5 Must See Trails in the WMNF – Number 1!

Great Gulf Trail


The view  as you approach Spaulding Lake

The view as you approach Spaulding Lake

History: The Wilderness Act of 1964 officially protected the Great Gulf as the first designated Wilderness area in the White Mountains. It now encompasses 5,658 acres of definitively perceptible wild land, home to tumbling waterfalls, rugged trails, and rapture-inducing forest spans.

One of the grandest characters in the Great Gulf’s history was intrepid trailblazer Warren W. Hart. Hart first entered the still relatively untrammeled Great Gulf in 1908 and envisioned a trail network there of a difficulty caliber still uncontested in the remainder of the White Mountains. Over the next three years as AMC’s councilor of improvements, he cut not only the Great Gulf Trail, but nine others including the infamous Six Husbands Trail and the now abandoned Adams Slide Trail.

Morning sun lights up the singletrack

Morning sun lights up the singletrack

Beta: Approximately 7.4 miles long, 4,650 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot just off of NH 16 to the Gulfside Trail Junction. Climb and additional half mile or so to summit Washington.

There is notably varied footing among this trail, including narrow, mossy singletrack, slick slab scrambles, a pleasant section of old logging road, and talus hopping. The prevalence of water along this trail can mean mud, so be prepared with proper footwear.

The Northern Presidentials with tiny Spaulding Lake from above

The Northern Presidentials with tiny Spaulding Lake from above

Climbing the headwall out of the Great Gulf is a truly visceral experience. As you pass Spaulding Lake, the views open and the Northern Presidentials rise high and rim the breathtaking landscape.
Navigating the talus can be challenging; look for blazes and cairns and be aware. This trail is generally recommended for ascent rather than descent.
Cascades abound right along the path

Cascades abound right along the path

Why:The Great Gulf is the most expansive glacial cirque in the White Mountains. It sits on the eastern side of the Northern Presidential Range, which boasts the highest peaks in New England. The great crescent arm of these summits extends northeastward and envelops the massive bowl, which is drained by the West Branch of the Peabody River. The trail follows this drainage to the headwall, passing several pleasant waterfalls and the diminutive but stunning Spaulding Lake.

There are several designated campsites along the trail. Other options nearby include Osgood Tentsite and AMC’s Madison Spring Hut (not open year round, reservations required.) Please know Wilderness backcountry camping regulations prior to hitting the trail.

About The Author

Elizabeth Kane

Elizabeth’s love for the White Mountains is unparalleled. Despite working 40-50 hours/week, she manages to spend every spare minute in the Whites and her knowledge of the trail system is impressive. Her pup, Katahdin has likely logged more hours on the trails and tagged more summits than most do in their lifetime. On any given day, you can find Elizabeth hiking, trail running, fly fishing, climbing, mountain biking, or backpacking. She considers the White Mountains her home and we think that is pretty darn great! We are honored to have Elizabeth and Katahdin as NEM Ambassadors!

Keeping Up With Elizabeth Kane


Calling all talented writers, photographers and creatives with a passion for the outdoors to join our Brand Ambassador Team.