Mount Willey is one of three official N.H. 4000 footers in the Willey Range. It ranks number 29 on the official list of high peaks. Two other 4000 footers, Mt. Field and Mt. Tom, lie a few miles to the north. Mt. Avalon and Mt. Willard are also in this small range. To the northeast lies the Presidential Range, with the southern Presidential peaks of Mt. Webster and Mt. Jackson just across the notch. To the west lies the Pemigewasset Wildnerness.
Mt. Willey is named for the Willey family, who were all killed in an avalanche on August 28, 1826 which occured during torrential rains. Sadly, their house was left intact, but the entire family and the hired hands had attempted to flee the avalance and were lost to its fury, with some never found. For more details on this sad bit of history, click here.
The major trails for Mt. Willey originate from N.H. Route 302. From the south, take Route 93 to Route 3 just after Franconia Notch and turn right on Route 302. From the east, take Route 302 from N.H. Route 16 in N. Conway and travel to Crawford Notch.
The Willey Range Trail traverses Mt. Willey and Mt. Field to the north. The Willey Range Trail can be reached at the southern end from the Ethan Pond Trail or the Kendron Flume Trail. From the north, the Willey Range Trail can be reached from the A-Z Trail or the Avalon Trail. From its southern end, the Willey Range Trail is steep and rough in places. There are sweeping views from the lookouts near the summit. From the north and Mt. Field, the Willey Range Trail is a ridge walk. You loose about 300 feet of altitude between Willey and Field.
The Ethan Pond Trail runs from Route 302 beyond the Willey Range Trail to the Ethan Pond campsite and the Zealand Hut. This trail is part of the Appalachian Trail. There is parking near the Willey House Station. The climb from Route 302 to the Willey Range Trail is 1.6 miles, and is moderate. There are wonderful views of the cliffs and slides on Webster on the other side of Crawford Notch through the mostly birch forest.
The Kendron Flume Trail runs from the Willey House site on Route 302 to the Ethan Pond Trail, .3 miles from that trail's junction with the Willey Range Trail. This 1.3 mile trail passes the Kendron Flume, after which the trail is steep and rough.
The Avalon Trail offers an approach from the north over Mt. Field. The Avalon Trail starts at at Crawford Depot, with parking just to the south on Route 302. The A-Z trail diverges from the Avalon Trail at 1.3 miles. At 1.8 miles, after a steep section, there is a short spur trail to the summit of Avalon. It reaches the Willey Range Trail at 2.8 miles, just north of the summit of Mt. Field.
The A-Z Trail runs from the Avalon Trail to Zealand Hut. Near its highest point there is a spur trail to Mt. Tom to the north. The junction with the Willey Range Trail is 1.0 miles from the Avalon Trail, and about 3.1 miles from the Zealand Hut.
Climbs of Mt. Willey are often combined with Field, and may include Avalon and Tom as well. For more information on the trails and possible loops, times, and distances, click here.
There are several free parking lots in the Crawford Notch State Park on Route 302. The Clinton Road parking lot located near the Crawford Path is governed by U.S. Forest Service rules, and requires $3.00 per day or a parking pass. Check here for more detail on the fees.
Camping is prohibited within the Crawford Notch State Park, except in the Dry River Campground (see below). Camping in the White Mountain National Forest is governed by National Forest Service rules. Forest Protection Areas, near trailheads and accomodations, which are clearly marked, are heavily restricted. Check the rules for other restrictions.
In general: No camping above treeline, except in winter and then only when there is two feet of snow on the ground. No camping within 1/4 mile of established huts, campsites, trailhead, or certain roads. Bring a campstove and avoid open fires. Camp away from water.
As with the other White Mountains, Mount Willey is a four season experience. Spring brings mud and high water; early summer means bugs; winter means bring snow shoes and crampons and the rest of your usual winter gear. The summit is not significantly exposed, but there may be ice on some of the approaches. As always, prepare for changing weather.
Although there is abundant water along this trail, precautions should always be taken to filter or treat the water.
There are abundant rustic accomodatons and camping opportunities in the area surrounding Mt. Willey.
The Dry River Campground is located on Route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park, with 36 sites, reservations available, and many accomodations. Open May 6 to December 1.
Just north of the trails is the Highland Center at Crawford Notch, operated by the AMC and open year-round, with room for over 120 guests. 603-466-2727. Rates from $25 per night.
The Ethan Pond Campsite is located on the shore of Ethan Pond, 2.8 miles from Route 302 on the Ethan Pond Trail. There is a shelter which holds eight, and there are several tent platforms. Fee.
The Zealand Falls Hut lies at the end of Ethan Pond Trail and A-Z Trail, a few miles to the west. The hut is open year 'round. Be sure to check for available space during peak periods.
On the opposite side of the notch, traveling north along the Appalachian Trail, there is the Mitzpah Spring Hut, which lies between Mt. Jackson and Mt. Eisenhower and which is operated by the AMC. Accomodates 60 people.
Back country camping is permitted in the White Mountain National Forest, but, in addition to the restrictions in the well-marked Forest Protection Areas, you should be familiar with the other Forest Service regulations.
Current conditions are available from the Mt. Washington Observatory. Check the Higher Summits Forecast.
Current New Hampshire Trail Conditions: Views From The Top.
Numerous White Mountain resources: Appalachian Mountain Club