The McCrillis Trail on Mt Whiteface isn’t very well known, even though it provides access to a White Mountain 4000 footer. I first hiked it five years ago when I was hiking all the trails in the White Mountain Guide, where the objective is to visit all of the beautiful places that can be accessed by the White Mountain Trail system in Central New Hampshire and Eastern Maine. I hiked a slightly different and easier loop (described below) that included McCrillis Trail just last week, in the process of wrapping up my second round of the White Mountain Guide trail system.
The McCrillis Trail runs between the ledges at the top of the Blueberry Ledge Trail to the Flat Mountain Pond Trail. It’s a very steep trail climbing or descending, if you prefer, with 2750′ of elevation gain or loss in 3.2 miles. The most convenient way for a solo hike of the trail is to create a loop that starts and ends at the Ferncroft Trailhead in Sandwich. My preference is to descend the McCrillis Trail because it is so steep, but you can also climb it. If you’re a peak bagger, you can also tag Mt Whiteface, by hiking up the Rollins Trail a short way from the Whiteface Ledges (0.5 miles).
- Blueberry Ledge Trail – 0.6 miles (from Ferncroft Trailhead)
- Blueberry Ledge Cutoff – 1.4 miles
- Blueberry Ledge Trail – 1.9 miles
- McCrillis Trail – 3.2 miles
- Flat Mountain Pond Trail – 1.7 miles
- McCrillis Path (includes short road walk) – 3.0 miles
- Blueberry Ledge Trail – 0.4 miles (back to Ferncroft Trailhead)
- Total loop has 3600′ of elevation gain
On the Trail
Leave the Fercroft Trailhead and follow the signs to the Blueberry Ledge Trail. You can stay on it or take the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff which provides a different scenic variant (they’re basically the same effort level) before rejoining the Blueberry Ledge Trail higher up.
The Blueberry Ledge Trail, especially the higher parts, is the most challenging portion of this hike. The trail is steep and requires scrambling up a number of rock ledges. I can’t say that I’m particularly fond of this trail, but I do find it easier and less scary to climb rather than descend it. You definitely want to avoid it if the ledges are wet (like after a rain) or covered with ice in winter.
But the views from the top of the ledges just can’t be beat and there are a number of great places to stop for a snack or lunch to admire the surrounding landscape.
The McCrillis Trail leaves from the top of the ledges and runs down the west side of Mt Whiteface. It’s easy to miss the weathered sign that points to it at the top. The top runs down a series of rock ledges with yellow blazing painted on the rock. Beyond that, it drops steeply over a spruce needle-covered path to a hardwood forest.
The path from the bottom of the steep climb/descent Flat Mountain Pond follows an old logging road. This section used to be notoriously difficult to follow. But increased hiker traffic and excellent trail maintenance have vastly improved the visibility of the trail, although you should still expect very light blazing.
When you reach the end of the McCrillis Trail, there is a stream crossing at an old bridge abutment. The driest (rock hoppable) crossing may be below the abutment. The signage is very clear on the McCrillis side of the trail. Once across, you want to follow the Flat Mountain Pond Trail, but it can be challenging to figure out which track to follow as several herd paths leave from this point and continue along the stream. You want the rightmost trail which climbs the slope with a short series of switchbacks.
Follow this until you reach a gravel road (the signage is clear) and bear left to continue south, walking over a metal auto bridge without handrails. Continue south on the gravel path which will bring you to the Whiteface Intervale trailhead.
Continue south to the paved road outside the trailhead entrance (also signed). Turn left and walk down the paved road for about a half-mile, past an old graveyard on your right. You’ll see wooden signage for the McCrillis Path. Turn left onto a gravel road and hike up it until you see this conservation area sign. The McCrillis Trail reenters the woods here and runs all the way back to the Blueberry Ledge Trail. From there, turn right and return to the Fercroft Trailhead.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide, 30th ed.
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- White Mountains Map: New Hampshire and Maine