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Great Hikes in the Whites: Moat Mountain Traverse

The Moat Mountain Traverse is a classic White Mountains hiking route that can be hiked year-round. It’s a good early spring hike to do when the high peaks are still snow-covered but the lower elevation trails are starting to clear. But my favorite time to hike this route is in the fall, when the trees in the Mt Washington River Valley and surrounding peaks are ablaze in autumn color. The views from the ridge are exceptional and you can easily see Mt Washington, Mt Chocorua, and the Green Hills on the other side of the Saco River Valley.

A Moat Mountain Traverse is usually hiked from south to north, following the Moat Mountain Trail for 9.7 miles, beginning at the South Moat Mountain Trailhead and ending at the Diana’s Baths Trailhead on West Side Road, near Cathedral Ledge.

  • South Moat Mountain (2,770 ft) is reached in 2.7 miles
  • Middle Moat Mountain (2,800 ft.) is reached in 3.3 miles
  • North Moat Mountain (3,196 ft.) in 5.3 miles

The expected duration of the hike is 6.5 hours. You will need to carry all of the water or fluids you need for the entire hike because there are no reliable water sources available until near the end of the route. A substantial portion of the route is above-treeline and fully exposed to the weather, particularly between the summits of South Moat Mountain and North Moat mountain. Depending on the season, be sure to bring a warm clothes and rain gear if bad weather threatens.

Moat Mountain Traverse Map

Recommended Waterproof Map

Distance and Difficulty Rating

  • 9.7 miles with 3250′ of elevation gain
  • Moderately strenuous

Trailhead Directions

The Moat Mountain Traverse requires two vehicles, with one at the end to give you a ride back to the start of the route. There is no public transportation available for this purpose.

  • To the South Trailhead: From Conway village, drive north on Washington Street and left on Passaconaway Road (which turns into Dugway Rd.). The parking lot and trailhead are on the right side of Dugway Rd. The GPS lat/lon of your destination is 43.99562208, -71.17545359. There is no parking fee.
  • To the North Trailhead: The trail head is located on the Upper West Side Road about two and on half miles from North Conway Village. The GPS lat/lon of your destination is44.074656,-71.163048. There is a parking fee. This trailhead can be very crowded on weekends, so plan to arrive early. Illegally parked cars are towed.

On the Trail

Mt Chocorua is visible as you approach the ledges leading up to South Moat Mountains.
Mt Chocorua is visible as you approach the ledges leading up to South Moat Mountains.

The Moat Mountain Trail leaves the left hand side of the parking lot and soon starts climbing through pleasant forest. At 1.3 miles it reaches a viewpoint where you can see the rocky prow-like summit Mt Chocorua on a clear day. Begin climbing the open rock ledges ahead. The path may be difficult to distinguish at times so keep your eye out for blazes. Water seeps down the ledges and they may be slippery, so take care with your footing.

Climb across open ledges as you approach the South Moat Summit
Climb across open ledges as you approach the South Moat Summit

The open South Moat summit is reached at 2.7 miles and provides a welcome wind break on blustery days. Most people take a break here and sit on the rocks to admire the view. The entire Mt Washington Valley can be seen to the west, including North Conway. The mountains on the other side of the valley are called the Green Hills and are home to many fine hiking trails. You should also be able to see Middle Moat and North Moat, to the north, further along the ridge.

Sit on the South Moat Ledges to admire the valley view and have a snack.
Sit on the South Moat Ledges to admire the valley view and have a snack.

Continue heading north along the ridge, following the blazes and rock cairns which mark the route. The trail descends into a patch of trees before ascending to the ledgy summit area of Middle Moat Mountain at 3.3 miles.

Continue along the ridge hiking over exposed rock ledges.
Continue along the ridge hiking over exposed rock ledges.

Take a moment to gaze back at the pyramid-like cone of South Moat, with its classic profile. The trail ahead descends steeply to the largest col on the ridge. The term “col” is the lowest peak on a mountain ridge between two peaks and is a word you’ll hear frequently used by hikers in the White Mountains.

The pyramid-like profile of South Moat is visible from the middle of the ridge.
The pyramid-like profile of South Moat is visible from the middle of the ridge.

