Watson Path

Page Type: Route
Lat/Lon: 44.32830°N / 71.2783°W
Route Type: Hiking
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required: Half a day
Difficulty: hike/scramble


Watson Path is reached via Appalachia Trailhead on Rte 2 (the North side of the mountain). See the Gettting There section on the main page for more precise directions to the trailhead.

There is a great profusion of trails leaving Appalachia - most maps fail to show and/or label all of them, but I presume the RMC's own map ($6.00) is more detailed.

Watson Path begins in the woods over two miles from the trailhead.
The easiest way to reach the trail is to follow the signs for Valley Way.
A scenic way to begin the hike is to take the Falls Path (which reaches the parking lot at the far left as you face the mountain - or take an eastward cut-off trail such as Sylvan Way for a couple hundred yards). You will next have a choice between Valley Way (most popular) and the slightly more scenic Brookside. Watson Path begins on Scar Trail, but crosses both Valley Way and Brookside just before the latter two trails converge again. The distance along Valley Way to Watson Path is 2.4 miles.

Route Description

The ranger warned us that this trail was "not well-traveled", as if we might get lost. There was never any danger of that, but this trail is indeed a somewhat wilder experience than most others in the Presidentials. Sometimes slippery with moss and pine needles resting on damp stones, frequently tangled with tree roots, often jumbled with awkwardly-sized stones, and having a sustained steep section as it climbs the ridge, this trail is certainly not your first choice if you've got a week's worth of supplies on your back, and it could be quite difficult in winter. But it's a good alternative to Valley Way for confident hikers looking to make a loop and/or seeking some quiet.

The section from Scar Trail to Valley Way is downright narrow and rather faint by White Mountain standards, but easy enough to follow (outside of winter).

The very brief section from Valley Way to Brookside is easy and well-traveled.

After crossing the brook, Watson Path climbs directly up the side of Gordon Ridge for about a mile. You can expect to use your hands frequently on this section.

After a flatter wooded section along the crest of the ridge, the trail squeezes between some small evergreens and out onto a rockslide, folllowed by a small alpine meadow and then a talus field which continues all the way to the summit. The Pine Link trail crosses here, offering a shortcut to Madison Hut.

I found it slightly difficult to follow the trail above Pine Link (yellow blazes blended with lichen, and small cairns were difficult to distinguish from the general chaos of rocks), but you will have no trouble finding the summit by simply proceeding uphill. For some reason I found it much easier to spot the cairns while going downhill.

Essential Gear

Usual New England weather gear. Note that the upper section is exposed to weather. The Pine Link cut-off to the hut is above treeline and consists of a talus traverse, so don't plan on making much speed while attempting to retreat from weather.


Watson Path was cut by Laban M. Watson in two phases: from Ravine House (on Durand Rd, near the present Appalachia trailhead) up to Salmacis Fall in 1878, and from there to the summit in 1882. The Randolph Mountain Club formed in 1910 to take over management of the trails. Over time some trails were abandoned and others renamed; in the process Watson Path lost its lower half.