I blame it on my education and career, but I tend to be fascinated and driven by big goals and even longer checklists (it’s the engineer and analyst in me). So, needless to say, the NH 4000 Footer list has been drawing me in for years now, but always felt just out of my grasp. For those of you unfamiliar with it, I’ll sum it up: 48 mountains in NH with an elevation of 4000′ or more. They feature some of the world’s worst weather, long brutal winters, cliffs, ridges, and almost everything in between. No matter what you’ve already hiked, the 4000 Footers are pretty badass.
As I mentioned recently, I got bit by the hiking bug – and I got bit hard. A mere two weeks after having a blast on the Welch-Dickey Loop, we decided to tackle a 4000 footer. After lots and lots of time spent staring at AMC maps and drooling over the best New England hiking website of all time, we decided on Mt. Pierce.
For my first 4000 footer, I have to admit it was a perfect teaser (even if we did end up in a cloud with no view) for what I’m about to get into as I tackle the other 47.
Getting There: I’m thankful that the trailhead for Mt. Pierce is ridiculously easy to find with ample parking. Just throw “AMC Highland Center” into your GPS, and you are good to go. The AMC Highland Center is directly across the street from the beginning of the Crawford Path which hits several major peaks, so it couldn’t get any easier if you tried. I also love the fact that the drive there takes me through some of my favorites parts of the world including Franconia Notch, the stunning Cannon Cliff, and views of many stunning peaks!
On a side note, the AMC Highland Center is a seriously impressive lodge (er, more like a full out complex) with rooms, food, bathrooms, and all those nice to have modern conveniences. Be sure to check out AMC’s website for more info on rates and accommodations.
The Trail: On a scale of easy to “What am I doing here?!”, the climb to the summit of Mt. Pierce just felt like a “I can totally do this”. It wasn’t terribly steep (especially not after the slab climbs of Welch-Dickey), but it is a long trail and feels pretty big once you finally head down. Overall though, it’s right around a 6 mile roundtrip hike even with a slight longer loop on the way back down to visit Mizpah Spring Hut (which is once again an actual building with bathrooms, food, and lodging – crazy).
The trail itself is remarkably well cared for and I suppose it isn’t a surprise. The Crawford Path is the oldest continually maintained trail in the United States dating back to 1819. I was pleased to see so many ingenious, but totally natural solutions to hiker use and erosion. Made the LNT side of me pretty happy.
All in all, with my slow pace (even worse on downhill scrambles), several breaks, and a brief summit photo session, we did the trip in less than 6 hours (started at 11:30am, off by 5:00pm). I’m sure most hikers will find they can do it much faster, but sometimes slow is nice!
For a super detailed and absolutely perfect description of the route (along with mileage and split times), check out Hike New England’s trip report (and then go drool over a dozen other hikes).
- Starting Elevation: 1,900′ (AMC Highland Lodge)
- Elevation Gain: ~2,500′ Cumulative
- Highest Point: 4,311′ (Mt. Pierce Summit)
- Distance: ~6.2 miles RT
- Time: 5-6 Hours
Is this trail kid friendly? Dog friendly?: I was surprised, but the answer is yes. We brought Yuri with us and ran into a number of families at the beginning of the trail on their way back down. There really aren’t any cliffs to fall off of or other precarious scenarios. However, please keep in mind that this is a decently long hike at over 6 miles and requires preparation, endurance, and flexibility. Kids should be prepared to walk the entire thing and dogs should be accustom to long long walks!
Also on the topic of dogs: WMNF is gracious enough to allow dogs all over their stunning peaks, and us dog owners appreciate it. Please do other hikers and dog owners a favor by picking up after your dog, leaving unfriendly pups at home, and being prepared to leash your dog at any time.
What should you bring?: First up, you will need $3 for a day pass or a White Mountain National Forest parking pass. Since this is a high summit hike, it is super essential to be prepared for variable weather. While it might be sunny and nice at the base, it’s not unheard of to expect ice and high winds at the summit. For information on high summit weather, MWOBS is your absolute best resource.