Last weekend, Caroline and I planned to do the challenging Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, upon seeing the higher summits of the Presidential Range covered in a layer of snow and feeling the bone-chilling wind that blazed through Crawford Notch, we decided that spending three days on the ridge probably wasn’t such a good idea after all.
After overcoming the initial disappointment—we’d both been looking forward to this epic hike for weeks—we realized that we could still make the best of the weekend. So, we decided to do a day hike.
We had planned to leave our car at the trailhead of the Webster-Jackson Trail near Saco Lake in Crawford Notch, which was where we were supposed to end our three-day traverse, before being dropped off at the Appalachia trailhead in Randolph. Now, we decided to go up that trail and see what the conditions were like up on the ridge.
Mount Webster-Mount Jackson Loop
The Webster-Jackson Trail winds its way through the New Hampshire woods and up the flank of the southern Presidential Range for 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) before splitting up into the Webster Trail and Jackson Trail, each leading to their respective summits.
We turned right onto the 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) Webster Trail and toward the 3,910-foot (1,194-meter) summit of Mount Webster. There, it was clear that the summit conditions would be rather harsh. Already there was snow covering the forest floor; some sections of the trail even ran over a few feet of snow.
When we reached the summit, a gale-force wind made it nearly impossible to stand up straight with our backpacks. It immediately became obvious that we’d made the right decision to postpone our Presidential Traverse. Gusts of wind up to 70 mph (112 km/h) combined with an unprotected snow-covered ridge was a potential recipe for disaster (we didn’t have any crampons).
The views from Mount Webster, however, were nothing less than spectacular, taking in the Presidential Range as far as the white snow-wrapped peak of Mount Washington to the north and Crawford Notch to the west.
Near the summit, at the junction of the Webster Trail and the Webster Cliff Trail, which connects the summits of Webster and Jackson, creating this beautiful Mount Webster-Mount Jackson Loop, we threw our packs on the ground and sat down to have some lunch.
More hiking in New Hampshire: Mount Moosilauke
Continuing on after a basic hiker’s lunch, we followed the Webster Cliff Trail for 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) toward the summit of Mount Jackson. A 4,000-footer, Mount Jackson’s summit is 4,052 feet (1,235 meters) high and offers some pretty amazing views as well. Again, it was way too windy to spend too much time on the actual summit, so we decided to continue along the ridge, which at that point was still covered with trees. Patches of snow still covered the trail.
From the summit, we headed to the Nauman Tentsite and Mizpah Spring Hut, where we spent about half an hour eating some snacks.
We’d been walking for about five hours at that point and, after our snack break, we opted not to take in the summit of Mount Pierce as well, but to head back down to our car. The trail between the Mizpah Spring Hut and the parking lot in Crawford Notch is about 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) long and takes about an extra hour and a half.
The whole Mount Webster-Mount Jackson Loop that we did last Saturday was a little more than 8 miles (13 kilometers) long and took us seven hours to complete, including a few breaks to rest, eat and take in the views.
Afterward, we checked in into a motel in North Conway, the colorfully fun tourist hub in the White Mountains, played a game of mini-golf, visited a local brewery and crawled into bed for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
The following day we would change plans again and hike up two of the three Moat Mountains…