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  1. #1
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    Default Hardest parts of New Hampshire

    This is my third question about New Hampshire which I will be section hiking from June 13 to July 7 (hope to get 40 miles of Maine in as well). I hike about 13 miles a day. I have heard there are sections where this will be cut back to a half or third. So, what sections can I anticipate to be the most grueling? I am trying to plan my stays at huts, shelters, and campsites. Thank you!

  2. #2

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    I will be doing NH this september. I have always heard I will be able to do my normal daily miles up to Lincoln and from there on I should be looking at cutting my miles in half. I am going to treat NH like every other trip thus far, Wake up and see how far I make it. Some days may be more grueling then others but in the end I know better then to try and plan out day to day.

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    I did Gorham to Lincoln SB last year in 6 days. It was in mid July and they just finished a streak of good weather the day I arrived. The rain started mid morning on my first day and continued mostly through until the end of day 5. Thankfully Franconia ridge on day 6 was clear and amazing! Best view on the AT!!!(with Roan Highlands being second)

    The thing that was hard was not the hills as I had trained on a stair stepper for a few months prior. The hardest thing for me was coming down the wet decents. I began to dread the downs and look forward to the ups. My hardest day was self imposed when I decided to slackpack the wildcat and carter range on my first day. That took me about 13 hours and was very hard but I knew what I was getting into. The other days with a full pack, I averaged about 65% of my normal average but when I arrived at my destination I was way more wiped out than normal.

    With the time you have, you should be able to pace yourself nicely. I always seem to have to keep a tight schedule. I originally thought I could also do the Kinsmans on that trip, but after a day 2 of only 8 miles, I knew that was not happening. This July I am going back with my daughter and we are hiking from West Hartford, VT to Lincoln.

    My last advice is use trekking poles, even if that isn't your thing. I broke one of mine on Madison so I was walking with a cane but it was invaluable getting down those steep wet rocks. You also learn that the gray rocks are less slippery than the brown rocks.

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    It is HIGHLY dependent on the weather and conditions for the day.

    It is also highly dependent on how your mileage is planned out. Your pack weight etc.

    It gets real as soon as you summit Moosilauke as a nobo.

    It doesnt let up till the 100 mile wilderness in Maine.

    However one of the gentlest, nicest sections of the AT is a short saunter right after Zealand falls lol. Its a couple miles of bliss.

    Its hard to say because theres alot more to it than just "which is thr hardest".

    On paper, the presidential traverse is insane.

    In reality, every thru thru hiker I know gets the living crap kicked out of them by the the wildcats to moriah section. Its like a final push. And you usually have nothing in the tank. Throw in rain, and it may just be the hardest most sketchy thing you've ever hiked.

    Dont slip and fall down beaver brook.

    Prepare to go straight up Webster cliffs.

    Franconia ridge is nice, its the descent then climb up garfield that gets everyone.

    Let me dig up my itinerary...

    1 - Hikers Welcome Hostel over Moosilauke and stayed at the Notch Hostel. Resupply Lincoln.

    2 - Zero at the Notch

    3 - Hiked from beaver brook trail head to franconia notch. Hitched back into lincoln and stayed at Chets to reunite with an old hiking partner lol.

    4 - Franconia Notch to Garfield Ridge Tent Site

    5 - Garfield Ridge to Ethan/Echo? Pond tentsite after Zealand falls

    6 - Walked out to epic trail magic at crawford notch, stayed half the day then hiked up to Mizpah and stayed on a tent platform.

    7 - Mizpah over madison and down to a tentsite at low elevation near pinkham

    8 - Walked out to pinkham notch, had breakfast at the visitor center, then stayed at the barn. Resupplied in gorham

    9 - pinkham notch to imp tentsite

    10 - imp tentsite to rattle river hostel in the pouring rain.

    11 - zero with my friends at rattle river

    I think thats right off the top of my head. I took my time going through the whites. Its my home hiking area and wanted to see most of the AT i could while hiking thru. I resupplied as often as I could to minimize food weight. I ate real food as often as I could to keep calories up.

    It still hurt. Rattle River hostel is full of injured, exhausted, half dead hikers with rigamortis.

    I could have also slackpacked. But i dont slackpack. and carried my kit the whole time.

    I wouldnt say my pace was neither slow nor fast. More like average for the nobo thru.





