Herd Path - North Twin Trail - Fire Warden's Trail - Back same route
Distance: 8.20 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,487 ft. (overall) 2,557 ft. (total)
Time: 4:04 (Summit) 6:18 (total)
Driving North just above Concord, it looked like the forecast for snow might be wrong since there was some blue sky above. But just before Franconia Notch it started to snow and it didn't stop for most of the day. It was just light fluffy snow coming down at a moderate pace though. By the time I started at the end of Little River Rd, temps were in the low teens and there was about an inch of fresh snow on the ground. I crossed the bridge and headed up the herd path seeing signs of only one person ahead of me. Bare booting my way up the path, this section went by quicker than I remembered from my previous time here and I was soon at the summer trail head.
The first herd path of the day
The North Twin Trail was well packed, so I still didn't need and extra traction. Like the herd path, this section of trail gently gains elevation while staying easy and mostly straight. Getting to the first river crossing, it would be easy to miss as there were no signs of anyone crossing here and the herd path at this location is very well defined. What didn't seem like far up the path, I came to the one icy spot of the day needing care to climb down without traction. Just a couple hundred feet past this, I came to the bottom end of the Fire Warden's Trail.
The small tree in the path at the base of the Fire Warden's Trail
The hillside where the Fire Warden's Trail starts
With the new snow on the ground and less traveled path than what I had been on so far, I decided now was a good time to put on the snowshoes. Microspikes probably would have been fine, but I wanted to play it safe and also use the heel lifts. The trail angles back to the left before turning right a little as it goes up the side hill. Quickly I came to a spot where the ski and snowshoe tracks separated. After assessing the area, it looked like they both joined back up to the right, so I went that way as it was shorter. The tracks did meet back up and continued up the mountain.
Slowly turning to the right through here
The trail progressively makes a few switchbacks as it works its way up. With these long straights between turns, the trail never gets steep and stays at a good grade for the entire length. The trail is also much wider than I expected it to be through here. I had heard about it being in good shape and easy to follow, but I didn't expect the open path to be so wide. Being in quite open birch glades so much probably helps keep some things from encroaching on the trail. There were only a couple leaning trees to deal with on the way up, but even those were easy to get around or duck under (if even needed).
Starting to get into the softwoods
After a few of the switchbacks, you finally start to get into the softwoods some. It starts as a mix of hard and soft woods before becoming just softwoods. Always a sign of getting higher up the mountain, there is still a little ways to go though. After the last left turn on a switchback, the trail finally starts to get a little bit tighter and you soon work into a tunnel of sorts through the spruce. This might be the steepest section, but that isn't really saying much as it really wasn't that bad. Soon the trail turned to the right a little more and the woods opened up just a bit. This is also were even more snow was sticking to the trees, making for a pleasant winter scene on this cloudy and snowy day. There is one small drop just before you gain the summit, but you lose very little elevation. Soon you pop out of the trees to the open summit area. I had seen only a couple other hikers so far today, and one of them was still at the summit. We talked about as the snow continued since there wasn't any view to be had today. Once we both cooled off some, he headed back down the trail and I got out my camera for a few photos.
An enjoyable scene to walk through shortly before the summit
No chance of a view today
Miles and the summit cairn
Soon after, I was headed back down the trail. Going this direction, I could see through the trees some near the top to what looked like could be decent views if I weren't still in the clouds. While going down the trail, I was able to spend even more time enjoying the scenery on the trails. With little to no wind, today's snow was clinging to the trees nicely. And the birch glades were just great to walk through. Even though I am not a skier, I can see why this spot is so popular for it. The hike down the mountain was enjoyable even though the snow kept coming down for most of it. About 3/4 of the way down, the snow finally started to stop and you could make out some things in the distance. Just before the end of the Fire Warden's Trail, the sun even made a brief appearance. I'm sure if it had been out more, this would have been an even nicer trail.
About as difficult as it gets... don't know the snow down on yourself
This spot made me stop in the tracks, then back up to get a better picture of it
Able to see off in the distance now... Nubble Peak
Once back down by the river, I took my snowshoes back off and headed down the trail without much for breaks. If I made good time I wouldn't be late for family supper and could even take a shower beforehand. The sun came out a few more times and the snow was done for the day, so this stretch went pretty quickly. The only problem I had was that when I got back to the car I saw my GPS had shut off and didn't save any of my track log before doing so. It's never done this before, but thanks to the miracle of the internet, I was able to get another hiker's track so I could still figure out all my hike stats (with the help of photo time stamps)
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE