Trip report

Mts. Jefferson and Clay Hike

Hiking/Walk DATE: 07/20/2013 - 07/20/2013

Trip/Event Location: Bretton Woods, NH

Trip Leader(s): Gandalf , JDNnh

Max # People: 15

Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money

Difficulty Level: Strenuous

Mt. Jefferson at 5,716 ft is an enjoyable hike if the weather cooperates. I particularly enjoy Monticello Lawn as it slopes away into the Great Gulf and Jefferson Ravine. The views across the Great

Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

 I-93 to Rt. 3 to 302. Turn right on 302 and head east. Turn left onto the Cog Railway Base Road and park at the lower parking areas below Marshfield Station [there is a parking fee]. Do not park at the official White Mountain National Forest trailhead.

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

Because of the severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and heavy rain forecasted in the afternoon due to an approaching cold front we opted to take the shortest route to Mt. Jefferson, the third highest NH four thousand footer. As we drove up the Cog Railway Base Road Mt. Washington was hidden by these dark clouds. We didn't have a good feeling but continued to drive up to the highest trailhead on a public road in the White Mountains. 

We stuck with our early start of 8AM as we met Stephen. To our surprise the sun came out! We began hiking through green spruce/fir woods listening to the sounds of the White Throated Sparrow, "Old Sam Peabody." 

About 1 mile into the hike we hopped on a large, whitish granite ledge that had potholes scoured by glacial meltwater. We saw how the wind pushing up the mountain pulled in the warm air condensation and formed clouds rolling over Mt. Clay. We could make out the Caps that we were going to climb shortly.

After seeing the "The Link" trail junction the trail became very steep, rocky and rough through scrub up to treeline. It began to sprinkle and as Jon looked back, caught a picture of a rainbow over the whitish granite ledge that we were on a few minutes earlier. Steep ledge scrambling led us up to the first Cap and as the ridge becomes a saw-toothed edge, climbed up to the second Cap, with ever-expanding views.  When we reached the last and third Cap, we took a break looking at the bouldery summit of Mt. Jefferson only .4 miles away. 

After passing the Cornice Trail, the summit became enclosed in the fog with increasing winds. We slogged along steadily up the summit cone over piles of broken rock following cairns and yellow blazes carefully due to the poor visibility. After passing the false summit, the final push led up to the actual summit of 5,712' at 10:15AM. The wind was probably 20-30mph so we put on our wind shell.  

On a clear day, it's impossible to get this summit to yourself. Today, we had it to ourselves for as long as we wanted it since we saw nobody else behind or around us. Periodically the fog curtain would open and we caught a quick glimpse of the valley. We were originally going to continue to Mt. Clay but with the current conditions and given the forecast, we decided not to push our luck and return the way we came up.  Our new plan was to have lunch back at the parking lot and some cold beer we had in our cooler. 

As we descended, we got more sprinkles but once we reached the third Cap it stopped. We knew any danger was behind us. We took off our wind shells and took a long break enjoying the clouds forming over the mountains. Mt. Clay was periodically in the clear so we thought perhaps we could have hiked to it after all; however looking back as to how the conditions were when were on the summit of Mt. Jefferson, we made the right decision. 

As we made our way down the Caps we encountered about six people in all going up; a remarkable difference compared to a beautiful day where one could see as many as 50! The sun really came out once we reached the whitish granite ledge so we took another extended break enjoying the warmth and view. It was amazing how much cooler it was further up! Once we reached the car we decided to drive over the popular Ammonoosuc Brook swimming hole for lunch and beer while watching people jump off the ledges into the water.

Shortening our trip allowed us to take in the time to soak in the sunshine, views and lunch at the one of the most beautiful swimming holes in the White Mountains. Thanks Stephen for joining us! 

What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event

  • The minute by minute alternating clouds, sun, fog, windy, calm, cold and hot conditions made this a hike to remember. The rainbow was a bonus! What a "climactic" hike! - JDNnh

Members That Participated


Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Thornton, NH

United States


Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Thornton, NH

United States

JDNnh Jul 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Comment: The minute by minute alternating clouds, sun, fog, windy, calm, cold and hot conditions made this a hike to remember. The rainbow was a bonus! What a "climactic" hike!

Hiking, backpacking, camping or vacation adventures, GayOutdoors [GO] has been the LGBTQ outdoorzy community leader for the last 22 years. We are an informal group of diverse hiking enthusiasts in the United States with a shared love of the mountains who prefer hiking with friends. We invite you to join us on our hikes, to post hikes for other members to join you and to share your hiking photos, stories and advice.

Become A Member

If you find it invigorating to hike along a mountain trail with friends not knowing what’s just around the corner, to get some fresh air, to stop and soak in the views on a summit, and to soak your feet in a mountain brook after a hike, give us a try!


Powered by - ColdFusion Experts