Mount Pierce and Mizpah Spring Hut

Destinations:  Mt. Pierce (4312'), Mizpah Spring Hut (3777'), Gibbs Falls (2300')
Trails:  Crawford Path, Gibbs Falls Spur, Webster Cliff Trail, Mizpah Cutoff, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, hut, 4000-footer, waterfall, cascades, brook, loop hike
Distance:  6.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2500 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 4:00   Typical: 4:35  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 6:45   Typical: 6:30  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  04/10/2009 (Friday)  
Last Updated:  10/03/2009  
Weather:  35-40 degrees, sunny, windy
Author:  Webmaster

View of Eisenhower, Monroe, and Washington from Mount Pierce (photo by Webmaster)


Route Summary   

This loop hike brings you to Mount Pierce which is a 4000-footer in the Presidential Range. You will also pass by AMC's Mizpah Spring Hut and Nauman Tentsite. Both the summit and portions of the walk between the hut and the peak offer fantastic views.

  • Start on Crawford Path and follow it for 0.2 mile where it will reach a junction. Crawford Connector comes in from the left and Crawford Path goes right.
  • You may want to first turn left and go downhill just a bit to the footbridge that crosses Gibbs Brook in order to check out the pretty views of the bouldery stream and its cascades. When you're done enjoying the viewpoint, head back uphill to the junction and then go straight/left onto Crawford Path. Or if you don't take the detour down to the footbridge, simply turn right to keep heading uphill on Crawford Path.
  • View of the cascades on Gibbs Brook, taken from the footbridge (photo by Webmaster)
  • After walking 0.2 mile uphill from the junction, look for a sign for "Gibbs Falls" on the left. Follow the path left for about 40 yards which will bring you to a viewpoint of Gibbs Falls spilling down a tall ledge.
  • Retrace your steps on the spur then turn left to resume the ascent on Crawford Path.
  • Hike on Crawford Path for another 1.3 miles which will bring you to a junction with Mizpah Cutoff. Bear left to stay on Crawford Path; our return route will later bring us down Mizpah Cutoff.
  • Continue on Crawford Path for an additional 1.2 miles until reaching the junction with Webster Cliff Trail.
  • Turn right onto Webster Cliff Trail which is part of the Appalachian Trail (leaving Crawford Path to continue straight ahead) and ascend 0.1 mile to the summit of Mount Pierce which is marked by a cairn with denser scrub beyond it. The summit offers fantastic views over to the rounded dome of Mount Eisenhower and the building-topped Mount Washington.
  • When you're through enjoying the views, continue along Webster Cliff Trail / Appalachian Trail, descending Mount Pierce on the other side, and arriving at Mizpah Spring Hut and Nauman Tentsite in 0.8 mile.
  • Upon entering the cleared area at Mizpah Spring Hut, turn right and walk several strides along the clearing edge, then turn right again back into the woods where a sign indicates "Webster Cliff Trail / Mizpah Cutoff 200 feet".
  • In about 200 feet, Webster Cliff Trail / Appalachian Trail turns left while Mizpah Cutoff goes straight ahead. Keep straight to get onto Mizpah Cutoff.
  • Descend gently on Mizpah Cutoff for 0.7 mile until it runs into Crawford Path at a junction that you met during your ascent.
  • Turn left and follow Crawford Path for 1.7 miles back to the parking lot. After 1.5 miles, turn left at the junction with Crawford Connector in order to stay on Crawford Path.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Crawford Path trailhead on Rt. 302 (1910') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. Crawford Path/Crawford Connector (2080') 0.2 0.2
Jct. Crawford Path / Gibbs Falls Spur (2250') 0.2 0.4
Jct. Crawford Path / Mizpah Cutoff (3380') 1.3 1.7 1:16 1:16
Jct. Crawford Path / Webster Cliff Trail (4250') 1.2 2.9 0:52 2:08
Mt. Pierce summit (4312') 0.1 3.0 0:03 2:11
Mizpah Spring Hut (3800') 0.8 3.8 0:42 2:53
Jct. Crawford Path / Mizpah Cutoff (3380') 0.7 4.5 0:22 3:15
Jct. Crawford Path / Gibbs Falls Spur (2250') 1.3 5.8
Jct. Crawford Path / Crawford Connector (2080') 0.2 6.0
Crawford Path trailhead on Rt. 302 (1910') 0.2 6.2 0:45 4:00