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    I should add.

    When the weather is nice you will be able to maintain most of your mileage you just have to work harder.

    If the trail is wet in that whole section you will move at a snails pace.. no matter where you are.

    Some of the descents are actually quite sketchy and dangerous when wet.

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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by susanblackberry View Post
    This is my third question about New Hampshire which I will be section hiking from June 13 to July 7 (hope to get 40 miles of Maine in as well). I hike about 13 miles a day. I have heard there are sections where this will be cut back to a half or third. So, what sections can I anticipate to be the most grueling? I am trying to plan my stays at huts, shelters, and campsites. Thank you!
    In regards to the "hardest parts of New Hampshire," depends on your physical and mental condition. Any part can be "strenuous." There are also popular trails and less hiked trails, for "obvious" reasons. Since you have the time, you should consider trekking the Presidential Traverse, albeit I think two of the "peaks" are not even presidents. There are 10 starting with Madison, at Valley Way trailhead. Mount Washington and the observatory is a nice rest stop. There are huts, shelters and tenting along the trek. Most of the tenting sites are $10 and you pay the caretaker. Huts run $100-$200+ but includes breakfast and dinner. Mt. Katahdin is a nice trek...also can be strenuous depending on your physical and mental condition. You can trek on the Hunt Trail and come back on Knife Edge...if you are up for a bit of challenge. In Maine, you should consider trekking Sugarloaf, Spaulding and Abraham which are good 4000 footers. Happy trails! ATStrong

  7. #7

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    During the time of year you are hiking, you have very long days. its light out around 5 Am all the way to 9PM. Its still going to be bug season in the evenings so you are just as well off hiking as sitting around swatting bugs. Therefore you may want to adopt the tortoise approach and do long slow days compared to short fast days. If you look at any profile map of the NH, the tough spots that will grind you down are pretty obvious. Ridge lines are fast and slopes are slow. There are very few switchbacks on the ascents and descents so its typically straight up slope on hardened trails that are effectively paved with rocks and or boulders or on ledge. If there was soil it would have long since been worn off or eroded. There are all sorts of trail runners and fast day hikers that will go up and down faster than you and if you allow them to set your pace you will be beat early. The best approach is stay to the right when folks are coming up on you and let them pass and adjust your pace to whatever you need so you can breathe comfortably. This may mean switching to a rest step https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rest_step. It takes a while to get used to it but what it does is forces you to slow down to a crawl if you need to so that you don't have to "stop and go" hike. If you need to stop and catch your breath you are going to fast. Eventually the speed will come back.

    The general rule of thumb is the most thru hikers hit a wall going up Moosilaukee in Glencliff NH and then need to re adjust their pace substantially from what they were doing prior to Glencliff. The daily elevation changes are pretty much relentless from Glencliff to well into western Maine. The ups and downs may not be as high vertically in the Mahoosucs but the trails are even more rugged to compensate and also potentially a tougher trailbed. Note the Notch Hostel's slackpack of the Kinsmans is still a very long day, fine for thru hikers with months of hiking under their belt but tough for most. Same for the slackpack of the Wildcats and Carter Moriah range, a long day for thruhikers typically followed by a zero but brutal for someone not in shape. Unless you zero the day after the Kinsman slackpack, the next day starts out with 2000 foot vertical straight up Liberty. Accommodations will be tight everywhere you go as its summer in the whites and everyone wants to be out on the trails, the caretakers at the shelters usually figure a way to pack everyone in or nearby. The AMC huts are reservation only but they do have folks who drop out last minute especially if the weather is bad. Hiker can elect to pay for a empty slot but forget weekends. Don't plan on a work for stay. They do have snacks for sale during the day and always have clean water for all although on occasion they have to dose it with a water treatment chemical with distinct aftertaste.

  8. #8
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    Thank you!

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    THank you!

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    I'll be there too June 15-28/29 nobo. Good luck on your hike.

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    Piggybacking off this thread, would like advice on planning NH and southern ME.

    I've been section hiking for years. I'm not super fast not exceptionally fit. But I get by. So far, after hiking almost 1200 miles on the AT, nothing has been out of my league.

    For NH and ME, I can tolerate low mileage days. I can plan my trips for the ideal time of year.

