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In response to someone asking if the AT between Franconia and Crawford Notches would make a good overnight trip, I wrote the following for a NOBO trip...
Franconia to Crawford is a very rough section of trail (except for the section from Zealand out). Unless you are already in extremely good condition and are familiar with the rugged conditions the Whites throw at you, I would usually recommend that section as at least a three day hike.
To shorten it to a two day hike, you might want to consider using the Bridle Path Trail (which isn't as easy as the name might indicate) to climb Lafayette and plan on exiting at the Zealand trailhead, just two miles from Zealand hut. There are also trails to the north of Garfield and you could come in to either Garfield or Galehead from the north and continue on the AT from there.
FWIW, even thruhikers often take three days to complete this section.
[OK, here's my recollection of the area without maps to look at... FWIW, the Whites are my weekend playground.]
On the AT, the climb up Liberty is a very steep rocky climb, but doesn't really require the use of your hands. It just goes straight up. Here and there, it is actually a staircase. There is good water at Liberty Springs campsite. If I remember correctly, the summit of Liberty is .5 mile to the south (off the AT) once you attain the ridge.
The ridge walk to Lafayette is rugged but not particularly difficult. It is very exposed though so bad weather might make you want to rethink your plans. Plus, the views from that ridge are among the best in the Whites so if you end up with bad weather, hike elsewhere and wait for good weather and good views to hike Franconia Ridge. Once on Lafayette, Greenleaf Hut is 1 mile down the Bridle Path off the summit of Lafayette. There is water at the hut.
From Lafayette, the hiking over the Garfield Ridge is extremely rough. There are a lot of ups and downs that just don't show on the topo maps. You'll be using your hands a lot to climb both up and down sections of the trail. The summit of Garfield gives great views south into the Pemigewasett Wilderness and Owl's Head.
The trail continues to be very rough past Garfield and past the Garfield Tent site. There is water at this tent site.
The trail continues to be rough but mellows a bit before you get to Galehead Hut. There is water at the hut. Galehead Mountain is a short side trip (10 minutes?) off the AT.
Leaving Galehead, I think you climb 1,000' in .5 mile. Basically, you go straight up South Twin on boulders that have not been made into a staircase.
The footbed from South Twin to Guyot isn't too bad but the ridge is very exposed and can be extremely windy. I've been knocked over by wind on two separate occasions here.
You pass a side trail to the summit of Zealand. Nothing to see there but it's only an extra .1 to bag yet another 4,000'er - if you care.
There's a great view of Zealand Notch from the cliff. Don't miss it as it is a little side trail off the AT. You can see the AT through the notch quite easily from the viewpoint. From there, it's probably less than 25 minutes down to Zealand Hut. Note the water driven pump as you head down to the hut. There's water at the hut. There's also a waterfall at the hut.
From the hut, you go down some rock steps for 100' or so, and then the trail really flattens out - for miles. There's good, established, not-so-stealth-but-legal, campsites just 1/4 mile south (north on the AT) of the hut on the AT. Once you are in the notch, you really have to get to the other end before you find more stealth sites but once through the notch, there are plenty of places to camp. Thoreau Falls is a tiny side trip to a great set of falls and a couple of good swimming holes just upstream. It's a great place to take a break and probably less than .1 off the trail.
There's new trail that rolls along after that. Nothing too hard. Some bog bridges here and there. There's tenting and a shelter at Ethan Pond. Get water at the stream into Ethan Pond. People swim in the pond but I hear the leaches have been bad this year (2001).
Then, it's a few miles flat and down to Crawford Notch.
So, for most hikers - even thruhikers, this is more than an overnighter. But there are plenty of places where you can pick up and do a smaller chunk of the trail.
Bug situation should be managable at this time of year (August). A breeze above treeline should help. But I would bring some repellant just in case. You might also want sunscreen as you'll be spending a lot of time above treeline.
It's possible that there are additional water sources here and there. But probably none on Franconia Ridge. Perhaps some on Garfield Ridge as you'll be below treeline. And maybe some as you head over Zealand. There's obviously water at Thoreau Falls and at least once source between there and Ethan Pond.
I'm not aware of other stealth camping sites. you're either above treeline, on sidehill, or the area is just too rugged to get off the trail. (But if you find any, let me know. ;-)
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