White Mountains Backpacking / Primitive Camping recommendations?
September 1, 2018 8:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a trip to New Hampshire in two weeks for a week of back-country backpacking and primitive camping, probably in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Please help with trail plans!

I figure I'll have 4 to 5 nights to spend in the woods after driving up from NC. I'm looking to do something like this Pemi Loop, taking my time or sidetripping to Thirteen Falls or Owl's head. But then I started to look at that route in more detail and it seems like a haul on the west side (i.e. from at least Mt Garfield to Mt Flume & beyond with no easy water or camping). I'm not enamored in the idea of the huts or even the organized tent sites. I'm used to just looking at a topo map and spotting flat spots where dispersed primitive camp site are likely. I like to camp near water, just for the convenience, but I wouldn't mind carrying a day's worth. I know there are restrictions on camping on various trails and can plan for those, since they are documented. I do want to get above the treeline, like up over the Bonds. For now I'm planning on using the trailhead at Lincoln Woods. I'm experienced in this type of backpacking and I figure I can handle 6+ miles a day in this terrain. The will be during the week, not weekend. Using Gaia & map & compass.

So, how easy is it to find a flat spot, away from the paid options, in the Pemi?

Should I just plan on wandering the lower trails, like Franconia Brook, Lincoln Brook, Thoreau Falls, Shoal Pond? Is there easily-found dispersed spots along those routes? Head up the Bonds and head east over Zealand and down to Thoreau Falls?

I could split things up and spend a couple nights in the Pemi and a couple in the Presidentials.

Are arbitrary river crossings of the Pemigewasset possible? i.e. can I switch from the "west side" (Bondcliff) trails to the "east side" (Pemi East)?

Thoughts? Random other hints/experience? Thanks
posted by achrise to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Slightly depressing piece of advice: especially if you are not white, make sure to bring your passport or proof of legal residency if you have it; if you are undocumented, you might want to stay down in NC or plan carefully. Border Patrol has been doing checkpoints along I-93 up that way (NH is entirely within the 100 mile "border zone"); this has usually been happening on the weekends.

The ACLU of NH has been good about posting when these are happening.
posted by damayanti at 5:06 AM on September 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

There are excellent unofficial-but-legal campsites in the lower bowl of the Pemi, especially along the brooks in the general vicinity of the Thirteen Falls campground; explore and you will find them. There are also a number of not-exactly-legal-but-frequently-used stealth sites along the Appalachian Trail portion of the Pemi Loop, especially between South Twin and Mount Guyot.

A lot of folks like to take a hammock rather than a tent because it expands their options and hammocks are nice. Personally I often take a bivy because nobody is really looking for bivy sites.

It definitely gets crowded up above, with the hut reservations filling up well in advance and the official campgrounds overflowing—albeit probably only on weekends. There are still plenty of unofficial spots though if you know what to look for. I've spoken with rangers about their feelings on the not-exactly-legal spots and they don't appear to percieve them as a major problem. Just be very gentle when you use them and try not to leave a trace.

If you memail me I have a couple of actual waypoints you can put into Gaia.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:42 AM on September 2, 2018

Oh and sure, the Pemi river is mostly quite shallow and rocky and is not particularly difficult to cross, most of the time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:44 AM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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