Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MT. CRAWFORD: 11/20/12

An incredible stretch of sunny November weather continued into its second week. With a day off, I wanted to get up somewhere with a good view, using a trail that would have a minimum of ice. The dry Davis Path to the bare summit of Mt. Crawford, an old favorite, fit the bill. I also hoped to re-visit a dramatic off-trail clifftop that two friends and I went to back in 1996.

The Davis Path starts off by crossing this sturdy suspension footbridge, which is also utilized by the folks who live in the house on the north side of the river.

Looking upstream along the Saco from the bridge, to Frankenstein Cliff, Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson.

A little bit of background on this historic trail.

The first part of the trail is an easy amble through hardwoods, with little hint of the climbing to come.

In less than half a mile you enter the Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness.

Where the trail begins to climb, I encountered the first of several sets of rock steps built by the AMC trail crew this past summer. Impressive work!

The climb to the ridge of Crawford has never been one of my favorites. It is relentless, in one stretch gaining 1300 ft. in 0.9 mile, and is generally dark and gloomy. Looking up, it just seems to go on and on...

But the results are worth the effort, once you gain the first outlook ledge, with this southwesterly vista to Mt. Tremont and the Sandwich Range....

...and a look west at Mt. Carrigain beyond the Nancy Range.

The next part of the trail  is fun as it ascends over a series of granite ledges.

A sign points the way to the spur trail to the summit of Mt. Crawford.

From the junction the spur scales a huge granite slab.

The top of this slab is a fine viewpoint in its own right.

The mostly bare summit is a terrific spot. By moving around a bit you gain views in all directions. Today there was no wind, and no one for miles around. Amazing! This vista looks east to Kearsarge North, Mt. Parker and North Moat.

Many Crawford devotees like the northward view to Stairs Mountain and Mt. Washington best of all.

A zoom on the Giant Stairs above a huge ledge on Crawford Dome. Wildcats E and D and Middle Carter can be seen through the col.

Mt. Resolution with its trademark gravel slopes.

A closer look at Mt. Washington and its neighboring Presidential peaks.

The Southern Presidentials seen beyond the wild depths of the Sleeper Brook ravine.

The view of Crawford Notch from Mt. Crawford is another favorite of many.

On the other side of the summit, a fine southwestern panorama. After enjoying the views for more than an hour, I packed up and headed back to the Davis Path.

Continuing north on Davis Path towards Crawford Dome, I came across this big spruce blowdown. Luckily there were only two more downed trees in the section I traversed.

My objective was a clifftop at the head of the middle fork of Razor Brook, visible on the L side of this photo taken from the South Peak of Mt. Resolution. I had visited this spot once before, in March 1996, with bushwhacking cohorts Creston Ruiter and Cath Goodwin. We called it the "Razor's Edge." The long valley view from this spot captivated us on a sunny, late winter afternoon. I was finally going back to have another look.

It's not a long bushwhack, but it was thick and very shrubby, and led through confusing flat terrain. This photo shows the typical vegetation. It was much easier in late winter atop three feet of firm snow!

After some thrashing around (while choosing foot placement to try and minimize trampling of moss and lichen),  I found the cliff, which drops off into the head of the valley.

The view stretched for miles down the Razor Brook valley towards the town of Bartlett and the Moat-Attitash-Table-Bear ridge beyond. This little-known wilderness valley is completely trailless. There's a long inviting swath of hardwood leading up the valley. Until the 1950s there was a Razor Brook Trail leading up the W fork of the brook to the Davis Path NE of Mt. Crawford. For an account of a recent neat exploration in this area by John "1Happy Hiker" Compton, click here.  The 1916 AMC guidebook also mentions a USFS trail that came up the middle branch of the valley - the one seen here - and reached the Davis Path at the Crawford-Resolution col.

The perfect spot for the obligatory boot shot.

The South Peak of Resolution overlooks the head of the valley.

Looking SW along the edge of the cliff.

Mt. Parker guards the E side of the valley.

Back on the Davis Path, a view of Mt. Crawford from a big open ledge.

On the way down I made a short foray on off-trail ledges for a view of a wild-looking 2866-ft. SE spur of Mt. Crawford. Cath, Creston and I visited this before making our way to the Razor's Edge. Creston dubbed this nubble "Crawford's Bunion." This is a great area to explore, with ledges and cliffs galore. I'll be back for more.

For more on Mt. Crawford, click here.


  1. Outstanding report, Steve. I had planned to hike Mt. Isolation (#47 for me) via Davis Path last summer because I knew there were great views at several points on that trail, but we changed our route and went up via Glen Boulder Trail instead. After seeing these pictures, I wish we had stuck with our original plan. Will definitely hike the Davis Path some other time.

    1. Thanks, BC - the Davis Path is a great long route to Isolation. In addition to Crawford, there are superb views from Giant Stairs and Mt. Davis, and if you have the time, the side trip to Resolution on the Mt. Parker Trail is well worthwhile.


  2. Steve, you have complete agreement from me about the climb to Mt. Crawford being "relentless". However, as you will agree, the rewards are definitely commensurate with the effort expended!

    You did a masterful job of documenting the hike to Mt. Crawford, and short off-trail adventures in the vicinity. It's probably fanciful to think that your blog reports could be added as a link to the online edition of the WMG. In my opinion, it would be a welcomed enhancement to have photos and first-hand accounts by the author of the WMG!

    Last, but not least, thank you for providing the link to my report about a partial exploration of the Razor Brook Valley!


    1. John,

      Thank you for your kind comments! The Razor Brook area sure is intriguing. Wouldn't it be neat to whack all the way up the middle fork to the cliffs. To stay on public land, you'd have to traverse across to the brook from the Mt. Langdon Trail. Looks like it would be a 4+ mile whack to the Davis Path.