6 Classic ‘White Mountain Guide’ Hikes

July 27, 2017
White Mountain Guide Hikes
Ryan SmithMasterful trail work and access to the Presidential Range make Edmands Path a classic White Mountain Guide hike.

Update: White Mountain Guide, 30th Edition, is now available in AMC’s online store.

AMC published its first New Hampshire guidebook, Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains, in 1907. You might know it by its current name: White Mountain Guide. The slim inaugural edition cataloged and categorized the growing number of trails in the area, many of them built by AMC’s first trail crews. Subsequent versions of the book added trails as sections of forest recovered from widespread early-20th-century logging. Many revisions and expansions later, AMC is publishing the 30th edition of the trusted resource this month.

Below you’ll find six classic White Mountain Guide hikes featured in the first edition and still popular 110 years later—updated with trail changes and statistics for today’s hikers. For details on each of these New Hampshire hikes and some 500 others in and around the White Mountain National Forest, pick up a copy of the newest White Mountain Guide. (Hike distances represent complete hikes, including all of the trails noted in each description.)

Mount Washington
The Huntington Ravine Trail has long been known as the steepest and most difficult in the White Mountains since AMC blazed an official route in the early 1900s. The trail branches off Tuckerman Ravine Trail 1.3 miles from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and climbs 1.2 miles to the floor of Huntington Ravine. From there, it ascends the left side of a boulder field known as the Fan then scales a series of steep, smooth ledges before eventually cresting the headwall. Huntington Ravine Trail crosses Alpine Garden Trail 2.1 miles into the hike then ends at the Auto Road at 2.4 miles. To reach the summit of Mount Washington, turn left onto Nelson Crag Trail just before the Auto Road; it leads to the summit at 4.4 miles. From the summit, take Tuckerman Ravine Trail down to complete the loop. (Descent by way of Huntington Ravine Trail is strongly discouraged.) Only strong climbers comfortable with heights should undertake this hike—and never in questionable weather.
DISTANCE: 8.6-mile loop

Mount Eisenhower
Between 1896 and 1909, AMC repaired a disused trail called Mount Pleasant Path, culminating in an even, moderate grade recut by then-renowned trail builder J. Rayer Edmands. The path now bearing his name is famous for its careful stone work, which has withstood decades of erosive weather and foot traffic. Beginning from Mt. Clinton Road, Edmands Path provides the shortest route to the summit of Eisenhower and generally follows the west ridge of the mountain. The trail climbs until it breaks treeline and levels off at 2.8 miles. Here, Edmands’s work is visible in the extensive retaining walls and rock paving. At 2.9 miles, Edmands Path connects to Mount Eisenhower Loop, which hikers can follow to the summit.
DISTANCE: 6.6 miles round trip

Mount Madison
Osgood Trail—the oldest continually used trail on Mount Madison, formerly called Osgood Path—was first cut in 1878. It fell into disrepair after the Glen House Hotel, situated near the trailhead, burned in 1884. The trail was partially rebuilt in 1904 then adopted and fully restored by AMC in 1906. Hikers can reach Osgood via Great Gulf Trail (a 1.8-mile hike from Route 16 in Pinkham Notch) and follow it along the southeast ridge of Mount Madison to the summit. For much of the climb, the trail ascends via a steep, rough grade. It levels out slightly at 1.6 miles until it meets the crest of Osgood Ridge. Emerging from treeline, the trail curves toward the summit of Madison and traverses a number of small, rocky peaks before reaching Osgood Junction at 2.8 miles. It’s another 1.5 miles of rocky terrain from the junction to Madison’s summit. Osgood Trail then descends to Madison Spring Hut, 0.5 mile below the summit.
DISTANCE: 5.6 miles one way

Pemigewasset Wilderness
First constructed by AMC in 1882, the trail over the northernmost ridge of what is now the Pemigewasset Wilderness was rebuilt following extensive damage from logging and fire. Most often hiked as a hut-to-hut route, the western end of the trail begins at AMC’s Galehead Hut and, for the first 0.8 mile, climbs straight up the summit cone of South Twin. At the top, North Twin Spur heads north, while Twinway turns south and descends into the trees for another 2 miles. There, it emerges just below the wide, domed summit of Mount Guyot. At the junction with Bondcliff Trail at 2.8 miles, Twinway turns east. The trail then follows the ridge to Zealand Mountain, Zeacliff, and eventually descends to Zealand Falls Hut. Twinway ends at the junction with Ethan Pond Trail and Zealand Trail, 0.2 mile below the hut. To make a long day hike of it, follow Gale River Trail, Twinway, and Zealand Trail. Keep in mind this route require spotting a second vehicle or catching the AMC Hiker Shuttle back to your car at the Gale River trailhead.
DISTANCE: 7 miles hut-to-hut or 14.5-mile day hike
ESTIMATED TIME: 4:30 or 9:15

Thoreau Falls to Ethan Pond
As a way of making the Mount Carrigain region, then the largest tract of virgin forest in the White Mountains, accessible to hikers before logging companies moved in, AMC cut extensive trails in the area in 1906. One of the new trails connected Thoreau Falls to Willey Pond, known today as Ethan Pond. The pond sits beneath the cliffs of Mount Willey, 2.6 miles and a moderate climb from the trailhead on Route 302 in Crawford Notch. Heading north toward Thoreau Falls, the trail maintains a level grade and passes through wetlands and spruce forest. Today’s Ethan Pond Trail follows an old railroad bed, but in 1906 it tracked the North Fork of the Pemigewasset River. At 5.1 miles, Thoreau Falls Trail branches left. The falls are located 0.1 mile down the Thoreau Falls Trail, offering a fine view and ample swimming opportunities.
DISTANCE: 10.2 miles round trip

Mount Willey
Formerly called Mount Willey Trail, this path was cut by AMC in 1906 to replace an older, steeper trail to Willey’s summit. Branching off Ethan Pond Trail 1.6 miles from Willey House Station, this trail crosses a series of brooks as it climbs moderately for 0.4 mile then steeply for 0.7 mile to the peak. This is a strenuous climb, with several ladders on the steepest sections. The payoff comes in the form of spectacular views from outlooks on the eastern and southwestern sides of the summit. From the summit, Willey Range Trail continues on to Mount Field and eventually connects with A-Z Trail.
DISTANCE 5.4 miles round trip

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Emily Bishop

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.