There's More Than One Way to Seek The Peak: A Mount Washington Route Guide

On Saturday, July 16, 2016, hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts of varying abilities will take on Mount Washington as part of the largest organized hiking event in the country, all in the name of supporting the legendary Mount Washington Observatory’s efforts. Having done more than 100 ascents of Mount Washington over the past 15 years, I’ve discovered there are many options for climbing up, other than the extremely well-known and traveled main routes. Below, I’m offering some suggestions to help hikers find the right one for their skill, experience, and ability, along with perhaps seeking a little solitude on what might be the mountain’s single busiest day.

First, the two big classics:

Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Without a doubt, this is the east side’s most crowded option – and for good reason! Starting from the bustling AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, the first two miles are relatively gentle. After Hermit Lake, a common resting point which will undoubtedly have lots of hikers milling about, the trail gets a little steeper as you work your way up into the large glacial cirque affectionately referred to as “Tucks.”

After entering the ravine’s floor, you’ll find things really steepen up. While the views get more impressive, some hikers might want to focus more on their foot placements, as a few narrower sections of the route require extreme attention. Then, as the the trail becomes more gradual and segues into the alpine zone, the remaining .7 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain to the summit make you think, “We must be almost there” for awhile, before you finally step onto the auto road and reach your goal.

Protips: From the mountain’s east side, this is the shortest and one of the easiest trails. Being the most crowded, it might be best for those seeking a social hiking experience. For something different on your way back, descending via the Lion Head Trail makes for a nice loop hike that returns you to the Tuckerman Ravine Trail a few hundred feet below Hermit Lake.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut as seen from Mount Washington's summit come. [Credit: Ryan Wichelns]
Lakes of the Clouds Hut as seen from Mount Washington’s summit come. [Credit: Ryan Wichelns]

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

The most popular option from the west side, and the easiest trail to the summit, this route has the benefit of starting 600 feet higher than the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. While it has less total elevation gain, it’s also much more interesting, so to speak, for the first couple miles.

 

It climbs very gently at first, until you reach the scenic “Gem Pool.” From here, the hiking steepens considerably, with the next mile being a relative “stairmaster.” The views come quickly, though, as does the treeline after crossing a few open slabs and reaching the AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut. This beautiful mountain location is another popular resting spot, which often sells fresh baked goodies and juice at their counter. From here, the nearby Crawford Path climbs up to the summit, offering some of the same “almost there” spots along the way.

Protips: If your legs are feeling strong once you reach the top, and you have plenty of daylight left, descending via the Jewell Trail lets you have a different view during the return trip, although it does add an extra mile.

Boott Spur Trail

Back on the east side of the mountain, and also departing from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, the Boott Spur Trail offers a less-crowded option. While adding a little over a mile to the ascent, it spends more time above the treeline, so this is a great route on a stable weather day for those with a bit more experience.

Protip: Here, too, descending via the Lion Head Trail takes you around the Tuckerman Ravine Cirque, allowing you to view it from almost all possible angles.

Huntington Ravine Trail

For the truly adventurous and those not faint of heart, the iconic Huntington Ravine Trail offers a very steep climb up Tuckerman’s more jagged neighbor. The two overlap during the first hour, but then, you break off onto a nice narrow trail that crosses the Cutler River and climbs up into the ravine.

Sections of the headwall will feel like actual rock climbing, and as a result, people get stuck here every year, because they underestimated the exposure or their own level of comfort in steep places. This is also a poor choice for those traveling with canine companions. However, when the weather is nice, and the hiking shoes are “grippy,” it can make for an exhilarating ascent.

Protip: It is much easier to go up steep trails than to go down them, so also consider descending via the Lion Head Trail, especially if there is any chance of rain!

Alternatives

For days when the weather looks poor, for those with limited hiking experience still wanting to climb Mount Washington, or for those with very small children, there is an excellent trail network around Pinkham Notch with much less committing trips than the four I have listed above.

Some recommendations: Take the Square Ledge Trail, which is about one hour round trip and has a stellar view of Mount Washington at the top. You can combine this with the Lost Pond Trail and a trip to the amazing Glen Ellis Falls if you wish to keep hiking. Or, on the west side of Route 16, where you should have parked, Liebeskind’s Loop with a trip out to Lila’s Ledge offers a very family-friendly hike with a pleasant view through the notch.

For more information on these trails, pick up a copy of The AMC White Mountain Guidebook.


