Galehead Mtn & Mt. Garfield
Gale River Trail --> Garfield Ridge Trail --> Frost Trail --> Garfield Ridge Trail --> Garfield Trail --> Gale River Loop Rd
Distance: 12.2 mi. (Mtn) 1.6 mi. (Road) 13.8 mi. (Total)
Elevation Gain: 2,897 ft. (Overall) 4,099 ft. (Total)
Time: 3:03 (Galehead) 6:54 (Garfield) 9:15 (Total)
The trail starts off quite gentle and easy. Leaving the parking lot it goes mostly flat before a quick drop down to a small brook crossing. From here it rises slowly through mostly open hardwoods with patches of softwoods. Before long you get to the newly relocated section of trail avoiding the 2 crossings of the Gale River. The new section of trails leads back a few feet before going ahead again along the edge of some forrest that has had some damage. The trail here was a bit soft from recent rain and due to the fact that it still has the layer of topsoil. This soft ground did make it easy to see that a moose had recently (since he rain ended yesterday) gone up the trail to a brook and then back down the trail about half as far as it had gone up.
Before the trail relocation
In places the new piece of trail goes through some thick softwoods. As you hike up it, it feels like you are going further away from the river than you would need to. Maybe this is just because rivers are nice to look at while hiking. After a small stream crossin, the trail starts heading back to towards the Gale River and downhill a bit. Both ends of the old trail are marked by signs and blocked with branches, trees, and other debris.
Stream crossing on relocated trail
Back on the original trail, the grade stays pretty easy. There are a couple small brook crossing that are easy before you get to the gravel slide where the side hill below you has slid down to the river giving a view up to the western side of North Twin. From here the trail turns to teh right some and finally starts heading up steeper. Overall it isn't too steep, but it does get quite rocky. In some places the rocks have been placed as steps making it easier. Before long you come up to the Garfield Ridge Trail.
Nearing the top of the Gale River Trail
Heading to the left, the trail slowly gains elevation. After running into a couple small patches of monorail left, the trail turns more to the right and heads uphill. Still staying pretty gentle, you quickly come to the Frost Trail and the Galehead Hut. After a quick stop for the views, I headed up the trail to Galehead. You start by going down into the saddle just a bit before heading back up. There is one small scramble shortly before the outlook, but nothing bad. The trail is pretty easy and soon comes to the viewless summit at a cairn. After a couple pictures I headed back to the outlook. This outlook provides a great view of the Twin Range and the hut just below. Back at the hut, I went in to check it out before chatting with two separate people that were doing a single day Pemi Loop. One of these two said that the Garfield Trail I was soon headed back out on was a "rugged trail". That was pretty accurate before the end.
Galehead Hut from the outlook
Heading back out from the hut, it was time to start working over the pointless ups and downs (PUDs) that were between me and the next peak.Past the Gale River Trail you start up the first PUD which is a quick short one. There is a bit of a scramble heading up near the top. Once up this, you get a good view back to the Twins and Galehead. You then work around to the right some before heading down a little bit. Soon you are heading back up PUD #2. This one seems to take a while and I kept wondering when I would finally get over it. On the way down the backside, there are some spots of smooth rock that looked like they could be slippery today with the water on them, but weren't bad.
Heading up PUD #1
Once to the Franconia Brook Trail, The Garfield Ridge Trail really starts to climb. This is certainly where it gets "rugged" as the other hiker put it. The trail is rocky and periodically has water flowing down it or next to it. Shortly before the side trail to the Garfield Ridge Campsite, the trail got wet enough that it became a waterfall. There was plenty of water flowing down and splashing all over the rocks. Footing wasn't bad, but it looked like it could get slippery. Shortly after this, you get to the side path for the campsite. Even though my legs were getting a bit tired, I decided to make the extra climp up to the campsite to check out the newly rebuilt shelter. It is quite a nicer looking shelter and was a great place for a break and a snack. Back down the path, I got some water from the brook at the sign just in case I needed more before I got back to the truck.
Part of the waterfall in the trail
Garfield Ridge Shelter
Back up the steep rocky trail, you soon hit the junction with the Garfield Trail. It was shortly after this that I ran into the only major sections of ice for the day. With careful footing, I was able to bareboot all the way up to the summit. Once at the summit I tucked away out of the wind on the back side of the foundation overlooking the Pemigewasset Wilderness (what a great view). After something to eat and a change to some dry clothes, I walked around taking pictures. The wind was averaging 12 mph, but was gusting up to 30 mph. Soon it was time to head back down the trail. Once past the ice, it got much easier.
View back towards Galehead
Owl's Head and the Pemi Wilderness
The Garfield Trail quickly works into a series of switchbacks that keep things gentle and easy. Once out of those, the trail is mostly straight and remains pretty easy. Through here there were plenty of wildflowers to look at when not concentrating on footing in the muddy patches. Getting lower, there are a few water crossings. The first one wasn't too bad as I was able to hop some talls rocks to get across while another couple took time to take their boots off. Soon after you get to another which really turns into three. These were also pretty easy. After this the trail stays pretty dry and seems to be level for quite a ways, even though the map shows it goes downhill. Before long I was at the trail head and started back up the road to the truck at the other trail head.
Muddy section in the switchbacks
Purple Trillium and Yellow Trout Lillies
Not sure what this flower is
This hike was a good one even if my feet were a bit sore by the end (my boots are getting worn out). I did it in the clockwise direction because I didn't want the second peak to be the viewless one. But I think it would be easier in the other direction as the uphills would be more gradual and you could work down the steep rocky section near the campsite.
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE