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Great Hikes: The Ice Gulch Loop

Looking back along the Ice Gulch Path a short ways after beginning the scramble.
Looking back along the Ice Gulch Path a short ways after beginning the scramble.

Ice Gulch is a narrow, boulder filled ravine in the Randolph Community Forest on the north end of the White Mountain National Forest region. It’s so-named because you can find snow and between the rocks there in August and it’s quite similar in that respect to Mahoosuc Notch (the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail) a short ways to the north.

While there is technically a “trail” running through Ice Gulch, it’s more of a rocky scramble, 0.9 miles in length. It’s a strenuous scramble at that, and it took me 1:45 to cover that short distance. While the White Mountain Guide lists Ice Gulch as one of the most strenuous trails in the White Mountains, I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, this isn’t an easy hike and one you definitely don’t want to bring dogs or small children on. It’s just too sketchy and slippery in places.

Here’s a description of the loop hike, starting on the Ice Gulch Path, taking the Peboamauk Loop around a pretty waterfall en route to Ice Gulch, ascending (climbing up) the Gulch, and looping back along the Cook Path back to Randolph Hill Road, where a short road walk is required to hike back to your car.

When you go, be sure to bring some extra insulation along. The Gulch can be 15-20 degrees cooler than the surrounding forest, even in August, and you’ll want an extra layer or two to stay warm.

The hike starts on Randolph Road and crosses private property before heading into the woods.
The hike starts on Randolph Hill Road and crosses private property before heading into the woods.
After passing a barn, you enter the woods.
After passing a barn, you enter the woods.
When you arrive at the marked birch, you have the option of turning left or right (unsigned) on the Peboamauk Loop past a pretty water fall.
When you arrive at the marked birch, you have the option of turning left or right (unsigned) on the Peboamauk Loop past a pretty water fall. I recommend going past the waterfall. It’s a much nicer route, since turning left runs pasts a recent logging cut which is muddy and a bit dispiriting.
The Peboamauk Waterfall. Peboamauk means winter's home, an approapriate description of Ice Gulch.
The Peboamauk Waterfall. Peboamauk means winter’s home, an appropriate description of Ice Gulch.
The Peboamauk Loop runs through pretty woods witha few easy stream crossings, leading back to the Ice Gulch Path which starts at the pretty cascade and pool.
The Peboamauk Loop runs through pretty woods with a few easy stream crossings, leading back to the Ice Gulch Path which starts at the pretty cascade and pool.
Soon, you'll get your first glimpse of the Gulch and the rocky slopes overhead.
Soon, you’ll get your first glimpse of the Gulch and the rocky slopes overhead.
The 'Path' is blazed in red and follows the center of the ravine.
The ‘Path’ is blazed in red and follows the center of the ravine.
Snow and Ice can be seen between the rocks, even in August!
Snow and Ice can be seen between the rocks, even in August!
The route gets more difficult as you near the head (north) end of the Gulch.
The route gets more difficult as you near the head (north) end of the Gulch.
Until you reach the trail junction with the Cook Path where the trail heads back into the forest.
Until you reach the trail junction with the Cook Path where the trail heads back into the forest.

Total Distance: 6 miles with 1500′ of elevation Gain

Ice Gulch Loop. Click for interactive map on Caltopo.com.
Ice Gulch Loop. Click for interactive map on Caltopo.com.

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6 comments

  1. The only place I find year round ice in the Dallas area is in my freezer. It’s not nearly as pretty… unless I’m REALLY hungry!

  2. May be easier on snowshoes when its filled in?

  3. I love hikes with rock scrambles. Can’t believe there is still snow and ice there in August. Wow. Thanks for sharing this trip with us.

  4. wow. That gorge is certainly steep and deep. Checking it out on the aerial photog on Google Earth, the thing casts a shadow.

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