The Bionic Woman of the Appalachian Trail

While thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I met so many amazing people from all over the world and experienced so much compassion from strangers along the way. While every person I came in contact with shaped my hike, there were a few who stood out. One of them is a woman known to most as Niki Rellon, but I knew her as The Bionic Woman.

The Bionic Woman started her thru-hike the day after I did, March 9, 2015. After losing her left leg in a canyoneering accident in 2011 (she fell while on rappel, breaking her pelvis and spine and shattering her left foot severely enough that it needed to be amputated), she took on the same 2,189.2-mile trek I did with a prosthetic one. Like everyone who sets out on the Appalachian Trail, she was met with many setbacks. She continued to hike through infections, wearing out prosthetics and even losing so much weight that her prosthetics no longer fit.

Even though she had started not far behind me, we never met until I was nearing the end of my thru-hike. It was a rainy day in Maine, and I could hear thunderstorms rolling in. I had just passed the 2,000-mile marker and was less than 200 miles from being on top of the mountain I had spent months hiking towards. It was July 21, 2015, and I was at the Horns Pond Lean-Tos, which are nestled underneath Bigelow Mountain. There were two small eight-person lean-tos that were a great place to hide away from the impending storm.

I made it with some time to spare and set up my spot in the shelter with some friends who had beat me there. We got dry, warm, and ate as the thunderstorm got closer and eventually passed overhead. We were happy to have been under a shelter and not caught out in the storm. All too often during our journey, we had not been so lucky.

Shortly after the storm passed, a woman hiking south on the trail showed up looking for space in one of the two lean-tos. The woman was wet. She had been caught in the short burst of rain while hiking down from one of Maine’s 4,000-foot peaks in the Bigelows. We exchanged names, and I found she called herself the “Bionic Woman.” When I was curious about how she got the name, she moved her poncho to show her prosthetic leg and said she was hoping to be the first female amputee to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. She told us about how she started and had been making progress slower than expected as a result of many setbacks.

She had decided to do a flip-flop thru-hike rather than a NoBo (northbound). At Glasgow, VA, about 780 miles from where she started at Springer Mountain, Georgia, worried that she wouldn’t be able to get to Mount Katahdin before the park closes and winter set in, she decided to head directly to Katahdin and then hike roughly 1,400 miles south to where she left off.

After talking with her some more, we all went to sleep as “hiker midnight” (most would just call it nightfall) was soon approaching. Morning came, and we went our separate ways and toward our separate destinations. Nine days later, while I was standing on the top of Mount Katahdin with a sense of disbelief that I had finally made it, the Bionic Woman still had a long way to go. I followed her on social media until she triumphantly made it to Glasgow on December 27th, 159 days after we met.


How to Make the Most of a Long Summer Day: The Prezi Traverse

At over 23 miles and with more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain, a one-day Presidential Range Traverse is no small feat. To get the best visibility, those attempting it often schedule their journey close to the summer solstice to maximize available daylight. Generally, experienced, fit hikers can complete the Traverse in 12 to 14 hours, while it can take about 18 to 20 for those less fit.

The route is most often traveled from north to south to get the majority of elevation gains over early. There are a few approaches, but most hikers choose either Valley Way or Airline. After Mt. Madison, the Gulfside trail is followed most of the way south, with diversions over individual peaks. Once Washington is achieved, the Crawford Path, the oldest-used footpath in the U.S., brings you through the Southern Presidentials, with spur trails allowing you to tag the actual summits.

  1. Mt. Madison – 5367 feet

  2. Mt. Adams – 5774 feet

  3. Mt. Jefferson – 5712 feet

  4. Mt. Clay – 5533 feet

  5. Mt. Washington – 6288 feet

  6. Mt. Monroe – 5384 feet

  7. Mt. Franklin – 5001 feet

  8. Mt. Eisenhower – 4780 feet

  9. Mt. Pierce – 4310 feet

  10. Mt. Jackson – 4052 feet

It should be noted those who have already bagged these peaks on other trips may opt to bypass them on a traverse, saving significant time and effort, while others may argue this was not a “true” traverse.

The Saturday before or the Saturday after the solstice is probably the most popular time to get through this trek. If you work Monday to Friday, you are really going to want all day Sunday to recover!

During this timeframe, intrepid hikers have almost 16 hours of useable daylight. Daylight, however, is not really the main issue, as a quality headlamp can make night hiking quite enjoyable. Instead, full-moon traverses are still possible when the weather is stable, so with any above-treeline White Mountain adventure, it really comes down to this factor.

