JCXC was founded in 2013 as an outdoor blog primarily focused on cross country travel. It has since evolved into a database for hikers across the United States, but is primarily focused on Northeast Hiking.
It's been a while since I made one of these list-type posts, so I figured in honor of the commencement of the hiking season I would take the time to compile my top twelve hikes in the Southern Whites, since it is customarily the first area to melt in the range. It’s also coincidentally my favorite area to hike in New England!
These hikes are generally the closest to the Greater Boston area, and includes peaks that aren't 4000 footers. This is the first of a new series of lists dedicated to my favorite hikes in the area (Southern, Central, Northern Whites, and the Lakes Region. For my favorite hikes on Mount Monadnock, see THIS POST)
Qualifications to be considered part of the Southern White Mountains:
1. Be south of Route 112
2. Be north of Lake Winnipesaukee
3. Be east of I-91
4. Be west of Route 16
5. Does not include the Belknaps/Ossipee area (but does include Squam area)
The Osceolas are first up. Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of these mountains. The views are great, and the trail is generally fun, albeit very eroded. However, it’s not a place you go if you want to be alone unless you’re there during the week or at night. This is my preferred approach to the other side of the trail because it can be done year-round. Bring your poles though—it’s very steep.
Some highlights of the trail are the views from Mount Osceola and the chimney section in between the two peaks.
Not to be confused with the very popular Rattlesnake Mountain on Squam Lake, you can find this Rattlesnake Mountain just past the Rumney climbing area. It's a very short hike, but the views are well worth the effort. If you're a climber and want an off day from climbing at the crag, it's an excellent place to take a rest day.
Great views of Plymouth and its renowned windmills are to be had, and it takes no more than an hour round trip if you're moving quickly. It is quite steep for about half mile, however. Not a ton of people frequent the peak, but you may see a few parties on a weekend.
Again, like Rattlesnake, there are two popular Black Mountains. This is the one closer to Mount Moosilauke as opposed to the one in Jackson. And like Rattlesnake, it's short, sweet, and steep. One thing to note is this hike is via the Chippewa Trail on the west side rather than the Black Mountain trail on the northeast side, which I haven't done before.
The trail plows straight up in a menacing manner but given how brief the hike is you won't regret the temporary pain. The views from the top are spectacular, and there are multiple vantages from the summit.
The Welch-Dickey Loop would be the *perfect* moderate hike if it wasn’t so crowded all the time. While I have been on the peak with minimal crowds before, it was late March. Once Memorial Day hits, you’ll be lucky to park anywhere near the parking lot.
But the hike itself is a very redeeming one. Open ledges, fun scrambles, and rewarding views are to be had in under five miles. It’s also quite close to the Greater Boston area and is beginner friendly. Just make sure to get there very early or later on to dodge the crowds.
What the heck is Carr Mountain, you ask? It's not a typical peak to make a list like this. Why? Because it isn't on a list. Not many people hike this mountain. It's somewhat overgrown in the summer, but never bad enough to struggle to follow the trail. It can be hiked from either the east or west side, but the trail from the east is easier to navigate.
The summit used to be home to a tower, but it has since been removed. In its place is an old concrete foundation that you can stand on to get some views of the Kinsmans and Moosilauke on a nice day. But the real reason you go to Carr is for the solitude. Not many people hike it, and on a beautiful summer weekend you’ll be lucky to run into a few people.
7. Mount Cardigan via Holt Trail and Clark Trail
Mileage: 4.3 miles RT
It’s really a good question whether Mount Cardigan is actually a part of the White Mountains, and I was inclined to leave it off the list at first (since it’s also geographically parallel to the Northern part of Lake Winnipesaukee). But alas, no Southern Whites list is complete without at least referencing Cardigan. It’s a beautiful peak with a fire tower atop the summit, but given its Southern location, it is extremely popular and crowded during the nice weather months.
That being said, you may find a little more isolation along the Holt Route, which is steep and somewhat sketchy for beginner hikers. In fact, there are warning signs cautioning hikers as to the dangers of the trail. It’s easily a low class three route, meaning you will be using your hands and feet along the steeper pitches of the route. But I highly recommend it if you have the requisite experience!