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Crawford Path (photo by Webmaster)

Crawford Path (photo by Webmaster)
 




 

Trail map of hike route to Mt. Pierce and Mizpah Spring Hut (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

Stunning views and a wonderful winter landscape were my rewards for this early April hike up to Mount Pierce in the Presidential region. But since it was April, I was able to experience the beautiful wintry scenes while enjoying mild temperatures and longer daylight hours. It was a sunny, blue-sky day with fluffy white clouds. The only thing I could have asked for to make it absolutely perfect would have been just a little less wind.

Snow-covered trees and blue skies on Crawford Path (photo by Webmaster) I had been lamenting the passing of winter and the absence of snow but a friend had told me that he recently went cross-country skiing around Bretton Woods and there was still solid snow cover. And the next day, I saw views of the Presidentials and it looked like they were covered with fresh snow. So I blew off work on a Friday and decided to get up to the Presidentials to enjoy walking through fresh snow – instead of a mixture of bare ground, ice, and old snow that my recent hikes had taken me on – and to see those snow-cloaked mountains up close.

Pierce was the logical choice for this objective because it's accessible with only about a three-mile hike up relatively easy terrain. There's a good amount of elevation gain, averaging 900 feet per mile for the 1.5 miles immediately below Mizpah Cutoff; and then easing to less than 800 feet per mile for the final 1.3 miles to the summit. The reason you may often hear this hike referred to as "easy" is because the grade is nice and steady on an easy-to-follow woodland path free of rock scrambles; whereas many approaches to the Presidentials are much steeper and over rougher terrain. Pierce is also a safe hike because you don't break out into the open until you're very near the top so if weather is bad, you have trees close by to shelter you.

To get the most out of this beautiful day and to cover a bit of new ground, my plan after ascending the summit was to hike from Pierce on Webster Cliff Trail down to Mizpah Spring Hut, and then possibly to continue on Webster Cliff Trail to Mount Jackson descending on Webster-Jackson Trail. Although the scenery on Webster Cliff Trail was fabulous, I decided it was more prudent just to loop over to Mizpah Spring Hut and descend from there leaving the other leg of Webster Cliff Trail to be explored on a summer day where the route would be easier to follow.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Ascent to Pierce    |    Pierce to Mizpah Spring Hut and the Descent


View of Mount Pierce's open ledges near the summit (photo by Webmaster)


Ascent to Pierce   

Since I had considered descending via Webster-Jackson Trail, I began this hike on the true Crawford Path accessible from Route 302, rather than starting from the usual route via Crawford Connector on Mount Clinton Road. There were just a few small bare spots at the beginning of the trail and I was pleased to see that the snowpack was about one foot deep even at the base of the mountain. The snow was totally hardpacked – on and off the trail. Usually there is an indentation about the width of two snowshoes that is solid and when you step out of that groove the snow is significantly softer. So these were perfect conditions without even a confining gully marking the trailway. And the snow was a pristine white which was also a nice treat this late in the season.

Crawford Path climbed moderately and soon (after 0.2 mile) reached the junction with Crawford Connector which comes in from the large parking area on Mount Clinton Road. I could hear Gibbs Brook babbling furiously as I walked, so upon reaching the junction, I first turned left to take a small detour in order to get a better look at the brook. Just downhill from the junction is a footbridge over Gibbs Brooks which gives you great views of cascades upstream and nice ledges and boulders downstream.

