Mount Willard and Centennial Pool

Destinations:  Mt. Willard (2800'), Centennial Pool (2200')
Trail:  Mount Willard Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Crawford Notch State Park
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, brook, waterfall
Distance:  3.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  900 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:15   Typical: 2:10  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 3:30   Typical: 3:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/05/2009 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  09/25/2009  
Weather:  70 degrees, sunny, clear, and breezy
Author:  Karl Searl

The view from Mount Willard's ledges showing the U-shape of Crawford Notch. That's Route 302 running through the center and the railroad tracks are to the right of the road. (photo by Karl Searl)
The view from Mount Willard's ledges showing the U-shape of Crawford Notch.  That's Route 302 running through the center and the railroad tracks are to the right of the road. (photo by Karl Searl)

Route Summary   

A relatively easy hike to Mount Willard rewards you with close-up views of Crawford Notch, rounded out with views of many more mountains farther in the distance. Optionally, you can also take a detour to Hitchcock Flume on an easy-to-follow but grown-in spur path. The hike starts off in the White Mountain National Forest, and then enters Crawford Notch State Park.

Ascent and Summit Spurs:
  • From the parking area, walk to the far side of the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center and cross the railroad (active) tracks to pick up the combined Mount Willard Trail and Avalon Trail.
  • Walk for 0.1 mile, then turn left to stay on Mount Willard Trail while Avalon Trail continues straight. Mount Willard Trail has some faded blue paint blazes but you won't need them to follow the trail.
  • Hike for another 0.4 mile (crossing a stream en route) which will bring you to a junction where Mount Willard Trail curves to the left and a short spur to Centennial Pool is on the right. There isn't a sign on the main trail, but once you get up to the junction and look to the right, you will be able to see a sign for Centennial Pool.
  • Turn right and walk a few steps to view the pool below. If you wish, walk down the rock steps to reach the shore of the pool and to get a better look at the small waterfall spilling into it.
  • Return to Mount Willard Trail and keep hiking uphill for 1.1 miles which will bring you to open ledges with fantastic views. This area is just east of the true summit of Mount Willard.
  • These ledges provide the best views but for a couple of different perspectives, turn right (when facing the views) and walk to the end of the open ledges and pick up a trail that enters the woods.
  • Walk for 0.05 mile which will bring you to an outlook straight ahead while the trail continues to the right.
  • After checking out this perspective, continue on the trail for another 0.05 mile to the last outlook.
  • Turn around and retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the main ledges.

View of Mount Webster from the ledges at the top of Mount Willard
(photo by Karl Searl)
View of Mount Webster from the ledges at the top of Mount Willard (photo by Karl Searl)

Hitchcock Flume Option:
  • If you want to take a detour to Hitchcock Flume – a set of tall, sheer ledges only about four feet apart – then return to Mount Willard Trail and descend for 0.1 mile which will bring you to an unsigned spur on the right that leads to Hitchcock Flume. It is at a sandy area that's about six feet wide.
  • Turn right onto the spur. You need to keep your eyes on the well-defined footway in order to follow this trail because branches close it in tightly from both sides. Before embarking on this little adventure, you should close all your pockets and secure everything on your person and your pack since you'll be brushing against branches and blowdowns for most of the length of this 0.2-mile spur.
  • Hike downhill for 0.1 mile which will bring you to a small opening and a large boulder.
  • Turn to the left and continue pushing through the trees for another 0.1 mile which will bring you to the head of Hitchcock Flume. Watch your step!
  • Mount Willard elevation sign at the view ledges (photo by Karl Searl)
    Mount Willard elevation sign at the view ledges (photo by Karl Searl)
  • You can continue on a trail that hugs the right side of the flume for another 0.05 mile which will bring you to a small open spot that allows you to look down into the deepest part of the flume and also gives a small view out towards Mount Jackson.
  • Head back uphill for 0.05 mile to return to the head of the flume.
  • Get back on the spur trail by ducking under a blowdown and retracing your steps (remember, keep your eyes on the ground to find your way), for 0.2 mile uphill until returning to Mount Willard Trail.

