If you’re pretty familiar with White Mountain trails, then you can guess where I went hiking on Friday. Oh yes, I got to hike the King Ravine Trail. I had a free day to hike by myself, so after some indecision and suggestions from my husband I chose King Ravine. This hike was on my bucket list and since the weather was going to be really good, I knew I didn’t want to waste a chance to hike Mt. Adams.
The plan was pretty simple, park at Appalachia, then hike up Airline to Shortline to King Ravine and then Airline to the summit of Adams. For the return trip, I would hike all of Airline back to Appalachia. This was perfect since I had never been on any of these trails, with the exception of the short segment of Airline between Gulfside and the summit. On my previous trips, I had always approached Adams from the Madison side, after ascending Valley Way.
The first portion of the trip, the first 2.8 miles or so from Appalachia parking to the junction of the Shortline and King Ravine Trails was fairly quick and easy. The grade is easy to moderate and the footing for the most part was pretty nice. The forest was nice and quiet in the early morning, and I could hear the birds singing and the squirrels rustling about. In the upper portion of the Shortline, the brook is nearby on the right, providing the sound of rushing water and eventually by peeking through the trees, I could see cascades and falls. Mossy Fall is just a minute or two away on King Ravine Trail after the junction and is a pretty, small waterfall into a mossy pool.
After Mossy Fall, the trail starts to change character, and quickly. The rocks start to grow in size and soon I was scrambling up, not just stepping up. The views started to open up and I realized I was getting to the floor of the ravine, walking and hopping among boulders the size of and larger than SUV’s. At the Chemin De Dames junction, I was certainly among the boulders and the views were incredible. About this time a few groups came up behind me. One was a RMC trail crew and the other was a pair of guys doing the same hike as I was. The two guys were up from Boston for the day, realizing that the weather was too good to spend it indoors. We chatted and then ended up hiking the rest of the way to the summit together.
The Subway was interesting, with some neat push the pack through first, then crawl through spaces. It was fun, but over too soon! Back on the trail, we got to the Ice Cave section, which again was interesting, and certainly cooler down in there. The cooler temps were welcome as it was work to haul ourselves up and around all the boulders.
Then the real fun began, the hike or rather climb up the headwall. We had to use hands and feet in some places, as some sections had some rather larger boulders. This part is really steep, gaining 1100 feet in a half mile, but it was fun. When I wasn’t out of breath from the workout I was getting, I was grinning and having a great time. It really is something to look up and barely be able to see the next cairn above your head and then to turn around and look back down the ravine. We made it to the top and had a beautiful view of Madison and the hut and views back to King Ravine. As a side note, the blazes are all sorts of colors on this trail. The first part of King Ravine Trail is blazed in yellow, but is seems at one time it might have been orange, as the first part of the Subway section has yellow paint over orange. We also saw just orange and blue blazes, too. On the headwall there was a mix of orange blazes and cairns.
From the top of King Ravine, it was another .6 miles to the summit of Adams, and the first portion seemed easier than it had been on previous trips. I think it was because after coming up King Ravine, the rocks seemed smaller and the elevation gain easier by comparison! Closer to the top, my legs started to really complain, my calves and quads had had enough. Although this hike has a high elevation gain of 4,500 feet, it wasn’t just this hike, I had hiked Washington on Monday and Jefferson on Tuesday, too. I knew within a few minutes I’d be at the summit and get chance to relax for a bit, so I pushed on and kept on going.
After admiring the views at the summit, getting some lunch and having nice beak, I was ready to go down Airline to see what that trail was like. I retraced my steps back to the point where the King Ravine Trail comes in, and then continued down the Durand Ridge. What an amazing view! The trail just stretches down along the ridge crest, with views into the Snyder Glen on the right and King Ravine on the left. I slowed down a little to enjoy this part of the hike – the sunshine was beautiful and with a slight breeze, the ridge was a joy to walk. Eventually the trail goes back into the trees and I picked up the pace and moved quickly back to the car. The middle section of the trail is steeper and rockier, but after that the footing improves to packed dirt with few rocks and the trail is easy walking back to Appalachia.
I had a fantastic day, with so many blessings of weather that stayed nice (there’s no guarantee in the Presidentials), safety, and a little extra endurance. If you’re a rock scrambling, high-elevation gain junkie, this is the trail for you! You will love the experience. Even if this isn’t your sort of thing, a hike out and back to the Chemin De Dames junction for a little boulder experience and the great views of King Ravine is worth it.
On the trip up to Appalachia, I realized I forgot my camera. The photos are not the greatest, but the best I could do with my iPhone!