[Credit: Ryan Wichelns]
[Credit: Ryan Wichelns]

Tip #1: Be flexible

It would be wise to keep checking the Higher Summits Forecast every Thursday if you are thinking, “This Saturday might be the day!” Because of this aspect, don’t lock into the Saturday before or after the solstice. Rather, give yourself two weekends as potential green-light dates. As you do, pay close attention to the weather. Low pressure coming in with freezing rain and high winds? Not this weekend. High pressure cresting on Saturday with a stable-looking Sunday? Let’s go for it!

Tip #2: Carry the right gear

If you’ve been planning this trip, you probably know a good amount about the gear you should take hiking. But for this journey specifically, aim for a total pack weight no greater than 15 lbs., including 100 oz. of water in a hydration bladder. While you shouldn’t skimp on proper clothing and food, realize the goal is to keep moving, so a light pack will really help here. As well, trekking poles should not be sacrificed to save weight; instead, use them for ascent and descent.

Tip #3: Plan for the best, and prepare for the worst

Mountain weather is fickle, and physical fitness sometimes eludes us. While this traverse is committing, it is not without escape routes, so find them in advance. Study the map to know which trail offers the best getaway below tree-line from each section of the route – hopefully, on the same side as your vehicle.

Also, consider carrying a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), but realize the very important fact that outside help can often be 12 or more hours away! So, for these extreme cases, be self sufficient and know how to self-rescue!

Tip #4: Bailing is not failing

Success in the mountains is not judged by the summits reached or miles covered. Instead, it is judged by whether you had fun with your friends and made it home safe – that is the most important part of any mountain adventure. If the weather turns, or if a companion isn’t feeling great, do the right thing and shorten the trip – it’s okay. The range has been there for thousands of years, and it will be there for thousands more, so you can alway come back next year to try again!


My Dad, Future 46er

Last year, I started my journey toward becoming an Adirondack 46er, with the goal of hiking all 46 high peaks in the Adirondack Park. Every weekend, I drove up north to my parents’ home with a new adventure waiting.

During that effort, my father supported me through each peak. With all that was involved, he was there to drive me when needed, watch my dog when he couldn’t tag along, share a growler of post-hike beer, and make sure my pack was well-supplied with emergency gear. He even double- and triple-checked that I kept it in my pack, despite the annoying extra weight it added. And, as he was there for me every step of the way in accomplishing that goal, little did I know that while I had always looked up to him in life, he was now looking up to me.

After I had finished my journey, it was now my dad’s turn. When he expressed interest in starting the high peaks and asked me about where to begin, I couldn’t wait to share everything with him. After completing Cascade and Porter Mountains, we talked about what we could conquer next, together.

We decided on Big Slide Mountain for Father’s Day weekend. Hiking that via the Three Brothers Trail is a views for days-type of hike, and I really wanted to wow him. Despite his protesting the early morning alarm, we coffee’d up and hit the trail at 6 a.m. sharp.

Once there, we took our time, enjoying the cool morning and quiet trail before the crowds would hit in a few hours. Usually, I am trying to hike fast when I am alone or with friends, but this time was different. It was enjoyable to just take our time and spend it together.

Because my dad is not a daily hiker, this mountain was a big task to conquer. However, regardless of his exhaustion at times, he still managed to crack jokes and make every stranger we came in contact with laugh and smile. It wouldn’t be a day spent with my dad if he didn’t push the humor boundary a few times.

On this already-beautiful day, we lucked out and were fortunate enough to have the summit to ourselves for a few moments. There, as we enjoyed the breathtaking views over some swigs of Fireball and snacks, we sat relishing in our accomplishment but still wishing there were a McDonald’s at the top.

At the end of the day, I saw the same passion and excitement for the high peaks in my dad that I have in myself. A spark was lit, and since, he has conquered more on his own. Now, the two of us have plans to climb many more together this summer, starting with this coming Father’s Day weekend. I can’t wait to join him on his own journey of becoming a 46er, and to continue our new Father’s Day tradition of hiking together in the best place in the world.

My Dad, 46er


MntnReview: Top 3 Post-Hike Breweries

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, it’s the secondary additions to our outdoor adventures that have the largest impact on the time we spend outside and with friends. MntnReview aims to give you the best recommendations, reviews, and tips for the slightly more off-beat pieces that go into making your journeys great.

