I’ve come to the realization recently that despite being a life long New Englander, there are just some things I have somehow not done. For example, I’ve never been to NYC. I don’t know what Dunkin Donuts coffee taste like (I don’t drink coffee). And somehow, much to my embarrassment as a self-professed outdoorsy local, I had never summited any mountain in the White Mountains.
Fortunately, I changed that this weekend. Twice in fact. And I may have been bitten with the hiking bug – finally.
On Saturday, Rob, our buddy Ryan, and our dogs (Yuri and Kina) decided to give the Welch Dickey Loop in the White Mountain National Forest a try. We’d read a decent amount about trail conditions and seen a variety of pictures. We figured that at 4.5 miles round trip it wouldn’t be out of our comfort zone or too much for our pups. So, how was it?
So good. Can we go again?
Getting There: Getting to the trailhead for the Welch Dickey loop is incredibly easy. Jump off exit 28 on 93 North towards Waterville Valley. Once off the highway, continue driving for about 5.5 miles until you see Upper Mad River Road on the left. Take it and then in 0.6 mile turn right onto Morris Road. At this point you’ll start seeing signs for the trailhead, so keep following them. They’re hard to miss! Despite being there on a stunning Saturday on Labor Day weekend, finding parking was easy.
The Trail: On a scale of easy to “What am I doing here?!”, the Welch Dickey loop started off as a easy to moderate counter clockwise hike as we followed the yellow blazed trail. Within the first section, we simply encountered what you’d expect on a trail – rocks, logs, roots, and the usual. Nothing crazy at all other than one slab section that we all flew up quickly. It was a great way to get the heart pumping and legs ready for what was to come. But first, a beautiful scenic vista that I could have just stayed at all day.
For those of you hiking with young kids or dogs who don’t do well with uneven terrain, this vista is probably as far as you want to go. After this point, the trail quickly became constant steep slab (we’re talking 20-30 degree slopes!) and sketchy scrambles, all mixed in with a fine assortment of “Oh hey, that’s a cliff”. The trail rapidly became something on the difficult side of moderate, but still very doable in dry weather.
In less than 4 hours (we stopped for a lunch break and a few water breaks), we had summited both Mt. Welch (2,605′) and Mt. Dickey (2,734′), learnt a whole lot about running up and down slabs, and perfected the art of hoisting 80 pound puppies up big jumps. Would we do it again? Heck yes.
- Starting Elevation: 1,060′
- Elevation Gain: ~1,800′
- Distance: 4.5 miles RT
- Time: Half Day
Is this trail kid friendly? Dog friendly?: Yes and no. While the entire trail was absolutely stunning, you can safely get to the first vista (and one of the best) fairly easily. So, if you have little kids or those that aren’t crazy about heights I think that’s as far as I would go. Once you get past the vista, the route gets steep, twisty, and there are a surprising amount of cliffs! As for dogs, we usually meet a lot while hiking but on this one I think we met only one other who made the entire trek like our two. If you do decide to bring your dog, I highly recommend: a long non-retractable leash, a harness (we had to hoist ours up a few difficult sections), and if you have dog boots – bring ’em (we are definitely getting a pair soon).
What should you bring?: First up, you will need $3 for a day pass or a White Mountain National Forest parking pass. Other than that, this is definitely a trail that feels easier if you have your hands free to help with scrambles, steep declines, and slabby runs, so I’d highly recommend bringing a simple day pack with water, snacks, first aid kit, sunscreen, and a camera!