“A beautiful outing, circumnavigating the western half of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
— Billy Hafferty
This loop is unforgettable, taking on some of the most beautiful terrain in the Whites. Once treeline is gained the entire loop can be viewed, making for a unique experience in tracking progress through the day.
The trail is mostly technical rock and root. Ascending is steep with some scrambling and stair sections. The ridge lines tend to be the less technical. The loop is made up of many other shorter sections and peaks. This makes for easy bail out options but also tends to crowd the singletrack later in the morning/afternoon. For the most enjoyable running, plan on starting early and catching the sunrise at the first peak. This will ensure a less crowded ridge line and easier running.
Need to Know
The terrain is technical and challenging.
It might be advisable to hike the loop as a backpacking trip or long day before attempting to run it. Some of the water sources on the Bondcliff
Trail may not be reliable; it is safest to only rely on the Galehead Hut for a refill.
The trail is easy to follow after a couple times studying a map or you can use the Trail Run Project mobile app
Be prepared for self-rescue and weather, as parts of the loop are somewhat remote. Read up on recent conditions and weather, as many water refill options aren't reliably flowing. Studying the map is also helpful; familiarity with the terrain will be crucial in pacing early on and for assessing bail options.
The route begins at the Lincoln Woods trailhead on the Kanc. From here, one can go clockwise or counterclockwise. Clockwise is more popular, taking on the rougher terrain early and allowing for a more "relaxing" second half. Counterclockwise will allow more retreat options later, at the cost of handling rough terrain later on.
From the trailhead, cross the bridge and head along the Lincoln Woods Trail
. This is the widest that the trail gets as it is a former rail trail. At the 1.5-mile mark is where you need to decide if you are going CW or CCW. Stay north on the Lincoln Woods Trail
for CCW or head westward on the Osseo
Trail to start your ascent up Mount Flume (5.3 miles).
Continue on the Franconia Ridge to Mt Liberty, Little Haystack, then to Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette. Here the trail turns into the Garfield Ridge
/ Appalachian Trail (AT) to Mount Garfield. Mile 15.5 is where you can stop in the Galehead Lodge for water and shelter. Continue on Twinway
to South Twin Mountain and Mount Guyot. Leave the Appalachian Trail (AT) for the Bondcliff
Trail up Mount Bond and Bondcliff
. As you descend Bondcliff
, you'll meet back up with the Lincoln Woods Trail
which you'll take to head back to the trailhead.