 

“We need to stop on our way up and get beer.”

“All right, but where are we going afterwards?”

These two sentences are repeated every time my boyfriend and I head out on another trip. This tradition of enjoying a beer on the summit and then finding a brewery after began two years ago. I liked to think we were doing something original, but after spending years in the hiking community, I now know we’re not the only ones enjoying this luxury.

Our ritual has two parts, even if they don’t always happen together. First, choosing to enjoy a drink while on a hike is completely dependent on time, place, and manner. For instance, if we are traveling in the White Mountains during winter, I likely do not want to linger on a summit longer than it takes to snap a few pictures. On the other hand, spring, summer, and fall bring gorgeous weather that makes you want to stay – so why not enjoy a nice cold one with your picnic lunch?

However, if weather, weight, or other conditions prevent it, we simply opt to enjoy one after the hike. But, in this instance, knowing how to find the perfect brewery is essential. Options abound whether you are in New England conquering the 4,000 footers or in New York hitting the Catskills and Adirondacks.

Yelp is excellent for a general idea of how breweries stack up against one another, but nothing beats first-hand knowledge! I have found the best ones to try off the beaten path.

1. Moat Mountain

 

If you happen to be in New Hampshire playing around in the White Mountains, I highly recommend a stop in North Conway. Located in Mount Washington Valley, this little town is old-world New England meets bustling city charm, and it features one of my favorite breweries. Nestled inside what was once a personal home, Moat Mountain has something for every palate – a stout, a hoppier IPA, or something sweet and refreshing like a blueberry. My preference by far is Miss V’s Blueberry, but for the beer enthusiast who may be slightly indecisive, the eight-beer sampler is always a safe bet. Plus, I don’t know if you could find better French fries anywhere!  

[Photo: Liz Bonacci]
[Photo: Liz Bonacci]

2. Keegan Ales

If New Hampshire is a little far for your weekend getaway, another one of my favorites is hiding right in the heart of the New York Catskills. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this local hotspot after hiking Peekamoose Mountain in Kingston, New York.

We were definitely outsiders walking into this place, but if you can put the stares from people wondering if you just moved to town out of your mind, this brewery has not only a fantastic beer selection, but one of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had. If you decide to give this spot a go, Jo Mama’s Milk, voted by the New York Times as one of North America’s top 10 imperial stouts, does not disappoint! However, if stouts are not your thing (they aren’t really mine, either), the Old Capital is a light, refreshing, and sweeter alternative.

[Photo: Liz Bonacci]
[Photo: Liz Bonacci]

3. The Heady Topper

If these two breweries haven’t struck a chord with you, then maybe you are up for more of a challenge.

Vermont is the home of a nationally famous beer called Heady Topper, formerly served exclusively at The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, VT. Now brewed once a week and distributed to only a handful of select liquor stores, this notoriously difficult-to-find beer has to this day eluded even us! Why is Heady Topper so popular? Well, I don’t know – I have yet to taste it, personally, but it sure does get rave reviews on sites like the Boston Globe and Beer Advocate, and it’s a must-try just because it’s so hard to find! This beer seems to be worth its weight in travel time!

 

There you have it, guys: three breweries in three states to hopefully cover the expanse of your next adventure! Even if you aren’t a big drinker, the chance to share some laughs and stories with your hiking buddies is the stuff that memories are made of.


Shoulder Tops to Mountaintops: Father’s Day Memories Born from Hiking

When my youngest daughter, Margaret, now 22, began outgrowing the stroller and child-carrying backpack, she struggled to make the smooth transition from getting a free ride to using her own two legs, especially when it came to hiking, something our family did frequently. Lifting her up onto my shoulders sufficed for the occasional neighborhood walk or stroll along a beach, but when we were struggling up Estes Cone in Rocky Mountain National Park or working our way down the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, I wasn’t always keen on adding another 40 pounds of loose, wobbly weight for more than a few hundred yards.

Whether we were battling boulders and a current on Zion’s River Walk or working a dusty trail in Yosemite, eventually Margaret would begin tugging on my arm, begging for another ride. “I’m tired,” she would say.

“Margaret,” I would reason, “I hauled you for half a mile this morning. You are just too heavy to carry.”

Always one for the dramatic, she would flop down on the trail and cry out, “But I’m too heavy to walk!” Her older sister, Katherine, would then roll her eyes in disgust.

