Mount Webster and Mount Jackson Loop

Mountains:  Mt. Webster (3910'), Mt. Jackson (4052'), Elephant Head, Bugle Cliff (2450')
Trails:  Webster-Jackson Trail, Webster Cliff Trail, Elephant Head Spur, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Presidentials
Location:  Twin Moutain (Carroll), NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, 4000-footer, brooks, cascades, rock scrambles, loop hike
Distance:  6.9 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2450 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 4:32   Typical: 4:50  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 7:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  10/31/1999 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  10/21/2008  
Weather:  Mostly 40-45 degrees; lightly hazy
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike over Mount Webster and Mount Jackson with rock scrambles along the way and fantastic views from the summits. It also visits two lower-elevation outlooks: Elephant Head and Bugle Cliff.

  • Start on Webster-Jackson Trail.
  • After only 0.1 mile, turn right to follow Elephant Spur for 0.2 mile where it ends atop a cliff with views over Crawford Notch.
  • Retrace your steps for 0.2 mile back to Webster-Jackson Trail and continue on the main trail for 0.5 mile.
  • You will reach a spur to Bugle Cliff on the right. Follow it for 60 yards to enjoy more views from atop this ledge over Crawford Notch.
  • Retrace your steps to get back to Webster-Jackson Trail and turn right to continue the climb.
  • After 0.8 mile you will reach a fork in Webster-Jackson Trail; the left fork leads to Mount Jackson in 1.2 miles and the right fork to Mount Webster in 1.1 miles. Turn right to follow the Webster branch of the trail; we will descend via the opposite leg.
  • Continue climbing on Webster-Jackson Trail for 1.0 mile which will bring you to a junction with Webster Cliff Trail which is part of the Appalachian Trail (AT).
  • Veer right and follow Webster Cliff Trail/Appalachian Trail for 0.1 mile which will bring you to the summit of Mount Webster which offers many views from its disjointed rocky summit.
  • Retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the junction of Webster Cliff Trail and Webster-Jackson Trail.
  • Turn right and follow Webster Cliff Trail/Appalachian Trail for 1.4 miles which will bring you to the summit of Mount Jackson with lots of open ledges and fantastic views.
  • For the descent, head down Webster-Jackson Trail. After 1.2 miles you will return to the fork in Webster-Jackson Trail.
  • Keep heading straight down (veer right at the fork junction) to return to the parking area after 1.4 miles.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Webster-Jackson Trailhead (1900') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Webster-Jackson Trail/Elephant Head Spur 0.1 0.1
Elephant Head 0.2 0.3
Jct. Webster-Jackson Trail/Elephant Head Spur 0.2 0.5
Jct. Webster-Jackson Trail/Bugle Cliff Spur 0.5 1.0
Fork of Webster-Jackson Trail (2800') 0.8 1.8
Mt. Webster summit (3910') 1.1 2.9
Mt. Jackson summit (4052') 1.4 4.3
Fork of Webster-Jackson Trail (2800') 1.2 5.5
Webster-Jackson Trailhead (1900') 1.4 6.9

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Map of hike route to Mounts Webster and Jackson (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This is a great loop trail and both summits offer fantastic views. The hike to Mount Webster is moderate/difficult with several spots that require both hands and feet in order to climb up big rocks. The ridge walk from Webster to Jackson has only about 350 feet of elevation gain spread over 1.4 miles but it also has some rock scrambles to keep the route interesting/challenging. This seems to be a lesser used route as I only encountered three other parties all day.

Down at the parking lot, I felt like I was melting; it must have been in the 70's and it felt like the sun had concentrated all its heat in a single beam that was beating down on me. I entered the woods to begin the Webster-Jackson Trail and got a break from the sun; but it still felt like a hot, humid, summer day instead of Halloween.

After about five minutes, I reached the turn-off for Elephant Head. This is a spur trail that will take you to an outlook after about 10 minutes of walking.

Continuing up Webster-Jackson Trail, another spur is encountered about twenty minutes after the Elephant Head spur junction. This spur trail will lead you to Bugle Cliff in less than a minute. The views are great from this spot.

Shortly after resuming my climb up the Webster-Jackson trail, a light rain started. It was actually a good thing because it helped cool me off a little bit. The rain continued for about an hour.

Upon reaching the fork of Webster-Jackson Trail where the path splits, I took the right-hand branch to head up to Mount Webster first. Just after the fork, I came upon Silver Cascade Brook. This is a steep, rocky, climb down to the stream, then a steep, rocky, climb up away from the stream on the other side. There is a beautiful cascade falling into a pretty pool at this spot.

There didn't seem to be many trail blazes, but overall the trail was easy to follow. Some spots looked more like a rock scramble than a trail. If you don't see an obvious trail, but you do see a bunch of large rocks, you can be pretty sure that the rock scramble is the trail.

