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Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England!
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Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/16/2010 23:21:47 MDT Print View

Hey guys, thanks for reading my post. So, im fairly new to Boston, and New England in general, and have spent the past year and half doing day hikes and carcamps. I'm hoping to plan a backpacking trip in the next couple of weeks, so that my girlfriend can get some exposure to what a real overnight backpack trip feels like. She's been on a few car camps with me, and so far so good.

My goal is to have a trip where we get to hike 5-8 of miles on the first day, to a somewhat remote camp site (no cars/RV's etc), set up camp and hang out, and spend the night. The next morning, maybe summit a small mountain, or something memorable, and then head back to the campsite we came from, and either spend a 2nd night, or just pack up and head home. The problem is I have no idea where to start, or where something like this is available in the new england area.

Most of my substantial trips are still done out West in CA. I guess im hoping to mirror something like a yosemite/half dome hike, where one starts at happy isles and proceeds to mist/vernal/nevada falls trail on day one, and spends the night in the the somewhat secluded Little Yosemite Valley campground. And then the next morning, a climb of half dome, and then back to little yosemite valley, or the valley floor

Anything similar to that out east? Would love to hear anything!

Edited by Konrad1013 on 03/16/2010 23:23:45 MDT.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/16/2010 23:45:46 MDT Print View

I recommend a hike to 13 falls campsite via Lincolnwoods tr.
day 2, summit Bond cliff and head back.
edit; realized thats a bit much
You could go to Galehead hut or Mt Garfield fron 13 Falls.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 03/16/2010 23:55:01 MDT.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/17/2010 00:01:25 MDT Print View

Also you can do Linclonwood tr. to the Wilderness trail. Do some backcountry camping following the wilderness backcountry rules. Find some where near the Bondcliff trail and the second day summit Bond cliff and return to camp or home.
This way you will defiantly be alone if thats what you want.
The miles are a little long but he Lincoln woods tr and wilderness trails are pretty flat old railroad grade.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/17/2010 00:13:08 MDT Print View

Another one I like:
Rocky Branch tr from Jericho rd. to MT Isolation and back.
There are 2 shelters but also campsites that are not on the maps but you will see the small signs when you get to them.
Pick a nice clear day so you get a good view of the Presies from Isolation.

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
NE hike on 03/17/2010 06:46:47 MDT Print View

Second Brians idea. Bondcliff and the Bonds in General have possibly the best view in the Whites. Backcountry camping in the pemi provides opportunities for solitude and it is nice to have the river nearby, especially in good wheather with a first timer. Sometimes being able to wash up and soak your tired feet makes a first time backpack.

Edit: I just reread your post and I realized you said the next couple weeks. Low country trails are just starting to melt out and you should call rangers to find out about the snowpack up high. Don't know if you want a snow trip or not but the mountains will retain snow and then serious mud sometimes well into may.

Edited by gvolpe on 03/17/2010 06:50:20 MDT.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: NE hike on 03/17/2010 07:17:15 MDT Print View

Get a copy of the AMC White Mountain Guide. You can sometimes find a new copy on Amazon pretty cheap too.

I agree with Gerry that the next couple of weeks isn't a great time unless you're prepared for winter/early spring conditions. Down low there is still snow which will quickly become mud over the next month, and up high there will still be winter conditions and you might require snowshoes and/or crampons.

Conditions are generally good for 3-season hiking by early to mid May. Just in time for the black flies!

BTW - check out the Fells Reservation just north of Boston on route 93 for springtime day hikes. Trails are now clear of snow. There is a good map available at REI in North Reading.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Thanks on 03/17/2010 14:48:57 MDT Print View

Bryan, thanks for all the insight regarding good trips closeby...definitely gave me a good place to begin. Gerry and John, thanks for giving me a headsup on trail conditions and weather in general. I'm still not use to the idea of winter lasting til April, but then again I grew up in 70 degree weather all year round! For now, ill do some local day hikes, but once May comes around, I'll definitely plan a trip around your guy's recommendations. And I'll def pick up an AMC guide...ill be here for a while, make sense to learn more about the area. Thanks again all!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Thanks on 03/17/2010 19:17:17 MDT Print View