[Photo: Stephen Pierce]
[Photo: Stephen Pierce]
Margaret eventually grew into her “trail legs” and trudged along behind her big sister up Glacier Point in Yosemite, around hoodoos in Bryce, and along narrow cliffs in Acadia. In 2008, Katherine headed off to St. Lawrence University, and our extended family vacations to national parks came to an end. All that was left were memories and reams of photos filling cardboard boxes, photo albums, and computer files.

But as they grew into adulthood, both now living eight hours away in Boston, at least one other thing remained: a love for adventure and exploration. My wife is fortunate to have a family home in the Adirondacks, and it is a blessing to be able to meet up with both of them and head into the High Peaks region for some wilderness adventures. Like my wife and me, Katherine and her boyfriend Doug are aspiring 46ers, and while Margaret is still somewhat of a reluctant hiker, she’s usually willing to head out on the trail with us when she can.

A recent excursion to Tabletop Mountain near the Adirondack Loj produced stunning views of peaks rising like stark, bluish-green islands above a sea of clouds, and an April trip up Esther Mountain after a heavy, late spring snowstorm offered breathtaking vistas of Whiteface’s peak in a winter wonderland. The obvious thrill in both those moments was the visual beauty. But, the precious gifts occurred the night before, when we shared in the inventorying of gear, the loading of backpacks, and the prep of trail food. By 10 p.m., the car was jam-packed for adventure. And after eight to 12 hours of battling boulders, bugs, and fatigue, we trudged out of the woods for a laugh-filled meal somewhere in Lake Placid before heading back to the house at Lake George.

With everyone’s separate and busy lives these past few years, I can’t always spend Father’s Day with my daughters. Often, I have to be satisfied with only a brief phone call from each and a card. But this Father’s Day, I will cherish the memories of family treks into the wilderness and the hope for more adventures with my daughters in the future. Standing above the clouds on Tabletop last fall, I watched Margaret, now a grown woman, stare out at the regal Mt. Marcy towering above the clouds. These days, she is definitely too heavy to lift up onto my shoulders, but I am happy to carry the weight of that moment and the memories of all our adventures together for many Father’s Days to come.

[Photo: Stephen Pierce]
[Photo: Stephen Pierce]

The Top 3 Quiet New Hampshire Hikes for Dads and Kids

As Father’s Day approaches, warm weather and groups of hikers return to New Hampshire’s mountains. If you know where to look, Western New Hampshire has a variety of short, kid-friendly hikes that provide the perfect combination of solitude and wonderful views. Meeting this description, here are three going through New Hampshire’s most underrated mountains – just remember to bring your bug spray!

1. Mount Cardigan via West Ridge Trail – Orange, NH

2.8 miles out and back

This trail leaves Cardigan Mountain Road in Orange, New Hampshire, and climbs a moderate grade for a little under a mile and a half through a mix of conifers and hardwoods. After crossing a footbridge, the West Ridge Trail opens up to the south and west, offering grand views of Vermont and Southern New Hampshire. Once you reach the summit, a completely panoramic scene offers a stunning glimpse of the White Mountains.

[Photo: Dennis Follensbee]
[Photo: Dennis Follensbee]

2. Lake Solitude on Mt. Sunapee via Andrew Brook Trail – Newbury, NH

4.0 miles out and back

Leaving Mountain Road, off NH Route 103 in Newbury, New Hampshire, the trail begins with a cool and quiet climb to Mount Sunapee’s secluded Lake Solitude, following and crossing Andrew Brook in the process. The trail tops off at the White Ledges, with clear views south to Lake Solitude, Lovewell Mountain, and Sunapee Ridge.

3. Bald Peak via Kinsman Ridge Trail and Spur – Easton, NH

4.6 miles out and back

Bald Peak may be reached from NH Route 116, using the Mount Kinsman and the Bald Peak Spur Trails. This route travels below a cool canopy of hardwoods and small cascades, while the moderate elevation gives you access to magnificent views of Moosilauke, the Green Mountains, and Kinsman Ridge.

[Photo: Dennis Follensbee]
[Photo: Dennis Follensbee]

A Loop to Vermont’s High Point

For the better part of four years, I have lived in Vermont. While being an undergrad doesn’t make me a true Vermonter, getting out and experiencing all there is to offer sure does. Since coming up here, I’ve gone on many hikes, and while you can’t go wrong with any trail, those looking to get the full experience should set their sights on the state’s high point, Mount Mansfield.

