Backpacking Mt Parker Trip Plan

Backpacking Mt Parker Trip Plan

Mt Parker is a 3004 ft mountain in the Presidential-Dry River Wilderness with expansive views of Mt Washington and the Southern Presidential Range. It’s also on the 52-With-a-View Peakbagging List, which many New Hampshire hikers gravitate to after they’ve completed a round of the White Mountain 4000 footers and want to explore more of the White Mountain National Forest. While many people day hike the 8 miles to Parker and back, it also sets up a pleasant one-night backpacking trip to the Mt Langdon Shelter, a seldom-visited Appalachian Trail style lean-to, just a half-mile off the Mt Parker route. Wild and remote, the Mt Langdon Shelter also provides a good place for beginner backpackers to practice campsite selection, hanging a bear bag, and filtering stream water before undertaking trips into the more remote Wilderness Areas of New Hampshire and Maines’ backcountry areas.

Mt Parker Backpack – SectionHiker

Rating/Difficulty

**/2 out of 5

Distance/Elevation Gain

8.6 miles w/3000′ of cumulative elevation gain

Recommended Duration

1 night

Season

July thru October

Permits Required

None.

Regulations

Backcountry Camping Regulations for the White Mountain National Forest.

Most of this route passes through the Presidential-Dry River Wilderness Area. Please observe all wilderness area restrictions. 

New to the White Mountains? Read this Quick and Dirty Guide to Backpacking in the White Mountains for information about camping regulations, road access, trail shuttles, lodging, dangerous wildlife, weather, etc.

Trailhead Directions

Mt Langdon Trail Head (GPS: 44.097062, -71.285705). Parking is available for three cars at the trailhead with overflow parking across the street next to the Saco River Bridge.

Trail Sequence

The route follows the following trails in sequence. Refer to the Exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains map which is the best waterproof map available for this region. (You’ll find the AMC Presidential Range Map to be incomplete for the trails followed.) More detailed trail descriptions can be found in the AMC White Mountain Guide (2017 ed), which is considered the hiking bible for the region. Take photos of the pages using your phone for easy reference, instead of carrying the entire book with you on hikes.

  • Mt Langdon Trail 2.5 miles
  • Mt Parker Trail – 1.4 miles
  • Mt Parker Trail – 1.4 miles (back)
  • Mt Langdon Trail – 0.4 miles
  • Mt Langdon Trail – 0.4 miles (back)
  • Mt Langdon Trail – 2.5 miles (back)

Scenic Highlights

The following list provides cumulate distances on the route to each view or landmark

  • Presidential-Dry River Wilderness Boundary – 1.0 miles
  • Oak Ridge – 2.2 miles
  • Mt Parker Viewpoint – 3.9 miles
  • Mt Langdon Shelter and Lean-to – 5.7 miles

Camping

Mt Langdon Shelter & Lean-to (free) – the shelter has an outhouse. This is a very old lean-to with a tin roof that the Forest Service has been saying they’re going to tear down for the past 5 years. (No one takes them seriously anymore.) While you can sleep in it, I’d recommend bringing a tent or hammock instead because it’s in pretty rough shape. There are plenty of tent sites and trees to hang from right around the shelter area.

Water

There is only one water source between the Mt Langdon Trailhead and Mt Parker and that is a small stream 1.0 mile up the trail at the 1st Presidential-Dry River Wilderness sign you’ll encounter. While the hike out to Mt Parker and back to the Shelter is only 3.9 miles, you don’t want to underestimate the elevation gain which is 2550′. While the climb to Mt Parker is gradual, it is nearly continuous and I’d recommend carrying 2 or even 3 liters to get you back to the brook at the Shelter in good spirits. Filtering or purifying the water in that brook is highly recommended. If the Shelter brook is running dry or very low, follow it in a northeasterly direction and you should find more water within a quarter of a mile.

Mt Langdon Shelter Stream - a cookpot or plastic bag makes a good scoop to get water out of shallow streams
Mt Langdon Shelter Stream – a cookpot or plastic bag makes a good scoop to get water out of shallow streams

If you hike in the White Mountains, I also recommend purchasing the WMNF Presidential Range Map in Guthook’s New England Hiker Smartphone App (IOSAndroid) which is a GPS guide to all of the trails, trailheads, shelters, campsites, views, and water sources in the White Mountains National Forest. I use it all the time and it is much more complete and current than using the maps bundled with the Gaia Smartphone App. The map for this area in Gaia GPS has errors.

On the Trail

Mt Langdon Trail

Pass between the boulders marking the beginning of the Mt Langdon Trail next to the trailhead parking lot. There is a fenced-off gravesite belonging Dr. Leonard M. Eudy (1843-1877) on your immediate right just to the right of the boulders which is worth a brief visit. Dr Eudy served in a regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers during the Civil War and later went to medical school at Harvard. When he lived in Barlett, smallpox broke out in one of the lumber camps and he took charge to fight the epidemic. He contracted the disease himself and did not survive. The grave marker says “He gave his life for the people of Bartlett”. More info here: http://www.bartletthistory.org/bartletthi…/cemeteries.html

Return to the trail and continue away from the trailhead lot following an old dirt road which gradually narrows as it climbs uphill, passing the Cave Mountain Trail on your left after 0.3 miles. The trail is not blazed but it is easy to follow if you keep going straight and follow the beaten path, bypassing the side trails and logging cuts that fork off the trail for the first mile until you reach the Presidential-Dry River Wilderness sign. Many of the hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest are lightly blazed, particularly in Wilderness Areas, so view this as a practice session for future use. If you see large red blotches pained on trees in this area, they are not blazes but private property boundary markers, another common practice in the region.

