Table of Contents

These notes are written to help you compare the various routes that are commonly used to hike to the peaks. They are written on the assumption that you have a guidebook and a set of maps, so no directions are given to trailheads, and the trails are not described in any detail. I have omitted hikes that are substantially longer or more difficult than the standard ones, or that are simply less often used. The fact that a trail is not mentioned here does not imply that it is unsuitable.

Mountain Weather Forecast

The Recreation Report for New Hampshire and Western Maine gives a two day forecast for higher elevations (separate forecasts for elevations of 2,500 to 4,000 feet and for above 4,000 feet). There is also a point forecast for Mount Garfield.

Online Map

If you do not have a printed map handy you may want to look at a Topozone map of this area of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Huts and Established Trailside Campsites

The AMC operates one hut and two backcountry campsites in this area. Fees are charged at all of them, reservations are advised at the huts, but there are no reservations at the campsites.

In addition the Forest Service has two Designated Roadside Camping Areas along the Gale River and Haystack roads:

One Day Routes

Mount Garfield

Normally done by the Mt. Garfield Trail (rt: 10.0 miles, 3,000 feet, 6:30), an old tractor road, hence the grades are easy and the footing is good. The final ascent to the summit of Mt. Garfield is by a short, but very steep and rocky, segment of the Garfield Ridge Trail. While there are no views along the trail, the views from the summit are excellent.

A more strenuous approach (with two cars) is to go up by the Skookumchuck and Garfield Ridge trails, and to descend by the Mt. Garfield Trail (12.0 miles, 4,250 feet, 8:10). Climbing Mount Lafayette from the Skookumchuck junction will add 1.6 miles and 600 feet, for an additional 1:05 round trip. The Garfield Ridge trail is steep and rough, but the upper (west) part of it has great views.

Those who wish to do the loop with only one car may return to the Skookumchuck trailhead by taking a shortcut between the Garfield Trail and the Skookumchuck trailhead. It is long, and there are over 500 feet of ascent (mainly at gentle grades) at the end of a long trip. There is also a stream crossing that may be challenging at high water.

Mount Galehead

This is done by the Gale River, Garfield Ridge and Frost trails (rt: 10.2 miles, 2,450 feet, 6:20). There is a stream crossing that may be difficult at high water, and the final section of the Gale River trail is very steep and rough.

Mounts Garfield and Galehead

These may be combined (lp: 13.7 miles, 3,950 feet, 8:50). This is a strenuous trip, the Garfield Ridge trail has some very steep and rough sections here. I prefer to go up Galehead first, so as to go up, rather than down, this section. With only one car can either walk on the road between the two trailheads (about 1.6 additional miles) or take a shortcut using some logging roads.

The Twins

They are often done together, though North Twin can be done alone by the North Twin Trail (rt: 8.6 miles, 2,950 feet, 5:45), and South Twin can be combined with Galehead (below). The usual way is up the North Twin Trail and then along the North Twin Spur (11.2 miles, 3,700 feet, 7:25). The North Twin Trail has three stream crossings that can be difficult, and a very steep section. The first two stream crossings can be bypassed by bushwhacking along the East side of the stream, the third crossing is the easiest of the lot. There are several good viewpoints on North Twin, while South Twin has great views in all directions.

Galehead and Twins (South or Both)

Many peakbaggers do North Twin alone on one trip, and to do Mt. Galehead plus South Twin on a separate one. This involves a very steep climb up from Galehead Hut to the summit of South Twin (rt: 11.8 miles, 3,600 feet, 7:40). It is, of course, possible to add North Twin to the trip. With one car that involves going across the North Twin Spur twice, adding 2.6 miles and 750 feet (1:40) to the trip. With two cars a loop over all three summits is possible (lp: 12.0 miles, 3,900 feet, 8:00). Doing the loop in the opposite direction saves 200 feet of elevation gain (lp: 12.0 miles, 3,700 feet, 7:50).

