Random Trail History, White Mountains

Mount Washington from the Camel Trail in Sargent's Purchase of the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Camel Trail – Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Random Trail History, White Mountains – Think about these White Mountains history facts for a moment. Crawford Path is the oldest continuously-used mountain trail in America. Trail maker Charles E. Lowe and Dr. William G. Nowell built Lowe’s Path in 1875-1876. Nathaniel Davis, son-in-law of Abel and Hannah Crawford, built Davis Path in 1845. Nathaniel L. Goodrich (1880-1957) is considered to be the founder of peakbagging in the White Mountains.

In this era of outdoor recreation (camping, fishing, hiking, etc.) the ones who explored the New Hampshire White Mountains before us are being forgotten about. So today’s blog article focuses on random tidbits of history surrounding the White Mountains trail system.

Thirteen Falls along Franconia Brook in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of Franconia, New Hampshire during the summer months.
Thirteen Falls – Franconia Brook, Pemigewasset Wilderness

Franconia Brook in the Pemigewasset Wilderness was not always called Franconia Brook. From the late 1800s to the early 1920s it was called Red Rock Brook. And the brook on the west side of Owl’s Head (today’s Lincoln Brook) was called Franconia Brook; there was no Lincoln Brook in the early years. Between 1920 and 1924, the names of both brooks were changed on maps to Lincoln Brook and Franconia Brook. Thirteen Falls is likely named for the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad's logging Camp 13 which was in the area of the falls. The Franconia Brook Trail utilizes much of the old railroad bed.

Mount Washington from along Crawford Path in Sargent’s Purchase of the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Crawford Path – Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Crawford Path is the oldest continuously-used mountain trail in America. And for a period of time, it was used as a horse trail to Mt Washington. This eight and half mile historic path came to be in 1819 when Abel Crawford and his son Ethan Allen begun building a trail to the summit of Mt Pierce, formerly called Mt Clinton. Once north of Mt Pierce, the Crawford Path follows the famed Appalachian Trail corridor to the summit of Mt Washington.

Shelter rock along the old Osseo Trail in Lincoln, New Hampshire
Shelter Rock – Old Osseo Trail, Lincoln

An interesting feature of the old Osseo Trail in Lincoln is Shelter rock. Cut in the early 1900s, this portion of the Osseo Trail began near the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s logging Camp 3. It traveled up through the Clear Brook drainage to Osseo Peak and Mount Flume. During the early years of the trail, it was part of the Franconia Ridge Trail. In the 1980s when the Clearbrook Condominium development was built this portion of the Osseo Trail was abandoned and rerouted to its current location.

Presidential Range just after sunset from the Presidential Range Rail Trail at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson, New Hampshire
Presidential Range Rail Trail Just After Sunset – Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge

Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 by the National Park Service, Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is one of New Hampshire's hidden gems. One of the grandest views in New Hampshire is at Pondicherry along the Presidential Range Rail Trail. This section of trail utilizes the railroad bed of the first logging railroad to operate in the White Mountains – the John’s River Railroad (1870-1879). The railroad would be merged into the Whitefield & Jefferson Railroad, and operate well into the 1900s under different owners.

Hikers ascending the Subway Trail in King Ravine in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA.
King Ravine – White Mountains, New Hampshire

King Ravine is named for Reverend Thomas Starr King; a 19th-century preacher, White Mountains explorer, and writer. In 1857, he was a member of one of the first exploration parties into King Ravine. In his book; The White Hills: Their legends, landscapes, and poetry Starr King called the ravine “Adams Ravine”, but the name was later changed to King Ravine. Charles E. Lowe built the King Ravine Trail in 1876.

Great Gulf Wilderness from along the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Great Gulf Wilderness – White Mountains, New Hampshire

There are six designated wilderness areas in the White Mountain National Forest; the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, the Great Gulf Wilderness, the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the Presidential Range – Dry River Wilderness, the Sandwich Range Wilderness, and the Wild River Wilderness. These wilderness areas are managed under the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Wilderness Act. Considered to be one of the greatest conservation laws ever passed, the Wilderness Act has protected over 109 million acres across the United States. The Wilderness Act is not a failure.

Memorial Bridge, which crosses Cold Brook in Randolph, New Hampshire. Built in the 1920s, this stone bridge is a dedication to all the early pathmakers.
Memorial Bridge – Randolph, New Hampshire

Built in 1923, Memorial Bridge crosses Cold Brook along the Link Trail in Randolph. This bridge is a memorial to the early Randolph pathmakers. A few of these early trail builders are Charles E. Lowe, Eugene B. Cook, Laban Watson, and William G. Nowell. Its often overlooked that these individuals were building trails in the 19th-century, not in the 21st-century. No internet, smartphones or techwick back then.

View from Boott Spur Trail in Sargent's Purchase of the White Mountains, New Hampshire. Tuckerman Ravine is on left with Mt Washington at the top and Huntington Ravine is on right.
Tuckerman Ravine – Boott Spur Trail, New Hampshire

At 5500 feet, Boott Spur Mountain is named for Francis Boott, a botanist who took part in scientific expeditions to the Presidential Range during the early 1800s. The original route of the Boott Spur Trail was opened by the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1900. The views into Tuckerman Ravine from along the trail are incredible!

If you’re hiking one of the hiking lists, take time to enjoy the trail history. The history attached to some trails is fascinating, and they are linked to true legends of the White Mountains.

Happy image making..


To license any of the photos in this blog article for publications, click on the photo.

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Appalachian Mountain Club. Guide to Paths in the White Mountains and Adjacent Regions, 4th edition. Boston, MA: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1920.

Donovan, Erin Paul. “Crawford Path, White Mountains.” ScenicNH Photography LLC, 14 Mar 2015, https://www.scenicnh.com/blog/2015/03/crawford-path-white-mountains/.

Donovan, Erin Paul. “Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, New Hampshire.” ScenicNH Photography LLC, 10 Dec 2013, https://www.scenicnh.com/blog/2013/12/pondicherry-wildlife-refuge-new-hampshire-2/.

Mudge, John T. B. The White Mountains: Names, Places & Legends. Etna,NH: The Durand Press, 1992.

United States Forest Service. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine [map]. Washington, DC: Us Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1918.

United States Forest Service. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine [map]. Washington, DC: Us Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1920.

United States Forest Service. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine [map]. Washington, DC: Us Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1924.

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer, writer, and author who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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2 Responses to “Random Trail History, White Mountains”

  1. Daniel Eschbach

    Love the white mountains  mt.Adams lowes trail many times, Grate photos in backpacker mag. Dan..    


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