At 4.2 miles, pass the Red Ridge Trail junction. This trail rivals the Moat Mountain Trail in scenic beauty and is well worth a return visit to hike. See Great Hikes in the Whites: The Red Ridge Loop for a complete trip description.

North Moat Mountain Summit Cairn
North Moat Mountain Summit Cairn

Climb steeply now up the cone of North Mount Mountain which is the highest of the Moat summits, passing an open shoulder with a fine view. The final ascent to the summit requires a few ledgey scrambles before you reach the large summit cairn.

View of Mt Washington and Crawford Notch from North Moat Mountain.
View of Mt Washington and Carter Notch from North Moat Mountain.

Mt Washington, the Southern Presidential Ridge and Carter Notch are all visible from the summit of North Moat. Pull out your map and see what other summits you can identify from the 360 views spread before you.

Continuing, descend steeply down the northeast face of North Moat crossing open ledges and passing through scrub. This area can be very slippery in cold weather and requires extra traction for safety. Descend through spruce forest to Lucy Brook and follow the trail beside it, crossing many small creeks and streams over log bridges. The surrounding level area is prone to spring flooding, so follow the trail carefully early in the season before the trail crews can tidy up.

Pass Diana’s baths, a popular waterfall and swimming area (unless you’re ready for a swim or frolic) and continue along a universally accessible trail to the parking lot at the northern terminus of the Moat Mountain Trail.

Diana's Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the bottom of the Moat Mountain Trail
Diana’s Baths is a popular waterfall and swimming hole at the north end of the Moat Mountain Trail

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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Backpacking a Carter Wildcat Traverse

A Carter Wildcat Traverse is a 2-3 day, 20 mile traverse of the entire Carter and Wildcat Mountain Ranges, including Mounts Moriah, North Carter, Middle Carter, South Carter, Hight, Carter Dome, and Wildcats A, B, C, D, and E. Hikers are treated to fantastic views of Mt Washington, The Great Gulf, Mt Jefferson, Adams, and Madison to the west, and the Baldface Range to the east, on this epic ridge walk.

Carer Moriah Traverse Map

Rating/Difficulty

****/5 out of 5

Distance/Elevation Gain

20 miles w/7500′ of cumulative elevation gain

White Mountain 4000 Footers

  • Mt Moriah
  • Middle Carter
  • South Carter
  • Carter Dome
  • Wildcat (also called Wildcat A)
  • Wildcat D

Recommended Duration

2-3 days

Season

June thru October

Permits Required

None.

Regulations

Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

Trailhead Directions

This trip starts the Carter Moriah Trailhead which has very limited parking, in a Gorham, NH neighborhood. As a courtesy to the residents, I’d recommend parking on the gravel lot at the nearby Libby Memorial Pool (a spring fed pond) on Mill Street, about a mile south of Gorham on Rt 16. Leave the parking lot on Mill Street and turn right onto a pedestrian bridge in 0.2 miles. Cross the bridge and take a right onto Bangor Street, which quickly leads to the Carter Moriah Trailhead on your left.

Cross the Footbridge and turn right
Cross the Footbridge and turn right

The Pinkham Notch Visitor’s center, at the end of this hike, is 10 miles south of the Libby Memorial Pool on Rt 16. You can drop a second car at Pinkham or hitch back to the Libby Memorial Pool.

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the AMC White Mountains Trail Maps 5-6: Carter-Range-Evans Notch North Country-Mahoosuc (2017 ed),  although I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set (2017 ed) rather than one map at a time, because it’s less expensive that way. Detailed trail descriptions can also be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the relevant pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.

  • Carter Moriah Trail – 13.8 miles
  • Wildcat Ridge Trail – 4.9 miles
  • Lost Pond Trail 0.9 miles

Scenic Highlights

The following list provides cumulative distances on the route to each view or landmark.