As I got closer to the summit, the rain stopped and the temperature dropped down to a refreshing 40-45 degrees. The Webster branch of Webster-Jackson Trail runs into Webster Cliff Trail and ends there. I took a right onto Webster Cliff Trail, which is also the Appalachain Trail (AT), for the final 0.1 mile to Mount Webster's summit. As I was completing this last pitch, I could see through the trees a big mass of rock face that composes Mount Webster's peak. It was really neat and ominous looking.

On the summit it was extremely windy so I put my shell and gloves on. There were fantastic views in spite of the less-than-fantastic weather. The panorama was about 180 degrees and I could see so many mountains. Off to one direction were some mountains delicately backed by a pink sky - it was as if a painter had taken artistic liberty and added the pink sky and light haze for dramatic effect.

The summit was rocky with lots of little ups and downs providing several outlook spots as well as good havens for shelter. I ate a snack in a neat little "room" formed by large boulders and canopied by a few evergreens. I used this as my home base and kept taking quick trips to the outlooks in the cold wind to drink in the scenery.

From the summit, I retraced my steps for 0.1 mile back to where Webster Cliff and Webster-Jackson Trails meet. I continued along the Webster Cliff Trail (AT) over to Mount Jackson. This was a pleasant 1.4 mile jaunt. The path was muddy in several areas but was well equipped with planks to walk upon. Decent views could be glimpsed between the trees.

Just before reaching the summit of Mount Jackson the trail appears to end and is replaced by a steep rock face that makes you crane your neck to look up as you think to yourself, "Is that the trail?". In answer to this question is a prominent paint blaze about halfway up the rock slab. The climb was actually easier than it looked with lots of convenient hand and foot holds; although I wouldn't relish the thought of doing it in icy conditions.

After climbing out of the steep section of rock, you're on Mount Jackson. You can see in every direction from this summit; although not all at once - you have to walk to different sections of the peak. Most of the summit is wide open and rocky with a small section of trees on the east side. The views are fantastic.

The wind here was so ferocious that it made the Webster winds (which I had assessed as "extremely windy") seem mild. It almost knocked me down! It was blowing in the hardest from the west so I found a moderately sheltered spot towards the north which afforded me a panorama of the Presidential peaks.

As I was sitting, I noticed a rather large (10-12 inches long), striking, bird that had perched on a nearby tree. When I turned to admire him, he came a little closer to me, rather than being spooked off as many birds would be. After a third hop closer to me, I started to realize that this might be a gray jay - those birds that I had heard so much about but had never had the honor of seeing before.

I'm told these birds hang out on mountain tops and will eat out of your hand. I quickly dived into my pack and withdrew a Kudos bar, unwrapped it, broke off a piece and placed it on the rock near me. The bird didn't come any closer. So I put the food in my open hand and laid the back of my hand against the rock. The bird came over, grabbed the chunk of food and then flew way, way, away.

I was thrilled he ate out of my hand but was surprised he didn't just eat it there and then wait for more. I got out my field guide and quickly confirmed that he was indeed a gray jay, also know as Canadian jay. His head is mostly white with gray going through the eyes. Most of his body is gray, with a white tummy. He has jet black eyes, beak, feet, and legs.

After a minute or so, he came flying back to me, and perched on a short evergreen in front of me. I held out another chunk of the bar and he grabbed it and flew away again. This process was repeated for a while as he carried the food to his stash. I ended up holding my palm up above the rock so that he would have to perch on my hand to grab the food. The feel of his feet on my skin was really neat.

At one point, he was perched on the tree, about to come to my hand when the wind gusted strongly. It looked like he was all hunkered down and holding onto that tree branch with all his might to avoid being blown away. I never realized before how much the wind must affect birds. In fact his flight pattern seemed to be tailored to the direction of the wind. He would fly directly from my hand to his cache, but on the return trip, he would loop around past me to compensate for the wind blowing him towards me when he stopped - so he ended up landing perfectly in front of me each time.

I was so thrilled to be feeding such a beautiful, graceful bird that I didn't want to stop - but I eventually realized that this gray jay would keep coming back to get as much food as he could get from me. I only hoped he didn't eat it all at once. It was about time for me to head back down the trail in order to get back before dark, plus I was concerned that it might not be good to be feeding him Kudos bars so I stopped after dispensing three bars piece-by-piece.

I headed down the Jackson branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail. The top part of the trail was open rocks and it felt like the ferocious wind was knocking me backwards. The winds got less intense as I lost elevation and dipped into the shelter of the woods.

The terrain on the Jackson branch was much the same as the Webster branch with several rock scrambles. I got back to the car just as darkness settled in.
 
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NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is located on Route 302 in Twin Mountain (Carroll), New Hampshire. Part of the trail goes through Crawford Notch State Park.

Coming from the west:
  • The Webster-Jackson Trailhead is about 8.5 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302, about 0.1 mile after the Highland Center which is on the right.
  • The parking area is on the right and the trailhead is across the street on the left.

Coming from the east:
  • Traveling from the east, the Webster-Jackson Trailhead is about 2.6 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site, about 0.1 mile before the AMC Highland Center which is on the left.
  • The parking area is on the left and the trailhead is across the street on the right.

More Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson Trail Reports   

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