MORE INFORMATION: Appalachian Trail Conservancy 799 West Washington Street Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 (304) 535-6331
HIGHLIGHTS: The White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) has forty eight mountains above 4000 feet. It encompasses five National Wilderness Areas (Pemigewasset, Dry River, Great Gulf, Sandwich Range and Speckled-Carribou), several prominent ridgelines (Presidential, Franconia, Carter/Wildcat, Bonds) and three notches (Franconia, Crawford, and Pinkham). There are several state parks in the Whites, the main ones being Franconia Notch State Park, Crawford Notch State Park, and Mt Washington State Park, and trail management is a coordinated effort with the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), Dartmouth Outdoor Club (DOC), and several federal, state, and volunteer organizations that kick in man hours and funds to keep the trails open for hikers and backpackers.
The AMC Huts, a chain of eight mountain huts, are a major destination for visitors in this area. Most offer food and lodging high in the alpine areas, and they are a convenient way to lighten your load in this rugged and rocky wilderness. In the Whites, there are also a large number of overnight shelters and campsites for those who wish for a more intimate wilderness experience. There’s a variety of alpine zones on the hike including tundra, fir and hardwood climates. Two waterfalls drop right next to the trail, which makes for a nice area to rest your screaming quads and calves. The 5000 foot descent (or ascent if you choose to hike up the mountain) will make you feel like you completed a marathon when you finish this hike.
This hike in the White Mountain National Forest starts at the summit of Mt. Washington and drops through a variety of alpine zones (including tundra, fir and hardwood climates) to end at NH 16. The Park Ranger warned us that the Great Gulf Trail was particularly difficult in wet and foggy weather, and he was 100% correct (especially the section between 4500 and 6200 feet). However, the clouds broke occasionally and the views were spectacular above 4900 feet. During the hike we passed two waterfalls that run right along the trail and make for an excellent rest stop to calm the screaming quads and calves. The decent along the Great Gulf and Gulfside Trails drops 5000 feet in just over seven miles and passes the Osgood Campsite in about mid-way through the journey. At the NH 16 trailhead, we felt like we had just finished a marathon and happily hitched back to the top of the mountain rather than hike any further.