09 01 2014.

hiking: mts. tom, field and willey

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Yesterday we embarked on a much-anticipated 3-peak hike. I was really looking forward to this hike for a few reasons – first, it’s a relatively quick hike for being able to conquer 3 4,000-footers, and second, we had tried twice before to do this hike, having to reschedule. This was finally it!

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(Map photo © AMC White Mountain Guide)

We departed Portland at 6:30am to arrive at the Crawford Notch Depot (near the Highland Center) by 8:15. Fully equipped with food and water, we began our hike. The trailhead is right behind the station – you have to cross over two sets of railroad tracks. The kiosk sits back about 1/4 mile from the entrance to the woods. You start on the Avalon trail and keep right at a fork, which puts you on the A-Z trail.

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Our timing was pretty important for this hike. We were attempting a 10-mile hike on a day that was forecasted to be rainy – with a chance of thunderstorms. The last thing we all wanted was to be 4,000 feet above sea level when the thunderstorms hit.

The trails were moderate. There were some pretty easy parts mixed with quite a few steeps climbs. It took us around 6 hours; that includes a few stops for food and views. The hike is certainly kid and dog-safe. There were two river crossings – both very simple and safe.

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The first peak (Tom – 4,052 feet) comes pretty quickly. (You have to take the Mt. Tom Spur, which is 0.6 miles from the A-Z Trail.) We reached Tom by 10:30, which felt too early to have lunch, so we waited until Field. Tom arguably has the best views. It was a little cloudy and hard to see very far, but the view over Crawford Notch was still vast and great! Looking straight across rt. 302, I could see roughly where I had hiked a few weeks prior on the Webster-Jackson trail.

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Backtracking to the Avalon Trail again, we continued on to the Willey Range Trail for 0.9 miles to the Mt. Field Summit (4,331 feet – the highest peak of the day). This short walk was the easiest section of the trail. A few of our hikers had some leg injuries that were becoming aggravated so when we reached Field, we stopped for some lunch and to assess our next step.

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The birds here were very friendly. They kept flying from tree to tree to get closer. Some fellow hikers arrived shortly after us with some birdseed and offered some up so that we could try to get a bird to land on our hands. Supposedly, they did this often! I think there were too many of us there though, and we seemed intimidating.

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With a little nudging, I managed to persuade my group to continue to the third peak, so we hiked onward, though our pace slowed significantly. This final 1.4 miles to the summit of Willey was rough. It was one of the toughest parts of the hike with a lot of loose rocks and climbs. I could tell that my hikers were becoming tired and regret allowing me to push them forward! Nevertheless, we made it and everyone’s spirits were lifted.

Unfortunately, the Willey (4,285 feet) view was pretty much nonexistent. We didn’t look around too much or continue down the trail, but once we reached the cairn, we were nearing the expected rain and thunderstorm time – and we still had to double back to Field!

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Back to Field we went – retracing our steps through the most physically demanding part of the hike. Going back always seems faster to me though, and soon enough we had reached Field again. Once there, we took a different route back – the Avalon trail.

For a bit, the Avalon trail seemed harmless and allowed us to quicken our pace. After about a mile, we passed the Mt. Avalon spur, and continued downward. The trail became very steep and slippery due to a bit of drizzle. We were climbing over rocks, and we spent a lot of time crouched over to descent safely.

An hour later, we had met up with the A-Z trail fork again! We stopped at a stream crossing to dip our feet (and heads!) in. The water was extremely brisk but felt great after a long, humid day of hiking.

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I love hikes that have waterfalls or streams to cross. Those are easily my favorite parts. The water is always so clean and crisp and it’s exciting to hear rushing water while hiking, not knowing when you’ll see it!

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After crossing the water, we had about 20 minutes left of the hike. I savored those minutes, knowing that there was a long drive ahead of us. My toes also hurt, which is actually unusual for me – but I think all of the up-and-downs we were doing put a lot of pressure on my feet. (But my knees weren’t sore!)

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This hike is mentally daunting. It seems like a lot of ground to cover – and it is – but it’s very easily doable in a day. It only took us 6 hours to complete, which means that we moved pretty quickly. The parking at the depot is free! (We parked in the same place when we hiked Webster.) I would absolutely do this hike again, as I loved the feeling of accomplishment when we finished. We summited three mountains in one day!


3 Comments

  1. Thank you, I’m hiking this tomorrow and was looking for the route. Very helpful

  2. This same hike is next on my list. I think we might save the Mt. Tom spur for the end, rather than the beginning (and skip Mt. Avalon). That way, if some people are too tired, they can head straight back to the parking lot while the rest of us summit Mt. Tom. Thanks for all the info!

    One question, is there any water along the Willey Range Trail? Based on the maps, it looks like the trail crosses Willey Brook in-between Mt. Field and Mt. Willey.

    • Kelsey @ Spice & Dice

      Hi PJ! I don’t recall any major brook crossings on the Willey Range Trail. There was a brook towards the beginning/end of the hike on the A-Z trail. If you check out the photos above, I have a few of that crossing! Have a great hike!

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