  • Mt Moriah Summit – 4.5 miles
  • Imp Shelter Spur Trail – 6.6 miles
  • North Carter Summit – 8.5 miles
  • Middle Carter Summit – 9.1 miles
  • South Carter Summit – 10.4 miles
  • Zeta Pass – 11.2 miles
  • Mt Hight Summit – 11.8 miles
  • Carter Dome Summit – 12.6 miles
  • Carter Notch/19 Miles Brook Trail Junction – 13.8 miles
  • AMC Carter Notch Hut 13.9 miles
  • Wildcat A Summit -14.8 miles
  • Wildcat D Summit – 16.8 miles
  • Wildcat E Summit – 18.9 miles
  • Lost Pond – 19.8 miles

Camping and Shelter Options

Water

Natural water sources are plentiful in the White Mountains although you may need to descend to them from ridgelines along side trails if you run short. In any case, carry a detailed topographic map with you and don’t rely on the overview map provided with this trip description to find water sources.

I also recommend purchasing the WMNF Wild River Map in Guthook Guide’s New England Hiker Smartphone App (IOS, Android) which is a GPS guide to all of the trails, trailhead, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. I use it all the time and it is much more complete and current than using the maps bundled with the Gaia Smartphone App.

On the Trail

Carter Moriah Trailhead
Carter Moriah Trailhead

Begin on the Carter Moriah Trail which climbs 3250′ feet over 4.5 miles to the summit of Mount Moriah. The trail is easy to follow, but this is a significant climb so take your time in ascending. The first reliable water is at the Imp Shelter, so be sure to pack enough to get there.

Rock ledge on Mt Surprise
Rock ledge on Mt Surprise

At 2.0 miles you’ll come to a rock ledge known as Mt Surprise which has a good view of Pine Mountain on the other side of Rt 16. From this point onward, the trail to Moriah switches from forest duff to rock ledge, gaining elevation steeply in places. Follow the signs to the Moriah Summit, a rocky knob with good 360 degree views.

Mt Moriah Summit Sign
Mt Moriah Summit Sign

Return to the Carter Moriah Trail and turn right. In a few steps, you’ll come to a rock chimney that you need to down-climb. The best way I’ve found to descend these is to go down backwards, like climbing down a ladder, grabbing hand and footholds as you climb down. At the base of this short chimney, turn right, continuing on the Carter Moriah Trail. From here on out, you’ll be following the route of the Appalachian Trail south, marked with white blazes.

The Carter Moriah Trail is marked by cairns above treeline
The Carter Moriah Trail is marked by cairns above treeline

The next 1.4 miles of trail run in and out of krummholz, the stunted and weather-mangled trees that inhabit the alpine zone. Be careful to follow the rock cairns along this section, particularly if visibility is bad in fog and mist. After a mile, you’ll reach Mount Moriah’s southern ledges. The trail because quite steep here and can be difficult to traverse without butt sliding if it is wet. From the ledges, you can look out across the Wild River Wilderness and into the Moriah Brook Gorge, a deep stream valley that boasts excellent waterfalls, cascades, and swimming holes. The Moriah Brook Trail is quite wild however and can be hard to follow, so you might want to hold off and explore it on a subsequent trip. See A Moriah Loop Trip Plan.

The AMC's Imp Shelter
The AMC’s Imp Shelter

Pass the Stony Brook Trail junction, walking over boardwalk to protect the fragile vegetation at your feet. Continue for 0.7 miles until you reach the spur trail for the Imp Shelter and Tent site on your right. There’s a good stream along a short path behind the shelter as well as tent platforms where you can camp. The next sure water is Carter Notch, although a small trickle may be available in Zeta Pass. Pack extra water, particularly in summer.

Peaks of the Carter Range
Peaks of the Carter Range

From the shelter, hike back to the Carter Moriah Trail, turning right towards the Carters: North, Middle, and South. The ascent up North is steep and often wet, but the Middle and South Peaks are comparatively easy to climb. The peaks are marked with cairns rather than signs, since this area borders a designated Wilderness Area. While the trail passes over Middle Carter, there is a short summit spur trail to South Carter on the right.

Carter Dome
Carter Dome

When you reach South Carter, you can just make out Carter Dome to the southeast. Continue along the Carter Moriah Trail for 0.2 miles, passing through an area of blown down trees, the casualty of winter storms. These have been cleared by trail crews, but there are still plenty of debris along the trail.

Zeta Pass is a major trail junction and a good place to take a rest on the rustic log bench located there. There is a very small stream, really a trickle of water flowing from the moss besides the trail, but it is intermittent and may be dry in summer. If you do need water, you can hike down the Carter Dome Trail toward the 19 Mile Brook Trail for about a mile, losing about 1000 feet of elevation before coming to a stream.

