Hiking the Mt. Willard Trail, Bretton Woods, NH

Climbing Mt. Willard in Carroll, NHLocation: Mt. Willard, Bretton Woods, NH
Date: February 2, 2013
Distance: 4.05 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1020 feet
Our Hiking Time: 4.5 hours roundtrip
Trail Blaze: Yellow Rectangles
Difficulty: Moderate

This past weekend, I traveled to New Hampshire with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunity Program (YOP) to take part in a Winter Exploration Workshop. As part of our training, we donned micro-spikes and hiked up Mt. Willard in Carroll, NH.

We set off from the Shapleigh Bunkhouse at the AMC Highland Center, where we’d spent the night, and headed to the Crawford Notch Depot. After crossing the train tracks, we arrived at the trailhead for the Avalon Trail. Our original plan was to climb Mt. Avalon, but we didn’t get very far before coming to a very high, very fast Crawford Brook. The previous few days had brought unseasonably warm temperatures and several inched of rain, turning what had been solid ice just a week before into dangerous, rushing water. We scouted the area, but could find no safe passage and had to turn back.

Crawford Brook, Bretton Woods, NH

The Avalon Trail made impassable by the rushing waters of the Crawford Brook.

We returned to the trail’s intersection with the Mt. Willard Trail, and decided to see if we coud ascend Mt. Willard. Luckily, the stream cutting through the trail was frozen solid in several places, allowing us to reach the other side of the snow-covered trail.

Mt. Willard Trail, Bretton Woods, NH

Crossing over the frozen water leading to the Mt. Willard trail in Bretton Woods, NH.

The climb up the mountain was fairly easy. After a small, moderate climb, we came to the Centennial Pool. When the mountain isn’t covered in snow, you can reach the shore of the pool by climbing down a set of small stone steps. With the amount of snow and ice that was left on the ground, we settled for tiptoeing close to the edge to take pictures of the waterfall feeding the pool below.

Centennial Pool on the Mt. Willard Trail in Bretton Woods, NH

Centennial Pool on the Mt. Willard Trail in Bretton Woods, NH

After a bit more uphill climbing, the trail eased through a gorgeous tree-lined path that led to a cropping of rocky ledges overlooking Crawford Notch.

Mt. Willard Trail in Bretton Woods, NH

It was surprisingly calm on the ledges, which allowed us time to rest and eat lunch. We admired the view as snow began falling gently upon us. A devilish red-squirrel attempted to steal some of our crumbs, to no avail.

A red squirrel atop Mt. Willard in Bretton Woods, NH.

My YOP group atop Mt. Willard in Bretton Woods, NH.

The descent down the trail was fairly quick, save for the time it took for us to do a hypothermia scenario. It wasn’t long before we were back at the trailhead, and crossing the railroad tracks to the Crawford Depot.

The Crawford Depot in Bretton Woods, NH.

It was a great hike, and my first winter hike using micro-spikes. They were awesome, providing great traction on the snow and ice. I am definitely going to have to invest in a pair. The hike itself was easy enough that I think Addie might be able to tackle it with me next summer.

Directions to the trailhead:

The trailhead is located behind the Crawford Depot/Macomber Information Center off US 302, next to the AMC Highland Center.

From the East: Follow US 302 west at Glen where it splits from NH 16. US 302 passes through Bartlett, then heads north through Crawford Notch. At the top of the Notch, roughly 20 miles from the junction of NH 16 and US 302, the road goes through a narrow pass between two cliffs. The parking area for Crawford Depot, is a few hundred yards up the road on the left.

From the West: Take US 302 east. Crawford Depot is on the right just beyond the turnoff for the AMC’s Highland Center, about eight miles south of the junction of US 302 and US 3.

About Jen

Outdoor adventurer and traveler. Writer, Photographer & Communications Professor. Wife. Mom of twins plus one. Tubbs Snowshoes Ambassador. Blogger at gayfamilytrips.com.

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