There aren’t many trails quite like the Percival/Morgan loop, which barely makes it on this list due to its location along Squam Lake. But it’s tough to call it a Lakes Region hike since the trail is on the way to Whiteface/Passaconaway trails.
Though the hike can get extremely crowded on weekends, it’s obvious why. Crawling through caves and climbing ladders isn’t something you do often in the White Mountains. Who doesn’t love caves and ladders?
I’ve hiked the big Moose from nearly every trail, but none left an impression on me more than Beaver Brook. It’s a gorgeous, oft-neglected, and not-for-the-faint-of-heart way to hike the peak as opposed to the more popular Glencliff or Gorge Brook trails. It crushes you right from the get-go, plowing up a steep river and following it for quite a while over sketchy, natural obstacles. It’s also part of the AT, so you’re likely to run into some thru-hikers.
Of course, the summit is always crowded, but you’re more likely to run into less people here than on the trails from the other side of the mountain. Remember though—not for beginners.
Chocorua is one of those peaks that I avoided for a long time back when I was a pretentious hiker who only did 4000 footers. Boy was I missing out. This is a long loop across the very scenic Carter Ledge on trails dusted with pine needles and less erosion than you would find on the main trails, though I can’t speak for Champney Falls Trail since I’ve never been on it (and hear it is quite lovely). The traverse across the Sisters toward Chocorua makes for a long, albeit worthwhile journey.
This is the ULTIMATE Southern White Mountains tour. If you want to know what the range is all about, this loop is a culmination of some of my favorite trails in the Sandwich Range.
You start by taking the steep and scenic Blueberry Ledge Trail up to Whiteface, the not so exciting Rollins Trail over to Passaconaway, and then instead of coming back down Dicey’s Mill, you extend it just a bit more. The east side of Passaconaway is home to some amazing, uncrowded trails, including Oliverian Brook, Square Ledge, and all the trails near Paugus Pass. My preferred descent is down either the Old Mast or Kelley Trail, but don’t forget to stop by Square Ledge—the views of Passaconaway are exceptional, and make you truly appreciate the mostly viewless peak.
Mileage: ~9 miles RT Sandwich Dome isn't my favorite mountain in the world. I find that its views are sub-par compared to most of the peaks on this list. However, that all changed when I hiked the Algonquin Trail for the first time. To hike this trail, you have to be able to competently drive on eroded dirt back roads, which is why it isn't as popular as it could be.
However, the hike is extremely rewarding, with some class two scrambling, phenomenal views from the trail, and plenty of solitude. Do yourself a favor and give this hike a try.
The Tripyramid Slides is my number one hike in the Southern White Mountains. No hike gives you more of an alpine feel while ascending the very steep scree fields toward the top. But without the inclusion of Kettle’s Path and Irene’s Path, it probably wouldn’t have taken my top spot.
The Kettle’s Path/Irene’s Path heads up toward the Scaur, home to one of the finest views I have ever seen in Autumn in the Whites. It also goes past Flume Brook, a narrow gorge way off the beaten path that many hikers in the Whites have never seen.
Rather than head up the Scaur Ridge Trail, it’s time to undertake the North/South Slides—which again, is not for beginners. Make sure you’re competent at scrambling on class two terrain before heading up and down these trails.
It's been a few years since I've hiked the Kinsmans from the Mount Kinsman Trail. And one thing is clear: it's a better route than the standard Fishin' Jimmy/Lonesome Lake loop. It's a moderate first few miles with a steady slope to the top. Contrast that with the super steep and super eroded main trail which is considerably more crowded as well.
As much as I love the Mount Kinsman Trail, it wasn't in the best of shape. We started in the pouring rain and knew it was going to be a rough day. The first few miles were muddy, and up to the Bald Peak we crossed over three raging rivers. They weren't difficult to cross, but you definitely had to have your wits about you.
After tagging Bald Peak and heading back to the junction, the mud immediately began to turn to monorails of ice with a fresh coat of snow on top. We were the first party to hike the trail since the snow, most likely from the night prior.
Higher up the trail, the monorails were unstable and very thin. There were a few pockets where the only way forward was to break through, but for the most part, you could traverse along a very thin path. However, just a foot off the monorail it was post-hole city. We put snowshoes on when the monorails start to give way for more filled in snow, but we still had to keep on the rails to not post-hole.
