So we took the big packs out and prepared for the biggest adventure of the season so far – we tackled Mount Washington, Clay, Jefferson, Adams and Madison and it was awesome!
We left the car at the Gulf Wilderness Parking (Trailhead is located on the west side of NH Route 16, about 1.5 mi. south of the junction with Dolly Copp Rd.) and took the Great Gulf Trail. The trail follows the West Branch of the Peabody River through the Great Gulf Wilderness, climbs the headwall (very steep and rough), and ends at the junction with the Gulfside Trail 0.5 mi. below the summit of Mt. Washington.
We decided to divide the hike in 3 days, the second being the longest and hardest.
On the 1st day we walked 5/6 miles to the tent site we chose to spend the night. There are 5 of them scattered around (the first 3 ones are fairly close to the beginning and have bear boxes). We were a few steps away from water and roughly a mile away from where the trail would get hard. If you decide to keep going, be aware that there are no really good (compliant) spots for camping, so keep your eyes open.
If you have the time, enjoy the view of the Boulder Falls
The next morning we started making our way up – the trail is as beautiful as it is challenging! You’ll see the Weetamoo Falls, Spaulding Lake and the Great Gulf will soon be down below as you climb the great Gulf Headwall (get your mountain goat mode on and be prepared for a LONG, HARD, climb/rock climb)
Be prepared to take twice as long as you thought and for really cold/windy weather when you get to the top of Washington (that averages 300 days of fog a year). I’m not going to lie, I was somewhat disappointed that after all the hard work, we weren’t able to enjoy the view (on clear days you can see 5 states and Canada – now that we’ve hiked it, I say we can “cheat” and next time maybe take the Railway Cog and wait for the weather to change 😉 )
After a most deserved break (it was very weird to be at the of a mountain that has a store and a cafe (cash only), but I must say that the hot chocolate I had there tasted like the best I have ever had!!) we headed to Mount Clay followed by Jefferson and Adams. Although the worst of the climb is over, the terrain is very rocky and not easy on the feet or knees, so be careful. The weather was cold, cloudy and windy so the views were somewhat limited at times, still, it was worth every second of it.
After Adams we made our way down to the Valley Way Tentsite – at this point there is no caretaker and there are between 6 to 7 sites.
Saturday morning we left Valley Way and headed to Madison Spring Hut to refill our bottles/bladders and up Madison we went for the last peak of the hike (Osgood Trail). The weather was perfect and the sky as blue and clear as can be! We had the summit to ourselves for a good 30 minutes so we were able to enjoy the view, the silence and take it all in!!
Like the ascent, the descent is through very rocky terrain – be careful. Make sure your footing is secure as some of the rocks are pretty wobbly. Make sure you look back – you’ll be able to see the ridge and all the peaks you walked!
This is a hard hike that will put a lot on your knees and feet, mostly due to the terrain. As for me, I’m still not feeling my knees 100%! So, take your time, take it easy and enjoy!!