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June 21, 2011 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Overnight hiking/camping in the White Mountains, NH -- where is parking allowed?

I'm currently planning a number of hikes in New Hampshire for this summer, and I'm struggling to address one very tactical problem: where to park while spending 2-3 days out in the woods.

Last year I had a great two-day hike planned, chosen to address all participants' interests and skill levels, and when we arrived at the corresponding trailhead (after 3 hours of early-morning driving) we encountered the dreaded "no overnight parking" sign. Nothing in the books or on the maps indicated that this would be a problem, and all of the trailheads in the area that allowed overnight parking required passing over considerably more difficult terrain. I'd really like to avoid similar disappointment this year.

Can anyone point me toward a resource that indicates what parking areas in the White Mountain National Forest (or around AMC trails in that area) allow overnight parking? A book would be fine, as would a map or a link to a related discussion online.
posted by cranberry_nut to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What trailheads did you try? Almost all the AMC or WMNF trailheads allow overnight parking. Certainly any that lead to huts or shelters. I've backpacked from dozens of trailheads and have never once been at a lot that didn't allow overnight parking. It's possible things have changed in recent years though.

A good portion of the trails in the WMNF are rugged, so the ones that passed over easier terrain might have been privately maintained trails or tourist trails, with overnight parking banned to reduce the numbers. There are also a lot of lots that are picnic areas or scenic views that might have a trail lead from them, but aren't strictly trailheads. Trailheads to popular day-use areas, like certain ones around Mt. Washington, might also not allow overnight parking.

The WMNF lots require you to pay a per-day fee, which can either be done with a pre-purchased sticker or by putting money in an envelope available at the trailheads.

The AMC White Mountain guide is generally The Book for the area, though I'm not sure how detailed it is about parking. The best thing to do would be to call the WMNF ranger station for the area and ask about the specific trailheads you're planning on using. You can also call the AMC at Pinkham Notch and ask them.

Again, if you list some of the trails you're planning on using it might be easier to let you know.
posted by bondcliff at 5:50 AM on June 21, 2011

Also, you might want to ask this question over at the Views from the Top forum, which is a popular Q&A site for the area.
posted by bondcliff at 6:00 AM on June 21, 2011

The trailhead I most recently had trouble with was by the Arethusa Falls Trail -- certainly a popular spot for day hikers but presumably also extendable into a relatively flat multi-day loop hike.

The AMC White Mountain Guide is indeed a great book, but it doesn't cover this topic. It's pretty ambiguous about parking.

I can indeed call the WMNF or AMC to double-check specific lots prior to driving up, but having a sense of where we're likely to run into trouble would be helpful in addressing which areas to research for potential trips. I'll check out the forum bondcliff mentioned, but if any MeFites have other thoughts or have run into this issue before I'd love to hear from them.
posted by cranberry_nut at 6:17 AM on June 21, 2011

Correction: I've just been informed I may have been mistaken about the particular lot we most recently had trouble with. It was by one of the waterfalls -- Arethusa may have been the more successful trip.
posted by cranberry_nut at 6:22 AM on June 21, 2011

This is targeted to AT hikers but may cover where you're headed. And this is a list of where to buy permits--you could avoid the places called "day use areas." The ones actually called "trailhead" should allow overnight parking, and the 8 or 9 I've personally hiked that are listed there definitely do.
posted by janerica at 12:31 PM on June 21, 2011

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