At the junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail, the rain had given way for snow. It also sleeted and hailed on our way up. We were wet and cold, but actually were thankful for the snow rather than heavy rain. The trail was in decent shape once we pushed up to the summit of North Kinsman, but the views were non-existent.
We broke trail over to South Kinsman, with a fresh coating of at least 3 inches of snow up there. It was swift going compared to on the way up the Mount Kinsman Trail.
Again having no views, we beelined back the way we came and tried our hardest to not post-hole on the way down!
I always find the need to write about the death of members in our tight knit mountain community. Part of my reason for doing so is it helps me cope, in a way. Since I am constantly one errant mistake away from injury or death, I need to remind myself that some don't make it out unscathed. The mountains are ruthless, especially when you find yourself in sub-optimal conditions. But the thing is, sub-optimal to some is perfect for others.
For David Lama, Hansjorg Auer, and Jess Roskelley, teetering on the brink of mortality was part of their job description. In 2015, Auer had this to say about his career:
"Climbing and mountaineering on the borderline of possible is a game – a risky game… but one that I cannot live without. The game is simple, the rules always the same. The present moment counts for everything. I want to do things that push me. With all my heart or not at all. The more intense it is, the more enriching it is, and the stronger the feeling that I am heading in the right direction.
I do however begin to ponder. Especially when I am injured or after a close call. I think about my friends. I think about what it would be like if one day I didn’t return, if I had to pay the price for the mountains.
And yet I cannot resist to take on the challenge time after time. I will never stop searching because what I find fascinates me every time I head out.“
The challenge and the interminable search that he outlines were two of the biggest draws to the sport for me. While my passion does not require as much intensity as he speaks of, it's clear that the rules are always the same. Do it right, make it out alive. Make mistakes, and play with fate.
The problem that the climbers confronted may not have been so much as a freak avalanche, though there hasn't been much coverage on the matter yet. Oftentimes we can mitigate avalanche risk by treading into territory with low danger of human triggered avalanches. But on April 16, the avalanche conditions were forecasted by Parks Canada painted an uncertain situation. The avalanche risk was put somewhere between possible and likely. Any time one travels in avalanche terrain with such a danger warning, they put themselves at risk, no matter how prepared they are.
These three weren't the only to succumb to the mountain in the last few weeks. On April 11, we lost Nicholas Benedix in an avalanche along the Raymond Cataract, a less frequented ski area on Mount Washington compared to nearby Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines. Whereas the three climbers in Canada were traveling together, Benedix was alone. Though there were hikers and skiers in the general vicinity who saw him, he traveled solo.
The avalanche forecast was a bit dicey too. Skiing alone in avalanche territory is dangerous for a number of reasons, but the most obvious is that no one can save you if you get buried. This was the avalanche advisory from Mount Washington Observatory on that day:
As you can see, human triggered avalanches, like the one that caught Benedix, were forecasted as possible. "Even a small avalanche can cause a significant problem today," was the big takeaway from this advisory. But it didn't keep Benedix away. Why? Why did he and the climbers in Canada submit themselves to these risks?
Some tolerate risk more than others. As you get more and more accustomed with mountain terrain, you develop a sense of security, not all too different from that of a familiar lover. I find myself executing habits in the mountains that I have picked up due to repetition--some more dangerous than others. I've been known to climb ropeless in no fall zones occasionally because I know I can do it. But it's that exact mentality that can get people in trouble.
No one can say for sure why these men gravitated toward risky business more than others. But I get it. Many don't. Many think its reckless and not worth the danger. I reckon that they lived by the mantra that they would "rather die on their feet than live on their knees." Was that mantra more important than their lives that day? I doubt that death ever crossed their minds. They were out there doing what they loved, and mother nature had different plans for them. As Jess Roskelley once said:
“Mountains help me navigate what is most important to me. They balance the chaos that is regular life. Balance is what I strive to accomplish in climbing - a balance of life, love and mountains. Alpine climbing is a life-long commitment. I live and breathe it.”
