Valley Way is the access route to Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams most travelled by, and for winter hiking that makes all the difference. The easiest and most direct route to Madison Hut, hikers come one and all for day hikes to the aforementioned summits, overnights at the Valley Way Campsite or above treeline (winter only), to venture into the Great Gulf for ice climbing, or to begin treks across the Presidential Range.
A fresh coat of snow, drizzled in hues of blue from the early morning light, blanketed the Mt. Moosilauke field. The snow was broken only by a classical cross country ski track showing the way. To the west, through the towering trees, the hills were awash in sunlight, fulfilling the promise of a rare cloudless day. The ascent of Mt. Moosilauke via the Glencliff Trail (also the Appalachian Trail) was just beginning, and already it was hard not to love this idyllic winter hike.
The Appalachian Trail’s northbound ascent of Baldpate Mountain from Grafton Notch is a rocky, bruising trail in the summer that crushes the hopes of thru hikers looking for an easy stretch after the rigorous Mahoosuc Range. Add snow and this hike transforms into a backcountry winter wonderland where you’re more likely to encounter a moose than a fellow hiker.
It was nine degrees in the Lafayette Place parking lot and the car was getting blasted by wind. At a little past seven on a February morning, I had a good mind to retreat home to the warmth of my down comforter. Fortunately, common sense was in short supply.
You can’t sleep. You toss. You turn. Visions of the “world’s worst weather” pummel the sugar plum fairies trying to dance through your head. Bitter cold. Biting winds. Fickly visibility. Winter hiking Mt. Washington—New England’s highest peak at 6,288 feet—is all fun and games with the added disclaimer of avalanche danger.
At 281.4 miles, Maine accounts for only 13 percent of the entire 2,178.3-mile Appalachian Trail, a far cry from being the longest of the 14 trail states. Statistics, however, are for maps. Ask anyone who has completed the entire trail and they’ll likely tell you Maine is the toughest state.
Northeast Hikes is on the hunt for the best New England hiking in Maine and New Hampshire, from Katahdin to Mt. Washington and everything in between. Appalachian Trail hikers past, present and future are invited to follow along with the Maine and New Hampshire section hiking blogs.
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