Trip report

Mt. Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail

Hiking/Walk DATE: 10/17/2015 - 10/17/2015

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: Moderate to Strenuous

If you want to get an incredible view from a 4,000 footer at peak foliage, this is one of the shortest hikes to the 3rd tallest mountain in the Northeast!

At 5,715 ft. Mt. Jefferson is the 3rd

Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

To reach Jefferson Notch, turn off US 302 at Fabyan and follow the Base Road toward the cog railway's base station. Drive about 5 miles to an intersection. Turn left there onto Jefferson Notch Road [gravel]. Careful driving takes you about 3 miles up to 3,008 feet. Park in the parking areas right or left. We are driving a blue FJ Cruiser.

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

What was billed as a fall foliage hike turned into a full blown winter hike! At 5,716 feet, it’s the third highest peak in the White Mountains.

Jon and I had been waiting for some time for a good opportunity to hike up Mt. Jefferson to see the fall foliage. Knowing that Jefferson Notch Road won't be open much longer if winter continues to make its presence known, we decided to roll the dice and give it a go with a potentially hazardous forecast. It was cold to start with snow beginning to fall around 10:30. It snowed the rest of the trip.  

We worked our way through the woods portion of the trail, encountering snow early on. The winds were very mild. At approximately 1 mile there was a nice granite rock to climb with a view of the “Caps” in the clouds. The boulders were marked by potholes, which are indicative of glacier action (from the streams formed by the melting glacier).

The trees kept getting scrubbier. Reaching treeline, the scrambles were a bit tricky - snow and black ice worked into the ledges. We put on our MicroSpikes as we approached the first Cap. "Four wheel drive" is definitely needed; in other words, we needed to use both hands and feet.  Always keep three points on the rock. Sometimes we needed to count on momentum to get us up. And we did not want to think about how we’ll get down just now.... In fact, if you're afraid of heights, it’s probably good you could not look down at all. Nonetheless, with some creative footwork, we were able to get up and over the Caps.

After the Caps, the trail continues to climb up the steep, rocky ridge. Basically, it's rock hopping. You have to concentrate and pay attention. The talus slopes were quite vexing, as the holes were seemingly filled in with snow. In addition, the cairns and blazes were obscured by rime. Near the summit we found ourselves in wintry, close to blizzard conditions. The wind was 30-40 with gusts. It was VERY windy. It was also quite cold. How cold? No idea; I put had on middleweight synthetic underwear, breathable long sleeve shirt, a lightweight long-sleeved micro-Polartec gridded fleece, sweater vest, hard shell, mittens with hand warmers and hat; and felt fine. I have perhaps a bit beyond a "healthy" respect for big mountain weather. On the way down I put on my goggles since the snow was piercing my eyes.

We didn't end up having much in way of views from the summit.  We worked our way day the trap rock field.

Going down was indeed harder than coming up, in terms of knees and fear factor. Finally making it over the Caps and dropping into the woods, the adrenaline wore off. All told, it was 3 ½ hours up and 2 ½ hours down.

Jon could not hike with us since he was recovering from a recent injury but when we returned back to the house, Jon was there waiting to greet us with a coffee table full of appetizers, dinner almost ready to serve and a roaring fireplace.

Overall, it was a memorable adventure, with great company and warm comraderie!

Click Here To View Slide Show with Music: [Press F11 for full effects]
~ Gandalf

Wow.  Words can’t describe the greatness of this experience.  Mike is a master leader, directing us and allowing us to be as challenged as safely possible.  We witnessed the absolute power and beauty of nature on the mountain. 

From the top of the mountain we could see hundreds.  Of inches.  The snow and hail and the winds were lifting the pack off of my back.   The deepest hoar frost anchored my feet to the bones of the mountain beneath us. 

I was huddled around the heat of my well-protected core and in communion with my brethren.  We were completely together as we all touched the summit spike.  And Mike got the pic of the unrepeatable moment.  The quintessential pro was always in the right place at the right time.

This was only my second hike and my first 5000 footer.  The preparation was impeccable and the recovery pleasurable.  Mike and Jon are truly great hosts.  Their style is to be experienced to be believed and understood.

Thank you for the expansion of my realm within through our realm without. ~ 121 Boston

- The Trip Has No Photos -

What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event

  • A brilliant and refreshing hike - a great time with great company and an great energy!! - Robert.L

Members That Participated


Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Thornton, NH

United States


Outdoor Fitness Level: Moderate

Dover, NH

United States


Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

Bowdoin, ME

United States


Outdoor Fitness Level: Moderate to Strenuous

Somersworth, NH

United States


Outdoor Fitness Level: Strenuous

Braintree, MA

United States

Robert.L Oct 18, 2015 at 7:21 PM

Comment: A brilliant and refreshing hike - a great time with great company and an great energy!!

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