4.3 miles to North Twin summit, elevation 4,761 feet
+1.3 miles to South Twin summit, 4,902 feet
6-9 hours (round trip)
Difficulty: Weekend Warriors
A day hike of North and South Twin mountains via the North Twin Trail and the North Twin Spur provides a double dip on the White Mountain Four Thousand Footers list with some of the best views in all of New Hampshire. On the lengthy side for a day hike, this adventure has a good mix of challenging and easy going terrain. The most notable obstacle is the triple crossing of Little River, which can be dangerous when the water is running high. So, naturally, we gave it a go in mid-May.
The hike begins with a leisurely stroll through pristine White Mountain National Forest, reaching the first river crossing at 0.8 miles. Unless you’re intent on getting your feet wet, there’s no point in fording here, as the trail criss crosses the river two more times. A perfectly good side trail continues along the east side of the river, reconnecting with the North Twin Trail at the 1.3 mile mark. Called a “bushwack” in the White Mountain Guide, this alternate route is so well worn now that it might as well be converted into the official trail. While following along this path, it’s hard not to marvel at the purity of the river’s water, which is used as a municipal water supply.
The final crossing takes place 1.9 miles into the hike. There’s a downed tree that reaches across the river from several feet up, for which the brave and nimble footed can use to make their cross. A second, adjacent felled tree doesn’t quite stretch the width of the river, but is useful for keeping balance if you have trekking poles. A little further upriver there are a couple rock hop possibilities, and worse gets to worse, the river is fordable here—in both cases, ONLY at reasonable water levels. While we did this hike in the spring, it was after the snow melt and during a time when there hadn’t been any significant rainfall.
Once past the third crossing, the trail begins its ascent of North Twin Mountain. The calling card of the next two miles is a steep and steady climb with plenty of rocks. Around the four mile mark the trail plateaus and weaves effortlessly through thick krummholz to an open outlook with views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. From here it’s only 0.1 miles to the official, enclosed North Twin summit; however, there’s a short side path that brings hikers to an outlook with views of Mt.Garfield, Mt. Lafayette and the rest of the Franconia Ridge to the west, as well as South Twin Mountain.
The North Twin summit also is the connecting point of the North Twin Spur, leading 1.3 miles to South Twin Mountain. This trail descends 300 feet to a fern-filled low point between the two mountains, a short but steep rock ledge the only mentionable obstacle, then climbs 450 feet to the open summit of South Twin Mountain, which has fast become one of our favorites. Stuck in the middle between Mt. Washington and Mt. Lafayette, with grand views of Mt. Guyot, the Bonds and the Pemigewasset Wilderness, it’s time for a new hobby if you don’t fall in love with this mountaintop.
Follow I-93 north through Franconia Notch and take exit 35 for Route 3. At about 4.5 miles you’ll see a trail sign on the right, which leads to the Garfield trailhead, shortly followed by another sign for the Gale River Trail. Keep going on Route 3 and shortly after the Beaver Brook picnic area you’ll see another hiking trailhead sign for a dirt road on the right. Turn here onto Haystack Road, which has the White Mountain signs at the beginning for the camping regulations, and follow it 2.5 miles to the North Twin Trail parking area.