Descent and Stream Spurs:
  • Get back on Mount Willard Trail and walk downhill for 1.0 mile from the summit (or 0.9 mile from Hitchcock Flume Spur) to get to a spot where it may appear that the trail branches. Bear left to stay on Mount Willard Trail, while an abandoned trail continues straight/right.
  • After another 0.1 mile turn left onto an unsigned spur and walk for 20 feet to reach the edge of the stream, about 50 feet above Centennial Pool. A nice little spot.
  • Return to the main trail, turn left, and just a few strides later you will be back at the junction with Centennial Pool. Keep going straight down Mount Willard Trail.
  • Walk for a bit more than 0.1 mile. You will pass by a couple trailside overlooks down to the stream, and then reach an unsigned spur on the left. Turn left and descend down to the edge of the brook which provides a pretty spot from which to enjoy the water and mini cascades.
  • Go back up to Mount Willard Trail, turn left, and hike for another 0.3 mile which will bring you back to the junction with Avalon Trail.
  • Turn right and walk for 0.1 mile on the combined Mount Willard Trail and Avalon Trail in order to return to the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Macomber Family Information Center (1900') 0.0 0.0
Centennial Pool 0.5 0.5
Mt. Willard main ledges (2800') 1.1 1.6
Mt. Willard first outlook (2800') 0.05 1.65
Mt. Willard second outlook (2800') 0.05 1.7
Mt. Willard main ledges (2800') 0.1 1.8
Jct. Mount Willard Trail / Hitchcock Flume Spur 0.1 1.9
Centennial Pool (2200') 1.0 2.9
Jct. Mount Willard Trail / Stream Spur 0.15 3.05
Macomber Family Information Center (1900') 0.35 3.4

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Trail sign for Centennial Pool (photo by Karl Searl)
Trail sign for Centennial Pool (photo by Karl Searl)


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Trail map of hike route to Mount Willard and Centennial Pool in Crawford Notch State Park (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

We were staying up in Jackson for Labor Day weekend, so we were able to sleep in more then usual before heading out to the trailhead for Mount Willard. I had never been that far west on Route 302 before but the scenery of Crawford Notch definitely made the drive worthwhile. The plan was to get to the trailhead before the crowds arrived, hike to the summit of Mount Willard (which we heard had incredible views of the notch that were second to none for the effort of the hike), and finally, drop down a spur trail near the summit to a viewpoint over Hitchcock Flume.

The trailhead is located at Crawford Notch Depot behind the Macomber Family Information Center. We made it there around 10 a.m. and wouldn't you know it, I got the last space in the parking lot. This lot was certainly much nicer then the gravel parking areas I was used to at trailheads.

Start of the combined Avalon and Mount Willard Trails with the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center in the background (photo by Karl Searl)
Start of the combined Avalon and Mount Willard Trails with the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center in the background (photo by Karl Searl)

Our first task was to actually find the trailhead behind the information center. We hopped the railroad tracks behind the building and found what looked like a beaten down path. This soon entered the woods and some signage indicated that we were at the beginning of Avalon Trail, which is where we wanted to be. This trail is the beginning of a large network of trails that will bring you to Mount Tom, Mount Field and Mount Willey; you can rope in with Arethusa Falls; or it will even allow you to obtain access to the Pemigewasset Wilderness networks. However, we weren't hiking to any of these destinations. We were heading up Mount Willard Trail, which is a large spur off from Avalon Trail.

After following Avalon Trail for about 100 yards, we came to an opening in the woods that looked like the "real" trailhead. It contained the WMNF (White Mountain National Forest) information kiosk as many trailheads do, which displayed a detailed map of the trail networks. Also, I noticed a sign on this kiosk informing people that this was "Bear Country". We didn't let that scare us and we pushed on. At this point, Avalon Trail continued straight and Mount Willard Trail ran left.

Centennial Pool (photo by Karl Searl)
Centennial Pool (photo by Karl Searl)

Mount Willard Trail started off flat and after about 100 feet, you had to cross a shallow brook, which was an easy crossing. The trail continued flat for a bit and then turned right and ascended steadily. It was not a difficult trail and was not that steep. The trail was about 6–7 feet across and made it easy to walk side-by-side with my wife. After a bit of climbing steadily, that familiar sound of running water started to get closer and closer. A half-mile in, the trail curved left and on the corner was a sign for Centennial Pool. We took a few steps down to the banks of Centennial Pool to take a look. It was certainly a nice break spot. We snapped a couple shots and headed back to the trail.

