If you're looking for a wilderness trail with a capital "W," the Dry River Trail fits the bill. This rough-hewn footpath leads up the long, remote, steep-sided valley between the Southern Presidentials and Montalban Ridge. The area has long held an aura of remoteness and mystery, dating back to Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "The Great Carbuncle." From 1892-1898 the valley was logged by crews working for the Saco Valley Railroad.
The old logging railroad crossed the river 13 times because of the steep, canyon-like terrain. When it was opened in the 1930s along the bed of the railroad, the Dry River Trail also had numerous crossings. But after two hikers drowned in 1971 in this misnamed river, which rises fast and furious during storms, a bridge was built at the first crossing and numerous relocations were made to eliminate most of the other crossings. As a result the trail already sported many rough ups and downs, making it much more difficult than a typical valley trail.
Then came the ravages of two epic storms: Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and the "Halloween Storm" of October 2017. The prodigious rainfall of these events essentially doubled the width of the river in many locations and gouged out several sections of the trail bed, necessitating more steep up-and-down relocations, making the trail rougher than ever. There are still a few stretches of good railroad grade walking, but overall this trail beats you up, and takes significantly longer to walk than the stats would suggest. The USFS sign in the photo is truth in advertising. There is perhaps no other trail in the Whites that better demonstrates the power of raging water.
One of the few remaining stretches of easy walking along the old logging railroad grade.
Because of the steep terrain, the relocations up and over washouts are rough.
Not far beyond on the Dry River Trail is one of several USFS-designated Wilderness tentsites along the trail.