While the Mt Langdon Trail is unblazed, it is very easy to follow
While the Mt Langdon Trail is unblazed, it is very easy to follow. Just follow the beaten path and bypass side trails.

After 1 mile, you pass the Wilderness Boundary sign and cross a small stream. The trail continues to be unblazed but is even more obvious than before to follow. There are several very small stream crossings after this point before you begin the ascent up Oak Ridge, passing through open forest.

Wilderness Area Boundary
Wilderness Area Boundary

When you reach the top of Oak Ridge you’ll descend several hundred feet to the Oak Ridge-Mt Parker Col, passing another Wilderness Area sign on your left at the bottom of the hill. The descent from the top of Oak Ridge to the col passes through a very pleasant corridor or Oak and Beech trees, that feel like they’ve been planted to mark the sides of the trail.

At 2.5 miles you’ll come to the junction of the Mt Parker Trail and the Mt Langdon Trail. You’ll continue straight at this point headed toward Mt Parker. You’ll return to the junction after summiting Mt Parker to hike to the Mt Langdon Shelter which is only 0.4 miles away, to the east.

Three-way Trail Junction south of Mt Parker
Three-way Trail Junction south of Mt Parker

After leaving the junction, the Mt Parker trail climbs, at times relentlessly, to the rocky summit of Mt Parker, where you’re treated to marvelous views of Mt Washington and lesser peaks on the horizon. The total elevation gain required to climb Mt Parker (from the Langdon Tr Trailhead) is 2550′, which exceeds the amount of climbing required to summit many of the White Mountain 4,000 footers. Save some of your lunch and water to hang out here and soak in the views. The next segment of the trip is mostly downhill and will process much more quickly.

Open Ledge on Mt Parker's Summit
Open Ledge on Mt Parker’s Summit

Retrace your steps (south) back to the Mt Parker – Mt Langton Trail junction you passed through before and make a left onto the Mt Langdon Trail towards the shelter. You’ll be heading to the southeast on your compass. This trail is also unblazed and can be a bit difficult to follow very early in the season before hikers have trampled the leaf litter covering the trail from the previous Autumn, or after mid-October, after the leaves have fallen. The trail to the shelter is only 0.4 miles long and passes the shelter outhouse, before ending right behind the back of the shelter.

The shelter is also the sight of the Mt Langdon – Mt Stanton Trail Junction. If you continue on the Mt Stanton Trail for about 100 yards you come to a shallow brook which is the shelter water source. If you decide to sleep in the shelter. there is a firepit in front and large rocks where you can sit. If you brought a tent or shelter of your own,  there are plenty of pre-existing campsites and trees surrounding the shelter where you can set up a tent, tarp, or hammock. This shelter is lightly used, despite its proximity to a 52-with-a-view peak. I’ve camped here several times and never seen another person.

Mt Langdon Shelter
Mt Langdon Shelter Lean-to

The next morning, retrace your steps (west) back to the Langdon/Parker trail Junction and turn left to hike back up Oak Ridge. This time it will be much easier since you only have to gain 350′ of elevation. From there, it’s downhill all the way back to the Mt Langdon Trailhead.

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition, Philip volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

Safety Disclaimer

This trip plan can not alert you to every hazard, anticipate your experience, or limitations. Therefore, the descriptions of roads, trails, routes, shelters, tent sites, and natural features in this trip plan are not representations that a particular place or excursion will be safe for you or members of your party. When you follow any of the routes described on SectionHiker.com, you assume responsibility for your own safety. Under normal conditions, such excursions require the usual attention to traffic, road and trail conditions, weather, terrain, the capabilities of your party, and other factors. Always check for current conditions, obey posted signs, and Backcountry Camping and Wilderness Area Regulations. Hike Safe and follow the Hiker responsibility code. 

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7 comments

  1. I loved Mt. Parker, one of my favorite, in fact the view from the summit is the cover photo on my FB page. I did experience the issue with following the trail, mainly shortly after the Mt. Langdon trail junction. It was late Fall, all the leaves were on the ground. It seemed you knew the direction you were suppose to go, you just couldn’t tell the exact path to follow.

    • I’ve had to bushwhack there in the off-season because the trail is buried in snow. It’s a short enough distance and there are good backstops (stream, trail) that you can do it without a compass, but one surely can help, magnetic or on a phone/gps.

  2. ” Many of the hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest are lightly blazed, particularly in Wilderness Areas, so view this as a practice session for future use.” Love it! Sums up hiking in the Whites so well.

  3. Bit far for me to travel to from the UK, but just looking at a map, seeing the photos and reading about it takes you there and you could almost be physically walking it as you read.

  4. Hey, I resemble that remark!

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