Twins, Zealand and Hale

An interesting trip, with spectacular views in good weather, is the hike over the Twins, down the Twinway to Guyot and to Zealand Hut (bagging Mount Zealand on the way), then up the Lend a Hand Trail to Mount Hale. There are two alternatives for returning from Mount Hale. The "official" one is by the Hale Brook Trail to Zealand Road, requiring a second car (lp: 16.7 miles; 5,300 feet; 11:00). Those who know how to find the unofficially maintained Firewarden's Trail can return to their car at the cost of about an extra mile. This trip goes over South Twin and Guyot, both with 360° views, and North Twin and Zeacliff, with excellent (though not 360°) views.

The Twins and Bonds

Several of the multipeak routes to the Bonds go over the Twins. One of the routes for doing the Three Bonds in a Day is the traverse from the Kanc, over the Bonds and Twins, to the North Twin trailhead. The Twins are also frequently included as part of a Bonds backpack or a Bonds by the Huts trip. Follow the links for details, icluding distances and elevation gains.

To summarize, here are the distances, elevation gains and book times of the routes to the peaks:

Day Trips to Garfield Ridge and Twins
Route Distance Elevation Gain Book Time
Mt. Garfield by Garfield Trail 10.0 3,000 6:30
Mt. Garfield by Skookumchuck & Garfield Ridge 12.0 4,250 8:10
Galehead Mtn. 10.2 2,450 6:20
Mt. Garfield & Mt. Galehead 13.7 3,950 8:50
North Twin alone 8.6 2,950 5:45
Both Twins 11.2 3,700 8:20
Galehead & South Twin 11.8 3,600 7:40
Galehead & Both Twins (round trip) 14.4 4,350 9:20
Galehead & Both Twins (loop) 12.0 3,900 8:00
Twins, Zealand & Hale16.75,30011:00

Hut Based Routes

Galehead Hut can be used as part of a two or three night hut traverse, in combination with Greenleaf or Zealand Falls huts (or both). From Greenleaf Hut the trail stays above treeline to the summit of Lafayette and for an additional mile on the Garfield Ridge trail, then stays in the trees until the summit of Garfield, which has excellent views in all directions. In then stays in the trees essentially to the summit of South Twin. Other excellent viewpoints are the summit of Guyot and Zeacliff.

The hike between Greenleaf and Galehead Huts is more strenuous than the numbers (ow: 7.7 miles, 2,950 feet, 5:20) would indicate, the trail has many ups and downs, and is very rough. For the reverse direction add 400 feet and roughly 15 minutes. Bagging Galehead will add 1.0 mile and 250 feet for another 40 minutes.

Going from Galehead to Zealand Huts (ow: 7.0 miles, 1,750 feet, 4:25) you start off with the steep and rough climb to South Twin, after which the grades are all moderate. Add 1,150 feet and 35 minutes for the reverse direction. Adding North Twin to the trip adds 2.6 miles and 750 feet (1:40) to the trip. You may also add the Bonds to the trip.

Hut Based Trips on Garfield Ridge and Twins
Route Distance Elevation Gain Book Time
Greenleaf to Galehead 7.2 2,950 5:20
Galehead to Greenleaf 7.2 3,350 5:35
Galehead to Zealand 7.0 1,750 4:25
Zealand to Galehead 7.0 2,900 6:05
Side trip to Galehead 1.0 250 0:40
Side trip to North Twin 2.6 750 1:40

Winter Routes

The trailheads of the Mt. Garfield, Gale River and North Twin trails are all on Forest Service roads that are gated in winter. They can be walked; for the Mt. Garfield Trail this is the only option, and there is a parking lot just before the gate off Rt. 3. This adds 1.2 miles each way and around 300 feet of elevation gain.

For the Gale River Trail it is possible to park at the junction of Trudeau Road and Rt. 3, adding about 1.5 miles each way and about 250 feet of elevation gain. There is, however, a way that is shorter and has better parking. About a mile to the east of the east end of the Gale River Loop is the Beaver Brook Rest Area, from which a set of XC ski trails run south of Rt. 3. You can see a Google map. If you have Google Earth installed on your computer you can see the area here.

Little River shortcut: See a Google map of the shortcut.