The Chandler Brook Trail is a lovely but strenuous trail that runs from the Great Gulf up the side of Mt Washington past many lovely cascades, water shutes, and slides. You can make it into an interesting loop hike by descending by the Wamsutta Trail, which also has many unique views of the Northern Presidentials. I recently hiked this route after heavy rain, which was a bit sketchy because it’s so steep and slippery, but worth the extra effort for the views.
The Chandler Brook Trail climbs 1300′ in 0.9 miles, so it’s not for the faint hearted. The bottom of the trail where it intersects the Great Gulf Trail can be difficult to find because of blow downs but once you get on it, it’s relatively easy to follow. Just head uphill.
The thing that makes the Chandler Brook Trail so beautiful is rain, but that’s what makes it difficult too. There are four stream crossings, which can be slippery and hazardous when rain floods the stream. Of the four crossings, the lowest is the most challenging and I found myself bushwhacking about 50 yards uphill to a better, less exposed crossing, where the chance of falling down a waterfall was less great.
The top of the trail runs through a small boulder field which is also exposed to the Mt Washington’s winds, before ending at 4125′ along the Mt Washington Auto Rd. From there, you can link up with the Nelson Crag Trail which is about 0.5 miles up the road or hike 1.2 miles to 5300′ where you can get on the Alpine Garden or Wamsutta Trails. All three of these trails are above treeline and fully exposed, so you want to make sure to have good visibility, low wind, and to avoid thunderstorm weather when hiking them.
The Wamsutta Trail is 1.7 miles in length and good if you want to make a loop. It drops steeply back down into the Great Gulf, ending only about 0.6 miles from where the Chandler Brook Trail begins. The top of Wamsutta quickly drops into krumholz offering some protection from the Mt Washington’s winds. It then drops steeply through a maze of boulders, requiring good scrambling ability to get through in one piece. However, the effort is well worth the risk (yes risk, because this is not an easy trail), with unparalleled views of the side ravines on the other side the Great Gulf. This includes Jeffersons Knees, two precipitously steep subsidiary ridges belonging to Mt Jefferson, the third highest peak in the White Mountains.
The bottom of the Chandler Brook Trail begins approximately 4 miles from the Great Gulf Trail parking area across from Camp Dodge on Rt 16. The full itinerary is as follows:
- Great Gulf Trail (3.9 miles)
- Chandler Brook Trail (0.9 miles)
- Auto Road (1.2 miles)
- Wamsutta Trail (1.7 miles)
- Great Gulf Trail (4.5 miles)
Total Distance: 12.2 miles with approximately 4,000 feet of elevation gain.
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
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