After enjoying the cascades and small pool, I headed back uphill on Crawford Path which parallels Gibbs Brooks for about mile, periodically offering glimpses of the waterway. I passed by a memorial plaque mounted low on a boulder on the right. It read, "Crawford Path National Recreation Trail, Built by Abel & Ethan Crawford 1819, Dedicated 1994, The oldest continuously-used mountain trail in America." Just 0.2 mile from the footbridge, I turned left at the sign for Gibbs Falls and walked a very short ways to get a view of the falls dropping down from ledges about 35 feet tall. The narrow but powerful stream of white stepped down in several tiers. You can descend all the way to the shoreline but with the steep snow-covered incline, I was content to view it from my high perch, looking directly across at its midpoint.

View of Mount Washington and its summit structures from the ledges of Mount Pierce (photo by Webmaster)


I returned to Crawford Path and continued the climb. When I started hiking the temperature was 40 degrees but dropped down to 35 as I gained elevation. I was sweating from the exertion and took off my fleece for a while, but the steady wind chilled my arms (in spite of a long-sleeved shirt) so I ended up putting the fleece back on. Much of the lower part of the climb was beneath hemlock trees. The woods were not dense and there were also a fair number of bare hardwoods which allowed a lot of sun to get to the trail while offering views of the blue skies and surrounding terrain.

After about an hour of climbing, I decided a break was in order. I sat and ate part of sandwich which refreshed me. Looking down into old postholes, the snowpack appeared to be at least two feet deep up here. Continuing on I soon encountered snow-covered trees which is always a magical sight. Fifteen minutes beyond my snack break, I reached the junction with Mizpah Cutoff. Although Crawford Path is usually a popular hiking trail, up to this point I had yet to encounter a single soul – although hiking on a Friday rather than a true weekend would account for lower traffic.

Above Mizpah Cutoff, still on Crawford Path, the grade eased and the trees got shorter. I saw a snow cave dug out to the right of the trail and hoped that it was used as a planned winter camping spot rather than an emergency shelter. Then shortly beyond this on the left was an indentation indicating that the spot had been used as a tentsite. Then to my surprise, I actually met a man and his dog – I was beginning to think I was the only one on the mountain. He was also commenting on how easy the walking was with the hardpacked snow, so aside from doing Pierce, he trekked an additional 1.2 miles each way in order to summit Mount Eisenhower.

Little icicles dangling from the tree branches (photo by Webmaster)


The conifers were covered with snow and little clumps of ice and from the branches draped icicles that were only about two inches long. The wind caused the icicles to tinkle against each other and the hot sun was melting the ice enough for it detach from the trees and fall to the ground (or on my head) with little clatters. With the high snowpack and the heavy-limbed trees, I had to do a lot ducking down and walking hunched over to follow the trail. There were limited views to the left that became more expansive as elevation was gained – this portion of the walk was truly exhilarating. The woodland scenery was beautiful and I knew that soon the vistas would be absolutely breathtaking.

After my second hour of hiking I took another break to refill my water bladder and finish my sandwich. I wanted to get these "housekeeping" tasks taken care of before breaking out totally into the open. I also donned a neck gaiter and gloves. I finally broke out of the woods with the bulk of Mount Pierce still at my right but with totally open vistas to my left. Here I met a couple that was on their way down. The winds were fierce and the views were fabulous.

I could see the ridge connecting Pierce to Eisenhower and the distinct round dome of Mount Eisenhower; Mount Washington rose behind and to the right of Eisenhower with Mount Jefferson to the left of Eisenhower – all of them covered in bright white snow against a backdrop of blue skies. Looking down towards the left I could spot the white building and red roofs of the Mount Washington Hotel and see the Bretton Woods downhill ski slopes. Pierce's slopes were cloaked by snow-covered scrub with the snow mostly accumulating just on the north side of the spruce.