I must of missed that myself. I also agree that this is a bad time to introduce someone to backpacking.
Until possibly as late as May it will be harsh on the mountain tops and freezing rain mud and slush on the trails. Miserable conditions this time of year.
When the weather clears and spring in is full force the blackflies, mosquitoes, and ticks will come out full force too. Best times of year in New England generally speaking are late summer/fall or if you like winter camping -deep winter.
Summer is awesome too just be prepared for the bugs.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
NE hiking on 03/17/2010 19:43:50 MDT Print View

As others have noted, late April through May is going to have tough conditions in the whites, mud to often water flowing down the "trail" like a stream, to snow and ice up high. Late May into June and bugs become an issue.

I am also not sold on the pemi as a good/easy first trip. It is a beautiful place, and I haven't been there in years, but the hikes have long approaches, and then climb up Bond is going to be steep and long. Anything in NH in summer is going to be packed with people.

The closest thing I can think of to something like Yosemite would be Baxter. Now my memory of Baxter is that it is run as a really tight ship and getting sites can be tough and most of it may already be booked this year. But that certainly fits your bill of staying in a beautiful backcountry site along a beautiful pond as a basecamp and then doing a dayhike up a mountain (katadin is not going to be easy though, but there are other peaks there).

I have never looked at the option to backpack at Acadia. But another beautiful place, and that would melt much sooner than the mountains, even it even has much snow left now.

Karl Gottshalk
(kgottshalk) - MLife

Locale: Maine USA
Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/17/2010 20:10:37 MDT Print View

Baxter is indeed tough to get into, although I think you can reserve online. That may just be for Maine residents. Only camping at Acadia is in the car campgrounds, great hiking though. The Grafton Loop trail might fit the bill, or at least part of it. The hike up Bigelow to Horn Pond with good camping and down the fire warden's trail makes a nice loop in the Bigelow Preserve. All of these are in Maine also. The Bold Coast Trail in the Cutler Preserve has no mountains to climb, but three of the most beautiful campsites about 1/4 mile apart that sit right on the coast. Spectacular!

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
NE on 03/18/2010 06:58:52 MDT Print View

Baxter and the Bigelows are probably my favorite destinations in NE. Can't go wrong with either.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Re: Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/18/2010 10:19:16 MDT Print View

It's still winter up north and will be for a while so wait a while unless you are prepared. The snow depths in the White Mts. are up to 76" at Carter Notch. Conditions available at:

The Catskills have up to 8' of snow.
Parts of the Green Mountains in VT might have more than that.
The weather has been interesting. Some of these storms have left snow at the higher elevations, but it's very elevation dependent. [Westerners, please don't laugh.]

Some places to go before winter is totally over up north:
Blue Hills (really close to Boston). AMC has cabins at Ponkapoag pond for a practically in the city get away (not a wilderness experience).
Central Mass. Midstate trail, Mt Wachusett, Leominster State Forest.
The above have no legal camping.

S. NH: Mt. Monadnock, Monadnock-Sunapee trail.

Berkshires: S. Taconics, Appalachian Trail in Mass, Mt. Washington State Forest; camping available in places.
All of the above you might want traction (microspikes) till April; things are melting fast.

Later in the spring/summer and a longer drive:
Adirondacks!!!!! Catskills (less spectacular, nice in the fall). As other's have said, Green Mts., White Mts., Katahdin (need reservations for K.)

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
whoa on 03/19/2010 19:18:22 MDT Print View

Wait a minute guys....Konrad is trying to introduce his girl friend to back packing.

There are some excellent guide books outlining hikes in NH.
Pick out a long day hike and make it an overnight. (I do not have my books and maps with me at the moment)..but here is an example.
Vist the Appalachian Club Headquaters (AMC) on Joy St., Boston. From the State House walk down Beacon St. and Joy St. is a short walk down on your right at the first stop light. They have maps, book, programs, plenty of advice!

