Mount Washington, from the summit of Mount Crawford!
My buddy Alex and I typically hike once a year in the May time frame. We did do a hike in May this year (The Doubleheads) but decided that hiking together was much too fun to make it a once a year event. Therefore, we tentatively put August 24th on the calendar for another trek in the White Mountains. August came around and we decided to solidify plans and head up. However, determining what mountain to hike was tough. Neither of us were in tiptop hiking condition so we didn’t want to do anything too long or challenging. At first, we targeted Mount Hale, as Alex enjoyed that hike the first time he did it back in 2010, and I’ve yet to cross that one off from my 48-footer list. However, after seeing how clear and beautiful the forecast was going to be on the 24th, we looked for something that had more potential for views. We finally decided on Mount Crawford. It’s a mountain that I have not seen published in many trip reports, except for 1HappyHiker’s reports (but he always takes phenomenal pictures on every trek he makes, regardless of the view potential), so I thought it was a bit of a gamble.
Mount Crawford is located in the southeastern part of the Crawford Notch (it actually may not even officially be in the notch...but close) and is reached by hiking the first leg of the Davis Path. After reading about the trek, I learned a great deal about the history of the trail. It was the 3rd trail blazed to reach Mount Washington by Nathanial Davis and was the longest at the time in 1845. It was used as a bridle path for 10 years or so until it was abandoned. It was re-opened in 1910 by the AMC, strictly as a foot trail, but still followed the old bridle path most of the way.
There were a lot of cars at the trailhead, but most of the occupants of the vehicles were lounging in the Saco River. Alex and I headed north up the river bank for a few hundred feet and then a very cool suspension bridge (Bemis Bridge) crossed the Saco. From there, the trail passed through someone’s backyard and headed into the woods. We soon crossed into the Presidential Rang - Dry River Wilderness and then over a small brook (I can't find the name of the brook) which was stone dry. After this, we passed a tent site on the right and the trail then began to climb steeply and held that grade consistently.
Bemis Bridge over the Saco River
Crossing into the Presidential Range - Dry River Wilderness
While hiking up, Alex and I both noticed a strange smell on the mountain. Alex mentioned he thought it smelled like a latrine. I definitely thought it was a musky type smell, like something decomposing. I figured it was some sort of vegetation giving off an odor due to possibly the time of year or the heat and humidity. The steep portions of the trail were extremely well maintained. All the water runoffs were well cleaned and the rock steps were put in place nearly the whole way up. Also, I must say this was one of the friendliest trails I have ever been on. The whole way up, we passed other hikers coming down who struck up conversation with us. It was nice to see the hiking community in such good spirits that day.
Alex and I came to the first view point, just below the Mount Crawford spur trail that leads to the summit. It had great views to the south and west. From there, we continued on over open ledges to the Mount Crawford spur trail junction. Heading up the last quarter of a mile gave us some awesome views to the north, over to Stairs Mountain. Stairs Mountain is a peak I’ve only seen in photos (mostly 1HappyHiker’s photos) and was pretty excited to see it in person. John from 1HappyHiker actually compared Stairs Mountain’s profile to one of those old locomotive engines from years past…I completely agree with him.
View to the Southeast (I think)
Alex, making his way to the Mount Crawford summit on open ledges!
Stairs Mountain Profile
Once at the summit, the views opened up completely. There was a bit of scrub in the center of the peak, but you could easily maneuver around the brush on flat open ledges, affording you 360 degree views. The best view on this day was toward the Southern Presidentials, where Mount Washington stood tall in a very clear and blue sky. Mount Willey, Mount Carrigain and more peaks were all easy to identify. Alex and I also saw the Conway Scenic Railroad train crossing the trestle heading back to Conway, which I was able to snap a shot of.
Close up of Mount Washington!
Mount Washington and Mount Monroe!
Conway Scenic Railroad heading back to North Conway
After eating a well-deserved lunch and soaking in the views, we headed back down the same route we ascended. The steepness of the trail and the swift pace we kept definitely made my legs a little shaky toward the end. However, the phenomenal trail work the trail maintainers have done with the trail, making stairs most of the way, helped us out a bunch. I can’t say enough good things about the current condition of the fist couple miles of the Davis Path.
We got back to the car in pretty good time. As a new tradition, Alex and I setup a small camp at the car for a couple celebratory beverages. This time, Alex had some great cigars to go with them. Hanging out after the hike, smoking a good cigar reminded me of Blondie’s quote in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…”Well after a meal, there's nothing like a good cigar”…only replace “meal” with “hike”!
It was a truly beautiful day in the Crawford Notch (or just south of) and I found a new favorite summit. I felt as though we were taking a gamble on this one, and we hit big. I really feel this is an underrated summit in many ways. It has phenomenal views and the trail is in great shape. The trail is pretty short and not too strenuous. I’m not sure why there isn’t more published reports on this hike on the interweb…I’m hoping this trip report will encourage more to checkout this prime spot! Another great day in the Whites!