View Full Version : Steepest trail in the Whites??

rockin rex
06-28-2007, 01:46 PM
Thought I would throw this out there and see what people think. I think the
trails from Kings Ravine up to the gulfside trail are some of the steepest I have been on. Others in the running would be Huntington, great gulf trail from spaulding lake to Gulfside trail, Madison Gulf Trail from the Osgood split to Madison hut, six husbands and the Daniel Webster trail. What trail do you think is steepest??

Bill O
06-28-2007, 01:57 PM
Since I haven't been on any of those trails...I have no idea. Although I did ski down to Spaulding Lake on what would be a really steep trail.

How does the Boot Spur Link compare to the ones you listed? Was it Backpacker or AMC Outdoors that recently had an article about forgotten trails in New England. I think they listed one from the Great Gulf to Mount Madison.

rockin rex
06-28-2007, 02:13 PM
Bill if you skied down to Spaulding you have more guts then me. This is the one area (great gulf trail) that I mentioned. I can't imagine skiing down this
but a couple weeks ago there were observation pictures of someone who skied the gully on the Great Gulf headwall area and got to an unskiable area and had to hike back up. This seems to be the up and coming ski area. They are also skiing Kings Ravine which is way above my ability.

06-28-2007, 02:37 PM
This is only an opinion and came be easily superceded,as in I've never done Huntington, but I've hit Great Gulf Headwall 9 times when I was in my 20's and everytime thought it was a killer compared to other headwalls I have done. One trail that surprised me a couple of years ago was the southern approach of the Willey Range Trail going up to Willey after the Ethan Pond Trail junction. Maybe because that stretch took longer than I expected.

KD Talbot
06-28-2007, 06:48 PM
Great Gulf Headwall has got to be tough. It's 2950' elevation gain over 6.5 miles just to reach Spaulding Lake. From Spaulding Lake it's 1700' elevation gain over a mile to it's junction with the Gulfside Trail. Huntington is 2050' elevation gain over 2.8 miles to reach the bottom of the talus field, then 1400' over 8/10ths of a mile to reach the Alpine Garden Trail.

At first glance I would have to give the distinction to the Great Gulf Headwall, although I haven't done it. I do not know what the trail there is like, but I do know there are places on the Huntington Ravine Trail where you are literally crawling over the rocks on very steep inclines where a misstep would result in a real bad scenario, possibly death. Just by looking at the Great Gulf Headwall, I'd say the same would be true there.

The King Ravine Trail is 1300' over 6/10ths from the foot of the headwall to the Airline Trail. The Great Gully Trail is 1700' over one mile from the King Ravine Trail to the Gulfside Trail, making it equal with the Great Gulf Headwall. I haven't climbed either of these.

Not to take anything away from Bill, but I think winter climbing is easier. Going over the snow and not having to climb over or pick your way through the rocks just seems easier to me when I'm doing it. Of course ice is a different story.

I have descended from Boott Spur Link, but I haven't climbed it. While it is very steep, it is also short. It is 850' elevation gain over 6/10ths. It doesn't really measure up to the rest.

The Twinway from Galehead Hut to South Twin summit is 1150' elevation gain over 8/10ths of a mile, so compares to the headwalls, but the terrain is wooded and no where near as nasty.

The Carter Moriah Trail from Carter Notch to the summit of Carter Dome is 1550' over 1.2 miles and the Wildcat Ridge Trail from Carter Notch to the summit of Wildcat A is 1050' in 7/10ths. Both are real steep, but don't match the headwalls.


06-28-2007, 08:45 PM
The title of steepest trail is a tough one. There are some pretty tough sections out there outside of the Presidentials that are very steep just not long. I've climbed Huntington, Great Gulf, King Ravine, and Castle Ravine. They're all pretty steep and exposed in their own way. But there are many other trails out there that might match them in the steep department but aren't nearly as long or are in the trees so they don't look as imposing or exposed. Like KD mentions both trails out of Carter Notch are steep as is North Carter up the Carter-Moriah trail which is one I've gone down but up on. The Lawrence trail up the overhang section of Mt.Paugus before they rerouted it was very steep. Coming up Garfield from the Galehead hut is another one with a couple of tricky steep sections as is the upper part of Flume slide.

KD Talbot
06-28-2007, 10:18 PM
I've climbed up North Carter on the Carter-Moriah Trail, and that should definitely be on the list.

Also, the Mount Osceola Trail from Greeley Pond Trail, 1850' over 1.5 miles, and the North Slide Trail on North Tripyramid would make my list, though I'm not sure the height or distance.

