Date Hiked: 7/29/12
Trails(s) Hiked: Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, Mt. Tom Spur, Willey Ridge Trail
Total Distance: 9.21 miles
Conditions: Cloudy, humid, some rain
Special Required Equipment: Trekking pole(s)
On Sunday a few of us headed up to take down three 4Kfters in one go: Mt. Tom (4,051 ft.), Mt. Field (4,340 ft.), and Mt. Willey (4,285 ft.). We started out at the Highland Center at Crawford Notch and immediately met the first challenge of the day: finding the trailhead. It's located behind the train stop with a small white sign that does not say Avalon Trail. Look for the huge "CRAWFORD" bush and you'll find it.
A cloudy day in the mountains...
Once on the trail we began a rather gradual ascent up the Avalon Trail. The course crosses over a few small streams and is pretty easy going for the most part. After about 1.2 miles the trail splits with the Avalon Trail veering off to the left towards its eponym, Mt. Avalon. We stayed the course on the A-Z Trail in search of Mt. Tom.
The A-Z Trail gets a bit steeper and has some mossy waterfalls that made for nice scenery - something we appreciated on this cloudy day. The narrow trail continues 1.1 miles to the Mt. Tom Spur, a steep half-mile jaunt up to the wooded summit of Mt. Tom. At the crest of the summit head to the left to find the cairn. We passed the cairn and continued on a very narrow trail to a small clearing that offered some nice views through the trees - a good spot to sit and enjoy a snack before continuing on to Field.
Back down the Spur to A-Z, we continued on the A-Z trail for only 100 yards until we reached the Willey Ridge Trail. While called a ridge, this trail is completely wooded and climbs about 700 feet over the course of the 0.9 mile trek to Field. The last stretch up to the Mt. Field summit it a very steep and rocky scramble, but the summit was the nicest of the three. The sizable clearing had an overlook to the left affording views back to Mt. Tom and - on a clearer day - back down to Highland Center:
Mt. Tom is out there somewhere...
But we'd be back before too long, so we pressed on.
The last leg over to Willey seemed like more of a descent than ascent (given that we dropped 100 feet, it was). From Field we dropped sharply down and continued a gradual descent after that before finally treading upwards again. The climb to Willey was deceivingly short in that we didn't believe we'd reached the top when we did. The unimpressive summit is simply a pile of rocks in the middle of the trail marking the top. We trudged down the Ridge a few dozen yards just to be sure we weren't missing anything - but that was it!
The Willey summit did have a nice view as the cloud cover began to lift - we almost missed it given the lack of a true summit:
After bagging Willey we made our way back to Field. That steep descent we dropped down from Field? Now a steep ascent to Field. It also started to rain around this time to compound things: slippery slopes make for sloppy hikes. Moving probably too quickly in the rain we departed Field and headed down the Avalon Trail where it again met up with the Willey Ridge. 2.3 miles back to Crawford Station from this intersection, but a chance to hike up to the summit of Mt. Avalon. We passed on that chance since we were already slipping down the mountain and continued down to the intersection of the A-Z trail and back to Crawford Station.
9.21 miles total trip, 5:39 total hike time. You can check out my Tracks here or download the GPX data here.
I wonder if I use a baby carrier if it's possible to go on shorter hikes or if that is just a ridiculous idea. I'm itching to get out in the woods.
Check the weather around the day you hike, though. The streams at the lower sections have a tendency to make the trail very wet and some can be difficult to pass if there has been a lot of recent rainfall. While it rained on the actual day of my hike, the weather was pretty dry before so the creeks were low and passing was no trouble.
Good luck and hope you enjoy it!
There are a series of wooden steps/ladders on the south side of Willey that could present some problems for dogs, but most dogs can easily navigate around them. Otherwise it's a good route for dogs, no exposure to speak of.
Ended up hiking Field and Wiley last week and enjoyed, came down the series of ladders that Dave referenced with the dog and that was a bit of a pain - had to pull the fellow down due to the steepness. I thought the views were much better than advertised. Made it over to Zealand hut for first time which is very nice, already making plans to be back this Fall. Stunning how much drier Crawford Notch is right now compared to Franconia, the various streams are just a trickle. Started out at Wiley house and hiked up Kendron Flume Trail which is nice too.
Glad you had a good hike! Sounds like you came up the other side of Willey than I did. I'm heading to Zealand on 9/8 for the Flags on the 48 - we'll be stopping in at the hut I'm sure.
I did find Crawford much drier. The whole Carter range was very wet this weekend (though we had some good rains), but Crawford has been dry all season, especially compared to Franconia as you said. Fishin' Jimmy always seems to be a sogfest.
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