A beautiful Saturday plus a three day weekend almost always means I’m hiking. This time I was ready to take on the Whites again with Sarah tagging along. The plan for the day was to take on the Mt Pierce and Mt Eisenhower loop by ascending the Crawford path and coming back down the Edmands path to the trailhead. Given the relatively short distance of the hike we weren’t too concerned about getting an early start for this one. We made the 2.5 hour drive up 93 and down rte. 302 just past Bretton Woods to the trailhead. Given the amount of cars parked on the side on the road on the way up I figured the lot would be packed. Sure enough we were stuck parking off the road and yet still needed to pay the $3 parking fee. After figuring out that little debacle we got going down the Crawford Path to Mt Pierce.
As has been the case with most of the White Mountain climbs Ive done to date there was not much of a warm up period to this climb. Instead the ascent began almost immediately. Sarah and I set a pretty fast pace right out of the gates. We kept at this pace until we reached a sign for Gibbs Falls. We decided to take the brief detour to check it out and it was not disappointing but at the same time not the most spectacular waterfall I have come across in my hiking escapades.
After the waterfall we got back on the Crawford Path and headed off towards Pierce. The climb was very steady, never too steep yet never flat almost the entire way to Pierce. There were a few trail junctions on the way however you never really make a turn off of the Crawford Path, rather just stay straight until you break tree line.
Once we broke tree line it was not long before we reached the summit of Mt Pierce. The summit is marked with a very large cairn along with a geological summit marker on 2 different rocks. We took some time on the summit to really enjoy the view as we had done the entire ascent in just under 2 hours.
After fueling up on Clif Bars and Gatorade and getting our picture taken a few times we kept on going to make our ascent of Mt Eisenhower. Just looking at the terrain in front of us it appeared we would be above tree line for the majority of the hike to Eisenhower. Turns out I was right, we gradually descended from Pierce really only stopping to shed a layer of clothing before once again clearing tree line on the way up to Eisenhower.
The walk to Eisenhower was not that difficult and we seemed to be getting there rather quickly. Once we reached the col between Pierce and Eisenhower we started to realize the last bit would be pretty intense as the gradient increased rather dramatically.
The trail would go in kind of a zig zag pattern for most of the way up Eisenhower with a few scrambles mixed in. Cairns clearly mark the trail until you reach the summit of Eisenhower. Once on the summit which was clearly marked by a giant cairn and well over a dozen people we decided to sit down and catch our breath for a little bit, while enjoying the spectacular views of the Presidential Range.
After enjoying the summit for a good while Sarah and I finally began to make our way down Eisenhower towards the Edmands Path. Sarah seemed to think we were supposed to go back the way we came to access that which to me sounded wrong given my research of the trail. We went with my gut instinct as opposed to Sarahs which turned out to be the right call. The way off the rocky summit was steep and windy. We knew we were close to the Edmands Path when we reached a section of trail where we could see what looked like 5 or 6 trails meeting at the same point from above.
From the trail junction we knew it would be a 2.9 mile trek back to the road and another 2.3 until we got back to our car. Before we made our trek down we stopped at a sign warning hikers of the potential weather conditions near the summit. We paid very little mind to it since we were not going to be spending any more time at the summit, but it raised my eyebrows as to the kind of weather that occurs in this part of the mountains.
The way down was easy straightforward hiking. For most of it Sarah and I were almost jogging, passing easily over 20 hikers on the way down. Before long we had reached the road. We were pretty tired and hungry up to that point considering we had really gone at a fast pace and hadn’t stopped much for anything. We made the 2.3 mile walk down to the trailhead while Sarah kept track of the Sox Yankees game on her phone. (Sox won!) Once there we threw the gear off and headed to Lincoln NH for some chow. All in all a successful day climbing 2 mountains in 5.5 hours!
Recommendation to hikers: Pierce and Eisenhower is a great loop hike suitable for all shapes and sizes. The summits reward you with spectacular views all the way around. Just be mindful of the weather conditions on the day you go as it can get pretty nasty!
Pierce: Views – 8 Difficulty – 4
Eisenhower: Views – 9 Difficulty – 4