Mount Willard and Hitchcock Flume

Destinations:  Mt. Willard (2800'), Centennial Pool (2200'), Hitchcock Flume (2550')
Trails:  Mount Willard Trail, Hitchcock Flume Spur
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Crawford Notch State Park
Location:  Carroll (Twin Mountain), NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, gorge, brook, waterfall
Distance:  3.9 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1100 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:07   Typical: 2:40  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 3:50   Typical: 4:15  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/20/2009 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  09/25/2009  
Weather:  50-70 degrees, sunny
Author:  Webmaster

View of Crawford Notch and beyond from the cliffs of Mount Willard
(photo by Webmaster)
View of Crawford Notch and beyond from the cliffs of Mount Willard (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

A relatively easy hike to Mount Willard rewards you with close-up views of Crawford Notch, rounded out with views of many more mountains farther in the distance. This hike also includes a detour to Hitchcock Flume on an easy-to-follow but grown-in spur path. The hike starts off in the White Mountain National Forest, and then enters Crawford Notch State Park.

Ascent and Summit Spurs:
  • From the parking area, walk to the far side of the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center and cross the railroad (active) tracks to pick up the combined Mount Willard Trail and Avalon Trail.
  • Walk for 0.1 mile, then turn left to stay on Mount Willard Trail while Avalon Trail continues straight. Mount Willard Trail has some faded blue paint blazes but you won't need them to follow the trail.
  • Hike for another 0.4 mile (crossing a stream en route) which will bring you to a junction where Mount Willard Trail curves to the left and a short spur to Centennial Pool is on the right. There isn't a sign on the main trail, but once you get up to the junction and look to the right, you will be able to see a sign for Centennial Pool.
  • Turn right and walk a few steps to view the pool below. If you wish, walk down the rock steps to reach the shore of the pool and to get a better look at the small waterfall spilling into it.
  • Return to Mount Willard Trail and keep hiking uphill for 1.1 miles which will bring you to open ledges with fantastic views. This area is just east of the true summit of Mount Willard.
  • These ledges provide the best views but for a couple of different perspectives, turn right (when facing the views) and walk to the end of the open ledges and pick up a trail that enters the woods.
  • Walk for 0.05 mile which will bring you to an outlook straight ahead while the trail continues to the right.
  • After checking out this perspective, continue on the trail for another 0.05 mile to the last outlook.
  • Turn around and retrace your steps for 0.1 mile back to the main ledges.

Ledges at the summit of Mount Willard (photo by Webmaster)
Ledges at the summit of Mount Willard (photo by Webmaster)

Hitchcock Flume:
  • When you've finished soaking in the views, return to Mount Willard Trail and descend for 0.1 mile which will bring you to an unsigned spur on the right that leads to Hitchcock Flume. It is at a sandy area that's about six feet wide.
  • If you want to hike to the flume – a set of tall, sheer ledges only about four feet apart – turn right onto the spur. You need to keep your eyes on the well-defined footway in order to follow this trail because branches close it in tightly from both sides. Before embarking on this little adventure, you should close all your pockets and secure everything on your person and your pack since you'll be brushing against branches and blowdowns for most of the length of this 0.2-mile spur.
  • View from the first outlook beyond the main ledges. That little strip of gray in the bottom right-hand corner is Route 302. (photo by Webmaster)
    View from the first outlook beyond the main ledges (photo by Webmaster)
  • Hike downhill for 0.1 mile which will bring you to a small opening and a large boulder.
  • Turn to the left and continue pushing through the trees for another 0.1 mile which will bring you to the head of Hitchcock Flume. Watch your step!
  • You can continue on a trail that hugs the right side of the flume for another 0.05 mile which will bring you to a small open spot that allows you to look down into the deepest part of the flume and also gives a small view out towards Mount Jackson.
  • Head back uphill for 0.05 mile to return to the head of the flume.
  • Get back on the spur trail by ducking under a blowdown and retracing your steps (remember, keep your eyes on the ground to find your way), for 0.2 mile uphill until returning to Mount Willard Trail.

Descent and Stream Spurs:
  • Turn right onto Mount Willard Trail and walk downhill for 0.9 mile where it may appear that the trail branches. Bear left to stay on Mount Willard Trail, while an abandoned trail continues straight/right.
  • After another 0.1 mile turn left onto an unsigned spur and walk for 20 feet to reach the edge of the stream, about 50 feet above Centennial Pool. A nice little spot.
  • Return to the main trail, turn left, and just a few strides later you will be back at the junction with Centennial Pool. Keep going straight down Mount Willard Trail.
  • Walk for a bit more than 0.1 mile. You will pass by a couple trailside overlooks down to the stream, and then reach an unsigned spur on the left. Turn left and descend down to the edge of the brook which provides a pretty spot from which to enjoy the water and mini cascades.
  • Go back up to Mount Willard Trail, turn left, and hike for another 0.3 mile which will bring you back to the junction with Avalon Trail.
  • Turn right and walk for 0.1 mile on the combined Mount Willard Trail and Avalon Trail in order to return to the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center.