Rather than nitpick and destroy everything these men ever accomplished based on an unfortunate accident, we should revere them for their contributions to the community and society as a whole. They lived and inspired those around them and loved the mountains unconditionally. So much so that they were willing to die in them. Many will never understand. But I do. Rest in peace, gentlemen.
I was fortunate enough to get my hand on a sample of Colorado Aromatic's Knuckle Balm. It's made with calendula and plantain. Calendula is a natural plant and its oils are used in various natural medicines. It is said to prevent muscle spasms and reduce fever, among other things. Plantain can be used to heal rashes and cuts.
So what happened when I put this product to the test? Well, I'm known to have very dry hands, especially around the knuckle area in cold weather. I have been using the product for about 3 weeks now, and I have noticed my skin is less drier than it normally is. Additionally, the soothing effect of the balm helps with pain that I have in the area. As a climber, my hands get beaten up, and the tendons around them are often tight. I have even rubbed the balm on the adjacent tendons with positive results.
So what's the verdict? For climbers, or anyone with dry hands or aches and pains in the general vicinity, I would highly recommend getting your hands on them! No pun intended!
When one hears the word “Mexico” what do they think? I’m sure a lot of things, especially in the Trump Era. And it’s probably pretty person specific depending on where they procure their news or what kind of lifestyle they live. I always like to say I have an open mind. So the US’ “Do not travel” warning to Mazatlan didn’t faze me as much as it would to most. And to Mexico, I would go.
I began my travels to my friend Aaron’s wedding alone out of Boston, with a plan to meet his friends in San Diego. But before that, I was treated to a wonderful authentic Italian dinner by my cousins who I haven’t seen since I was a kid. Gnocchi never tasted so good.
I met Kelly, Nick, Keith, Katherine, and Gregg at South Park Brewing, a microbrewery with a whole host of interesting brews on tap. Among them were a pineapple/apricot wheat ale, a s’mores stout, and a bread and smoke smoked amber ale. I wasn’t aware San Diego was so well known for its craft beer scene, but clearly I live in a box.
After staying at an interesting hand built home outside of the city, we beelined for the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bridge which was a seamless process. You cross the bridge with a valid airline ticket in Tijuana and a passport and walk right to your terminal. It’s pretty pricey at $30 round trip but in my opinion it was worth it to save the hassle of getting a cab or Uber over the border.
When we landed in Mazatlan, we took a cab to our beautiful condo on the 12th floor overlooking the ocean. Due to the low value of the peso, it didn’t cost much to stay there, and the location right on the beach was exceptional. From our vantage we could see distinct island hills poke right out of the ocean.
As the day went on, I quickly started to learn about Mexico’s staples (or at least the tourist’s perception). Beer was cheaper than water for the most part. Tostitos salsa verde are a hot commodity and are absolutely delicious. They’re also a popular street food item (tostitos preparados). Street vendors sell them by the bag, and dump all kinds of unique toppings, such as ceviche, shrimp and other meats, chili, peppers, etc. it’s a wildly popular dish and only sets you back a few dollars.
Street vendors also sell freshly chopped coconuts, mangos, and other various native fruits. They sell them on the beach as well, along with other touristy items like memorabilia and jewelry. Remember, despite the fact that this was my experience, we were in the super touristy “Golden Zone” of Mazatlan.
During the afternoon, we had a wonderful and inexpensive lunch. I had shrimp tacos, or tacos de Camarón, which are a staple to the area. We also ate ceviche, which is a dish made of raw seafood, lime, peppers, cilantro, etc. It is essentially salsa with raw seafood.
That first night, we enjoyed the main pier, beach, and ate street tacos at Aaron’s fiancé’s family home—which consisted of traditional Mexican fare along with marlin, which is another dish popular in the area.
On Friday, we ran along the pier and beach and then enjoyed a breakfast at the resort, which compared with an American resort was very cheap. I had another shrimp based dish, this time an omelette, and they served a type of garlic bread for the table rather than giving everyone toast. They also made massive smoothies from fresh pressed fruit for under 3 dollars, something that would be at least double in the States.
Later in the day, the entire gang hiked El Faro, which is a very popular lighthouse hike in the area. At the top there is a glass bridge you can pay a few pesos to traverse across, but the glass isn’t very clear and the bridge doesn’t go out very far.
