White Mountain National Forest

Caps Ridge Trail-Mt. Jefferson Summit

CAUTION! Harsh weather conditions and sudden violentstorms are common in this area and have claimed many lives. Thelast mile of the Caps Ridge Trail is totally above timberlineand is exposed to the full force of these storms. Plan ahead andcarry extra clothing and food while hiking in this area. Rememberthat storms quickly increase in severity above treeline. If youexperience difficulty, TURN BACK before it is too late!The Caps Ridge Trail is the highest trailhead on a public roadin the White Mountains. The trail starts at 3008 feet in the parking lot at the height-of-land on the Jefferson NotchRoad and ends on the summit of Mt. Jefferson (5715 feet).Trail length is 2.5 miles. The Jefferson Notch Road, commissionedin 1903 as the highest maintained New Hampshire state throughway, providesthis convenient access to the third highest peak in the WhiteMountains.

Although this is the shortest trail to timberline in the WhiteMountains, it is very steep, rocky, and difficult. From the parkinglot the trail steadily ascends the lower part of the ridge. At1 mile the trail opens up to the first views of Mt. Jefferson.The Link Trail enters from the left at 1.1 miles, connecting theCaps Ridge Trail to the Castle Trail.

The trail steepens as it follows the narrow crest of the ridge.Presenting greater challenges, it reaches the lowest cap (4400 feet)at 1.5 miles. The entirely open trail continues very steeply at1.8 miles to the highest cap (4830 feet). At 2.1 miles, it crossesthe Cornice Trail, which leads to the Castle Trail (left) and MonticelloLawn (right) and other points south. The Caps Ridge Trail continuesup the cone to reach the summit at 2.5 miles. Then it descendsthe backside a short distance, terminating at its intersectionwith the Jefferson Loop, Six Husbands, and Castle Trails.Access: From Rte. 302 turn onto the Cog Railway/BaseStation Road, approximately 4.5 miles east from Rte. 3 in TwinMountain. Follow the Base Station Road for approximately 4.5 milesto the intersection with the Jefferson Notch and Mt. Clinton Roads.Turn left onto the Jefferson Notch Road for 3.3 miles to the parkinglot/trailhead.

Camping Regulations are in effect. Camping and fires are prohibited:

• above treeline;
• within 1/4 mile of the Jefferson Notch Road from the height-of-land to the Base Station Road. (Gas stoves are permitted.)
• Fire permits are not required to use wood or charcoal fires within non-restricted areas of the White Mountain National Forest. However, you are responsible for any fires you kindle and are subject to a fine and any suppression costs if the fire escapes.

Return to White Mountain Hiking

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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