Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Cool Crisp Hike to Galehead

It was a very cold Saturday with frigid wind chills well below zero. Although not as cold as yesterday, today's weather forecast was again calling for windchills below zero especially on the summits. I would be joining fellow hikers Jim, Jill, Robin, Amy D. and Amy L. for a hike to Galehead Mountain (4,024'). Our route would start on the Beaver Brook cross country ski trail over to the Gale River Loop Road and up the Gale River Trail to the Garfield Ridge Trail past the Galehead Hut to the Frost Trail and up to the summit of Galehead Mountain. We would return on the same trails.

It's usually nice to include North Twin and South Twin Mountains for a loop hike but the rivers, especially the Little River, were running high and the water crossings were difficult according to trail reports. The decision was made to just do the one summit today.

The air was brisk when I walked outside to pack up the car. As I drove past a view of the Mahoosucs the sun was just rising. Further down the road the high summits were in the clear with a beautiful blue sky above and no clouds anywhere to be seen. Driving along Route 115 I could see a fierce wind whipping up the snow on Mount Jefferson and it looked very cold.

I arrived at the Beaver Brook cross country ski trails and was the first one there. The meetup time was 8:00 am so I had some time to layer up. Everyone else arrived shortly at about the same time. We loaded up our gear, hoisted our packs and were on our way. As we started down the cross country ski trail there was barely an inch of snow. We followed the trail to a short road walk that brought us to the trailhead.

We started with microspikes with the exception of Jim. He prefers the Hillsound trail crampons, I also have a pair and really like them but thought the microspikes would be enough for me. We wore the same traction up and back. Jill and Jim also carried their snowshoes while the rest of us decided to leave them behind. The snowshoes got a free ride today.

We came to our first water crossing and found it to be nicely frozen. There was one more water crossing that went over a snow bridge and that too was easily crossed. As we gained elevation the snow increased but the trail had a good solid monorail. There were some old deep postholes from recent soft snow that had to be avoided. While there wasn't much of a breeze when we started the wind was beginning to increase as we got higher and it was very cold.

At the Garfield Ridge Trail junction we took a left and continued another 0.6 mile before making the turn up to Galehead Hut. We dropped our packs at the hut for the 0.5 mile hike up to the summit of Galehead Mountain. The sun was shining brightly and felt warm on the porch of the hut out of the wind. After a short break to soak up a little bit of warmth and sunshine we set out for the summit.

As we were hiking along Robin looked back and saw the moon rising above South Twin Mountain. She let the rest of us know as we were all looking down and paying attention to what was in front of us. It was a spectacular sight and certainly worth a photo. After a short steep climb we arrived at the summit. There are no views and just a very small clearing with a very small cairn. After some summit photos we started our descent.

On the way down we stopped at the outlook that provided some great views. After more photos we made our way back down to the hut. We ate some lunch and basked in the sunshine on the porch benches. After the break we started our six mile hike back down to the parking lot. It was an easy but long descent.

We made it safely over the still frozen water crossings. When we got down to the trailhead parking lot we all took off our traction. The road back to the Beaver Brook ski trails was actually starting to soften and get muddy in places. A quick hike along the ski trail and we were back to our cars.

Today's hike was really not as bad as I had anticipated. I was expecting it to be and feel much colder with less sun and maybe some clouds. The blue sky, sunshine, excellent trail conditions and great hiking companions made it an awesome hike. This was #28 for my winter 48. Hoping maybe I can tag a couple more before the season is over!

Enjoy the photos!

Sunrise over the Mahoosucs on my drive to the hike

Madison and Adams under blue sky

Fierce winds whip up the snow on Jefferson

We start our hike at the Beaver Brook cross country ski trails

Following Beaver Loop

We're about to start the road walk

Gale River

Road walk to the trailhead

The Gale River trailhead parking lot

Jim walking on ice at a water crossing

Jim crosses a snow bridge further up the trail

Ice under the snow bridge

Amy leaps over the snow bridge as Jill watches

Jim checks the ice

Frost on the water

About four feet of snow and ice on the river

Arriving at the Garfield Ridge Trail junction

A view from the Garfield Ridge Trail

Jim checks out the trail to South Twin

South Twin from Galehead Hut

A view down the valley

Dropping our packs at the Galehead Hut before heading to the summit

Frost Trail to the summit of Galehead

Twin Brook Trail junction

At the Galehead outlook

Back at the hut for a break before heading down

The moon has just cleared the trees

Moon rising over South Twin

Jim checks the ice on another water crossing

Amy, Robin and Amy trying to avoid the trail ice

Jill and Jim make the water crossing look easy

Back down at the trailhead and removing our traction for the road walk

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Looks like a happy hiking group! I just can't believe you guys and girls hiking in subzero weather! Tuff!!!

    1. At least the sun made it "feel" warmer!

  2. You have the most interesting and beautiful photographs on your trip reports. I found your blog a number of months ago and check it from time to time when I am looking for hiking inspiration, so thank you!

  3. I'm glad you enjoy the blog, Shayla! Thanks for following!