Mount Jefferson Trail

Various • 10.5 mi • 4250 ft

When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he spoke of three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When climbing to the summit of the mountain in New Hampshire that now bears his name, it is hard not to have a greater appreciation for these important principles that form the foundation of our nation. Standing atop the third highest peak in New England, the wind in your face, warmed by the sun above, where could one feel more alive? Scaling the steep face of Castle Ravine, heart pumping and muscles flexing, where could one feel more liberated? Descending a barren ridge, views in all directions and recalling the day’s accomplishment, how can one feel any happier?
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Bowman
Length: 10.5 total miles
Elevation Gain: 4,250 feet
Trail Type: Several options
Skill Level: Strenuous
Duration: 8 hours
Season: June through October
Trailhead Elevation: 1,500 feet
Top Elevation: 5,716 feet
Local Contacts: White Mountain National Forest
Local Maps: USGS Mount Washington
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Recent Trail Reviews


I was unsuccessful on my trek on this day. I have to admit to having done 14ers and many 4000 footers (Washington 3 times) and this one kicked my sorry butt. Nothing in the trail descriptions or trip reports prepared me mentally for what lay ahead. I counted 8 stream crossings, I believe and most were 10 feet wide or more. The water was up a bit and I knew others must be more agile than I am for I decided to take off the hiking boots 7 out of the 8 crossings and go across barefoot. I just didn't think I had what it took nor could I figure out how to stay dry while crossing. Taking off and putting on shoes cost time. Then when I got past the Roof Rock and started climbing the steep section of boulders, I lost sight of any further cairns and paintings. I admit the brain automatically assumed the trail must still go up so up I went to a dead end. I saw some hikers below and figured out I was supposed to take a sharp right at the last cairn so did so, again losing time. At this point I had to consider my cutoff time for summitting (I had left my itinerary with a friend and what time to call 911). I pushed on for a 1/2 hour then decided I was still out of reach of the summit by a good 1/2 hour to 45 minutes (doubled for the time to get back down). So, I called it a day. Oh, and let me also say that I didn't get a good feel of just how steep that boulder climb was gonna be (let's say 90 percent grade). Translated that means I was crawling up and definitely reverse crawling down... Stand up and come down? Are you kidding me? On my butt worked just fine especially considering the number of loose rocks and what a misstep would possibly mean. Of course, that cost time, too. So, ascent to within .5 miles from the top took 5.5 hours. Descent from that point took 3.75 hours. Let's just say this trip shook my self-confidence. I thought Washington was going to be the toughest and I have that one behind me. Wow! Did I learn a lesson.

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