The trail continued at a moderate grade and it was easy to set a pace. A short while after Centennial Pool, the trail curved right and there was a noticeable change in conditions from what we had just climbed. At this point, it was obvious to us that we had just met up with an old carriage road that goes all the way to the summit. The road was smoother than the previous portions of the trail and climbed at an even lesser grade. I noticed while walking on the carriage trail, that there were exposed water drainage pipes running across the road in numerous spots. They were very similar to the ones you see construction crews using even today under our roadways, although these ones were smaller and some had holes broken through the walls. It made me wonder if they were still functional or not. It also made me wonder how the heck they were able to construct a road like this, so many years ago up a mountain in the WMNF... amazing.

Mount Willey as seen from the summit ledges of Mount Willard
(photo by Karl Searl)
Mount Willey as seen from the summit ledges of Mount Willard (photo by Karl Searl)

The grade continued to flatten out as we climbed higher. Based on how long we had been climbing, I assumed we were getting close to the top, I was keeping my eye out for a spur trail down to Hitchcock Flume, which is published to be 0.1 mile before the summit on the left. However, a trail did not catch my eye. I figured I must have missed it and I would catch it on my way back, which was my initial intention.

As the trail became level, you could see a bright light at the end and we figured that it must be the summit. It is strange how this trail went from woods to cliff with no transition. On most summits that we climbed, there is a transition as the trail goes from wooded, to partially wooded, to no woods at all. This summit was not like that. It was almost as if someone had drawn a line and put trees on one side and rocks on the other. It was pretty neat.

View of Mount Washington (the peak with the summit buildings), taken from the eastern cliffs on Mount Willard (photo by Karl Searl)
View of Mount Washington (the peak with the summit buildings), taken from the eastern cliffs on Mount Willard (photo by Karl Searl)

As we walked out onto the cliffs, it proved to be a breathtaking view of Crawford Notch. All the literature I read was right. For the effort of the hike, I don't think the views can be beat. The views of Mount Willey to the right and Mount Webster to the left were great. It was easy to make out Route 302 through the notch, as well as a set of railroad tracks that moved through the woods. Looking more closely at different points along the left, you could see Mount Washington, Mount Jackson, and Willey Pond. It was really a great cliff to relax on and realize how great New Hampshire's backyard really is.

After hanging out for a while we decided to take a last deep breath of mountain air and head back down. At this point, I was on a mission to find the Hitchcock Flume spur trail that I was amazed I missed on the way up. We later realized that we had found the spur, but dismissed it because it seemed to end after only a few steps. It turns out that the trail is now so overgrown that you have to take it on faith that it's really there. Check out this trail report for Hitchcock Flume (and Mount Willard) that includes a detailed description on navigating the overgrowth.

The track down Mount Willard Trail was pretty easy due to the trail conditions and grade. We did not even need to use our poles. This was really a great hike and definitely one that I would do again. I am disappointed about not being able to locate Hitchcock Flume Spur but will have to explore that next time we come back. Oh well, still an awesome hike and the views were fantastic.

View of railway bridge taken from the summit (photo by Karl Searl)
View of railway bridge taken from the summit (photo by Karl Searl)
 





 


NH - Central East


  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is behind the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (visitor center) which is located on Route 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire.

From the West: From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), follow Rt. 302 East for 8.2 miles, then turn right into the parking lot for the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center, which is immediately after the entrance to the parking lot for the AMC Highland Center.

Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center sign
(photo by Karl Searl)
Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center sign (photo by Karl Searl)
From the East: Follow Rt. 302 West. The Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center will be on the left about 3 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site. The parking lot is immediately before the entrance for the parking lot for the AMC Highland Center.

Trailhead: To get to the trail, go behind the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (the gift shop building), cross the tracks and pick up the path on the other side. After a few yards you will see a trail sign.

Facilities   

The Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center offers a small museum, gift shop, bathrooms, and coin-operated showers. It also has benches and picnic tables.

Right next door, the AMC Highland Center offers bathrooms, meals, lodging, a small shop with books and maps, and evening programs.

More Mt. Willard Trail Reports   


View of Willey Pond and Saco River opposite the Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center (Willey House Historical Site) (photo by Karl Searl)
View of Willey Pond and Saco River opposite the Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center (Willey House Historical Site) (photo by Karl Searl)
 


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