summit 4,802-foot Mount Moosilauke. Beaver Brook Shelter is another 1.9 miles along the AT, with a primitive outhouse and enough roof to cover 20 sleeping bags. Day 2 traverses Lost River Gorge and Kinsman Notch on a 7.1-mile hike to Eliza Brook Shelter. This lean-to was reconstructed in 2010 and features a bear box for food storage.

On day 3, you’ll tackle the final 6.4 miles over Kinsman Mountain. Take the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail shortcut past Lonesome Lake, where you can top off your water bottle at AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut before continuing on to Lafayette Place Campground, just off Interstate 93 in Franconia Notch.
Distance: 19.1 miles one way
More info: White Mountain Guide, 30th ed. (AMC Books)

Rumney Rocks on Rattlesnake Mountain | Rumney, N.H.
Venture to the southwestern-most corner of the WMNF to experience what many consider New England’s premier sport climbing: a vast collection of crags on Rattlesnake Mountain known as Rumney Rocks, featuring more than 100 different routes for all ages and ability levels. What sets Rumney apart is its rock type. The crags are composed entirely of schist, which has a grippy, wood-like grain, making it a big hit with climbers.

Beginners should check out the beautiful views from Clip a Dee Doo Dah, a quick route classified as a 5.3. For a more challenging climb, head to Smokestack, classified as a 5.9-plus that is often wet and requires some serious skill and technique. Thanks to the Rumney Climbers Association, with help from AMC’s Boston and New Hampshire chapters, 85 additional acres of this area were purchased in January 2017, with the long-term goal of donating it to the WMNF.

Given Rumney’s popularity, climbers should come prepared to share the mountain. The two on-site parking lots fill up quickly; overflow parking is available across the street for a small fee and free at the library, about 1 mile east on Buffalo Road. After working up an appetite, head into town for dinner and camaraderie with your crag-crazy counterparts.
Distance: Varies by climb
More info: Rumney Climbers Association

Moat Mountain | Conway, N.H.
Moat Mountain’s miles of single- and double-track provides the perfect chance to spin your spokes and see interesting geology along the way. Mineral Site Trail, with its many branching routes, is a good place to start: To access it, follow High Street in Conway as it winds north, staying left on Forest Road 380. The parking lot at road’s end doubles as the trailhead.

For some technical single-track, follow the trail 0.7 mile to Tent Boulder Trail and hook a left then get ready to cross streams and power over rocks and roots. Or stay on Mineral Site about 1 mile to reach a significant outcropping of smoky quartz, the inspiration for the trail’s name.

For a smoother ride, head north on Forest Road 379 about 2 miles. After crossing Moat Brook, swing onto the beginner–intermediate Electric Loop, a 2.3-mile brookside trail. Complete the loop and follow 379 back to the parking lot. Nearby Conway has many opportunities for post-ride nourishment, including Tuckerman, Sea Dog, and Moat Mountain breweries and restaurants.
Distance: 14-mile trail network
More info: New England Mountain Bike Association

Mountain Pond | Chatham, N.H.

As its name implies, Mountain Pond is remote: 1,500 feet in elevation, with the northern New Hampshire–Maine border as its closest landmark. Few trek the often-soggy 2.7-mile loop around the pond, and even fewer carry kayaks 0.4 mile from the nearest parking area to the put-in. But the dense pine and fir forest, combined with the potential to see more great blue herons than humans, makes this cozy corner of the WMNF well worth the effort.

A lean-to 0.4 mile past the put-in provides ample cover for secluded, year-round camping. For fishing enthusiasts, brook trout season runs late April through mid-October; get a license ahead of time from New Hampshire Fish and Game. Not an angler? Paddling the pond in search of beaver dams and shoreline blueberries is also a treat. Pack your bug spray, especially in June. The Mountain Pond trailhead is located on Town Hall Road, 6.6 miles north of the intersection with Route 302.
Area: 124 acres
More info:
Quiet Water: New Hampshire and Vermont, 3rd ed. (AMC Books)

Saco River | Bartlett, N.H.

With more than 80 percent of its watershed inside the WMNF, the Saco River is a great place to dip a toe into whitewater paddling. You’ll find Class III–IV rapids and beautiful scenery on a 6.2-mile stretch between Crawford Notch and Bartlett; the put-in on Route 302 is adjacent to a free parking area, about 1 mile south of the Sawyer River. To spot a second car at the take-out, hang left on River Street from Route 302; the parking area is immediately to the left, after the bridge.

These rapids are for experienced kayakers only—not for the faint of heart. Beginners should head to the Conway Rips, near the intersection of the Saco and Swift rivers. Put in on the northern side of the Swift River Covered Bridge and take out behind the Conway Police Station, at the end of Meeting House Road.
Distance: Class III–IV, 6.2 miles; Class II, 2.7 miles
More info: American Whitewater, Crawford to Bartlett and Conway Rips

South Pond | Stark, N.H.

South Pond is a bit of a contradiction. Despite the name, it’s located in the northernmost town of the northernmost chunk of the WMNF, about an hour’s drive from the Canadian border. Sandy beaches, seasonal bathhouses, picnic tables, and charcoal grills make this location a family-friendly summer destination. The pond is stocked with brook and rainbow trout, with trout-pond season running from the fourth Saturday in April through October 15. A fishing license is required; get yours and read about fishing seasons, bag limits, and stocking schedules via New Hampshire Fish and Game.

This pond has canoe carry-in access only, with motorized watercraft prohibited. If you’re interested in a nearby hike, check out Kilkenny Ridge Trail, across South Pond Road. There’s tent camping about 4 miles south at Rodger’s Ledge.
INFO: South Pond Recreation Area


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Katie Hill

Katie Hill is a 2018 graduate of Boston's Emerson College, where she majored in journalism and minored in environmental studies. She interned for AMC Outdoors in spring 2018 and will spend the summer working for a guest ranch in central Wyoming.