When I plan hikes in the White Mountains, especially off-trail hikes, I try to research the history of the area that I’ll be hiking in before my trip. One of the richest, but rarest forms of information is in the form of old maps of the region, which often show abandoned trails, logging, or ski trails that are no longer maintained in the White Mountain National Forest trail system OR they’re not included in hiker-specific recreational maps. That’s why I recommend that off-trail hikers use several maps when planning a route, including snowmobile route maps and historical maps, to find the best or most “interesting” route to their intended destination.
For example, I’m planning a bushwhack to a New Hampshire 3,000 footer called Bear Mountain, located in the Crawford Notch, NH USGS quadrangle. Here’s what the trail system looks like today in 2014 in Caltopo (above). I’ve drawn a red line over the only trail still remaining in the area. I presume all of the others have been officially abandoned due to lack of funding or to help return them to their wild state.
As part of my planning process, I’ve drawn all of the trails in BLUE on the 1950 map on my 2014 Caltopo map so I can refer to them during my bushwhack. My Bear Mountain hike is part of a longer overnight off-trail adventure I have planned in the area which includes trying to find and hike along some of these old trails.
You on-trail hikers are probably wondering why anyone would go to such lengths to do this much planning before a hike, but one of the reasons I like off-trail hiking so much is because I like planning. It’s even more fun when you add in a historic element and set out to hike into the past.