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AT Section Hike: Mt Wolf to Reel Brook

Franconia Ridge from Mt Wolf

The 1.9 mile section between of the Appalachian Trail from Mt Wolf to the Reel Brook trail junction is one of my last remaining sections of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire and I finally got to hike it last Saturday.

As usual, I had to hike a lot more than 1.9 miles just to get to the Appalachian Trail. I started my hike at the Reel Brook Trailhead which is a little tricky to find if you’ve never been there. You need to drive to the other side of the Kinsman Range, along Rt 116, to get there, and then follow a private dirt road up into the woods where there is a small parking lot just before a private home.

The parking lot is down a short road, but you need a high clearance vehicle to get down it. If you don’t have one, there is room enough for one car at the top of the lot driveway, that you can angle up into if you don’t mind scratching the paint on your car.

This section of trail is not hiked much except by AT Thru-hikers because it’s rather remote, always muddy, and rather challenging. It traverses what is known as “Old Kinsman Notch,” between Mt Wolf and South Kinsman in the AMC White Mountain Guide, as opposed to the new Kinsman Notch which is located at the base of Mt Moosilauke, along Rt 112.

I did a little digging in an Outline of Trail Development in the White Mountains 1840-1980 by Guy Waterman (distributed by the Randolph Mountain Club), to try to figure the history behind the Old Kinsman Notch. Apparently, Nathan Kinsman settled in the Easton Valley (along Rt 116) in 1782. He and two other men hacked out a cart path over the Kinsman Ridge through a notch where the present power line and the AMC Reel Brook Trail cross, making this one of the earliest White Mountain Routes. An interesting bit of history.

The day started cool but sunny. Autumn has arrived in the Whites and not a moment too soon. We had a terribly hot and humid summer and the cooler temperatures are a relief.

I hiked up the Reel Brook Trail for 2.9 miles crossing no fewer than 6 streams up to the AT junction. If you go left (north), you walk to the Eliza Brook Shelter, a rundown 3 sided shelter which a bear box next to a fantastic stream. If you go right, you head towards Mt Wolf, and eventually Mount Moosilauke over a very rough and muddy trail.

I went right and immediately stepped into cold water, a reminder that I need to add some warmer wool socks to my trail runner shoe system this autumn. From there is was forest, rocks, roots and deep mud for the 1.9 miles to Mt Wolf.

Bog along Reel Brook Trail

Bog Pond

Along the way, I came across “Bog Pond,” at about 2,500 ft, with a great view of South Kinsman, due north. It always amazes me how these bogs and ponds form at such high elevations with just the peaks around them as watersheds. This one drains into Harvard Brook which feeds Harvard Falls and Georginana Falls, downstream.

From here it was a short walk to Mt Wolf (3,478 ft) where I was treated to fantastic views of Franconia Ridge on the other side of the valley (top photo). It’d been 3 years since I last stood on this same spot and it hadn’t changed one bit.

I took some photos and had a snack before turning back and hiking out. Total hike distance was 10 miles done in 6 hours.

One more section to go and I finish the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail.

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