Mt. Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail

Destinations:  Mt. Jefferson (5716'), Lower Cap (4422'), Upper Cap (4830')
Trail:  Caps Ridge Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Thompson and Meserves Purchase, NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, 4000-footer, alpine zone, rock scrambles
Distance:  5.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2710 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 6:15  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/06/2009 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  09/14/2009  
Weather:  Clear and sunny
Author:  Kathy Veilleux
Companion:  Cathie

Junction of Caps Ridge Trail and The Cornice with Mount Jefferson in the background (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
Junction of Caps Ridge Trail and The Cornice with Mount Jefferson in the background (photo by Kathy Veilleux)

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike to Mount Jefferson, a 4000-footer with 360-degree views. Caps Ridge Trail will be followed all the way. There are a few "caps" along the way which are simply rocky knobs providing viewpoints.

  • Start on Caps Ridge Trail on Jefferson Notch Road.
  • After 1.1 miles, you'll reach a junction with The Link on the left. Keep going straight on Caps Ridge Trail.
  • After another 0.4 mile, you will reach Lower Cap.
  • Keep climbing, reaching the Upper Cap after another 0.4 mile.
  • After 0.2 mile you will reach a 4-way intersection with The Cornice. Keep going straight on Caps Ridge Trail.
  • Finally hike for another 0.4 mile to reach the rocky summit of Mount Jefferson.
  • After enjoying the views, retrace your steps following Caps Ridge Trail all the way. At the top, take care to make sure you pick up the right path as several trails leave from the summit.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Caps Ridge Trailhead on Jefferson Notch Road (3008') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Caps Ridge Trail/The Link (3800') 1.1 1.1
Lower Cap (4422') 0.4 1.5
Upper Cap (4830') 0.4 1.9
Jct. Caps Ridge Trail/The Cornice (5025') 0.2 2.1
Mt. Jefferson summit (5716') 0.4 2.5
Jct. Caps Ridge Trail/The Cornice (5025') 0.4 2.9
Upper Cap (4830') 0.2 3.1
Lower Cap (4422') 0.4 3.5
Jct. Caps Ridge Trail/The Link (3800') 0.4 3.9
Caps Ridge Trailhead on Jefferson Notch Road (3008') 1.1 5.0

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Trail map of hike route to Mount Jefferson (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Flashback for a moment to May 2008. I was hiking up to Carter Notch Hut with three friends. I know, I know, this trail report is titled "Jefferson." Work with me here for a minute though.

I had driven up north with Cathie, my usual hiking partner. We camped the night before in Twin Mountain and met the other two at PNVC. So, there I was on Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail with three friends. We were hiking in snowy monorail conditions, with wild rainy weather. I had my new pants on and was feeling pretty spiffy. We leapfrogged with one another and were fast approaching the Carter Dome Trail junction. I was a bit ahead and stopped to wait for the rest. I wasn't really paying attention to Cathie as she approached, but she had found a key on a lanyard along the trail and was going to tie it onto a branch for the unlucky schmuck that had dropped it. Lo and behold, it was my key! Yikes! I had put it in my pocket with the lanyard hanging out and it must have worked it's way loose. Whew! Thank goodness I stopped when I did and Cathie didn't just hang it on a branch and keep on walking.

Okay, flash forward to Sunday, September 6th. Cathie and I (and about a hundred others) were hiking up Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson. We approached the junction with The Link and I saw this guy (later learned his name was Andy) trying to tie a lanyard to a tree. Hee Hee, thought I. Some poor schmoe lost his keys. Been there. But wait. That is the exact same lanyard as mine! That's weird. And, hey! That is a single Toyota key… that looks just like mine! It can't be, that guy was ahead of me.