    What I worry about is finding a place to stop when my miles are surprisingly low. If I start out and can only do 5 miles for a particular day, that's fine. But what I'll need is a flat spot near the trail to setup a tent. From the hiking I've done so far, I've learned that it can sometimes be multiple miles between plausible camping spots. And the elevation profiles in NH make me suspect it will be even more difficult to finding camping spots. In the south, I've learned to plan accordingly, but also I've relied on being able to always make it plenty far so as to not only have options to choose from, but to even know about them ahead of time from guidebooks.

    How can one ensure at least he'll have a place to setup a tent in NH if one is constrained to a surprisingly low mileage day? Is that even possible, or is it necessary to have substantially good fitness to even complete that section?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyPaper View Post
    Piggybacking off this thread, would like advice on planning NH and southern ME.

    I've been section hiking for years. I'm not super fast not exceptionally fit. But I get by. So far, after hiking almost 1200 miles on the AT, nothing has been out of my league.

    For NH and ME, I can tolerate low mileage days. I can plan my trips for the ideal time of year.

    What I worry about is finding a place to stop when my miles are surprisingly low. If I start out and can only do 5 miles for a particular day, that's fine. But what I'll need is a flat spot near the trail to setup a tent. From the hiking I've done so far, I've learned that it can sometimes be multiple miles between plausible camping spots. And the elevation profiles in NH make me suspect it will be even more difficult to finding camping spots. In the south, I've learned to plan accordingly, but also I've relied on being able to always make it plenty far so as to not only have options to choose from, but to even know about them ahead of time from guidebooks.

    How can one ensure at least he'll have a place to setup a tent in NH if one is constrained to a surprisingly low mileage day? Is that even possible, or is it necessary to have substantially good fitness to even complete that section?
    As long as it's not above treeline and not in a wilderness area, you can stealth camp along the trail in many spots. No camping above treeline at all without at least two feet of snow on the ground. Wilderness areas have special rules for camping within certain areas. It varies depending on the area. Normally not a problem along the AT. Presidential range has several possibilities, the huts, Nauman campsite, the RMC camps, Valley way campsite, but you will lose some elevation to stay at the RMC camps and Valley Way

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyPaper View Post
    How can one ensure at least he'll have a place to setup a tent in NH if one is constrained to a surprisingly low mileage day? Is that even possible, or is it necessary to have substantially good fitness to even complete that section?
    If you can't insure you can make the minimum distance between designated camping areas, you should not attempt to do this section of trail. There are very few, if any, places you can camp between designated sites. In some cases it's not legal, in most cases it simply isn't practical. Check the guide, most camping areas are 10 miles or less apart. Consider investing in staying at the huts, as that will save weight.

    It helps to have good fitness, or at least spring in your knees. Overweight and bad knees, you'd have serious problems.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyPaper View Post
    Piggybacking off this thread, would like advice on planning NH and southern ME.

    I've been section hiking for years. I'm not super fast not exceptionally fit. But I get by. So far, after hiking almost 1200 miles on the AT, nothing has been out of my league.

    For NH and ME, I can tolerate low mileage days. I can plan my trips for the ideal time of year.

    What I worry about is finding a place to stop when my miles are surprisingly low. If I start out and can only do 5 miles for a particular day, that's fine. But what I'll need is a flat spot near the trail to setup a tent. From the hiking I've done so far, I've learned that it can sometimes be multiple miles between plausible camping spots. And the elevation profiles in NH make me suspect it will be even more difficult to finding camping spots. In the south, I've learned to plan accordingly, but also I've relied on being able to always make it plenty far so as to not only have options to choose from, but to even know about them ahead of time from guidebooks.

    How can one ensure at least he'll have a place to setup a tent in NH if one is constrained to a surprisingly low mileage day? Is that even possible, or is it necessary to have substantially good fitness to even complete that section?
    Well there's ALOT of places where one is restricted when camping on the AT through the Whites. You have a handful of LONG ridge hiking. A fair amount above treeline as well. Furthermore, there's a good amount of mileage between bailouts and side trails to get off these ridges.

    So yeah, once you get up on Franconia Ridge, your commited. It's necessary to hike 7+ miles. You can carry a map, and there are side trails that will bring you off the ridge to places you can camp. However, you typically have to drop serious elevation and do a few miles just to get down that side trail to a place where one could camp.