The rocky summit of Mt Hight (foreground) has great views of Mt Washington (right) and Carter Dome (left)
The rocky summit of Mt Hight (foreground) has great views of Mt Washington (right) and Carter Dome (left)

From Zeta Pass, continue along the Carter Moriah Trail to the summit of Mt Hight, which has the BEST views along the route, and some would argue the White Mountains as a whole. The summit is completely open and you can sit here for hours in fine weather gazing at the surrounding mountains to the beyond.

Return to the Carter Moriah Trail, turning left, towards Carter Dome which is just 0.4 miles away. There isn’t much of a view from the summit sign, despite the fact that it’s the highest peak on the route at 4832′. The fun begins just past the summit on the steep and rocky descent into Carter Notch, dropping 1500′ in 1.2 miles. When you get to the bottom, you’ll arrive at the larger of the two Carter Notch Ponds. Turn left for 0.1 mile to reach the Carter Notch Hut, and right to follow the 19 Mile Brook Trail, which climbs for 0.2 miles to the Wildcat Ridge Trail.

Once past Carter Dome, the Carter-Moriah Trail plummets down to Carter Notch.
Once past Carter Dome, the Carter-Moriah Trail plummets down to Carter Notch.

The AMC’s Carter Notch Hut is an ideal place to spend the night during this traverse if you’d rather sleep indoors and have your meals catered too. While advance reservations are almost always needed to stay overnight, anyone is welcome walk-in during the day to refill their water or buy snacks. Camping is forbidden in the Forest Protection Area surrounding the hut, but you can usually find pre-existing campsites, off-trail a ways, on either side of the 19 Mile Brook Trail or the Wildcat River Trail.

The Wildcat Ridge Trail climbs from the shore of the larger Carter Notch pond to the summit of Wildcat Mountain
The Wildcat Ridge Trail climbs from the shore of the larger Carter Notch pond to the summit of Wildcat Mountain

Turn left from the 19 Mile Brook Trail onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail. The first 0.7 miles of this trail gain 1100′ of elevation as it climbs Wildcat Mountain, which is still shown on older maps as Wildcat A. The Wildcat Ridge Trail also follows the Appalachian Trail and is white blazed.

Continuing south, the Wildcat Ridge Trail runs over the B, C, D, and E peaks before descending into Pinkham Notch. While there are dips between each of the subsequent peaks on the trail, they’re easier and shorter than that first climb up Wildcat A. The hardest portion of this trail is the descent from the E peak to Pinkham Notch, which drops 2000 feet in 2.1 miles. Make sure to give yourself plenty of daylight to hike down this segment of trail. I’d also recommend avoiding it altogether in wet or rainy weather because it travels down steep, unprotected sections of open ledge.

On clear days, you'll be able to see into Tuckerman Ravine, which often holds snow into late July or August.
On clear days, you’ll be able to see into Tuckerman Ravine, which often holds snow into late July or August.

When you reach the top of Wildcat (A) Mountain, there’s a fine view overlooking Carter Notch and the pond below, on your left. Continue to the B, C, and D summit, passing over bog bridges. When you reach Wildcat D, you’ll pass a wooden viewing platform at the summit, which has a fine view of Mt Washington on the other side of Pinkham Notch.

Wildcat D and the Ski Area Aid Station
Wildcat D and the Ski Area Aid Station

Continue past the platform down to the top of the Wildcat Mountain Ski Area and its gondola chair lift. Pass a small house (the ski area aid station), keeping it to your left and continue across a series of open rock ledges to the continuation of the Wildcat Ridge Trail as it enters forest. The trail begins a gradual descent, then drops steeply down a series of pitches and open ledge. While this section is an arduous descent, coming down it is far better than climbing up it.

Wooden steps bolted to rock on Wildcat E.
Wooden steps bolted to rock on Wildcat E.

