On Saturday, I climbed Mount Abigail Adams (5,348 ft) in the Northern Presidential Range opposite of Mount Washington. This is a challenging 9 mile (round trip) hike with close to 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Abigail is one of the sub-peaks of Mount Adams, the second highest mountain in the Northeastern United States.
The most direct way to climb Abigail or Adams 4, which is the name used on maps, is via the Lowe’s Path, named after Charles Lowe, one of the first major trail builders in the White Mountains. Cut from 1875 to 1876, Lowe’s Path is the oldest mountain trail to ascend Adams 4 and Mt Adams from the Randolph Valley and Rt 2.
When Lowe’s Path was originally opened in 1876, Charles Lowe charged trampers (hikers) a toll to use the trail, a toll which still exists today but in a slightly different form.
Unlike the other major trailheads on Rt 2, like Appalachia or Bowman, there’s no USFS parking lot at the bottom of Lowe’s Path. But parking is available at Lowe’s Store, on the other side of Rt.2 for hikers, at $1/day in their dirt lot (under the Diesel Sign) They open at 7 am, so if you come ‘earlier than that, pay when you get back down. Charles Lowe is the great, great-grandfather of the current owners, who are wonderful, helpful folks.
Although I’ve climbed Adams 4 many times, I’d never climbed it via Lowe’s Path and decided this hike would be a good opportunity for it. The forecast for the day called for spectacular weather and the fall foliage is nearing its peak in the White Mountains.
I also wanted to bag Adams 4 before winter because it’s one of the last 5 peaks I need to finished the Trailwrights 72 peakbagging list. No one I know wants to climb Adams 4 in winter. It’s just too obscure. So I figured I’d knock it off in good weather by myself, and do it with a full pack to start training for winter, when the weight of the gear I need to carry on big hikes doubles.
I started very early in the day arriving at the foot of the mountain before dawn, so I could get down before sunset and drive to the foot of another nearby mountain that I planned to climb on Sunday.The early morning air was crisp and cool, and I had the trail all to myself for nearly 2 hours. The solitude was priceless.
The climb up Lowe’s Path can be broken down into 3 segments. The first is a fairly gradual, moderate climb up to the Log Cabin, a three-sided shelter maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club. An excellent stream crosses Lowe’s Path at the spur trail to the Log Cabin and is a good place to resupply water.
The middle section of Lowe’s Path runs from The Log Cabin to Gray Knob, a four-sided shelter that is open year round and also maintained by the RMC. It’s very popular in winter because it’s located right below treeline and it has a stove which is lit for 1 hour each evening. The ascent from the Log Cabin to Gray Knob is about 1200 feet in 8/1o of a mile.
Shortly before you arrive at Gray Knob, there’s a nice viewpoint called The Quay, where I stopped for a while and took in the view. There was some morning mist in the valley to the north but beyond that I reckon I could see for 50, maybe 100 miles.
The third section of the ascent to Adams 4, is about a mile long with 800 feet of elevation gain. While not as steep, it is fully exposed to wind and weather, which was relatively calm but cool for my climb.
I was up and over the rock pile called Adams 4 before I knew it and took in the great expanse of the Northern Presidential Range between Madison and the main Adams peak. There’s something about being up here that fills me with awe every time I visit.
My objective reached, I decided to hike up a bit further to the junction with The Spur Trail, which descends past Crag Cabin. I’d never been on that trail either and I figured it’d be fun to check out. Crag Cabin also overlooks King Ravine, which rivals Tuckerman Ravine in pucker-factor.
The views into King Ravine were sublime as usual – but the glare of the sun made it impossible to get a good photo.I passed by Crag Camp without stopping and continued downhill on The Spur Trail, which seemed considerably easier than Lowe’s path. I’m going to have to remember that for next time.
The Spur Trail turned out to be an unexpected highlight on this trip because it follows a stream down the side of the mountain from one cascade to the next. I resupplied my water from the first cascade below Crag Camp and then continued to see glimpses it from the trail all the way down to the intersection with the lower portion of the King Ravine Trail, which I followed by to Lowe’s Path, and back to my car.
From there it was a quick drive to the Imp Trail in Pinkham Notch and a pleasant night camping in the woods.
Round Trip Distance: 9 miles
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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