Kaitlyn Gilligan SCA New Hampshire Conservation Corps-Discover the Power of Parks Interpretive Ranger
Many people come to the White Mountains for hiking, that is not a surprise. It has some of the most picturesque views in the country. The Appalachian trail runs through a section of the Whites, so while you are hiking sometimes you will run into some “Thu-hikers” which always leads to an interesting conversation. Thru-hikers always amaze me, they are some of the most down to earth and dedicated people I have ever met. Now what some people don’t know when visiting New Hampshire is that there is a chance to stay at a hut on top of one of the mountains along the Appalachian trail. For more than 125 years, the AMC’s White Mountain hut system has been offering visitors and thru-hikers a place to stay along their journey.
What to know
In order to stay at a hut, you do need a reservation and there is a fee but it includes breakfast and dinner family-style. They do not go stingy on the breakfast and dinner either, it is usually buffet style with pancakes, eggs, bacon or sausage and a hot beverage. If you plan on staying here, you should know that in the bunkrooms there are no electrical outlets, lighting, or heat. They offer a greatly reduced fee for Appalachian trail thru-hikers, which is amazing. If you are just doing a day trip, you can stop in for a quick bite to eat with one of their specials of the day or a cold drink. Nothing is better after hiking 6 or more hours than having cold-running water to wipe away all your tears. One of my favorite memories of hiking the Franconia Ridge loop, is stopping at the Greenleaf hut for a warm chocolate-chip brownie on the way down.
I am going to be talking about three of the AMC huts that you can visit near Franconia Notch State Park. The first one is the Mizpah Spring Hut also known as “Pa.” It is nestled in the Presidential Range which is the highest mountain range in New Hampshire. The name means “pillar in the wilderness” and it is beautiful. It sits at 3,777 ft and with its large south-facing windows it has magnificent views of the Presidential Range. I stopped at this hut as I hiked Mount Pierce for a rest stop and was amazed by its beauty. The Presidential Range is my favorite to hike in New Hampshire and if you are looking for a beginner 4,000 footer I would recommend Mt. Pierce as it is very gradual and has great views at the top.
The next hut I will be talking about is the Greenleaf hut. It was built in 1929 and is located at the junction of Old Bridle Path and the Greenleaf Trail. It is at an elevation of 4,220 ft and overlooks Eagle Lake. There is a variety of different paths to take you up to this hut, my favorite is going up Falling Waters trail, hiking the ridge over to Mt. Lafayette and then hitting the hut on the way down on the Old Bridle Path. People travel from all over the world to hike the Franconia Ridge loop, it is about a 9 mile hike with extraordinary views of the Pemigewasset wilderness, Kinsman ridge and Franconia Notch. After this strenuous hike, the Greenleaf hut is just what everyone needs. On the weekends they offer some special treats such as chocolate chip brownies or freshly made donuts.
Lonesome Lake Hut
Finally, the easiest hut to reach in the Franconia Notch area is the Lonesome Lake Hut. If you are looking for a shorter 2-3 hour hike, this is the hut for you. It is at an elevation of 2,760 ft and located on the southwest shore of Lonesome Lake. It was built in 1962 and it accommodates 48 guests in 2 bunkhouses. Last time I stopped in, there were some freshly baked apple-cinnamon muffins, pumpkin-chocolate chip brownies, and coffee cake.
Now how do they get all this food up to the huts without car access you ask ? They must hike it up. The AMC hut caretakers or as they like to be called “croo” workers individually carry the restocking supplies on their back with old school packboards. Food and supplies are wrapped in rope attached to the packboard and hauled up the mountain. It is very impressive to see these folks on the trail. The “croo” workers are available to assist with trip planning, trail information and some huts even have a naturalist on site to offer daily programs on the local flora and fauna, geology and history of the area.
Next time you are in New Hampshire I hope you check out one of the AMC huts. They are a great organization dedicated to conservation in the White Mountains and across the Northeast.