When you reach the bottom of Wildcat E, turn right onto the Lost Pond Trail at the signed trail junction. It runs beside Lost Pond and an upper section of the Ellis River for 0.8 miles, passing the Square Ledge Trail on your right. When you reach a wooden bridge, cross the Ellis River, and continue along the boardwalk to Rt 16 and the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

Published 2018.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support. iliate”]

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Backpacking a Bonds Traverse – Section Hikers Backpacking Blog

A Bonds Traverse is a 2 day, 20 mile traverse of Zealand Mountain, West Bond, Mt Bond, and Bondcliff Mountain. Bondcliff is one of the most picturesque mountains on the 4000 footers list and many hikers like to pose for photos on its western cliff. While it is possible to day hike this route on a very long day, it’s much nicer to take your time, stargaze from Mt Bond, and watch the sunset or sunrise over Bondcliff.

Bonds Traverse Route

Rating/Difficulty

****/3 out of 5

Distance/Elevation Gain

20 miles w/3700′ of cumulative elevation gain

White Mountain 4000 Footers

  • Zealand
  • West Bond
  • Mt Bond
  • Bondcliff

Recommended Duration

2 days

Season

June thru October

Permits Required

None.

Regulations

Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

This route passes through the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area. Please observe all wilderness area restrictions. 

Trailhead Directions

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the AMC White Mountains Trail Map 2: Franconia-Pemigewasset (2017 ed), which is the best waterproof map available for this region, although I’d recommend buying the complete AMC White Mountain Waterproof Map Set (2017 ed) rather than one map at a time, because it’s less expensive that way.

Detailed trail descriptions can also be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the relevant pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.

  • Zealand Trail – 2.3 miles
  • Ethan Pond Trail – 0.2 miles
  • Twinway – 3.1 miles
  • Zealand Mountain Spur Trail 0.2 miles (out and back)
  • Twinway – 1.3 miles
  • Bondcliff Trail – 0.8 miles
  • West Bond Spur – 1.0 miles (out and back)
  • Bondcliff Trail – 7.9 miles
  • Lincoln Woods Trail – 2.9 miles

20 miles with 3700′ elevation gain.

Scenic Highlights

The following list provides cumulative distances on the route to each view or landmark.

  • Zealand Hut/Zealand Falls – 2.7 miles
  • Zeacliff Viewpoint – 4.2 miles
  • Zealand Summit – 5.8 miles
  • Mt Guyot Summit – 7.1 miles
  • West Bond Summit – 8.4 miles
  • Mt Bond Summit – 9.4 miles
  • Bondcliff Summit – 10.5 miles
  • Franconia Falls – 16.9 miles

Camping and Shelter Options

Water

Natural water sources are plentiful in the White Mountains although you may need to descend to them from ridgelines along side trails if you run short. In any case, carry a detailed topographic map with you and don’t rely on the overview map provided with this trip description to find water sources.

I also recommend purchasing the WMNF Pemigewasset Map in Guthook Guide’s New England Hiker Smartphone App (IOS, Android) which is a GPS guide to all of the trails, trailhead, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. I use it all the time and it is much more complete and current than using the maps bundled with the Gaia Smartphone App.

On the Trail

This route starts at the Zealand Trailhead at the end of Zealand Road. Follow the Zealand Trail towards the AMC’s Zealand Hut passing through forest and across a few easy stream crossings. While hidden by trees, the Zealand River runs besides the trail with numerous pools and cascades where you can swim or wade in hot weather.

Raised walkways over beaver ponds
Raised walkways over beaver ponds

You soon enter a wetland area, where the trail crosses numerous beaver ponds over wooden walkways and bridges. The foliage here is breathtaking in Autumn, when the valley and surrounding hills explode in seasonal color.

After passing a trail junction with the A-Z Trail, the Zealand Trail ends. Continue along the Ethan Pond Trail for 0.2 miles toward the AMC’s Zealand Hut. Turn right when you reach the Twinway Trail junction and continue 0.2 miles to the hut. Before you reach it, there is a short spur trail on your left to Zealand Falls which is pretty, especially after rainfall.

Appalachian Mountain Club's Zealand Hut
Appalachian Mountain Club’s Zealand Hut

Drop your pack on the porch and go inside the hut to check it out. While reservations are required for overnight guests, anyone can pop into an AMC hut during the day and buy snacks, top off water bottles or use the facilities. All of the huts post daily forecasts and have weather instruments that you can check, along with maps, and guidebooks.

