Gale River - North Branch via Gale River Trail

Destination:  Gale River - North Branch
Trail:  Gale River Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Twin Range
Location:  Bethlehem, NH
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  River
Distance:  3.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  450 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 1:50   Typical: 1:55  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 3:30  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  11/11/2000 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  09/01/2019  
Weather:  About 45 degrees, steady rain
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

  • Start at Gale River Trailhead.
  • Hike up to the bridge over Gale River.
  • Return via the same route.

Place         Split
Gale River Trailhead 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Gale River Crossing 1.7 1.7 0:58 0:58
Gale River Trailhead 1.7 3.4 0:52 1:50

  Trail Guide   

This was a great walk for a rainy day. Rather than hike up to Mount Garfield where there would have been no views, I made this a slow, leisurely ramble and simply enjoyed the North Branch of the Gale River and the woods.

At first the river was down a steep embankment off to my left. Shortly I came to a vantage point where a tributary coming into the North Branch from the right formed a neat water filled "Y". Just after this, the path descended to cross the right-hand leg of the "Y" so for a bit, the rushing water could be heard coming from both sides of the trail.

When the river wasn't readily visible from the trail, I turned my attention to the woods. There were hemlock, beech, and maple trees. Many of the dried up, brown beech leaves were stubbornly clinging to the branches and the spiny nut husks littered the trail. I also saw some black mushrooms.

It's surprising how much greenery flourishes even on a chilly November day. There were many moss-covered boulders and various clubmosses poked their way through the layer of dead leaves to flaunt their color, now that much of their summer competition had wilted away. There were delicate ferns, flattened against the ground or reclining against a rock under the weight of the rain.

Upon reaching the bridge over the river, I regarded it with some trepidation. It was a skinny wooden bridge, with a railing on only the downstream side, and a railingless ramp leading up to it that looked menacing when slicked down with rain. Nevertheless, I was anxious to view the river from its center so I walked slowly and carefully up the ramp and then clung to the railing while enjoying the river.

The river was roaring and was a mass of green and white water. For more relaxed viewing, there was a nice sitting area along the shore where a couple of boulders provided convenient seats.

Note that this bridge washed away in 2005 and now the river crossing must be made by rock-hopping if you wish to continue farther up Gale River Trail.

NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

  • From I-93, take exit 35 (if heading north) or exit 36 (if heading south) and follow Rt. 3 North.
  • From the intersection of Rt. 141 and Rt. 3 travel 4.1 miles, then take a right onto Gale River Road. The turnoff is opposite Trudeau Road. The gate across the road is closed during the winter, in which case you have to park there (without blocking the gate) and walk to the trailhead (which would add a total of 3.2 miles round-trip to your hike).
  • Following Gale River Road, bear left at 0.6 mile from Rt. 3.
  • Continue for 0.7 mile then turn sharply right.
  • The parking area will be on the left after driving another 0.3 mile.

Other Notes   

WMNF Recreational Pass

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.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

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