We enjoyed massive waves at the beach and I can say with certainty they were some of the biggest I’ve experienced, though I’m not a big beach person so I can’t be trusted. From here I had a few more shrimp tacos at the resort restaurant and we spent the night at Aaron’s penthouse in the same resort area for his friend’s 30th birthday. The sunset views were prime, as was the Dominoes pizza they got. Just goes to show you no matter who you are or where you are, it’s hard to screw up pizza.
The next morning was the wedding. After a lovely beach run, we took a bus to a village called El Quelite. Along the way we were stopped by some sort of law enforcement or military personnel, but quickly were waved through. Hard to tell what they wanted from the back of the bus.
The village was quaint and quiet. We had to drive through essentially a one way cobblestone road and held up quite a bit of traffic as we got off the bus into the church. It was a small historic structure that you probably would have a hard time finding in the “build, destroy, build, destroy, build” US.
The ceremony was conducted almost entirely in Spanish, but it felt about as authentic a Mexican wedding could be.
After the wedding, we wandered around the cobblestone streets, talked to locals, and ate at a restaurant for a small lunch. It was my first time having truly authentic Chile relleno, which was more of a soup than an entree I was used to. They also served chips and various salsas and cheeses, which was filling enough in itself.
We took the bus back to the reception area, which we had to take a boat to get to. It featured a large band, maracas and desserts aplenty, and unlimited palomas and margaritas. You can only imagine how the night ended up for some.
The wedding was as most weddings are—beautiful. And though I’ve only spent about a week total with Aaron in my life (that’s another story for another day), I appreciated the invite to his wedding and to be able to share the special moment with him. Not only that, he gave me the opportunity to go to Mexico for the first time, which was a lovely experience. I definitely plan to come back. And next time, I’ll hopefully eat a lot more.
I’ve been hiking religiously in the Northeast for the last eight years or so, and as most new hikers learn, shoulder season kind of sucks. Post-holing, cold rain, and mud are just a few of the nasty things you’ll find in the mountains between mid-April and late May. So where do you go? What do you do? Go to the mountains, duh! But where?
1. Mount Monadnock
Okay, maybe this suggestion is kind of obvious already. But it’s one of the first “real” New Hampshire peaks to dry out due to its southern location. Stick to some of the side trails, such as Pumpelly, Marlboro, or the Cliff Walk Trail. I guarantee you won’t run into the excessive crowds.
2. Mount Greylock
Number two on this list is a mountain I don’t spend nearly enough time at. Part of the reason is it’s still over two hours from me, and by the time you get there you could have already gotten to Franconia Notch. Nevertheless, Greylock is a formidable peak with many trails that dries out long before the more Northern peaks. For the biggest bang for your buck, try combining it as a 12+ mile loop that includes Mount Prospect and Mount Williams.
3.Mount Tom and the Holyoke Range
The Holyoke Range is near Springfield, Greenfield, and other busy metro areas in the Pioneer Valley. Couple that with the fact that Albany isn’t too far away either, and you’ve got a large population adjacent to a small mountain range. That being said, you can find plenty of isolation in these peaks. They may be short in stature, but if you link the peaks of the Holyoke Range you can get some serious elevation gain in. Just follow the ridge and retrace your steps. The views may not be the most exceptional, but there’s plenty of rock scrambling to be had in these miniature mountains.
4. Tully Mountain
Tully Mountain eluded me for so many years, and it’s unfortunate. It’s a beautiful mountain, and though it’s really only a mile and a half or so, it is extremely steep. If you wanted some good elevation gain, you could lap it a few times. The views from the top of nearby Tully Lake are top notch, as it the view of Mount Monadnock. If you really want to get some miles in you can do a lap around Tully Lake, which is a beautiful body of water in rural Royalston, Mass. It also has a disc golf course right along the lake. You really can’t go wrong with the area.
5. Mount Grace
Mount Grace is about as isolated a mountain you can find in the congested state of Massachusetts. It’s in north-northwestern Mass just before the Berkshires and has a fire tower on its summit. Not only that, but the entire area is very sparse and rural and there’s a lot of old growth forests. It truly feels like what New England was like before we cut down every tree from here to California. There are also myriad trails to the summit tower, which has spectacular views of the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley.