From the hut, continue along the Twinway, climbing steeply for 1.2 miles to Zeacliff, a cliff-side viewpoint down a short side trail (signed) overlooking Zealand Notch that has a great view of Mt Carrigain in the distance. Continue along the Twinway toward Zealand Mountain, passing another trail to your left to Zeacliff Pond, a small alpine pond, which also has a good view of Carrigain. In 1.0 miles, you’ll come to another spur trail on your right which leads to the viewless Zealand Mountain summit and its hand-carved summit sign.

Zealand Mountain Summit Sign
Zealand Mountain Summit Sign

Retrace your steps and turn right when you reach the Twinway,  heading toward Mt Guyot. Guyot (pronounced Gee-oh with a hard ‘G’) is a bald dome covered with low lying shrubs, called krummholz, a German word used to describe the stunted trees that grow on exposed mountain tops above treeline. The Twinway continues over Guyot and leads to the Bondcliff Trail junction. Turn left onto the Bondcliff Trail and follow it 0.8 miles to the Guyot Shelter and Tentsite Spur. I’d recommend that you stay here overnight because it the only spot with a reliable water source for some distance.

Mt Guyot
Mt Guyot

The West Bond Spur Trail leaves the  Bondcliff Trail just 0.2 miles past the side trail to the Guyot Shelter and Tentsite. The open summit is a short hike through stunted trees. This is probably the best viewpoint in the White Mountains to admire Bondcliff’s graceful ridge and a wonderful spot to enjoy the sunset or sunrise. Just be sure to bring a headlamp.

Avalanches scar the face of West Bond Mountain
Avalanches scar the face of West Bond Mountain

Backtrack to the Bondcliff Trail and turn right to summit Mt Bond in just 0.5 miles. Mt Bond also has great views.  It is high enough at 4698′ that you can see the Presidential Range to the northeast and Franconia Ridge to the West.

Mt Bond
Mt Bond

While West Bond and Mt Bond have been easy to climb so far, the same can’t be said about Bondcliff Mountain. Leaving Mt Bond, the Bondcliff Trail descends steeply down a boulder choked trail that’s slow going until you reach the first open ledges on about 1 mile away. This is also a very hot section of trail in summer when the sun beating down on the rocks. Be sure to carry plenty of water and to stay hydrated. Also use caution when hiking along the cliff in fog or high winds. The steep valley below the cliffs is called Hellgate.

Bondcliff Mountain - A sight that never gets old
Bondcliff Mountain – A sight that never gets old

Midway down the cliff, there’s a prow-like ledge that juts out from the cliff and is the perfect place to stand for a portrait with West Bond and Mt Bond in the background. Countless hikers have had their photos taken here and it’s a right-of-passage for many 4000 footer peakbaggers

When you’re ready to leave Bondcliff, proceed down the ridge towards treeline, scrambling down a 15 foot rock ledge called “Hillary’s Step.” I’ve found the best way to climb down this is backwards, so you can maintain a firm grip on the handholds. From here, the trail drops steadily back down to the Pemigewasset River passing through forest with a few easy stream crossings. These may be dry in summer, so don’t count on finding water at them. Significant portions of this trail have been heavily eroded from recent storms, so take your time in descending.

Take a hard right turn at the base of the descent, continuing along the Bondcliff Trail, following an old railroad right of way. Many of the railroad ties are still in evidence to this day.

Railroad ties
Railroad ties

After crossing a bridge over Franconia Brook, there’s a short spur trail to your right which leads to Franconia Falls, one of the most scenic waterfalls and swimming holes in the Whites. There are a series off cascades, slides, and pools here that you can frolic in or just soak your feet in the river to cool them off.

Lovely Franconia Falls
Lovely Franconia Falls

If you decide to bypass the spur trail, continue along the Lincoln Woods Trail along the Pemigewasset River, which also provide numerous swimming opportunities. Cross a suspension bridge over the river in 2.9 miles, which leads to the Lincoln Woods Trailhead and the end of this route.

About Philip Werner: Philip is the 36th person to finish hiking and backpacking all of the trails in the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles). He’s also finished hiking many of the region’s peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72. Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He also teaches several compass, GPS, and off-trail navigation courses each year, listed on Outdoors.org.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

Published 2018.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.