Portland, Maine: Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams via the Great Gulf Trail and Six Husbands Trail

Test out one of the most notoriously difficult trails in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
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Test out one of the most notoriously difficult trails in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

As I headed out on the Six Husbands Trail in New Hampshire's White Mountains en route to Mount Jefferson and Mount Adams, I was, quite frankly, expecting the unexpected. Let's just say my expectations were met. BY MATT MILLS

I had heard so much about the Six Husband Trail's famed ladders bolted into some of its toughest sections that, once I reached them (somewhere around the 5.5-mile mark of the hike), it was like seeing an old friend again. Granted, those particular ladders and I had never crossed paths before, but I was glad we did on this day. The cold, icy, nearly vertical sections of rocks would have been nearly impassible without the ladders. So, I put one foot over the other and gladly ascended to the next section.

Not long before the ladders appeared -- and right after setting foot on the Six Husbands Trail -- I dealt with a stream crossing so iced over that rock hopping was out of the question. Barefooted, with shoes and socks temporarily in my pack, I crossed the stream before continuing onward and upward.

This loop route connected various trails (see the "explore" section below) and offered a little of everything: river crossings over old footbridges, ladder climbing, scrambling, steep trail hiking, rolling riverside hiking, stream crossings, exposed ridge hiking, visits to a couple of summits, a visit to a picturesque mountain lake, and more.

Sure, I pushed my luck by testing out this notoriously difficult route by setting foot on it at the end of October. But, all things considered, the trails threw manageable curveballs at me on this day, and the weather largely cooperated. All in all, it was a great day to be outdoors.

Hike Stats
Distance: 15 miles round-trip
Elevation change: 5,500 feet
Time: At least 10 hours
Distance from Portland, ME: 2 hours
More info:Six Husbands Trail, Mount Jefferson, NH

Prepare
1. A Recreation Pass is required to park at the Great Gulf Wilderness Trailhead.
2. Bring extra layers -- weather can turn in the White Mountains any time of the year.

Explore
Mile 0.0: Begin at the Great Gulf Wilderness Trailhead and follow the Great Gulf Trail toward Mount Jefferson.
4.5: Reach the junction with the Six Husbands Trail. Follow to Six Husbands Trail to the summit of Mount Jefferson.
6.8: From the summit of Mt. Jefferson, take the Mount Jefferson Loop Trail for 0.4 mile and connect with the Gulfside Trail.
7.2: Continue on the Gulfside Trail.
8.7: Reach the junction with Lowes Path and take that to the summit of Mount Adams.
9.0: From the summit of Mt. Adams, take the Star Lake Trail northeast for 0.7 mile to the junction with the Parapet Trail.
9.7: Continue on the Parapet Trail until the junction with the Osgood Trail.
10.7: Turn right for the long downhill journey on the Osgood Trail.
13.2 Reach the junction with the Great Gulf Trail and turn left.
15: Arrive back at the Great Gulf Wilderness Trailhead via the Great Gulf Trail.

Earn
1. Time well spent on some of the Whites' most rugged trails.
2. Best-of-the-best views from the summits of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Adams.

This Trip
Month: October
Weather: Cold, clear late-October day
More info:Great Gulf Wilderness Trailhead

Trail Facts

  • State: NH
  • City: Portland, ME
  • Distance: 15.0
  • Land Type: National Forest