The goal: Sandwich Mt., NH (near the Waterville Valley Ski Area) but approach it from the Lake Chocorua side.
The trail is a beautiful old logging road (It would make a great X-country ski trail) It passes a remote lake, and it finally becomes steep, but only a mile or so before a campground on the shore3s of another pond. Set up camp there, but day 2 with just a day pack, climb up Sandwich Mt. Part way up there is a great lunch spot on a ledge overlooking the pond where you camped below. You do not need to summit if you don't want to. You will have a good taste of hiking in the NH mountains in a small but beautiful dose.
Stay tuned in a couple of days when I get home (near Boston) I'll have more details.
Do not overlook Mt. Monadnock. It is close to Boston. It has an abolve tree line summit. It has countless trails, great views. One trail has a section as steep as any trail in the Whites. It is a MT. hikers of all experiences can enjoy.
Make an overnight to Mt.Paugus, behind Chocorua.

Right now I am at a ski area in Maine....5 feet of snow, but the temp was 60F...Great spring skiing in March!

Edited by rambler on 03/19/2010 19:42:36 MDT.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
The Bold Coast on 03/23/2010 08:24:35 MDT Print View

+1 on The Bold Coast

My wife and I did it last August and I think it's right up your alley. It's a bit of a drive -- probably 6 hours each way for you -- but it's amazing. 5 miles each way on 100 foot tall cliffs on the coast of Maine. Beautiful campsites, opportunities to see whales, seals, porpoises, moose, and rare birds (we missed the whales but saw everything else).

There are no peaks here, but the trail is still somewhat challenging. It's a good hike and just unmatched scenery.

One thing worth mentioning: Backpacker did an article on this last spring (after I had already planned my own trip, arggh...) and it's become pretty popular. I imagine the popularity will die off in another year or two as Backpacker does articles on more cool trails, but right now your best bet is to go on a weekday. Also, get there EARLY.

We arrived at 5 AM on a Sunday, which put us there just in time to reserve the LAST campsite. People drove in less than 20 minutes after us and were forced to resign themselves to a dayhike.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
backpacking with the girlfriend on 03/23/2010 09:06:01 MDT Print View

Bondcliff will be an amazing hike - I would wait until fall. Maine is truly wonderful as well.

I would definitely 100% NOT take someone who is new to hiking anywhere in New Hampshire in early April unless she is ok with postholing in snow up to her hips! A very real possibility that happened to me the first weekend of April last year.

If you are looking to go within the next few weeks be prepared for mud and wet. New England is tricky because spring can be so miserable - and if you want a hike with awe-inspiring scenery like Yosemite generally you are not in an area with lots of solitude - or if there is solitude, there are much more difficult conditions like snow at this time of year.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
some suggestions on 03/23/2010 09:33:10 MDT Print View

These may not be as wilderness-oriented as you might be thinking, but would be fun at this time of year. None of these are particularly close to you. I think the average drive is 3 hours. However, all of them are feasible hikes for right now, given weather and the fact that you are introducing someone to hiking.

Tuckerman's Ravine. Head up to Gorham NH. Car camp and then the next morning head over to Tuck's with a daypack and those tiny lightweight sleds that are just flat plastic seats. You will not be alone, as there will be crowds of backcountry skiers and snowboarders hiking up with you. Reach the ravine, unpack a picnic lunch, watch some crazy skiing and then go sledding! This is really, really fun and memorable. Have dinner at your camp or in Gorham. The hike is mildly strenuous but relatively short. We actually took a ski trail back down and sledded part of it. I love driving up to NH and this is a guaranteed good time.

Bash Bish falls on the MA/NY border is very pretty and while I have not camped there, I am sure that you could figure something out. It's definitely no Yosemite, though!

The AT in MA - I would suggest Mt. Greylock. I'd also aim for a weekend that has a really great weather forecast. The beauty of AT hiking is that you can stay in shelters if you want, and this time of year they will not be crowded, and could even be empty. I'd get the AT maps for MA and plan accordingly.

Bear Mountain in CT (right near the MA border) is also on the AT - a very pretty hike, moderately challenging, meanders along a stream once you descend. There is campsites rather than a shelter at this location. Again, AT maps will help you plan this. Kent is a lovely nearby town where you could stop and get a meal after. Lots of quaint small New England towns near by, depending on what route you drive.

