Backpacking in the Northeast
August 6, 2009 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for suggestions for a 3-4 day backpacking trail loop in the northeast.

I know this has been asked previously, but I am hoping someone can suggest a good hiking loop so we don't have to double back on our hike.
I am fairly experienced but my new hiking partner is not, however she is very athletic. I don't want to scare her off from backpacking, but I do want to experience some of the more rare and beautiful sights. So, crazy mountain climbs or river crossings are probably out of both of our comfort zones.
We are located in Philadelphia and will leave next week. We are considering the Adirondacks park in NY, someplace in Vermont, or New Hampshire but are open to other places. We don't really want to drive more than a day to get to our destination, but I would like to get out of PA and see something new. Any suggestions for exciting multi-day hikes in the northeast in August?
posted by wigner3j to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend looking into the Pemigewasset wilderness in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. It's one of the most remote places in New Hampshire and You can easily plan multi-day loop hikes that are either flat or mountainous. You'll never be truly alone in New England, buy once you're a few miles in you'll be away from the crowds and the beer-swilling yahoos. It's a federally designated wilderness area so there are no motor vehicles or bikes allowed.

On your first day you could hike into 13 Falls Campsite from "The Kank", (NH Rt. 112) via the Lincoln Woods and Franconia Brook Trails. It's a long hike in but it's all flat and gets really remote. Depending on your energy level, you could also stretch it into two days, camping in the backcountry somewhere along the way. It's a really neat campsite with a whole bunch of pretty waterfalls and pools. You could also make it a base camp and do day hikes up to Garfield and the Twins.

From there you could loop around the valleys for a couple of days, or hike up to Guyot or Garfield Ridge campsites if you want to get some mountain views.

I'd highly recommend you check out the Bonds, including Bondcliff. Anything with a name like Bondcliff has to be awesome, of course, and it's one of the most remote peaks in the Whites. You could spend a couple days traversing the range. None of them get too steep or rough, though they are a long way in.

Other areas in the wilderness to check out would be Mount Carrigan for elevation (beware: the backside of Carrigan is one of the more grueling miles in the area) or Carrigan Notch to stay mostly flat. Look into Nancy Pond (avoid camping at Sawyer pond, it's easy enough for people to carry in kegs...), Thoreau Falls (lots of backcountry sites on the Thoreau Falls Trail, which is pretty flat and remote), Zealand Notch (Zealand notch and Zeacliff are both really awesome places), and Shoal Pond.

Avoid the Lincoln Woods campsite, which is three miles in from The Kank. Franconia Falls, which is one of the most beautifully awesome sites in the area, can be a total zoo on weekends.

I've done extensive backpacking in the area and have seen moose, bears (mostly harmless, just hang your food), beaver, snakes, and deer on my trips.

Pick up an AMC White Mountain guide to get descriptions and maps of all the trails.

Feel free to drop me a line if you need more info.
posted by bondcliff at 8:41 AM on August 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

I know you said you wanted to get out of PA but north-central PA has some terrific trails that shouldn't be overlooked. There's information at the DCNR and KTA websites. The Black Forest trail is the right length for your hike.
posted by maurice at 9:31 AM on August 6, 2009

I'll second bondcliff's recommendation of getting up to NH. It's a long drive from Philly but I think its worth it - the climate creates a tundra and low treeline that is readily accessible and rare in latitudes closer to where you are now.

I have flow Southwest of out BWI to Manchester NH to avoid the drive - looks like they also fly out of Philadelphia. If you do that, just watch what you bring on the plane, as a friend lost a campstove (without fuel) out of checked luggage, confuiscated by the Totally Stupid Agency.
posted by exogenous at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2009

If you're looking to come up to VT, check out the Appalachian Trail - specifically Glastenbury Mountain. It's about a 22 1/2 mile trek, which you can stretch out by adding on Lye Brook Wilderness or other awesome sites nearby. Check out nature areas near Bennington, VT for more info. Have fun!
posted by garnetgirl at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2009

In the Catkill Mountains, there is a loop over Black Dome Mountain, and Blackhead Mounatin, accesable from several angles, but I did it by hiking up Thomas Cole Mountain.

Of ALL the Catkill hikes I've done, that was by FAR the prettiest and most enjoyable. Most of it was easy to mild/hard - if that makes sense? Awesome animals. Some creeks. If you run into people, they were friendly and far between.

Parking was at the end of a little residential road. Plenty of restaurants to stop at nearby on the way home once you've spent a few days hiking.
posted by jbenben at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2009

Don't forget to check out the AMC site.
posted by Gungho at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2009

Here's a loop in the Catskills over the peaks jbenben describes. As you can see there is a paved portion. I don't know the total mileage but three days would be OK I think.
posted by exogenous at 10:32 AM on August 6, 2009

I'll second bondcliff's suggestion. I did a three day hike/camp there where we went up Mt. Bond, Guyot, North and South Twin, and Galehead. I loved it. We camped out every night, but I there is also an AMC cabin in the area you can stay at if you make prior arrangements.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:37 AM on August 6, 2009

bondcliff, what kind of temperatures would you expect this time of year?
posted by wigner3j at 12:25 PM on August 6, 2009

Pretty much anything. It could be really hot and humid, it could be cold and rainy, or it could be perfect. Up high be prepared for cold and wind. Down low be prepared for rain.

Most likely it'll be warm summery weather, but being New England you should be prepared for anything.

My typical summer hiking clothes:

(no cotton while hiking, with the exception of maybe a t-shirt)

Nylon pants w/zip-off legs and/or nylon shorts
Polypro t-shirt
Full polypro tops and bottoms
Fleece top (windblock)
Rain/wind shell (tops and bottoms)
Warm hat
light gloves
Extra socks

Maybe an extra cotton t-shirt for around camp and some extra underwear.

Maybe a pair of fleece or wool pants and a fleece vest if forecasts called for cooler temps.

A basic 3-season sleeping bag would be fine.

Black flies shouldn't a problem, mosquitoes might be. Bring bug spray and/or a light cotton long sleeve shirt and maybe a head net for around camp.
posted by bondcliff at 1:17 PM on August 6, 2009

Ha. I came in to say the exact same thing as bondcliff, but not as well. Given the opportunity, though, and the username, couldn't you have written it as if it was Bondcliff itself recommending the trip? "Come climb me! I am Bondcliff, located in the remote and beautiful Pemi Wilderness, etc etc..."?

I was there last winter, trying to do the loop counterclockwise. We made it up Bondcliff on the second morning (the snow on the trails in was an awful, deep sticky mush), only to find 60+ mph wind ripping across the ridge between Bondcliff and Bond. We went halfway across the ridge and then pretty much got scared and bagged it. This, for the record, is the second time the Pemi Loop has kicked my ass in the winter.

One day, Pemi. One day...
posted by rusty at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2009

3rding the Pemi. bondcliff (nice name) is exactly right. I did a ton of hiking in the Whites during college and the Great Circle loop there in the Pemi hits the two prettiest parts of the Whites (Franc Ridge and Bondcliff) and showcases a great variety of terrain, while not being too strenuous. Hands down my favorite loop in New England.

Memail me if you want more info.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:23 PM on August 6, 2009


posted by jbenben at 6:16 PM on August 6, 2009

Let me know if you need any help with route planning. It's been a while, but I'm familiar with most of the trails and peaks in the area.

Please post a follow up. I'll be interested to see how you like it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on August 7, 2009

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