Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mount Hale via the Fire Warden's Trail

A very cold weekend was in the forecast so I was looking at hiking something below treeline that offered some protection against any wind that might be blowing. The decision was made between fellow hiker Larry and I to hike Mount Hale (4,054') via the Fire Warden's Trail. I've been wanting to hike this route, Larry has done this trail before. The usual route that I take is the Hale Brook Trail but in the winter Zealand Road is closed and that adds a two mile road walk. This would be about the same mileage but no road walk.

It was a beautiful, clear morning but very cold. I met Larry in Twin Mountain at Foster's Crossroads General Store. We both drove to Little River Road. The trail starts at the end of this road, just over a mile. Larry was registering -9°F on his car thermometer. We got out and bundled up. The wind was calm and I was hoping it would stay that way.

We geared up and wasted no time getting started. From the end of the road it is a walk across a bridge over the Little River then an immediate left onto the herd path going to the North Twin trailhead. It's about a mile down this trail that it comes out onto Haystack Road  just before another bridge. The parking area and trailhead is just over the bridge. Of course there were no cars here today as the road is closed and unplowed in the winter. It gets heavy snowmobile use.

We continued on the North Twin Trail that runs fairly level with only a slight incline. The trail was in great shape, well packed and not requiring traction or snowshoes. After about a mile there is a small tree in the middle of the trail that someone carved a notch into. The Fire Warden's Trail starts to the left of this tree.

This is not an official trail but gets a lot of use. As we got further up the trail it was not as well packed as the lower herd path. Skiers had been up here at what looked like the day before as there were ski tracks coming down through the birch glades. We made the decision to put the snowshoes on even though we could have continued barebooting. The traction made a big difference and it got the snowshoes off our backs.

We were hiking in the shade as the sun had not reached this part of the trail. It kept the temps very cold. It was not until we reached the upper section of the trail before we started getting into some sunshine which made a big difference in at least feeling warmer. There were also a few limited views of the Presidentials, it would be the only views from this hike.

Just before emerging into full sunshine on the summit we passed through trees that provided a tunnel-like appearance. We made our way over to the summit cairn and removed our packs to take a short break. There was just a faint breeze and the sunshine felt warm on the cold summit. After some photos, a snack and something warm to drink we began our descent.

We passed through the forest "tunnel" and were on the Fire Warden's Trail making our way back down. When we came to some of the more heavily used ski trails through the glades we decided to follow them down providing a shortcut to the lower part of the trail. We met one hiker coming up, this was the only hiker we saw all day. I was surprised not to see any skiers today, the conditions were very good.

When we dropped down off of the Fire Warden's Trail onto the herd path the snowshoes came off. It was a quick trip back to the North Twin trailhead and then one more mile back to Little River Road where we had parked our cars. The trail was flat and a nice way to stretch our legs out after the hike down from the summit. We got back to a temperature of 11°F. I saw temps in the single digits on my backpack thermometer for most of the hike.

This was the perfect hike for a frigid day. The Fire Warden's Trail is an enjoyable route to the summit of Mount Hale. The only thing I regret is not bringing my butt sled. This trail had some good sled runs. I'd like to hike this again before the end of winter and next time I'll bring the sled!

Enjoy the photos!

Crossing a bridge over the Little River

Sun just coming up over the mountain

On the herd path to the North TwinTrail

Crossing another bridge over the Little River

Ice forming on a ledge beside the trail

This tree marks a left turn onto the Fire Warden's Trail

Fire Warden's Trail starts here

Ice crystals in a brook

Heading up the Fire Warden's Trail

This area is popular with glade skiers

Frosty treetops against a blue sky

Getting into more snow as the trail climbs higher

Easy under blowdown

Some limited but great views to the Presidentials

More snow

Crooked tree

Summit up ahead

Passing through the archway onto the summit

Standing in front of the summit cairn

A set of footprints on the Lend-a-Hand Trail

One more view on descent

Snow-covered trees

Back at the trailhead

About one more mile to go

Crossing the Little River again

The home stretch

The last water crossing...

The bridge where we started and ended our hike

Light snow moves in as I arrive home after the hike

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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