Spring Hiking Awaits You!

With last weekend's rain showers behind us and the summer-like temperatures from the week before all but a distant memory, it is finally feeling a bit more like a typical spring right now here in Pinkham Notch.  And, as with any typical spring in the White Mountains, there is a lot going on this time of year!

In particular, spring hiking in the Whites can be a challenging activity to prepare for.  Temperatures in the daytime can feel like summer, while the mercury up at the summits and in the evenings can drop below freezing.  Trails at lower elevations can get wet and muddy from snow-melt and run-off, while higher elevations may still have patches of snow and ice.  And as if that weren't enough, late May often sees the emergence of the dreaded black flies.

But there are also plenty of reasons why springtime can be the best season of the year to lace up your waterproof hiking boots, grab your rain jacket, and lather on the bug spray.  Since large crowds often wait until warmer, more consistent weather and the end of the school year, springtime can be a spectacularly quiet and private time to enjoy the backcountry.  Waterfalls, rivers, streams and pools flow with more vigor and intensity due to spring showers and the run-off from melting snow and ice up above.  Rainfall and warmer temperatures also bring out the first of the season's wildflowers, such as the Hobblebush and Painted Trillium seen below.

Hobblebush 5.15.13
Painted Trillium 5.15.13
If you're in the area and looking to check out some of the local waterfalls and surrounding wildlife, make sure to add Glen Ellis Falls, Crystal Cascade, and Thompson Falls to your list.  All three are short, family-friendly walks right here in Pinkham Notch with beautiful rewards at the end.  Glen Ellis Falls is a 64-foot plunge just 0.8 miles south of the Visitor Center.  The parking area, which officially opened this week, is on the west side of Route 16.  Once you've parked, go through the underpass and to the right, down the stone walkway 0.3 miles to the falls.  Crystal Cascade can be reached by parking right here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and following the Tuckerman Ravine Trail for 0.3 miles, until you cross a wooden bridge and see a set of steps and a stone wall forming the overlook on your right.

Glen Ellis Falls Trail 5.15.13
Glen Ellis Falls 5.15.13

Driving just another three quarters of a mile north on Route 16 will bring you to the Wildcat Ski Area parking lot.  Leave your car in front of the ski lodge and cross the bridge on the left side of the building to find the trailhead for the Thompson Falls trail, a mostly flat walk through the woods that reaches the waterfall shortly after crossing a paved service road.  The Thompson Falls trail also intersects with the Way of the Wildcat trail, which together form a short, self-guided nature trail fun for the whole family.

Thompson Falls Trail 5.15.13
Thompson Falls 5.15.13
Way of the Wildcat Trail Sign 5.15.13
For those of you looking for more of a challenge, "the mountain" (a.k.a. Mount Washington) is certainly an option, at least when the whether allows.  For the most accurate weather reports and forecasts, take a look at the Mount Washington Observatory webpage (http://www.mountwashington.org/).  Mountain weather is subject to change rapidly and without warning, so even when the forecast is favorable, make sure to always carry adequate food, water, clothing, and shelter.  The Mt. Washington State Park Sherman Adams Summit Building, cafeteria and gift shop will be open daily beginning this Saturday, May 18th.  For hours of operation and more information, check the Parks & Recreation website (http://www.nhstateparks.org/explore/state-parks/mount-washington-state-park.aspx).

The summit of Washington can also now be reached via the Mount Washington Auto Road, open daily, weather permitting, from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  "Drive yourself" adventures and guided tours are both available.  For more information, visit http://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/ or call (603) 466-3988.

The arrival of spring is definitely bringing more hikers and fewer skiers to the area, but if you are still looking to get a couple last-minute turns in for the season, your best bet right now is Left Gully.  For more information on conditions in the ravine and springtime hazards to be aware of, read through the Mount Washington Avalanche Center's avalanche advisory (http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/).  The advisory will also be posted here at the Visitor Center as well as at Hermit Lake Shelter.

**Please be aware that a section of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from "Lunch Rocks" to the intersection with the Alpine Garden Trail at the top of the Headwall is now CLOSED to all use, including skiing, snowboarding and hiking.  This annual closure is due to the crevasses, waterfall holes, falling ice and undermined snow that create serious hazards this time of year.  Hiking to the summit of Mount Washington from the Tuckerman Ravine trail will require cutting over to the Lion Head summer route prior to reaching the Hermit Lake Shelter and the base of the ravine.

For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk.  We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM or by email at amcpinkhaminfo@outdoors.org.

Happy trails!

Backcountry Information Specialist
AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(603) 466-8116

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