Butler Lodge Trail> Wallace Cut-off> Long Trail North> Mt. Mansfield Summit> Subway> Canyon North Extension> Canyon North> Canyon> Long trail South> Wampahoofus> Butler Lodge Trail: Approximately 8.2 miles

For three out of four seasons, I’ve summited Mt. Mansfield. What’s my tip for getting there? First, tune your GPS to the town of Underhill. Then, as you’re passing through on Route 15, look for River Road and finally Stevensville Road. Make sure you drive all the way to the end, where you’ll find a few spaces to park.

Now as you’re ready to hit the trail, gather up your gear and lace up your boots. The start first takes you along the road, where you’ll go over a bridge and then push left into the woods to a register. Here, I start with the Butler Lodge Trail, where your hike gradually increases through steady to steeper terrain. At this point, you’ll note a neat set of steps that was originally installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and will soon arrive at Butler Lodge (1.8 mi) – probably my favorite spot in the state of Vermont.

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

The cabin has aged beautifully, and once you’re inside, you’ll see the nice view from the balcony of the escarpment. After soaking in the scenery here, you will want to continue on your hike via the Wallace Cut-Off trail. This 0.1-mile stretch will bring you around the southwest ridge, where it then meets up with the Long Trail.

To experience the best section of the hike, jump on the LT and head up north to Mt. Mansfield’s forehead. Be alert, though: You will have to climb up some ladders, walk across some beams, and shimmy past some rocks before you come out on the bald forehead. Luckily, getting up to the summit, or “chin,” is an easier, more straightforward journey.

Here, the trail is comparatively flat, and as you continue on, you will round the nose to find the visitors center and parking area. A bit farther, you will pass through some small scrub pines before heading along the western side of the ridge up to the summit proper.

On a good day, you can see many layers of the Adirondacks to the west and get a clear view of the White Mountains in the east. In the right season, this can be an awesome spot to enjoy lunch and meet and greet everyone coming up the various trails to the top.

“On a good day, you can see many layers of the Adirondacks to the west and get a clear view of the White Mountains in the east.”

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]
[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

When you’re ready to head back down, go south the way you came but look for a sign that says “Subway.” This will bring you down a series of trails I collectively refer to as “The Canyon Set.” After enjoying the breathtaking sights of the Subway (0.3 mi.), you should follow Canyon North Extension (0.6 mi.), Canyon North (0.6 mi.), and Canyon (0.6 mi.) southward. This series parallels the summit ridge on the western slope, with numerous caves, canyons, tunnels, overhangs, and rock piles. As this is a very tricky section, take your time and enjoy it, especially as you have a view of Lake Champlain. If you are planning on taking these trails, use a smaller pack, so you can fit through all of the nooks and crannies along the way.

These trails pop you right back out on the CCC road. There, you will want to head back up towards the visitors center before rejoining the Long Trail heading south. From here, make your way back over to the Forehead, and for this portion, I typically take the Wampahoofus Trail (0.8 mi.) down to Butler Lodge. This trail supplies excellent views for a little while longer and involves some steep components, but all in all, it is a bit easier and offers a nice change of scenery. Once you arrive at Butler Lodge, all you have left is the Butler Lodge Trail back to the parking lot (1.8 mi.).

This trip is one of a kind and truly does capture some of the best mountain hiking Vermont has to offer. Keep in mind, as it’s a full-day venture, it’s important to gauge your fitness and the level of those you hike with.


Beating the Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

For half the year, Cadillac Mountain’s peak is the first place in the easternmost state where the sun appears. This fact brings many people to the top with hopes of catching those rays.

For this view, one could take the easy approach: Driving to the top, and waiting inside the car to watch the sunrise. But, what kind of outdoors person would take that route? One of the experience’s best parts is the journey it took to see that sight.

Preparation is very important, as it takes a little planning to arrive at the top before the sun comes up. First, consider your stamina, so make sure you eat something healthy the night before. Speaking from experience, four or five hotdogs around a fire would be a bad call.

Second, factor in the temperature. It might be August, but in Maine, early morning conditions warrant your wool and down.

Third, calculate your departure time. To do this, know when the sun rises that day, and work backwards from there. For example, on August 13, 2016, the sun will rise at 5:34 a.m.

One of the experience’s best parts is the journey it took to see that sight.

