I recently realized that my boots had not touched the summit of a 4,000 foot peak in many months and I knew that had to change. My recent trip to Mount Monroe and Eisenhower is just what I needed. This 9.4 mile semi strenuous loop will show you some of the best above tree line hiking that New Hampshire has to offer.
Our plan was to take the 3.1 mile Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. From there we would do a 2 mile ridge traverse, along the Crawford Path, bag Monroe (5,384 ft) and Franklin (5,003 ft but not an official 4,000 footer) along the way. We also planned to add another 1.4 miles by bagging Eisenhower (4,780 ft) in an out and back fashion from the junction with the Edmunds path. We would then cruise the 2.9 miles down the Edmunds path to where we spotted a car.
The weather gods seemed to approve of this plan as we arrived at the trailhead at around 9:30 am to find perfectly blue skies. Despite the weather perfection I was still a little nervous. I had suffered a bad case of shin splints 2 weeks earlier and this hike would be the first real recovery test.
The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail starts out with 30 minutes of rolling and flat terrain in a shady forest like many White Mountains trails do. This was fine with me as it provided a chance to warm up and to test out my shin. This trail truly distinguishes itself because it is right next to the Cog railway and it is frequently near water.
We were soon treated to a crystal clear pond fed by a tiny waterfall which is something you don’t see on every hike. This was a great place to take our first break. We were joined by many other hikers and plenty of black flies.
From here the climbing began with a steep and sustained ascent on a boulder strewn trail. Shortly into the climb we noticed a small side trail with a subtle sign that said “Gorge”. If you do this hike then take this side trail! Only 100 yards from the sign we were treated to one of most amazing waterfalls that I have ever seen in the White Mountains.
Take a look at the picture; do you think that is worth hiking 100 yards for?
The climb continued at a sustained pitch as the boulders evolved to rock slabs.
Along the way we were constantly reminded of the elevation gain by an endless supply of amazing views.
The Lakes of the Clouds hut came into view after a little more climbing. This was a great sight because it meant we were close to Mount Monroe.
We took a quick break in an alpine meadow just below the summit of Mount Monroe.
The lush grass, expansive views and perfect weather meant that we did not need to be in a rush to get below tree line.
After some trail mix and a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we felt it was time to make our summit bid. The climb to the Mount Monroe summit was certainly steep but things just seem so much easier above tree line in good weather; maybe that is due to the 360 degrees of awesome views.
From here we had a perfect view of the ridge we were about to traverse which included Mount Franklin and Mount Eisenhower.
There were plenty of other hikers on the trail that day but with this weather who could blame them?
From here the hike became a classic above tree line White Mountains ridge traverse with a narrow cairn lined path that is surrounded by alpine vegetation. Oh yeah and did I mention that the views were amazing in every direction? If I looked one way I could see the Bonds, Mount Washington was behind me and Eisenhower directly ahead. Does it get any better?
Eisenhower was technically .7 miles away from the Edmunds Path trailhead which would bring us back to the car. However we all agreed to go for the extra mileage since the conditions were so optimal.
You will know you are on Eisenhower’s summit because it is a huge dome and it is dominated by one of the biggest cairns that I have ever seen. We knew this would be our last peak of the day so we took a few minutes to take it all in before heading down.
Finally we decided to head down so we could get ice cream in North Conway. The descent to the Edmunds Path treated us to a whole new perspective on the ridge we had just traversed.
At first the Edmunds path was a stone filled ledge with more of the amazing scenery that we had been enjoying all day.
Before long we were back in the tree line and back at the car.
Despite hiking 9 miles and bagging 3 peaks we felt like the hike flew by; that is the sign of a great hike. I highly recommend this hike for anyone who wants unbelievable views for a moderate effort. If you do take this route please do be prepared for extreme weather because it does spend substantial time above tree line.