Another would be the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail which rises 750' in 4/10ths of a mile from the Gem Pool to the brook crossing on the flat ledges.

I still think it's a toss-up between Huntington, King and the Great Gulf Headwalls.


06-28-2007, 10:30 PM
I've only done King's Ravine twice, 20 years apart, and Six husbands once and King's Ravine take's the prize with my limited experience with the contenders.

06-29-2007, 07:04 AM
Having just done Huntington Ravine, I can definitely tell you it's a killer. If not the steepest, it's certainly in the running. I can see I'll have to try the Kings Ravine and Great Gulf Trails. They sound wonderfully challenging!! And one I've eyed for years is the Six Husbands trail. With sections of exposed rock so nasty that they have to put ladders up there to help you, it makes you just tingle with excitement. What a fun scramble, up OR down. Maybe after I've had a chance to explore some of these other trails I'll be better qualified to judge the steepest, but, for now, my vote goes to Huntington Ravine as the most intense I've been on . . .

06-29-2007, 08:18 AM
I would toss the Caps Ridge Trail in the discussion. The last 1.4 miles is pretty tough, especially going over the Caps.

Patrad Fischroy
06-29-2007, 08:56 AM
One could take Topo or even Delorme Topo and plot out the trails, then create a profile to check some of these. I do realize the inaccuracies that are built into these, but it might be an interesting exercize to try for those with some time on their hands. I unfortunately do not have that area covered in my mapping areas, yet... Perhaps I may come across a copy in the near future, then I might need some help in plotting the trails. If anyone has GPS tracks of these trails we may need to talk.

06-29-2007, 08:58 AM
According to Extreme Trails, an article in the latest issue of AMC's Outdoors magazine, Huntington Ravine "is the most difficult trail in the White Mountains." The article continues on to say that it rises "1,400 feeet in only 0.9 mile."

KD Talbot
06-29-2007, 09:33 AM
Yes, that was stated in previous posts, but the Great Gulf Trail from Spaulding Lake to the Gulfside Trail, and the Great Gully Trail in King Ravine both rise 1700' over a mile. I find it tough to give the distinction to one over the other.

As far as using topos and GPS to plot the trails, someone with a lot of time could go ahead and do that, it would be a fun project, or they could simply open the AMC guide to the White Mountains and look up the trails. They've all been measured by wheel and altimeters.


rockin rex
06-29-2007, 12:43 PM
To me intense and steep are different. Intense would go to Huntington Ravine hands down with six husbands a close second. Steep doesn't always mean intense.

06-29-2007, 02:30 PM
That's a good point, in that case Wamsutta, though shorter in descent than most headwalls, etc., is pretty intense in both ascent and descent.

rockin rex
06-29-2007, 02:56 PM
Wamsutta is steep and I would throw that one in the ring also. Wamsutta is one of my favorites. 2 others not getting much mention, that I feel are extremely steep, are Madison Gulf to Madison hut and Daniel Webster from
Dolly Cobb to the summit of Madison. I have climbed most of the trails in the Presi's and Daniel Webster kicked my butt more than any other. K.D. you have the elevation gain stats on the Daniel Webster from the campground to the summit. It must be right near the top.( no pun intended) Maybe Daniel Webster kicked my butt so badly because this is the one that I trail ran. My wife dropped me off at Appalacia and I ran the Valley Way to the Hut then the A.T. up over the summit of Madison down Osgood to Daniel Webster then down Daniel Webster back to Dolly Cobb and my tent site. I now have great respect for the Daniel Webster Trail.

Pete S
06-29-2007, 04:05 PM
Why Guess what the steepest trail in the Whites is, just go out and enjoy any trail-- be it flat or steep. Any method of determining the steepest trail will include a great deal of subjectivity. It would be nice to hear what trail Mike Pelchat from the State Park, Peter Crane and Tom Seidel from the MWO find to be the most enjoyable in the whites-- regardless of how challenging it is...

KD Talbot
06-29-2007, 04:15 PM
I climbed DWST the first time I did Mount Madison. We camped at Dolly Copp and climbed the next morning. There was a group of us, and we left my wife by a big boulder about half-way up. The rest of us went to the summit, then picked her up on the way back down. She was asleep in the shade of the boulder. We've never split up again on any hikes. If we can't both make it, then neither of us does.

The DWST: From Dolly Copp to the summit is 4100' over 4.1 miles. It rivals Tuckerman Ravine which is 4250' over 4.2 miles. From what they call the Little Buttress, to where it reaches the Osgood Trail it rises 2050' over 1.5 miles. This should definitely be on the list.

