Best Backpacking Trips in New England: Life List Hikes

These two hikes represent New England's epic best—multi-day trips that offer spectacular scenery, outrageous trails, and eye-popping views. Text excerpted from my book, AMC's Best Backpacking Trips in New England. Learn more this Thursday, May 27 at 7 p.m.—I'll be giving a slide show and presentation at REI in Reading, Mass., to highlight favorite trips and photos from the book. (Here's the REI listing for the show.)

The Great Gulf and Northern PresidentialsThe Great Gulf carves deep into the mountains, guarded thousands of feet overhead by the peaks of the northern Presidentials. The Peabody River is born here, tearing down a steep and boulder-strewn watershed. At the head of the lake, tiny Spaulding Lake glistens in an amphitheater of cliffs. Come travel the Gulf to its highest headwaters, then journey above it on the alpine spine of the Presidential Range.

Distance: 19.3 miles round-trip
Route: Great Gulf Trail to Gulfside Trail (AT) via headwall; north over Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison; return via the Osgood Trail
Note: Strenuous (7,000'+ total elevation gain). Overnight sites are limited. AMC's Madison Hut and Randolph Mountain Club's Crag Camp excellent ridgeline options. No camping in Great Gulf above the Sphinx Trail.

Katahdin/Russell Pond LoopSurrounded on three sides by the soaring granite cliffs of Katahdin, Chimney Pond nestles in the mountainous heart of Baxter State Park. Overhead looms mile-high Baxter Peak--northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail--which is connected to neighboring Pamola Peak by a mile-long arete known as the Knife Edge. From the pond and its adjacent campground, wild and adventurous trails scrape their way up the mountain flanks.
On the far, northern side of the mountain is a landscape as hauntingly wild as anywhere in New England. It is a world of alpine plateaus, rushing rivers, remote ponds, and hidden valleys. A multi-day journey with stops at Chimney, Davis, and Russell ponds experiences all the highlights of Baxter State Park.

Distance: 6.6 miles round-trip to Chimney Pond; 11.0 miles round-trip via Baxter Peak, Knife Edge, and Pamola Peak; 19.8 miles round-trip via Chimney, Davis, and Russell ponds loop.
Route: For Katahdin: Chimney Pond Trail to Cathedral Trail, across Knife Edge, return via Dudley Trail. For ponds loop: Chimney Pond Trail to Saddle Trail to Northwest Basin Trail, return via Russell Pond Trail.
Notes: Strenuous hiking. Scrambling skills essential. Advance reservations are required and essential for overnight sites. Chimney Pond is the hardest to get, though space is still available for many dates this summer as of May 24. Check out current availability. Here's the park's camping and reservations page.

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

Labels: ,