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Sandwich Wilderness Wander, NH
mini location map2022-06-02
8 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
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Sandwich Wilderness Wander, NH 
Sandwich Wilderness Wander, NH
Backpack42.00 Miles 10,417 AEG
Backpack42.00 Miles4 Days         
10,417 ft AEG25 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked   none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I’m spending the summer in New England, and have to keep hiking, so I’ll be logging my trips here. I did a 4-day wander in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, which sits south of the Kancamagus Highway and north of the town of Sandwich. Within this range are a few peaks: Mount Passaconaway and Whiteface are the most popular peaks, but also there are Sandwich Dome, Mounts Wonalancet and Paugus.

I planned a double figure eight route of about 50 miles that covered much of the wilderness from west to east, parked at the Flat Pond/Whiteface/Intervale parking lot near the middle, and headed out on a Thursday morning. From there, it was a couple miles up Bennett Street to the Flat Mountain/Bennett Street Trailhead, and into the woods. On a Thursday, there were no cars at either trailhead. It was overcast, with lots of mosquitos, as I followed the Bennett Street Trail up to the summit of Sandwich Mountain, following Pond Brook and its tributaries. The hike along Pond Brook is pleasant and easy to follow; the climb after leaving the brook is steeper but reasonable. Near the top, the trail is vague at times but not difficult to find. There was lots of evidence of moose. Due to the overcast, there was no view from Sandwich Mountain. I had lunch and continued west down the Algonquin Trail, with occasional views under the clouds to the Lakes region to the south.

At the intersection with the Black Mountain Pond Trail, I turned down this very steep trail. It drops 1000’ in about a mile, which seems reasonable enough, but there are several sections which are scrambles straight down, not that fun carrying 4 days of supplies. This trail is not marked and sometimes becomes unclear. I spent the night alone at Black Pond, which has two tent pads, and might serve 6-8 friendly people altogether at the only allowed place to camp. There is no trace of the original shelter.

Day 2, I headed south on Black Mountain Pond trail which follows the Beebe River, with several cute waterfalls and riffles to the intersection with the Guinea Pond Trail. Guinea Pond Trail is an old logging railroad bed, and is generally flat. All the bits of the RR are gone, but they must have existed when the wilderness was defined, as the wilderness boundary follows just north of the trail. It is often a steep drop down for stream crossings, as these were previously bridged. Continuing NE, in the rain and clouds of mosquitos, the trail crosses a marshy area. I was able to stay on footlogs and little islands, and kept my feet dry. Eventually the old RR bed becomes the Flat Mountain Pond Trail, and the Guinea Pond Trail bears off right, back in the direction of the Bennett Street Trailhead. I followed Flat Mountain Pond Trail (and old RR bed) all the way to Flat Mountain Pond, where there is a nice, well-maintained shelter including a composting toilet and several permitted tent sites.

After spending a couple hours there, I resisted the temptation to stay there overnight as I needed to get farther along. I followed the trail down the Whiteface River, and camped near the intersection with the McCrillis Trail. It rained overnight, but had stopped by sunrise.

Day 3, I climbed up the McCrillis Trail to the southern summit of Mount Whiteface, which finishes with a scramble of about 100 feet over pretty smooth rock. As I approached the summit, I heard the voices of the first people I had encountered since starting the trip. The climb to Whiteface via Blueberry Ledge Trail is popular, and I ran into 20-30 people over the next few hours. The summit of Whiteface was above the clouds, and sunny, so I dried out my tent and my socks before continuing on.

Continuing north on the Rollins Trail, I passed the true summit of Whiteface, and eventually arrived at the intersection with the well-maintained stairsteps of the Dicey’s Mill trail. I decided I did not need the 400’ climb to the wooded summit of Passaconaway, and bypassed it on the East Loop Trail. Both the Walden Trail and Square Ledge Trail head down from here; I took the Walden Trail, which goes up and down over some steep sections, eventually meeting the Square Ledge Trail again and leveling out on the Lawrence Trail.

The Lawrence Trail east to the Cabin Trail was pleasant, and I turned down the Cabin Trail towards Whitin Brook, where I had identified 3 possible campsites for my last night. Cabin Trail proved to be rough and steep in spots, and after a short distance, I decided to skip my easternmost loop. I backtracked ½ mile to the Kelly Trail, and headed down the canyon of Kelly Brook to the first spring, and set up my tent.

Day 4, I headed down the Kelly Trail. Kelly Brook is beautiful. This was perhaps the prettiest part of the journey. Sections of the brook are worthy of a Japanese garden. The Kelly Trail continues down to the Old Mast Road Trail, and then arrives at the Ferncroft Road Trailhead, which is the main parking area for people climbing Whiteface and Passaconaway. There were probably 25 cars in the lot. As I passed through the trailhead, for about 20 minutes I was hiking in the same direction as about 10 people headed up to the peaks, until I turned off on the McCrillis Path (which is different from the McCrillis Trail previously hiked), and again left the hordes.

McCrillis Path is gentle and pleasant, being the link between the Ferncroft Trailhead and the Flat Pond/Whiteface/Intervale Trailhead. I came to a pile of branches across the trail, suggesting “this is not the way”, but there was only one maintained path going on, with a sign pointing down it to “Sacred Nectar Sanctuary”. After following the maintained path for about 0.2 mi, I realized I was no longer on McCrillis Path, and went back to the intersection. But McCrillis was no longer maintained west of that location, so I just carried on via the maintained path, which leads into the “New Age” Sacred Nectar Sanctuary. Fortunately, regular hand-painted signs point to the exit, and eventually the route got me back to Intervale Road, and a short walk back to my car.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
Not a lot to be seen. Some creeping dogwood. Some trillium. Some Pink Lady's Slipper, the NH state flower. A little Rhodora.

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