I put off hiking the Gordon Pond Trail as long as I could, dreading getting lost in the maze of old logging roads between North Woodstock and the Appalachian Trail. The Gordon Pond Trail has a reputation as being poorly marked, hard to follow, wet and muddy. Moose heaven, but challenging, even for very experienced hikers. I know a few people who’ve tried to hike this trail and gotten lost.
Once you get off the more heavily traveled trails in the White Mountains, finding and following the older, less known trails can be an adventure. I’ve learned the hard way to prepare for them much like I do my bushwhacks, carefully compiling route information from multiple sources, and bringing all of the tools in my navigational arsenal, including a GPS app on my phone. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as driving a few hours to hike a trail and not being able to find it…but it happens.
If you’re used to hiking well-signed and well-blazed trails, hiking in the White Mountains can be real shock. The only trails with an abundance of blazes are the Appalachian Trail and its blue-blazed side trails, and even then thru-hikers get lost. But the farther you get from the AT, the more sporadic the blazing becomes, to many trails where there’s barely any at all.
Despite its reputation, the Gordon Pond Trail proved easy to follow using the directions in the latest edition of the White Mountain Guide. The higher reaches of the trail also showed signs of fresh blue-blazes, since it is technically an off-ramp for the Appalachian Trail.
My friend and I hiked the trail from south to north because that’s the direction of the trail description in the White Mountain Guide. The trail follows old logging roads for most of the way, although they’re also well signed since snowmobilers obviously use them too.
One of my frustrations with the White Mountain maps is that you’ll never find one that has both the hiking trails and the snowmobiles maps drawn on it…that would be too useful….so I made a mental note to come back up here to hike and track them with my GPS at a future date.
There are a couple of nice water features along the Gordon Pond Trail. The first is a very nice stream that probably holds a lot more water and lots of trout in a non-drought year. The other is a tremendous waterfall near the northern end of the trail, just south of the pond, which must drop 40-50 feet in height. The trail passes over the falls, but it looks like there’s a short bushwhack to their base in the surrounding wood. I could see hanging a hammock there for a night.
We had a quick lunch what we reached Gordon Pond and watched the fish rising to pick bugs off the surface. The fishing season had ended the day prior, so there was nothing I could do about this new-found knowledge except tuck it away for next year.
After lunch, we hopped onto the Appalachian Trail and then branched off about 0.5 miles before Rt 116 and came down the super steep Dilly Trail, adjacent to the Lost River tourist attraction. While coming down the Dilly Trail was strenuous, I just assume come down it rather than have to climb it. The trail is only open however, when Lost River is open, or so they say, so you have to time hiking this trail just right. I think we got it the last day of the season, until next year.
All in all a nice, vigorous hike with some attractive destinations en route.
Total distance: 8.2 miles with 2700′ of elevation gain.
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