Mount Adams (5,794 ft) and Jefferson (5,712 ft) are two of my favorite peaks in the whites. These are the second and third highest 4000 footers and they have none of the summit development that you will find on Mount Washington. I recently took on both these mountains during an epic day hike in conditions that made it clear that winter is on its way.
Our plan was to take the Caps Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Jefferson. At 3,000 ft this is the highest trail head in the whites and it is only 2.7 miles to the summit. This directness is what makes the trail so popular in summer but don’t try it in the winter since the road to it is not plowed. If we were feeling good we then planned to traverse to the neighboring Mount Adams and head back to civilization via Lowe’s Path. This adds up to about 9 miles so we got an early start to spot cars and get on the trail to take advantage of the daylight.
I was not sure what to expect from the weather. It had rained the night before but the forecast called for clearing clouds with sustained winds and single digit wind chills. A forecast like this is exactly what one should expect as the White Mountains shifts from fall to winter.
There was a definite chill in the air as we started the Caps Ridge Trail. This route begins climbing immediately which makes sense since there is so little distance between the trail head and summit. I love the Caps Ridge Trail because it feels like you reach the tree line almost as soon as you leave the parking lot.
Before long we found ourselves surrounded by the expansive views and gusty winds that can only be found above tree line in the whites!
We could see a few menacing clouds engulfing Mount Washington but the route ahead of us seemed clear so we climbed on.
From here the Caps Ridge Trail becomes a steep scramble on rock slabs and boulders which is great fun in weather but potentially dangerous due to the extreme exposure.
We found each boulder dusted with a little ice during the final summit approach; an indicator that winter is approaching!
We were treated to strong wind gusts and cold temps on the Mount Jefferson summit but the skies were clearing so we pressed on towards Mount Adams.
The traverse is on a completely exposed ridge so if you do it then you should be sure the weather is on your side. There is really no way to describe how much fun it is to hike above tree line in the whites. Yeah we got blasted with wind from time to time but it was nothing a good jacket couldn’t handle. The trip over to Mount Adams seemed to fly by as we took in the views.
The summit approach on Adams was full of ice covered boulders so we took our time and chose our footing carefully.
We reached the summit of Mount Adams to find weakening wind gusts and clearing skies.
It was pleasant enough that we actually could have a snack, check the map and take in the view before heading down.
After a few minutes we headed down Lowe’s Path which would take is back to the car. There were plenty of wet rocks on the route so we thought carefully about where we stepped but Lowe’s Path is still one of the gentlest ways up and down Mount Adams in any season.
Eventually the trees got taller, the wind died and we found ourselves back in the forest on the way to the parking lot. All great hikes seem to end to fast but this one had even more significance since it will likely be the last jaunt in the Whites before winter takes over.