Weekend Backpacker: Boston
White Mountain National Forest
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
P.O. Box 298
Gorham, NH 03581
FAX: (603) 466-3871
New England hikers gravitate toward"the Whites," thinking of the Presidential Range north of Crawford Notch as THE place to go. True, but also crowded. As an alternative weekend wilderness backpacking trip in the Whites, try Sandwich Mountain, which features fine views just a short ride from Boston that aren't obscured by hordes of hikers. Located in the southern section of White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), Sandwich lets you avoid the tourist/traffic trap at Conway, New Hampshire. Though forested at its 3,993-foot peak, Sandwich offers numerous fine views from ledges, and our route up uses Black Mountain is no exception.
Day one: This 13-mile backpacking trip includes an overnight stay at a shelter or its adjacent tent site. It requires an early start on day one, when the bulk of the climbing is done. About 7.5 miles, mostly on the Algonquin Trail, takes you up Black Mountain's challenging south face. Beech and birch forest, exposed cols, numerous brooks, and a few decidedly steep pitches are the agenda. At some points you may need to hand packs up to an advance person. Views into Sandwich Notch are the payoff. After Black Mountain's western summit at 2,732 feet, the climb continues up a forested ridge toward the eastern peak. Before you get there, stash your pack at the shelter, down Black Mountain Pond Trail (right) to the pond.
To summit, rejoin the Algonquin Trail, cross the higher eastern top of Black Mountain, and ascend finally on Sandwich Mountain Trail to Sandwich Dome (3,993 feet). Partial views here let you peer into Waterville Valley. The return trip takes you back to the shelter, a steep descent.
Day two: Today's 5.5 mile walk, beginning south on the Black Mountain Pond Trail, is much less challenging than yesterday, though it's wet due to beaver activity. After crossing Beebe River (a brook), turn right to follow the Guinea Pond Trail out to Sandwich Notch Road, where a right turn over a bridge and a roadwalk of about 1.5 miles returns you to the start.
I-93 north from Boston, continuing into New Hampshire to Exit 28 for Campton. Drive east on Rte. 49 (Waterville Valley Rd.) about 3.5 miles, turn right onto Sandwich Notch Rd., and continue south about 3.8 miles to Algonquin Tail (starts on logging road). Park at roadside.
To avoid a possible $50 parking ticket, get a White Mountain National Forest Parking Pass ($5-good for seven days) at USFS ranger stations (the one in Plymouth, New Hampshire, is nearby) or at outfitters or commercial campgrounds in the area around Waterville. The pass is not available at the Sandwich Mountain trailhead.
Daniel Doan's 50 Hikes in the White Mountains : Hikes and Backpacking Trips in the High Peaks Region of New Hampshire (Countryman). Our recommended hike is described in detail in this guide. Also look for the "Trail Map and Guide to the White Mountain National Forest" (Delorme Maps). The hike area cuts across 4 USGS 7 1/2' maps (awkward to carry).
Don't leave valuables in your car at this remote location. Do let friends or WMNF officials know your itinerary.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication