Hike the Tom, Field, Willey and Avalon Traverse

Rate this Adventure AMC Highland Center

Peakbagging in the White Mountains at its finest. This day trek covers four peaks, three 4,000 footers, and can be done in just over 10 miles.

For hikers en route to climbing the 67 4,000 footers of Northern New England, or for those looking for a day-long mini-adventure, this four-peaks-in-one traverse is a spectacular must. Mount Tom, Mount Field, and Mount Willey are all above 4,000 feet, and Mount Avalon caps at 3,442 feet. The total distance to see all four is 10.2 miles round trip.

The trail begins at the AMC Highland Center on Route 302 in Crawford Notch, the heart of the White Mountains. The center and surrounding area is a hub for leaf peepers in the autumn and can get busy in nice weather with people flittering about (i.e. unexpectedly stopping on the side of the road for photo ops). From this entrance, ascents begin on the Avalon Trail, passing a left turn to head to Mount Willard (not to be confused with Mount Willey) and a short cascades loop, also on the left. These are side trails that do not intersect with the larger traverse. The trail climbs gradually along this initial section, which leads to two “exstream” crossings and to an intersection to head left to Mt. Avalon or right to the A-Z Trail and Mount Tom Spur Trail. Hikers can decide here which direction they’d like their loop to go. For those who choose Mount Tom first, the climb becomes much more steep, with giant boulder slabs to scramble over. The peak of Tom holds a giant cairn to mark the summit, but it does not have a view of the surrounding mountains. This is simply a peakbagging summit.

Head back down the Spur Trail, continue on the A-Z Trail, and cross the intersection to take a slight left onto the Willey Range Trail to find Mount Field. Here the trail becomes moderate to difficult with additional steep slab scrambling, distance, and challenging trail conditions. Mount Field’s summit is similar to Mount Tom in that a giant cairn greets hikers and there is not much in the way of a surrounding mountains viewpoint; however, the surrounding forest and wildlife are beautiful here. Hikers will find this to be a great place to sit on a rock, take a break, have a snack, and be harassed by aggressive gray jays (definitely a thing in the White Mountains).

Hitting the saddle between Field and Willey, the trail becomes very narrow, steep, and can be muddy, making for a tough slog in imperfect conditions. This is also where hikers will be treated to a view of the surrounding area when the trail heads up to Mount Willey. The third and final summit has an overlook (and another giant cairn), and during the high point of fall foliage, it can be the exquisite display hikers have been waiting for. This is also a great place for hikers to enjoy a well deserved break and take in the scenery.

Taking the Willey Range Trail back to re-summit Mount Field, hikers then can turn onto the Avalon Trail to climb their fourth and final peak. With steep, wet and rocky conditions, this portion of the trail can hinder those who have a need for speed on the descent. New England hiking is no joke. The summit to Mount Avalon is a sharp right turn off of this trail and climbs steeply to a limited viewpoint. This is a nice place to take a final break. Hikers can easily descend at a full clip, as the trail becomes less steep and less slippery (aside from the two “exstream” crossings that had been traversed earlier, as this is where the loop portion brings the trek back to the start and back to the parking lot).

Hikers looking to enjoy a full autumnal experience in the White Mountains, need look no further, as this mountain traverse has much to offer the nature lover. There are stunning views, foliage, fun, steep scrambles and unexpected reveals if one is lucky enough to encounter a cloudless ascent above 4,000 feet. This trek can garner appreciation for one’s surroundings, revealing a certain beauty that may be missed otherwise. If you are in the area during early to mid October, be sure to stop at the Willey Pond House in Crawford Notch State Park for more gorgeous scenery and perfect foliage views. One to remember, one to share, one to repeat.

Tips for safe and happy hiking in the mountains of New England

The mountains may not be higher than 6,288 feet above sea level, but they are no joke and not to be taken lightly. Always remember to bring ample food and water if you'll be taking a long trek. Bring a knife, headlamp and water filtration system just in case. Wear sturdy, slip-resistant, waterproof boots. Take a buddy or tell someone where you will be going and approximately how long it will take you. Bring layers (i.e. a baselayer long sleeve shirt, a mid-layer fleece, and a waterproof jacket). Make sure to bring a hat, gloves, wear thicker wool socks, and bring an extra pair in case your feet get wet. The terrain is always difficult; roots, loose gravel, mud, large slabs of rock can be slippery and dangerous. The weather can change quickly. If it looks like it’s going to rain or storm, turn around and head down as long as it’s safe to walk the trail; otherwise, seek shelter if you can. Make sure your phone is fully charged. Your GPS should be on, and at certain points you can get signal. Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy it while you can, and take it all in because not everyone will get to experience it.

Pack List

  • Layers (base layer, mid layer, waterproof jacket)
  • Gloves, hat, wool socks, extra pair of socks
  • Sturdy, slip-resistant, waterproof hiking boots (not shoes)
  • High protein snacks (i.e. protein bars, fruit, nuts, salmon sticks, etc.)
  • Water and filtration system
  • Pocket knife
  • Headlamp
  • Fully charged phone
  • Camera
  • Trekking poles
  • Open minded attitude (the weather won't always be perfect, so just go with the flow)
Show More
RT Distance 10.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 3300 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Snowshoeing, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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