Snow splattered on the north-facing sides of scrub on Mount Pierce (photo by Webmaster)


I contoured around Pierce just a bit longer to arrive at the junction of Crawford Path and Webster Cliff Trail. The trail post and back of one of the signs were covered with bizarre sideways-oriented icicles. I turned right to hike up to Pierce's summit. I was grateful for the faint footprints to follow because the snow-cloaked open ledges made it difficult to discern the trail. I saw something that might have been a cairn but even up close I wasn't sure if it was a pile of snow-covered rocks or snow-covered scrub. I walked past it and looked back and laughed upon discovering that it was indeed a cairn with its south-facing side almost totally free of snow and ice. So there's a tip for following trails in the winter – walk backwards! Well, remember to look behind you for cairns and blazes that may be snow-free if you can't find any in the direction you're facing. And a bit farther along, I noticed a faint outline of rocks on the ground lining either side of the path.

I quickly reached the summit of Mount Pierce which is only 0.1 mile from the junction of Crawford Path and Webster Cliff Trail. The views were stunning and since the far side of Pierce's summit is covered in scrub, I had the advantage of enjoying the vistas while being somewhat sheltered from the wind. I sat down and enjoyed some hot soup while marveling at the winter landscape. In addition to the main mountains, every little ridge and knob were clearly visible. Mount Monroe could be seen between Eisenhower and Washington (to Eisenhower's right) with Oakes Gulf dropping away sharply from Monroe to its right. The towers and buildings atop Washington stood out against the blue sky.

View of scrub-covered Mt. Pierce from Crawford Path with mountains and Bretton Woods downhill ski area in the distance (photo by Webmaster)


Pierce to Mizpah Spring Hut and the Descent   

After sitting for about a half-hour I started to get chilly so I packed up to resume my hike on Webster Cliff Trail. Descending just a bit on the far side of Pierce's summit opens up views to the endless peaks stretching to the south and southwest, including the 4700-foot Mount Carrigain with its long Signal Ridge dominating the scene.

On this side of the mountain, the sun had worked to soften the very top layer of the snow so it was soft and slippery. The icicles and little ice balls were melting even faster here and often bombarded me while steadily making their little clattering sounds. I was frequently walking through a narrow path hemmed in by spruce which kept my jacket (luckily waterproof) pretty wet on the outside. Although the wind was barely present on this side of the mountain, I kept my shell on for protection against the melting snow. Webster Cliff Trail (part of the Appalachian Trail) started out with gentle ups and downs with occasional magnificent views of mountains. Although these vistas weren't cloaked with bright white snow, they were still quite incredible.

View of Signal Ridge and Mt. Carrigain from Webster Cliff Trail (photo by Webmaster)


I was following a lone pair of footprints, which were often obscured by piles of those little ice balls that kept falling from the trees. At one point I had to duck way down to follow a segment beneath a tunnel of low-branched trees. The slope was mostly covered by low scrub with occasional openings which made following the trail a bit of a challenge. Well, it would have been really hard without the footprints that were there ahead of me. I saw absolutely no trail blazes (but there were a couple cairns in the more open areas) until getting quite close to Mizpah Spring Hut, upon which I spotted a few faded white paint blazes that are used to mark the Appalachian Trail.

After a while the descent got quite steep which slowed down progress. I had read in AMC's White Mountain Guide that this section of trail has a couple of ladders to aid with the steep portions. I assume the ladders were there but if so, they were completely covered by the snow as I saw no evidence of them. At a steep pitch by a notice that I was entering a Forest Protection Area, I took a break to regroup. I put the camera away because I didn't know how much more water it could handle. And I traded in my wet fleece gloves for a pair of waterproof ones.

Views from Webster Cliff Trail (photo by Webmaster)


Barely ten minutes later, I arrived at the boarded-up Mizpah Spring Hut (not open in the winter) and the Nauman Tentsite at a wide clearing. Three guys had pitched a tent next to the "hut" which was actually quite tall and large. I found a trail sign for Mount Clinton Trail but couldn't find one for Webster Cliff Trail or Mizpah Cutoff so I asked the tenters to direct me which they very graciously did. So coming down Webster Cliff Trail, instead of heading across the clearing, you should turn right and walk along the edge of the clearing, then turn right again where there is a faded sign for "Webster Cliff Trail / Mizpah Cutoff 200 feet".