From the Great Gulf Trail, the Osgood Trail rises 3350' over 3.3 miles, but all of these trails only average 100' per 1/10th of a mile.

Great Gulf Headwall and Great Gully Trail in King Ravine are still in the lead as they both average 170' elevation gain per 1/10th of a mile.

Other's mentioned are: Six Husbands and Wamsutta and Cap's Ridge.

Six Husbands from the Great Gulf Trail is 2550' over 2.3 miles.

Wamsutta from the Great Gulf Trail to the Auto Road is 2200' over 1.7 miles.

Caps Ridge is tough, I've climbed it twice, but it dosen't measure up, only 2700' over 2.5 miles. A little over 100' per 10th of a mile. Plus, you drive up the first 3100'.

I've still got to go with the Great Gulf Headwall. The only way to reach it, (unless you climb over a mountain and into the Great Gulf), is by rising 2950' over 6.5 miles along the Great Gulf Trail before hitting the Headwall. I haven't climbed it but it's got to be the toughest.


KD Talbot
06-29-2007, 04:22 PM
#1 we are not guessing, we are going by the actual numbers in the AMC book. Steve Smith and Gene Daniels didn't "guess" the height or distances.

And #2, that is what this thread is about, "Steepest Trails in the Whites"

I agree: "It would be nice to hear what trail Mike Pelchat from the State Park, Peter Crane and Tom Seidel from the MWO find to be the most enjoyable in the whites-- regardless of how challenging it is..." so, let's start another thread. But I'm not sure any of them are participating in this forum, unless they're using handles I don't recognize.


rockin rex
06-29-2007, 05:30 PM
Looking at it as a total trail I think great gulf trail is correct. By the time you get to spaulding lake your tired then you have to climb straight up the headwall to the gulfside trail. I did this as a loop from Pinkham and it was a long day. The trail across the floor of the ravine was incredible!! Then the climb began. This is a trail that should be experienced by those of you who enjoy a challange. What is nice is there are MANY swimming holes along this trail which are really nice. If you get overheated just jump in. I love the great gulf and is probably one of my favorite places to camp in the back country.

06-29-2007, 10:38 PM
It is fun reading this for sure.

One note on Caps Ridge. Sure it is a high start and sure the numbers also say 2700 ft gain in 2.4 miles but that really isn't telling the tail of the trail is it? The true trail or the real work starts soon after the Kettled Rock overlook. The last 1.4 miles is where the gain is on the trail.

Anyway it is fun to talk of the trails. Another factor is also age and weather conditions that the hikes were made in can make them seem easier or tougher on any given day.

I am happy to live fairly close to the playground.

KD Talbot
06-30-2007, 09:27 PM
I agree that climbing over the Caps is tough, but from the first Cap to the summit is 1300' over a mile, an average of 130' per 10th of a mile. Weather and age and physical shape of the climber are definitely factors on any hike.

I mentioned the North Slide on North Tripyramid earlier. The actual climb is 1200' over 1/2 mile. That's an average of 240' elevation gain per 10th of a mile. This pretty much beats everything including the Headwalls, although it is much shorter.

Someone else mentioned the Flume Slide Trail. From the foot of the slide to the Franconia Ridge Trail it rises 1400' over 7/10ths of a mile, which would rival the steepness of Huntington Ravine.

We've only been talking steepness here, not difficulty. This is what the first paragraph of the AMC White Mountain Guide has to say about Huntington Ravine Trail:

"Caution:This is the most difficult regular hiking trail in the White Mountains. Many of the ledges require the proper use of handholds for safe passage, and extreme caution must be excercised at all times. Although experienced hikers who are reasonably comfortable on steep rock will probably encounter little difficulty when conditions are good, the exposure on several of the steepest ledges is likely to prove extremely unnerving to novices and to those who are uncomfortable in steep places. Do not attempt this trail if you tend to feel queasy or have difficulty on ledges on ordinary trails. Hikers encumbered with large or heavy packs may experience great difficulty in some places. This trail is very dangerous when wet or icy, and its use for descent at any time is strongly discouraged. Since retreat under unfavorable conditions can be extremely difficult and hazardous, one should never venture beyond the Fan in deteriorating conditions or when weather on the Alpine Garden is likely to be severe. During late fall, winter, and early spring, this trail (and any part of the ravine headwall) should be attempted only by those with full technical ice-climbing training and equipment. In particular, the ravine must not be regarded as a feasible escape route from the Alpine Garden in severe winter conditions".