The White Mountains National Forest annually plays host to more visitors than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, but you won't find any evidence of them on this loop, which whisks you away from the main drag and sets you down in the midst of northwoods solitude. What you will find is a sampling of White Mountain environments: white birch forests, beaver ponds, bogs, wind-swept high-country, and the Granite State's trademark boulder-strewn streams.
Figure conservatively on your mileage for this 21-mile loop. You'll want to give yourself at least three days. The trail includes more than 5,000 feet of climbing, and some of that will require using your hands and maybe even handing up your pack to an accommodating hiking partner. A good rule of thumb is that 1 White Mountain mile equals 1.5, and sometimes even 2, of the "normal" kind.
A highlight (and high point) of this hike is a climb up to 4843-foot Carter Dome, from which you'll have a spectacular view of the Presidential Range. The Appalachian Mountain Club operates a hut nearby, in Carter Notch. Finally, you can either shorten the loop slightly (by means of a cutoff along the Black Angel Trail) or lengthen it considerably (using the Moriah Brook Trail and a few miles of the Appalachian Trail).
Location: White Mountains National Forest, Northeastern New Hampshire. The trailhead is located at Wild River Campground, about 6 miles from NH Route 113 on Wild River Road.
Distance: 29 Miles; 42-mile option.
Maps: White Mountain trails are well marked and well-mapped. AMC Map 7 ("Carter-Mahoosuc). Also, AMC White Mountain Guide.
Contact: Order map and guidebooks from Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02108, (1-800-262-4455).
The Route: Clockwise, this route runs along the following trails starting at Wild River Campground: Basin, Basin River, Meadow Ridge, Eagle Link, Trail 164, Rainbow, Appalachian, Black Angel, and Highwater.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication