The map and description in the White Mountain Guide
are accurate, but some online maps (especially older ones) have some or all of the following errors:
- They fail to show Haystack Road at all. (Note Haystack Rd is also known as FR304.)
- They make it seem as if the trail turns very sharply almost due West, away from the river and steeply uphill after the third river crossing; the trail in fact continues fairly southerly at first while making a gradual westward turn on a gentle slope (with enough wiggles to make compass work difficult). It stays near a branch of the river, which, the first time I came this way, had me convinced I was still heading due South along the river.
- In 2005 I was hiking with a friend who was using GPS; I don't know what map he had downloaded but it showed the third crossing too far North. That led us to try some very unfortunate "shortcuts"...
You actually don't need a trail map, since the trail is obvious and very well blazed - you can't miss it even when you're "bushwhacking" to avoid the first two stream crossings. Just believe your eyes, not your map.
However, you will want an accurate road map for the winter variation of the approach. The MyTopo map link in the left margin of this page is useful for this purpose.
third crossing (low water)
Here's a link to the nearest water gauge on the Ammonoosuc river. While the actual volume and height of water
on the Little River will be quite different, the trends should be similar.
For what it's worth, I crossed the third crossing when the height of the Ammo river gauge read 3 feet. That corresponded to mid-calf water over submerged stepping stones. The day before, when the gauge was at 4 feet, depth was enough that the submerged stones were not obvious, and the current was much stronger (discharge was double), so I used a handy fallen tree as a bridge over the difficult section.
Normal Approach: Haystack Rd
Note: Haystack Rd closes for the winter at the first snowfall, and stays closed until it dries out in mid or late June. current status
Haystack Rd (aka Forest Rd 304) heads south from Route 3 about three miles west of "downtown" Twin Mountain (where rte 3 intersects rte 302), i.e. about six miles east from Route 93, just west of the Last Chance Cabins (a set of tiny cabins with no sign, arranged in an arc facing rte 3). New in August 2010, there is a small hiker-logo sign
visible from rte 3. Note that going eastbound, rte 3 curves to the right at this spot; it's easy to miss the sign if you're not slowing down to look for it. On Haystack Rd itself there has long been a sign having to do with camping, and there are No Parking signs, but there is no street sign.
The trailhead is at the end of Haystack Rd (about two and a half miles). Haystack Rd is closed in winter, and there is no parking at the gate.
Winter Variant Approach: Little River Rd
This time-saving, easy one-mile hike along an abandoned railway replaces a two-and-a-half-mile snowshoe/ski/mud-trudge down Haystack Rd (and guarantees convenient winter parking).
Nearly two miles east of Haystack Rd, Little River Rd heads due south from Route 3. Look for the sign for the Seven Dwarfs Motel.
The beginning of this route crosses private land. As of winter 2008-2009, the landowner at the end of Little River Rd is reportedly losing patience with trespassers and with cars that park in the road and interfere with plowing. A better option is to cross the property that belongs to the Seven Dwarfs Motel (phone: (603)846-5535). For a nominal fee ($6), the Motel's owner (Franz) will grant you use of a parking spot and the snowmobile trails over his property. The snowmobile trails wiggle a bit but you should have little trouble. Franz reportedly hands out hand-drawn maps. Or, click the link for turn-by-turn photo directions
The following paragraph is retained for historic interest only. As of 2009, the bridge described below is posted ("no trespassing"). There is another bridge further north (closer to the Seven Dwarfs parking lot) which is preferable (assuming you've talked to Franz).
Follow Little River Road southward until you reach a chain-link fence with No Trespassing signs. Look to your right, you will see a wooden bridge (snowmobile trail) over the Little River. Cross the bridge and immediately (within three feet) turn left onto an abandoned railway. Follow this south alongside the Little River, about one mile to Haystack Rd and the trailhead.
When I hiked this way in 2005, there were no snowmobiles on the old railway due to some small downed trees. Should that not be the case in future and you don't want to share a trail, it looks fairly easy to bushwhack along either bank of the Little River instead of following the railway.
The trail follows the east bank of the Little River south-southeast along an old railway, rising only 500 feet in the first two miles. However, there are a total of three river crossings which can pose a significant obstacle. Naturally, the first is the most difficult (because fewer tributaries are included in the flow as you proceed upriver), but the third should be considerably easier.
The first river crossing is about three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead. It can be avoided by "bushwhacking" along a well-worn use path about half a mile along the east bank of the river.
The second stream crossing is about half a mile later, and returns the trail to the east bank.
The trail stays on the east bank until about 1.9 miles from the trailhead, where it makes the third and final crossing, switching back to the west bank in preparation for a gradual turn westward and uphill.
In winter especially, be careful not to follow the tracks of other hikers/skiers who may have gone seeking the abandoned Firewarden's Trail up Mt Hale, which heads uphill and east away from the river from somewhere in the neighborhood of the second river crossing. The main trail is broad, well-blazed, and stays near the river, so you should have little trouble.
After the third stream crossing, the trail turns gradually westward and begins climbing, slowly at first but eventually (by 3.5 miles) getting steep. It finally reaches the summit from the northeast.
There is an outlook a tenth of a mile below the summit, and another on a side trail leading west from the summit.
Total distance: 4.3 mi, 2950 ft elevation gain. Nearly all the elevation gain comes after the third crossing.
first crossing - winter
Sandals for warm-weather stream crossings; waterproof boots, gaiters and pants for high-water crossing in cold weather. Hiking poles very helpful for crossings.
Snowshoes in winter, possibly crampons if upper section is icy. Normal New England weather gear otherwise.
If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.