A classic loop
The Welch-Dickey loop near Waterville Valley in New Hampshire is, in my mind anyway, the perfect loop dayhike. It’s 4.4 miles long, well marked, with no other intersecting trails to get turned around on. Best of all, 2.2 miles of the trail is on an open ridgetop offering, as the AMC White Mountain Guide says "excellent views for modest effort."
The guide recommends doing the loop counterclockwise, going up the steeper slopes of Welch Mountain (2,604 feet) and down the more gentle inclines of Dickey Mountain (2,734), and tells us it’s a three-hour hike for most people. That seems about right, though you can easily take your time, bring a picnic and make a longer day of it.
I recently recommended this loop to a reader who was looking for a hike to do with her teenage daughter and the daughterís friends. This is a great one for kids.
I would guess this is one of the more popular loop hikes in the high White Mountains. It’s a workout, but the views are spectacular.
The most popular route starts and ends at Lafayette Campground, going up the Falling Waters trail (3.2 miles, three hours), over the summits of Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette on the Franconia Ridge Trail (1.7 miles, one hour), descending on the Greenleaf Trail to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut (1.1 miles, one hour, a wonderful place for an overnight stay if you can’t do it in one day), then down the Old Bridle Path (2.
Yes, that’s eight hours of walking, just about right for a long late-summer day with plenty of time for rest stops and a long lunch.
The Grafton Loop Trail, cut by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (www.matc.org /GraftonLoopTrail .htm) is 38-miles long, follows the ridges hills around Grafton Notch and includes a section of the Appalachian Trail.
I haven’t done the whole thing but it’s a worthy goal. I’d start by climbing Puzzle Mountain (3,142 feet).
Most of the early going is just a walk in the woods, but about two-thirds of the way up you break out on some open ledges with a spectacular view.
The view from the top is even better. In the fall, you can expect blue skies dotted with migrating hawks above you, and miles and miles of Maine below What a great foliage season hike!
This loop and a number of others like it are outlined in detail in Matt Heid’s excellent book "AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England."
-- Tim Jones