Stratton Mountain in VT. Vermont is known as Vermud at this time of year so consider yourself forewarned! Stratton Pond is lovely in the fall and there is a firetower with great views at the top of the mountain. Again, this is located on the AT. It's a very good hike in terms of what your needs are but I think the mud will be horrendous.

Monadnock, NH - you'll actually be above treeline here. I'm not sure what the conditions would be, but this would be the most challenging hike. I generally do it as a dayhike and so can't suggest shelters but it is a part of the M-M trail. You could always call the rangers and see how the weather has been/what your options would be for camping. This is actually pretty close to you - a little under 2 hours.

None of the scenery will even come close to competing with the Whites and Maine. But you can save those for the summer and fall - something to look forward to!

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Re: some suggestions on 03/23/2010 10:14:20 MDT Print View

Lots of places are going to be either snow or mud for a while.

AngelaZ said, "Bash Bish falls on the MA/NY border is very pretty and while I have not camped there, I am sure that you could figure something out. It's definitely no Yosemite, though!" Bashbish is pretty. It is on the South Taconic Trail. Nearby, there is backcountry camping at Mt. Washington State Forest (not THE Mt. Wash. this is SW Mass) and car camping at Taconic State Park (NY, there are also cabins there which look nice) The AT and Bear Mountain are nearby.

Trails in Vermont are officially closed for mud season because of damage to trails done by hiking then(April to Memorial Day).

Mt. Paugus: Perhaps it's time to raise the downside of spring hiking in New England -- black flies. These are not flies that are black, but are nasty biting insects. I've camped on Mt. Paugus when the mosquitos would have been unbearable except they could not fight their way through the black flies. Once the snow melts bring DEET. Usually the worst is over by the end of June. Southern New England is better than the north woods.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
March into April = winter gear in NH/ME on 03/23/2010 15:38:40 MDT Print View

"In the next couple of weeks"..." see if she likes it..." Be prepared for cold nights and hiking in snow that is most likely wet or rock solid. A 60 degree day could easily drop to a cold forty at night. Be cautious and conservative in your plans to introduce someone to backpacking.
A nice section of the AT to hike this time of year would be the section between Hanover, NH and Mt. Moosilauke (Mt. Cube, Smarts Mt...)

Books available at REI: Reading, MA or near Fenway Park, Boston:

AMC White Mountain Guide with maps....Maps can be purchased separately.
Loop Hikes in NH's White Mts. and Maine Coast.
50 Hikes in NH
50 More Hikes in NH
Hikers' Guide Mountains of NH
The Four Thousand Footers
Waterproof double-sided map: Map Adventures, White Mountains Trail Map,
NH and Maine c. $10

Once you have decided on some specific routes and plans, ask the folks at these to forums:

Edited by rambler on 03/23/2010 16:06:22 MDT.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: March into April = winter gear in NH/ME on 03/24/2010 08:05:08 MDT Print View

Yeah. I agree. Like I already said, I don't think it's a good idea to bring someone brand new to backpacking up to NH right now. Last year the first weekend of April I did Moosilauke. It snowed, it was cold (I used my zero degree bag), one area of the trail was very tough to find/follow, and the width of the trail was only about a foot - when you stepped off accidentally you postholed, often up to your hips.

Don't get me wrong - it was an awesome hike... it just would not be the ideal way to ease into things.

That being said, views from the top will be a great resource for you to use. It's an excellent, very informative forum for trail conditions.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Need help planning a Backpacking trip in New England! on 03/24/2010 10:45:22 MDT Print View

As a few others have said, I would stay away from New Hampshire entirely till late May. Unfortunatly this is the worst time of year up there with large amounts of rotting snow. I highly recommend hitting up the AT in Connecticut or MA. I did a 10 miles section last weekend near Salisbury and the trails were 100% clear. Not to mention it is much more pleasant hiking than anything up in NH. I highly recommend the Bondcliff loop as well, but Zealand (which is nearby) is still showing a 54 inch base.

keep watch on the link below to see snow totals.

Edited by Jkrew81 on 03/24/2010 10:49:17 MDT.