I love Carrabassett Valley. It's one of the most interesting ski towns in the Northeast, but for its extreme isolation from everything. It's entire economy is seemingly rooted in the outdoor industry, and to me, that's a cool distinction (though I'm sure logging and other related industries are still big). The problem is, aside from Sugarloaf, I haven't really explored the area mountains. That changed last weekend.
Burnt Mountain, or Burnt Hill as it is referred to by the area ski map, is a subpeak of Sugarloaf with outstanding views of its parent peak. It used to only be accessible by foot, but with the addition of catskiing to the mountain, one can take a cat up to just below the summit and ski down. To me, this is a welcome addition given the fact that it makes the sidecountry a little more accessible for those who want to do laps without compromising the isolation and thrill of the area.
Lauren and I took the shuttle up to the ski base, grabbed an uphill pass, and traversed over and walked some of the roads toward the Burnt Mountain Trail. We essentially followed the cat track all the way up to the "logging area," which is the base camp for the catskiiers.
From here we got a little off track, following an existing skin track, and we had to backtrack. We decided to take the steep cat track to the summit from here, which was easy going given its groomed nature.
At the catski high camp, we continued up on an established skin track to the summit and soaked in the views with only one other person.
The skiing down was great, but very short given the two hour effort to get to the top. Nevertheless, it was a fun alternative to skiing at the resort with some non-icy glades!
It's taken quite a bit of time to get this post up, and by now over a month later, there is most definitely snow on the trails. But all the more reason to get out the snowshoes and take a walk in the woods!
Bovenzi Park resides at the end of a cul-de-sac right off of I-190 on Sunrise Ave. That is the trailhead that we accessed the park from, but there is frontage elsewhere. For a convenient map, visit this link.
The park itself is quiet notwithstanding its location directly next to a major interstate highway. The trails are a bit tricky to navigate, but there are blazes to help guide the way. There are two major trails: the East-West and the North-South paths, with some random spur paths off to the side. We took both major paths and we found that the North-South was easier to follow and made for an enjoyable post-work jog through the woods.
There's nothing quite like exploring the trails in your own city that you never knew about!
Day two of our ski trip turned out to be another day of no skiing. We weren't interested in carving ice in sub ten degree weather. Instead, we headed toward Mount Hunger, a very popular Vermont hike right next to the Ben and Jerry's/Cabot Cheese factories (yes, we went to both after we were done).
But before our libations, we headed up the short, but very steep and steady Waterbury Trail. It was packed down very nicely, but a bit icy. Not so icy that you would need crampons, but definitely icy enough to require *sharp* microspikes.
We made great timing up the trail despite its unrelenting slope. It heads uphill with very little relief all the way to the summit, and the conditions were excellent, though slippery in spots. We had to dodge a few ice patches here and there, especially up high.
The summit was wonderful. You don't get windless, bluebird days often in the winter, and despite being cold, we stayed quite warm the entire hike. For a short hike, it's definitely one of the best ones I've done in New England for bang for your buck, with views of NY, Vermont, and NH peaks.
We were supposed to ski over the weekend, but the rain, melt, and refreeze had different plans for us. Instead of heading up to Sugarbush, Lauren and I opted to hike Camel's Hump. I'd done it from the Burrows Trail, so we went for the Monroe Trail this time around.
We began our hike about .4 miles from the actual trailhead at the winter trailhead. We ran into a woman who had lost her husky shortly after starting, but was told by other hikers that the dog was following other people up the mountain.
As we climbed up the steady, easy slope, we noted how good the microspike conditions were. No snowshoes were needed, but that will surely change with the incoming snowstorm this week. Eventually we ran into a party who was being followed by the dog, and we shared the woman's info with them.
The slope continued to be steady for the remainder of the hike, as we headed through the junction with the Alpine Trail. When we got to the final junction before the summit, we ran into some skiers who had taken the same trail as us. Though we had considered taking our skis up the very much doable Monroe Trail, we made the right decision with the icy snow.
Atop the summit, we were graced with bluebird skies and -20 wind chills. We didn't spend much time there before retracing our steps and heading back to the car the way we came!