[Photo: Maddy Jackson]
[Photo: Maddy Jackson]
As for the actual hiking part, know which trail you’ll take. My personal favorite is the South Ridge Trail. If you’re new to the peak, realize you can pick it up from the Blackwoods Campground, but because of the distance, plan to add an extra mile to your trip. Not camping? That’s fairly simple: Just drive and park right off Route 3. If you’re coming from Bar Harbor, the trailhead is directly past the entrance to Blackwoods Campground.

In total, the path to the summit is 7.1 miles round trip, not including that extra mile from the campground. Drivers should expect a 3.5- to 4.0-mile trip to the summit, while hikers, depending on speed, should plan for two to four hours. During my journey, I gave myself three hours, which allowed ample time for snacks, breaks, and finding the perfect place to watch the sunrise.

This would make 2:30 a.m. my departure time. However, if you’re someone who enjoys breakfast, like myself, I would recommend giving yourself an extra half hour or so. Also, so you can get off to a smooth start, without having to search around for essentials, pack up all your gear the night before. This way, by 2:00 a.m., your bag is all ready to go.

As another point, when you’re putting your gear together, don’t forget the headlamp. Most of your hike will be through darker conditions, so visibility is paramount. Additionally, if you haven’t changed your batteries in a while, an extra set might not be a bad idea.

Once you’re on the South Ridge Trail, the first mile takes you through a wooded section with a gradual climb. Not long after, you’ll emerge from the tree line. Here, take a second to turn off your headlamp and look up at the sky. With almost no light pollution, Acadia is one of the United States’ best stargazing parks, and what you’ll see at that time of the morning will leave you speechless.

From here, the trail continues to the summit, with most of the hike concentrated on the mountain’s spine and going over large glacial rocks. Most of the blazes on the rocks or cairns will be used, so keep your eye out for them. Then, the last three-quarter mile or so dips back into a tree cover that really tests your attention in the dark.

As you walk toward the summit, you may find you’re the first to arrive, so you get to pick the ultimate viewing spot. More cars will arrive as time passes, and in watching the scene, you will immediately feel a sense of accomplishment for getting there first.

Of course, you’ll also feel cold and desire the warmth of the sleeping bag you left below, but the chill becomes secondary once you watch those first rays emerge, as the view will likely be one of the most stunning things you have ever witnessed. So, take your time to enjoy the sunrise, and after the hike down, reward yourself with a delicious breakfast in Bar Harbor, because you deserve it!


5 Best Kid Hikes in Massachusetts

What do you do when your little one is too big for the kid carrier but too small to keep up with you on a full day hike? I have no idea, so I asked an expert. Jen Bauer is a Digital Media and English teacher from the Boston area who blogs about her adventures with her wife Kendra and their three kids “Addison, Evan and Kate at AdventurousMoms.com. In addition to her own regularly updated blog, Jen contributes to National Park Foundation, Travel Mams and FamiliesGo! to name a few so I figured if anyone is qualified to talk about kid hikes in Massachusetts, it’s her.

Here are the five hikes Jen likes best along with a few thoughts on why they’re great for adventurers in training. All of the gorgeous photos below were taken by Jen and the comments about why these destinations make great kid hikes are hers. If you’d like to see more of them and get regular updates on her adventures with her family, be sure to like Adventurous Moms on Facebook.

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Goldsmith Woodlands, Andover
The tall pines provide an unbelievable canopy and the wide, even trails are perfect for toddler legs.
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Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield

Footbridges and frogs: what more could a toddler want?

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Noble View Outdoor Center, Russell

The Pitcher Brook trail leads to Big and Little Pitcher Falls. Little kids love waterfalls, and these are a great payoff for a fairly easy hike.

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Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Ipswich

The Rockery Trail runs over wooden footbridges, and through rock archways, a fun treat for kids. There is a ton of wildlife here: geese, frogs, turtles, herons, ducks, snakes, and more!

Blue Hills State Reservation, Milton

Lots of great trails for little legs, and wonderful views of Boston.

Whether you have a suggestion for kid hikes in Massachusetts or anyplace else, please leave a comment and let me know about it!

I’d love to make this a regular feature here on the blog to give parent-approved hiking ideas to other parents. Life is hectic when you have little kids and pulling the tribe together for an outing can be a challenge. Hopefully suggestions from other parents will take some of the planning and pre-trip anxiety out of the day so you can focus on introducing your little ones to the outdoors.

Have fun out there!