View from the second cap, south to Castellated Ridge (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
View from the second cap, south to Castellated Ridge (photo by Kathy Veilleux)

Once I got over my bewilderment, the mystery was solved. It was indeed my key on my lanyard. (I was wearing the same pants, too!) Andy had been slightly ahead of us but then doubled back to check on his partner and the little guy she was hiking with. He then passed us again on the uphill. Apparently he had picked up my keys since doubling back and re-passing us and figured the owner would find them hanging in the tree. Weird, huh? I've made a vow to clip the key inside my pack and make a spare for Cathie too. So, if you're reading this Andy, Thanks again!

The Jefferson hike was great. Stellar day. We got to the first outlook but there was a crowd so we kept hiking up. We came upon a group of boy scouts who let us pass them at the beginning of the first cap. It was definitely more than I thought it would be. Pictures just don't do justice to this hike.

We made it up the second cap by side-lining a bit and avoiding the steepest lower section. After those two, the third and final cap was no problem. We stopped for a snack at the junction with The Cornice. I had to throw on my fleece because the winds were picking up as we got higher.

Cairn on Mount Jefferson's summit with Mount Washington visible in the background (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
Cairn on Mount Jefferson's summit with Mount Washington visible in the background (photo by Kathy Veilleux)

After trudging along the rocks we finally made the summit. It seemed like it took a lot longer than two and half hours. After taking a few summit pics we retreated a ways down and found a nice sunny, grassy spot to hang out and eat lunch. We stayed on the summit about 45 minutes. We had an awesome view over to Mount Washington from our lunch spot.

We started heading down, a little uncertain about descending the caps, but took it slow and soon we were down and onto the flatter sections.

Though the hike is short, my quads were feeling the pressure of the constant braking on the rocks. All in all, we agreed it was a five-star day: we were hiking, we made it up and down in one piece, it was a gorgeous day, we'd get home in time to do stuff around the house, and the bonus is that we knocked another off the 4000-footer list (#22 for Cathie, #27 for me).

View of Mount Washington from our lunch spot on the summit of Mount Jefferson (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
View of Mount Washington from our lunch spot on the summit of Mount Jefferson (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
 






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NH - Central East



  Driving Directions   

The Caps Ridge Trailhead is located in Thompson and Meserves Purchase, New Hampshire, on Jefferson Notch Road which can be accessed indirectly from either Route 302 or Route 2.

Cathie, on the flat section just below the first cap (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
Cathie, on the flat section just below the first cap (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
Heading West on Route 302:
  • Heading west on Rt. 302, turn right onto Mount Clinton Road which is 0.2 mile past the AMC Highland Center.
  • Travel 3.6 miles then, at a crossroads, go straight onto Jefferson Notch Road.
  • Follow Jefferson Notch Road for 3.4 miles and the Caps Ridge Trailhead and parking area will be on the right.

Heading East on Route 302:
  • Heading east on Rt. 302, turn left onto Base Road (the road that leads to the Cog Railroad). The turn is about 4.4 miles east of the junction of Routes 3 and 302.
  • Travel about 4.5 miles then, at a crossroads, turn left onto Jefferson Notch Road.
  • Follow Jefferson Notch Road for 3.4 miles and the Caps Ridge Trailhead and parking area will be on the right.

From Route 2 in Randolph:
  • Turn south onto Valley Road (Valley Road is about 3.3 miles east of the junction of Routes 2 and 115).
  • After 1.2 miles, turn left onto Jefferson Notch Road.
  • Follow Jefferson Notch Road for 5.3 miles and the Caps Ridge Trailhead and parking area will be on the left.

Restricted Access: Jefferson Notch Road is open only in the summer and early fall.

Other Notes   

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

Rates:
  • $3 per day
  • $5 for a week-long pass
  • $20 for a year-long pass
  • $25 for two year-long passes (one household/two cars)

More Mt. Jefferson Trail Reports   

 



 
View towards Bretton Woods with the Mount Washington Hotel to the left of the ski slopes (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
View towards Bretton Woods with the Mount Washington Hotel to the left of the ski slopes (photo by Kathy Veilleux)
 

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