For this week’s carpool challenge, I chose Willey via Ethan Pond and Willey Range Trails. The challenge of this hike is not necessarily the distance (only 5.4 miles round trip), but the elevation gain (2850ft.) and steepness of the section of the Willey Range Trail. Now that the weather is turning cooler, another challenge for me is to balance moving quickly, yet not overheating and sweating to the point of soaking and subsequently cooling too quickly on breaks. Thankfully the weather was not a huge concern for this hike, because it was a beautiful fall day – sunny and cool, but not too cool and very little wind, or at least not in the trees.
I got to the trailhead just east of the Willey House, also marked for Ripley Falls, passing through several crews still as work on the 302. From what I saw, the 302 is looking good, and I’m sure those crews want to be done before winter weather comes to the mountains. I started up the trail, over the railroad tracks and up the Ethan Pond Trail. The trail is exactly how I remembered it from last August’s trip here with my son. There was only one large blowdown before the Willey Range Trail junction and can be walked under.
I quickly passed the junction with Kedron Flume Trail (note to self: try Kedron Flume for variety on the next trip to Willey!), and was soon at the junction with the Willey Range Trail and taking a snack break. After fueling up, it was time for the steeper part of the hike.
The first part of the Willey Range Trail isn’t too bad, but then you get to the steep parts, and then the staircases. After that it is just more steepness to the top. It isn’t that far – 1.1 miles from the junction to the summit, but it is one of those classic Whites trails that just tackles the elevation gain head-on. To be fair, there are some gentle spots here and there which are good for quick breaks to catch your breath. I arrived at the summit area, and after passing the cairn and taking a quick picture, headed for the viewing spots. I first checked out the view over the Pemi Wilderness, and then went back to check out the view and get another snack at the view overlooking Webster Cliffs and Crawford Notch.
After a nice break, it was time to get moving downward. Since the trail was steep, I was careful to take a little extra time and watch each step carefully. Once back on easier trail, I was able to move more quickly down to the car. I only saw four people this morning, two groups of two headed up to the summit on while I was descending the Willey Range Trail. The parking area was full, but the day was nice, so my guess is that people were headed to see Ripley Falls and the other easily reached sights.
Although short and steep, I made excellent time and made it to the car with enough time to come home, get cleaned up and pick up the children on time. It was a great hike with beautiful weather and nice early fall views!