Week of November 22-30, 1995
Choice hiking and climbing in New Hampshire
Q: I'm planning a trip to the Northeast for early next summer and would like some information on where to go in Maine or New Hampshire for a good two- or three-day hike and some rock climbing, too, if possible.
A: For some of the East's most spectacular alpine terrain, we recommend mapping out a hut-to-hut hike in New Hampshire's White Mountains. You'll need to reserve space ahead of time in the Appalachian Mountain Club's eight overnight huts, near North Conway--but the extra effort will be well worth your while. Once you've secured a bunk, leave your tent and stove at home and revel in the rare luxury of carrying only a daypack. Because the Mount Washington area tends to get pretty crowded during the summer, your best bet is to start at Lafayette Park Campground in Franconia Notch, on U.S. Route 3. Hike about two-and-a-half hours up the Old Bridle Path to Greenleaf Hut, which sits on the timberline at 4,200 feet. Spend the night here in one of two rustic bunkrooms before heading out the next day on a 9.2-mile round-trip traverse of the summits of Mounts Liberty, Lincoln, and Lafayette, which ring the 45,000-acre expanse of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Or hike 4.6 miles east from Greenleaf to Galehead Hut at 3,800 feet, the most isolated hut in the chain and a good base for ridge-running North and South Twin mountains. From there, it's seven occasionally steep miles to Zealand Falls Hut at 2,700 feet, on the banks of cascading Whitewall Brook. To hike out from here, take the 2.7-mile Zealand Trail to the Zealand Campground, off U.S. 302 and flag down the AMC's hiker shuttle for a lift back to your car at Lafayette; reserve a seat ahead of time, $8 per person, per ride. Most huts are open on a full-service basis from June 2 through October 8, which means for $57 per night, you'll get dinner, a comfy bunk with a pillow and three blankets, and a full breakfast. Reservations are required during the summer months, and huts fill up well in advance; call 603-466-2727 for hut and shuttle reservations.
If you're intent on climbing while you're up there, you're in luck: With its famously stable granite, New Hampshire's White Mountains are home to some of the East's best climbs. Try your hand on "Thin Air" on Cathedral Ledge, a moderate 5.6 climb just off Westside Road, about five minutes outside of North Conway. Or head to nearby Whitehorse Ledge for a moderate 5.7 climb up "Sliding Board." For more climbing routes, equipment rental, and instruction, contact the International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway at 603-356-7013. Before you go, be sure to check out "Hut-to-Hut in the Whites" in the Destinations section of our September 1993 issue.