My approach to section 9 is a bit abby normal, since my preliminary Hike Plan has me hopping off-trail for a wedding in the middle of it (shout out to Sarah and Jack!). I’ve excluded that in the preview below and will instead focus on what a normal hike of this section will look like. Section 9 spans the White Mountains and Presidential Range of New Hampshire, which is the most technically and logistically difficult part of the AT. However, it is ALSO arguably the best this trail has to offer! These summits are no joke, but with some good preparation (and even better flexibility), this could easily be the highlight of the entire thru-hike. For this reason, I have both family and friends joining me throughout this section. Hello Neiman!
A note on the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC): The AMC maintains the 105.4 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains. They maintain 2 lodges, 8 backcountry huts, and 14 shelter/tentsite locations for a fee that help offset costs to maintain the trail and protect the backcountry experience. The Lodge/Huts range in price, providing a bed for approximately $30-50 or full-service with meals for $120-150. They are extremely popular and typically require reservations in advance, though sometimes walk-ins are available and a free “work-for-stay” bed offered. If you don’t stay in huts, you can hike down from the trail to tentsites below, which are first-come-first-serve and usually include a $9 caretaker fee. Stealth camping is also possible (within limits), though can be difficult/tiring to find a suitable place.
My plan for the White Mountains includes a combination of all 3 lodging types.
- Start of Section: Glencliff, NH (1792.2)
- End of Section: Gorham, NH (1892.6)
- Total Miles: 100.4
- Total Days: 10 (excludes my 4 days off-trail)
- Avg Daily Miles: 10.0 (excludes my 4 days off trail)
- Planned Town Stops: 3
Highlights and Preview of Section 9
- Final Disclaimer: There are tons of resources available on the White Mountain National Forest from the AMC, WhiteBlaze, AWOL, National Park Service, etc. Anyone prepping for this section should do diligent homework to know what to expect. My preview below is focused on my specific approach to this section of walking, and less so on the White Mountains and their supportive community.
- 1792.2 – The first thing out of Glencliff is a frighteningly steep climb up the infamous Mt. Moosilauke. Every book on the AT I’ve read talks about this mountain, as it tends to be one of the most difficult and exhausting climbs, swiftly rising nearly 4,000 feet in 4.5 miles
- 1797.7 – Not to be outdone by its uphill climb, the hike down Mt. Moosilauke is equally treacherous, dropping nearly 3,000 ft in less than 4 miles. I’ve read a couple hiker bios that talked about near-death experiences on this mountain, so be smart and safe when tackling.
- 1801.5 – At the bottom of Mt. Moosilauke is Kinsman Notch, with direct access to North Woodstock (5.0E) or Lincoln (6.0E) for good resupply. If you do hitchhike into town, be sure to check out the Woodstock Inn & Brewery for a White Mountain Weasel Wheat Ale.
- 1811.5/1812.4 – Climbing up South Kinsman Mountain will be another steep climb. But don’t worry, you’ll be rewarded immediately by a quick dip and climb back up the North Kinsman peak.
- 1814.8 – Lonesome Lake Hut, the first of the 8 AMC huts for Northbound hikers.
- 1817.8 – After coming down the Kinsman Mountains, you end at Franconia Notch. The AMC bus shuttles pick up here and can transport you to their lodges or nearby Lincoln. (note, this is where I plan/hope to jump off trail).
- 1823.2 – Mt. Lincoln at 5,089 ft. Although not officially included, should be considered the start of the Presidential Range, the highest peaks of the White Mountains named after U.S. Presidents (in order of height). Not to scare you, but “the Presidential Range is notorious for having some of the worst weather on Earth, mainly because of the unpredictability of high wind speeds and whiteout conditions on these high summits”.
- 1824.2 – Mt. Lafayette at 5,249 ft is the 6th highest peak in New Hampshire. Its peak is also the access point to the nearby AMC Greenleaf Hut.
- 1827.7 – Mt. Garfield at 4,480 ft is a quick and steep up/down of 1,000 ft in less than a mile.
- 1830.8 – AMC Galehead Hut
- 1831.6 – South Twin Mountain at 4,902 ft is 1,500 straight up in just 1.4 miles. Are we getting tired yet? These degrees of include do not mess around! To put it in perspective, that is literally the equivalent of climbing up the Empire State Building, where every step forward is another 1 foot upward.
- 1837.7 – AMC Zealand Falls Hut (and a nice break, as it’s a slow and steady downhill to here from South Twin Mountain).
- 1845.5 – Crawford Notch, another shuttle stop for the AMC busses that provides access to their Lodges, trailheads and nearby towns.
- 1848.8 – Mt Webster at 3,911 ft. This is the southernmost peak and official start of The Presidential Range … though named for Daniel Webster, not a President.
- 1850.2 – Mt. Jackson at 4,052 ft, another presidential range peak named after a non-president (Charles Thomas Jackson). Which is weird, given that the 7th US President was Andrew Jackson.
- 1851.9 – AMC Mizpah Spring Hut
- 1852.7 – Mt. Pierce at 4,310 ft.
- 1855.5 – Mt. Franklin at 5,000 ft.
- 1856.5 – AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut. This hut is known for its thru-hiker bunkroom called “The Dungeon” with 6 beds at just $10. This building doubles as an emergency shelter with the hut is closed.
- 1858.0 – Mt. Washington at … wait for it … 6,288 feet! The highest peak in the Northeastern United States is notorious for its erratic weather. On April 12, 1934, a windspeed world record was set at 231 miles per hour was recorded at the summit. Behind only Clingman’s Dome of the Great Smoky Mountains, this is the 2nd highest peak on the Appalachian Trail.
- 1860.8 – Mt. Jefferson at 5,712 ft. Technically you can skip this summit, as it’s a 0.3 mile side route off the main trail. Yeah, right, I’m almost skipping that.
- 1863.7 – AMC Madison Spring Hut
- 1854.2 – Mt. Madison at 5,367 ft. The northernmost peak and official end of The Presidential Range. Whew!
- 1871.5 – Pinkham Notch, home to the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and Joe Dodge Lodge.
- 1874.2-1876.5 – Wildcat Mountains A, B, C, and E (why no D??).
- 1877.4 – AMC Carter Notch Hut
- 1878.6 – Carter Dome at 4,832 ft. Interesting fact, the origin of Carter Dome’s name is unknown. Local folklore suggests that it was named after a hunter named Carter, while a neighboring peak is named after his hunting partner, Hight (1879.5). That’s neat.
- 1892.6 – After a few more peaks (Middle Carter, North Carter, Mt. Moriah) that will feel like nothing compared to the Presidential Range … you exit the White Mountains and begin the much-desired descent down to Gorham, NH.
Gorham, at 3.6 miles east of the trail, is the end of this section. Any self-respecting thru-hiker should think long and hard about getting a ride to this hiker town for a much-needed break and Zero Day. Which, of course, I am not doing … because I’m dumb. Seriously though, because this marks the end of a section-hike with my family and the start of another section-hike with The Mountain Boys. They’ll be waiting for me, so I’ve got to get to them. I’ll take my Zero at the end of their section-hike in Andover, ME … which is just a few days into Section 10 that comes up next. Hello Neiman!