One of the classic hikes in the White Mountains is a traverse of three 4000 foot mountains: West Bond, Mount Bond, and Bondcliff, collectively known as The Bonds. All of these summits are above treeline and provide fantastic views of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and surrounding mountains.
The Bonds are also among most remote peaks in the White Mountains, requiring an arduous and very long 20 or more mile day-hike (depending on the route taken) or a memorable 1-night backpacking trip that provides ample opportunity to hang out on the summits to take in the fantastic morning and evening views.
Most hikers and backpackers approach The Bonds from the north starting at Zealand Road or the south from the Lincoln Woods Visitors Center and parking lot off the Kancamagus Highway and return back to their starting point at the end of their hike. It is also possible to traverse The Bonds from north to south, starting at Zealand Road and hiking to Lincoln Woods, or vice versa, but this requires shuttling a car nearly 30 miles to the end of the hike.
Lincoln Woods to The Bonds
Starting at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center outside of Lincoln, NH, hikers follow the Lincoln Woods, Wilderness, and Bondcliff Trails from the south, reaching Bondcliff Mountain first, and then continuing to Mount Bond. Continuing along the Bondcliff Trail, hikers follow the West Bond Spur Trail to reach the summit of West Bond, a short half mile away. The section of the trail from Bondcliff to the summit of Mt Bond is very arduous with tricky footing, so care should be taken when hiking it.
The round trip distance of this route is 23 miles with 4,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
Zealand Road to The Bonds
Starting from the upper lot of Zealand Road, a seasonal road which only opens in late spring, hikers follow the Zealand Trail, Twinway, and Bondcliff Trails, reaching the junction to the West Bond Mountain Spur trail first, before continuing up to Mount Bond and then Bondcliff Mountain along the Bondcliff Trail. This route passes by the short spur trail to Zealand Mountain, another 4000 footers, which is usually climbed on the same trip.
The round trip distance of this route is 19.8 miles with 4,850 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
Full Bonds Traverse – Zealand Road to Lincoln Woods (or reverse)
A full north to south traverse from Zealand Road to Lincoln Woods or vice versa follows the routes described above. The distance from Zealand Road to Lincoln Woods is 19.5 miles with 3,700 feet of cumulative elevation gain, while the reverse route from Lincoln Woods to Zealand Road is 19.5 miles with 4,550 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
Camping and Backcountry Lodging Options
Hikers also have the option to camp or stay at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Backcountry Huts en route to or from The Bonds.
For camping, White Mountain National Forest Backcountry Camping Rules are in effect requiring campers to set up campsites 200 feet from trails and water sources, especially since The Bonds and trails leading to them fall inside the protected Pemigewasset Wilderness Area. The Forest Service enforces these rules and tickets violators to help curb overuse impacts along these popular summer routes. Regardless, please help us protect the wilderness area by being a good steward and voluntarily following the regulations so that we can all enjoy this area into the future.
An excellent place to camp for a Bonds Traverse is just below the summit of Mt Bond at the Guyot Campsite and Shelter managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The campsite has wooden platforms in addition to a wooden shelter to house campers. Bear boxes are provided for overnight food storage. The campsite has a composting privy. There is also an excellent water source at the site. Use is first come first serve and there is a $8 fee collected by an on-site caretakers to defray the cost of human waste disposal. The campsite is very popular during the weekends, so try to arrive early. Day hikers are also welcome to resupply their water at the campsite’s spring.
AMC Backcountry Huts
Hikers can also stay overnight at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Galehead or Zealand Falls Backcountry Huts as a more luxurious alternative to camping. These huts are full service in summer providing meals and bedding for visitors. Contact the AMC for rates and reservations.
The round trip distance from the Galehead Hut to the Bonds is 11.6 miles with 3,600 feet of cumulative elevation gain (because hikers must also climb South Twin Mountain, another 4000 footer, en route. The round trip distance from the Zealand Falls Hut to The Bonds is 14.2 miles with 4,200 feet of cumulative elevation gain.
Other routes are also possible, including a hut-to-hut traverse from Galehead to Zealand falls, with an out-and back detour to The Bonds.