Mt Whiteface is a 4000 footer in the Sandwich Range that’s usually climbed using the Blueberry Ledge Trail, then over to Mt Passaconaway via the Rollins Trail, and down via Dicey’s Mill Trail. I took a much different route on my last hike to Whiteface a few weeks ago, climbing up the Tom Wiggins Trail and descending via the McCrillis Trail and then looping back to Ferncroft on the McrCrillis Path. This is a great loop hike and makes for a more interesting day if you’re bored with the same old routes.
I had no idea what I’d find when I started climbing the Tom Wiggin Trail which is signed to discourage hikers from using it because it’s “steep and loose.” While it’s not a good winter route, it’s not really that hard of a climb, despite being steep and eroded in places. It’s received some excellent stone work in recent years which has obviously helped reduce some erosion and made it easier to hike, but I’ve encountered far worse trails in the White Mountains. Just saying. I’ll probably climb the Tom Wiggins trail the next time I tackle Whiteface instead of climbing up the Blueberry Ledge Trail. It’s a more interesting route.
The only tricky part was the stream crossing at the bottom of the trail which was running calf high. The water had sounded a lot higher from a distance, so I was relieved that this crossing was so easy. You can never be too sure about water levels in spring in the White Mountains.
The Tom Wiggin Trail doesn’t run to the top of Whiteface, but intersects the Blueberry Ledge Trail about 1000 feet below the summit, where the ledgey bits start. I don’t think I’ve climbed Whiteface since I was working on my Winter 4000 footers, so I’d forgotten how much scrambling is required to get up to the viewpoint. It made the climb that much sweeter when I got to the top.
I’d arrived at the trail head rather early that morning, so I had the ledges to myself to ponder the views. It was a sunny day, but cool. Perfect hiking weather.
I turned down the McCrillis Trail and hiked down it from the Whiteface ledges. The trail was in pretty good shape, but it’s obviously not used much. It’d be a much gentler way to climb Whiteface than Blueberry Ledge, but it has a much longer low elevation approach and the bottom two miles are a bit hard to follow, so I can see why it’s not used as much. Kind of out-of-the-way and there’s a more challenging stream crossing at the very bottom of the trail across the Whiteface River (knee height).
Despite that the McCrillis Trail makes a nice loop with the McCrillis Path, which I followed back to my car at Ferncroft. It’s also a bit hard to follow, but I hiked it last winter so I knew where to look for the blazes and tread.
This loop makes for a very nice route for climbing Whiteface, especially because it’s not frequented very much. I’m a sucker for hiking on trails I’ve never been on to places I’ve never visited, so it scratched my itch just right.
I’d recommend bringing the New England Hiker Smartphone App along for finding the McCrillis Trail and McCrillis Path if you decide to try hiking this loop, since they can be difficult to follow if you’re not used to hiking faint trails.
Total distance: 12 miles w/ ~3000 feet of elevation gain.