WTF is a moderately difficult, moderately long hike that, although it does not offer the panoramic summit views one normally looks for when hiking, is beautiful in its own right. There are several spots along the trail where views can be had, as well as limited opening at the summits. Additionally, hiking Mt. Avalon (an additional 200 yards) gives great views down Crawford Notch. Book time is 6:45.
Head north on I-91. After 53 miles, take exit 19 to merge onto I-93 S. In 22 miles take exit 40 for US 302/NH-10 E Toward Bethlehem/Twin Mtn. In 0.2 miles merge onto NH-116 W/NH-18 S/US 302E/Dartmouth College Rd/Main St. Continue to follow US 302 until arriving at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch. NOTE: The main parking lot is Highland Center guests only. Park in the lot about 50 feet beyond the entrance to the main lot, by the train station.
Cross the railroad tracks right by the parking lot and begin on the trailhead. After about 50 yards you should come to the billboard that’s at most White Mountain trailheads. Continue straight (not on the Willard trail) to begin hiking on the Avalon trail. You can take the loop in two directions, but the one I will describe is more practical, as there is a section on the Avalon trail that is much better going up than down. Continue on the Avalon trail up past the “0.5 miles to go” sign and up a steep section. You should come to an intersection with two signs, “100 yards to Mt. Avalon summit” and “Mt. Field: 1 mile”. The 100 yards up Avalon are a fun scramble with a rewarding view. After Avalon, continue on the 1 mile to Mt. Field. The summit is mostly closed in but there’s a view in one direction. From here, continue on the Willey Range trail until you reach the summit of Mt. Willey. This summit is also mostly closed in, but there are viewpoints along the trail. Retrace your steps back to Mt. Field, and go down 100 yards from Field’s summit. You should come to an intersection with the A-Z trail. Follow this until you reach an intersection of A-Z and Mount Tom Spur trail. Follow the Mount Tom Spur trail to Mt. Tom’s summit. Although the summit is closed in, there is a decent viewpoint about 50 yards before the summit. From here, retrace your steps to the Mt. Tom Spur/A-Z trail intersection, follow the A-Z trail until it intersects with the Mt. Avalon trail, and follow this back down to Crawford Notch.
Advice & Anecdotes
The AMC Highland center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round. If you need trail advice or help of any kind, you can always check in with the front desk. This is also a great place to fill water.
The trail has plenty of water along the way. Although the trail is not particularly challenging, the length can mean that people run out of water. As for all hikes, bringing iodine is a good idea.
Although staying in a cabin such as Billings or one of the ones near Moosilauke will make the morning’s drive shorter, this is a short enough hike that it should be doable without a cabin overnight, especially when the days are longer.
If you finish and there’s still plenty of time, a quick (30 minute) jaunt up the 1.6 miles to Willard will provide an excellent view down the notch. This is highly recommended if you have the time.
Additionally, a 0.1 mile walk to Gibb’s falls is very rewarding, especially if it’s warm enough to swim. This leaves from the Crawford path, just next to the Highland Center. Ask one of the guides at the front desk if you need help.
November 17, 2013 Group: 5: Mac Murphy (leader), John French (co-leader), Greg Partridge, Nicholas Thyr, Rachel Margolese Weather: Mid 40’s on the ground, high 30’s on the summits. High winds (40-55 in exposed areas). Very limited visibility, about 100 feet by the time we got down Route: From Avalon to Field to Willey back to Field to Tom and back down, as described above. Time: 6 hours
November 17, 2013 Many wet spots due to snow melt, also 1-3 inches of snow along the trail
For 3 season hiking, regular gear. For winter hiking, snowshoes and microspikes should be enough. Crampons and ice axes should be unnecessary.