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New Hampshire

Backpack the Pemi Loop

32 Miles Total - 9000 ft gain - Loop Trail

Originally added by Ryan Mulvey

Summit multiple of New Hampshire's 4k footers on this arduous 30 mile round trip backpacking route chock full of scenic views, challenging ascents, above the treeline hiking, unstable weather, and platform campsites.

This round trip loop is the combination of many trails within the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We chose to this hike up into a 3 day backpacking trip although we came across some particularly adventurous folks who were doing it in 2 and even 1 day. We also came across hikers less pressed for time who meandered along the loop over 4-5 days. 

Day 1: 7.3 miles: Mt. Flume, Mt. Liberty, Liberty Spring Campsite

My friend and I arrived at the state park lot and after registering our car and donning our packs we set out on our excursion. We crossed the suspension bridge and accidentally turned left which we shortly figured out was entirely wrong. After righting ourselves we had a peaceful walk through the woods for about 1.5 miles along the Lincoln Woods Trail. From here you can either go Clockwise or CCW, we chose to go CW so as to get the tougher part of the trail out of the way early on. We turned west and began our ascent up Mt. Flume using the Osseo Trail. Though it is the largest change in altitude you'll experience along the loop this ascent involves straightforward switchbacks through densely forested terrain. Make sure to break up the endless climb by gazing out over the rolling hills of the White Mountain National Forest while enjoying some well deserved trail mix at the multiple lookout points. Once you break the treeline there are breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and a buffeting wind that threatens to knock you off the ridge. On our particular journey we were surprised with a small snow flurry; a sign of things to come for Day 2. Not long after the summit and 7 miles into the hike we took a left onto Liberty Spring Trail and made our way down a rocky hill to our first campsite. The Liberty Spring campground, 7.7 miles from the trailhead is populated with many platformed sites, a spring-fed water source, and bear-safe food storage.

Day 2: 13.2 Miles - Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Garfield, South Twin, Guyot Campsite (With the option for Mt. Guyot and Zealand Mountain)

Overnight we experienced a frozen rain mixture and did particularly enjoy packing up our wet tent with our frozen hands. However, the overnight weather had transformed our surroundings into a frozen forest like something out that disney movie. So Olaf and Sven set out on a chilly morning for the Franconia Ridge and the tallest of the mountains we would climb, Mt. Lafayette. After ascending Little Haystack and breaking the treeline our environment transformed into a snow covered, windy ridge. The views from the ridge on a clear day are simply incredible, or so I'm told, however with clouds being the only things in view I was more focused on where I placed my feet to prevent being swept over the edge. After summitting Mt. Lafayette the trail turns into Garfield Ridge/AT so we took this to Mt. Garfield. After breaking back into the treeline the wind left us and forest went from snow covered to dripping wet causing us to shed a layer, something I was doing and undoing a lot of. From the base of an old fire tower Mt. Garfield awarded us with fantastic views of Franconia ridge and the valley below. The Garfield Ridge Campsite is an excellent place to stay for 2-day hikers as it's the exact middle of the loop and a great spot to fill up on water. The climb down from Mt. Garfield involved a water fall, difficult rock formations, and excellent views of North and South Twin mountains. After descending the Galehead Hut comes up shortly and is just off the trail, it really had us wishing for the refreshments it serves in season. We continued to the toughest part of the entire trail, the ascent up South Twin, it's .8 miles straight up, we incorporated frequent stops to check out views of the way we had just come and catch our breath. This is also the most rewarding part of the trail because after the intense climb there are excellent views of the Presidentials, Franconia Ridge, and Bondcliff. We took advantage of the views and had a nice respite before continuing on to our Guyot Campsite (approximately 3 miles) via the Twinway to Bondcliff trail. This may have been my favorite part of the trip; after two miles of forest we emerged onto an open ridge and the sun was setting behind Franconia Ridge providing a fantastic feeling of contentedness. We arrived at Guyot Campsite and enjoyed a nice hot meal, refilled our waters at the spring, and tucked our spare food in the bear boxes. We stayed in a newly built enclosure off the ground with a few other hikers that was much warmer than the frozen tent platforms would have been.

Day 3: 11.3 Miles - Mt. Bond and Bondcliff (With the option for West Bond)

This was easily my least favorite day of the entire trip. The overnight rain and freezing temperatures turned the rocky trail into an ice rink. An uneven ice rink where a fall could result in more than simply a bruised bottom. The rain did not let up the entire day, soaking us to our souls. After summitting Mt. Bond and Bondcliff the trail turned into what would would have been a nice stroll through the woods if it had not been a torrential downpour. This would have possibly been my favorite part of trail given the amount of above the tree line trail and challenging rocky terrain if not for the conditions. I was the happiest man alive when I finally sank my teeth into the egg sandwich I had been daydreaming about since I woke up that day.

Information:

  • Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, located 5.6 miles east on Rt. 112 from exit 32 on I-93
  • Recreation Fee of $5 per day for leaving car at Lincoln Woods Visitor Center 

Trail Route: 

  • Lincoln Woods Trail for 1.4 miles
  • Reach Osseo Trail Junction
  • Turn left onto Osseo
  • Start ascent up Mt. Flume (5.3) 4328' - largest elevation push
  • Continue on Franconia Ridge to Mt. Liberty (CAMPSITE - .3mi on left after Mt. Liberty, 7.3mi total), Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette
  • Trail turns into Garfield Ridge/AT to Mt. Garfield
  • Galehead lodge (15.5)
  • Continue on Twinway to South Twin Mountain and Mount Guyot
  • CAMPSITE - Guyot (20.5mi)
  • West Bond is a must do spur trail of 1 mile (Weather Permitting)
  • Leave AT for Bondcliff Trail up Mt. Bound and Bondcliff
  • Descend Bondcliff to meet up with Lincoln Woods Trail
  • Take LW Trail back to the suspension bridge and your car

Necessities:

  • Microspikes - if hiking in late Fall, Winter, and early Spring
  • at least 50oz of water plus treatment devices
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Tags

Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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