I turned right at this sign and looked for another trail or sign to the left. I saw a faint path that was probably Webster Cliff Trail although I did not see a sign for it. I was glad I had decided to descend via Mizpah Cutoff rather than continuing to Jackson along the hard-to-follow-in-Winter Webster Cliff Trail. So for Mizpah Cutoff I just kept straight ahead on the most prominent footway. At this point the footway had reverted to totally hardpacked trail which was great for walking on but didn't leave obvious footprints to follow in spite of three hikers recently ascending this route.

Webster Cliff Trail winding through the scrub (photo by Webmaster)


Mizpah Cutoff started off descending gradually and then later a bit more moderately. After about 20 minutes, and 0.7 mile, Mizpah Cutoff ended where it bumped into Crawford Path at a junction that I had encountered during the ascent. I turned left to descend on Crawford Path which at this point in the day, had a well-worn footway. I soon encountered a party of three backpackers heading up to Nauman Tentsite. Then I met a father and son from Montreal that were also heading up to the hut area, and a single dayhiker was descending, probably from Pierce.

The walk down was easy and I soon passed by the spur to Gibbs Falls and then arrived at the junction with Crawford Connector. I turned left to take Crawford Path back to Route 302 and the AMC Highland Center. I started the hike at 10:15 a.m. and finished at 5:00 p.m. It was a fantastic way to enjoy the day.
 
View from Crawford Path on the way up to Mt. Pierce (photo by Webmaster)

Snow-covered cairn on Webster Cliff Trail on the approach to the Mt. Piece summit (photo by Webmaster)


Horizontal icicles on the back of a trail sign (photo by Webmaster)

Lichen-covered tree trunk on Webster Cliff Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Webster Cliff Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Mizpah Spring Hut (photo by Webmaster)


White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

Views from Webster Cliff Trail on the south side of Mt. Pierce (photo by Webmaster)

 


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for Crawford Path is located on Rt. 302, in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire. Parking is at the AMC Highland Center.

AMC Highland Center Parking Lot
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Twin Mountain, follow Rt. 302 East for 8.2 miles, then turn right into AMC's Highland Center parking lot. Traveling from the east, the Highland Center will be on the left and is about 3 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site.
  • Ice-covered tree along Crawford Path (photo by Webmaster)
  • Atop the embankment that separates the parking area from the highway will be a sign for Crawford Path. Climb up the stone stairs, then cross Route 302 to reach the start of Crawford Path which is marked by another sign.

Or you may park at the large parking lot that's usually used for accessing Crawford Path via Crawford Connector. This trailhead is located on Mount Clinton Road, off of Rt. 302, in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire. If you choose to start here, review the Route Summary section of the Pierce-Mizpah trail report that starts from this lot for slightly different walking directions at the beginning and end of the hike.

Crawford Connector Parking Lot
  • From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Twin Mountain, follow Rt. 302 East for 8.0 miles, then turn left onto Mount Clinton Road. Traveling from the east, Mount Clinton Road will be on the right and is 0.2 mile beyond the AMC Highland Center, or about 3 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site.
  • Almost immediately upon turning onto Mount Clinton Road, take your first left into a large parking lot.
  • The trailhead for Crawford Connector is at the far end of the parking area, just to the right of the toilets.
  • A WMNF parking permit is required for this lot.

Facilities   

The AMC Highland Center offers bathrooms, meals, lodging, a small shop with books and maps, and evening programs.

Right next door, the Craford Notch Depot / Macomber Visitor Center offers a small museum, gift shop, bathrooms, and coin-operated showers.

There are toilets at the parking lot on Mount Clinton Road.

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. Pierce and Mizpah Spring Hut Trail Reports   

  White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

View of the ledges below Mt. Pierce's summit taken from Webster Cliff Trail (photo by Webmaster)

 

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