    Same thing with the presidential ridge. Same thing with Kinsman ridge. Same thing with Carter-Moriah traverse. You get my point.

    That's why there's a fair amount of red tape surrounding the Whites. No you can't just hike from Mizpah hut to Lonesome lake... so your wiped out then pitch a tent 100 yards off trail. It's against the rules. And your above treeline. You typically need to drop down like 1500-3000 feet down a 2-4 mile side trail to a designated camping spot.

    For the most part, AT hikers move like a herd thru the whites. Going from designated camp spot to designated camp spot. It's just how it is here. Stealth camping is legal in some areas, but really not convention and doesn't offer that much flexibility. AT hikers do it to save $$$ rather than playing for shelter/tent pad space.

    In short. No. 5 mile days on the AT through the whites won't cut it. The only way that's possible is to stay at the huts. Even then, they're typically more than 5 miles apart.

    Idk what's worse. Dropping down below treeline to camp or continuing to hike on the ridge. At least one your making forward progress.

    It's necessary to be able to say I HAVE to go 11 miles today. Because either way. Your going to be putting in the mileage and elevation change.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by fastfoxengineering View Post
    Idk what's worse. Dropping down below treeline to camp or continuing to hike on the ridge. At least one your making forward progress.
    It's necessary to be able to say I HAVE to go 11 miles today. Because either way. Your going to be putting in the mileage and elevation change.
    I dont care if it has to be another 4 miles forward progress I will do it over 1 mile no progress. lol Aggressively lazy perhaps?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    I dont care if it has to be another 4 miles forward progress I will do it over 1 mile no progress. lol Aggressively lazy perhaps?
    Aggressively non-passive?
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
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    As an above poster mentioned there are some ridgeline sections that you either reserve an AMC hut or you drop off the ridgecrest down a sidetrail. I have checked the distances and its pretty consistent that 1000 feet of elevation and one mile distance will normally end up in woods that are open enough to find a spot to camp in. It may not be the greatest spot but usually a hiker can find a spot flat enough not to roll downhill. The key is water supplies, not all spots have water on the way down but many do. The shelters are sort of half way between the huts so adding in a hut stay can make a short day if a hiker stayed in shelter the night before. A general note that is pretty good from Glencliff to Gorham is if in doubt take the side trail to the left. The trails to the right usually drop down far steeper slopes making camping spots more difficult. There are exceptions, the big one is Guyot shelter between south Twin and Zealand. The Presidential Ridge is tough no matter what. There are not a lot of good options to Lake of the Clouds Hut or the aptly named Dungeon underneath that stinks of urine. The Ammonusuc Ravine trail has no camping by regulation until practically at the base of the mountain. Practically is also has no flat spots until down past Gem pool. The only legal option is on the other side of Mt Washington down the Jewell trail. If not there its a long stretch and side trail (to the left) to the RMC Perch.

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    If I got in 6-7 miles on a full day in the Whites I was happy, but I am slower then most with a heavier pack. I stealthed through just about all of the Whites, Madison work for stay and a hostel about 20 miles from ME being the only exception. I'm not to picky but I had no problem finding a place to pop up my tent, following all posted signs about camping, some areas it's allowed but away from the trail at least xx yards... I did need to hammer out a couple bigger then usual days for me, particularly around the presidential range.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LazyLightning View Post
    If I got in 6-7 miles on a full day in the Whites I was happy, but I am slower then most with a heavier pack. I stealthed through just about all of the Whites, Madison work for stay and a hostel about 20 miles from ME being the only exception. I'm not to picky but I had no problem finding a place to pop up my tent, following all posted signs about camping, some areas it's allowed but away from the trail at least xx yards... I did need to hammer out a couple bigger then usual days for me, particularly around the presidential range.
    Good to hear. I'm also a bit slow with a heavier pack. In the whole scheme of things paying for a hostel is not an issue. But getting caught at dark without a flat space for a tent is not an option. I was able to do two consecutive 15 mile days in GA in the fall (a few years ago). But I'm not getting younger. I can take it slow if necessary, but would like to know I can make a viable plan without months of additional training.

  20. #20
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    Here's the backcountry camping rules for the White Mountains National Forest. Hope you find it helpful. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE...rdb5363715.pdf
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