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Mount Washington might be the biggest game in town, but it’s not the only mountain around here worth climbing. Especially during the summer months you might be better off taking the Auto Road to the top of the big guy, and then hiking up a less crowded slope (then again, you won’t find solitude on any of the 4,000-footers). Pick up a copy of the White Mountain Guide, published by AMC books, at the visitors center for detailed instructions on other hikes in the area.
The two next-highest peaks are the 5,384-foot Mount Monroe and the 5,774-foot Mount Adams. The former is on the southwestern side of Washington near the Lakes of the Clouds hut, and makes a popular side trip while climbing the mountain or staying in the hut. Adams, on the other hand, is deep in the backcountry north of Washington, and is, if anything, a more difficult climb.
The two most popular routes to the top are the Valley Way (4.7 miles) and Airline Trail (4.3 miles), both of which leave from a trailhead on Route 2, three miles west of Route 16. The Randolph Mountain Club (www.randolphmountainclub.org) maintains four year-round shelters and several campgrounds in the northern Presidentials for overnights.
Another popular but strenuous climb is the hike up to Wildcat Mountain, from which you can get a close-up view of Mount Washington. From the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, the Lost Pond Trail climbs moderately for a mile up to the Wildcat Ridge Trail, which then rises steeply to several open ledges and Wildcat’s two peaks, named Wildcat A and Wildcat D.
The ridge is also accessible from the shorter but more difficult Nineteen-Mile Brook trail, which leaves from a trailhead four miles north of the visitors center and meets up with the Wildcat Ridge Trail on the other side of the summits. The AMC’s self-service Carter Notch Hut (603/466-2727, www.outdoors.org) is located at the junction of the two trails, and is open year-round for overnight stays.
Hiking in this region is not all about bagging 4,000-foot peaks. There are plenty of shorter hikes to scenic views or secluded glens for day hikers. The popular Glen Ellis Falls is a 64-foot cascade on the Ellis River, accessible by a paved trail that begins a mile south of Pinkham Notch. An optional steep descent takes you to the base of the falls. From the visitors center, a short but steep climb leads to a rewarding view at Square Ledge, a good hike for small children and their parents.
Even if you don’t want to climb all the way up Tuckerman Ravine, another good day hike leads up the trail to Cascade Ledge, a half-mile hike that offers both a waterfall and an outstanding view of the ravine.
© Michael Blanding and Alexandra Hall from Moon New England, 2nd Edition