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Natural Water Sources in the Northern Presidential Range

Greenough Spring, Mt Clay
Greenough Spring, Mt Clay

Water is heavy and the last thing you want to do if you are climbing a peak in New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range or doing a Presidential Traverse is to carry extra drinking water. As it turns out, there are several spring-fed, above-treeline  water sources that you can resupply water from during your hike if you are hiking in the off-season or after hours when the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts or the Mt Washington Cafeteria are closed.

All of the following springs are located on or just off the Gulfside Trail which starts between Mount Madison and Mount Adams and runs south to the Crawford Path on Mount Washington. This is the main hiking trail over the Northern Presidentials linking Mounts Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and Washington. I collected the GPS coordinates for these springs last July on an epic 2 night backpacking trip I took through the Great Gulf, climbing up the Mt Washington headwall and then hiking back to my car by looping back over Mounts Jefferson, Adams, and Madison and down the Osgood Trail.

Water Sources From North to South:

Peabody Spring: 44.31742 N, 71.30264 W

Peabody Spring,  44.31742 N, 71.30264 W
Peabody Spring, 44.31742 N, 71.30264 W

The Peabody Spring is located along the edge of the Gulfside trail in a section of trail bordered by krummholz, just south of the Israel Ridge trail junction. Looks for a puddle beneath a large trailside boulder on the Great Gulf side of the trail. If you’ve hiked the Gulfside Trail before, chance are you’ve walked past this boulder many times.

Spaulding Spring: 44.31173 N, 71.31286 W

Spaulding Spring, 44.31173 N, 71.31286 W
Spaulding Spring, 44.31173 N, 71.31286 W

The Spaulding Spring is located about 25 yards down the Cornice Trail from its 3-way junction with the Castle Ravine Trail and Randolph Path. Look for a small rock, painted red, on top of a collection of other small boulders to your left, which marks the location of the spring.

Gulfside Spring: 44.30999 N, 71.31226 W

Gulfside Spring, 44.30999 N, 71.31226 W
Gulfside Spring, 44.30999 N, 71.31226 W

The Gulfside Spring is a good flowing water source, just down from the Edmunds Col Cut Off Trail. This is one of the easier springs to find.

Sphinx Trail Spring: 44.29336 N, 71.31556 W

Sphinx Spring, 44.29336 N, 71.31556 W
Sphinx Spring, 44.29336 N, 71.31556 W

The Sphinx Spring is located in a small boulder field a short ways down from the upper part of the Sphinx trail. Look for a small cairn atop a large boulder. If the cairn isn’t there, look for a puddle under a large boulder and listen for the sound of trickling water. You will need some sort of scoop or a small plastic bag to reach between the rocks to collect water.

Sphinx Trail Spring
Sphinx Trail Spring

Greenough Spring; 44.28919 N, 71.31794  W

Greenough Spring, 44.28919 N, 71.31794  W
Greenough Spring, 44.28919 N, 71.31794 W

The Greenough Spring (see top photo) is about 0.2 miles south of the intersection of the Gulfside Trail and Clay Loop Tr. Look for a sign along the trail that marks the spring and follow a faint path through the krummholz to it. The water is easy to see  between the rocks although a scoop of some sort is useful to collect it.

Water Treatment

Given the amount of human and dog traffic that passes along the Gulfside Trail, I’d recommend that you use some form of water treatment for the water sources that lie very close to the Gulf Side Trail such as Peabody Spring. This water source is situated in such a way that it can collect run-off tainted by human or animal excrement and treatment and using a water filter or Aqua Mira drops is advisable.

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  1. How reliable are these sources? Enough to plan a trip around?

  2. Out west, people joke about getting water out of cattle hoof prints.

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