View of Willey Pond opposite the Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center (Willey House Historical Site) (photo by Webmaster)
View of Willey Pond opposite the Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center (Willey House Historical Site) (photo by Webmaster)

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Macomber Family Information Center (1900') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Centennial Pool (2200') 0.5 0.5 0:15 0:15
Mt. Willard main ledges (2800') 1.1 1.6 0:36 0:51
Mt. Willard first outlook (2800') 0.05 1.65 0:01 0:52
Mt. Willard second outlook (2800') 0.05 1.7 0:01 0:53
Mt. Willard main ledges (2800') 0.1 1.8 0:03 0:56
Jct. Mount Willard Trail / Hitchcock Flume Spur 0.1 1.9 0:03 0:59
Head of Hitchcock Flume (2550') 0.2 2.1 0:13 1:12
Hitchcock Flume overlook 0.05 2.15 0:01 1:13
Head of Hitchcock Flume (2550') 0.05 2.2 0:01 1:14
Jct. Mount Willard Trail / Hitchcock Flume Spur 0.2 2.4 0:11 1:25
Centennial Pool (2200') 1.0 3.4 0:27 1:52
Jct. Mount Willard Trail / Stream Spur 0.15 3.55 0:04 1:56
Macomber Family Information Center (1900') 0.35 3.9 0:11 2:07

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Stream just above Centennial Pool (photo by Webmaster)
Stream just above Centennial Pool (photo by Webmaster)

 



Rocky section of Mount Willard Trail (photo by Webmaster)
Rocky section of Mount Willard Trail (photo by Webmaster)






 

Trail map of hike route to Mount Willard, Centennial Pool, and Hitchcock Flume (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

The hike to Mount Willard is a popular one with a fair amount of friendly people on the trail and at the summit. The detour to Hitchcock Flume is lesser known and overgrown so I didn't run into anyone else during that segment of the hike.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Ascent and Summit Spurs
Hitchcock Flume
Descent and Stream Spurs


Ascent and Summit Spurs   

The trail starts across the railroad tracks from the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center. The combined Mount Willard and Avalon Trails run flat for 0.1 mile and then they split off. I took a left to follow Mount Willard Trail which was still level for the next 0.1 mile. I crossed a wide, shallow, slow-moving brook then after a bit the trail turns to the right and starts climbing.

The trail climbed fairly easily and I soon found myself at the short spur for Centennial Pool on the right. I descended some rock steps and then went down a bit of ledge in order to reach the very edge of the stream. This gave me a good view of the pretty pool and the cascade spilling into it. The pool and waterfall were small; I was here one year in early May when both were much more substantial.

Falls and Centennial Pool in September (main photo) and the falls in May (inset) (photo by Webmaster)
Falls and Centennial Pool in September (main photo) and the falls in May (inset) (photo by Webmaster)

Back on the main trail, I continued climbing, now at a more moderate rate. In the woods it was a refreshing 50 degrees so that made the hike more enjoyable. The trail was wide and often rocky but the footing was good. I passed through a mixture of hardwood and hemlock woods. As I got closer to the top, the grade eased and I was soon emerging onto open ledges with fantastic views.

The only other time I was on the summit of Mount Willard was during haze so heavy that there wasn't even a hint of the nearby mountains. But today it was very clear with blue skies and it was a pleasant 70 degrees on the sunny ledges.

The view showed Crawford Notch close up, with Webster Cliffs looming up to the left and Willey Cliffs to the right. Cradled in the U-shaped notch between these formations are Route 302 and a railroad. Willey Pond, opposite the Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center (Willey House Historical Site) was easy to spot to the left of the road. Farther out was a beautiful array of mountains. The views were mostly to the south and southeast but by following the ledges around to the left (when coming off the trail), you could just see the top of Mount Washington (distinguished by its summit buildings) and get better views of a couple mountains on either side of it.

The view from Mount Willard's ledges showing the U-shape of Crawford Notch. That's Route 302 running through the center and the railroad tracks are to the right of the road. (photo by Webmaster)
The view from Mount Willard's ledges showing the U-shape of Crawford Notch (photo by Webmaster)

Before I settled down for lunch, I went to the far right (when coming off the trail) of the ledges and found a trail entering the woods there. Following the path, I discovered that it quickly led to two more outlooks. These points didn't offer much room for lounging around and the views weren't as stunning as on the main ledges, but they did offer interesting perspectives that I thought were worth checking out. From the first one was a neat view of the cliffs of Mount Willard itself; and the second outlook showed mountains at the far end of Webster Cliffs that were obscured by that bulk from the main outlook.

I returned to the roomy cliffs and sat to enjoy lunch where both people and chipmunks were milling about. I chatted with some friendly folks from Gorham, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts. I eventually left the sunshine in pursuit of the deeply shaded Hitchcock Flume.

View of Webster Cliffs taken from the top of Mount Willard (photo by Webmaster)
View of Webster Cliffs taken from the top of Mount Willard (photo by Webmaster)

Hitchcock Flume   

The last time I had visited the 0.2-mile spur to Hitchcock Flume – 11 years ago – the trail was somewhat rough. It is now totally obscured – unless you know what to look for. The spur leaves Mount Willard Trail just 0.1 mile down from the summit at a wide sandy area on the right. It's not a detour for everyone, but in spite of having to push through overgrowth and scoot under blowdowns, I think it was worth it.

Hitchcock Flume taken from its head. In person it looks much more interesting! (photo by Webmaster)
Hitchcock Flume taken from its head (photo by Webmaster)
Before starting, make sure everything is secured, both on your pack and your person, because you'll be plowing through tree branches on live trees and the blowdowns will try to snag your pack. This may sound silly, but if you have a pair of clear safety goggles at home, throw them in your pack. You'll be glad to have the eye protection for this spur; I tried wearing my sunglasses but they were too dark for these woods.

The spur is easy to follow if you remember this simple rule: Keep your eyes on the ground in order to determine the route. The footway is obvious but when you look up, you won't be finding any open-looking trails.

I headed downhill, mostly walking crouched over in order to avoid some of the overgrowth. After 0.1 mile, I arrived at a small clearing with a big, neat-looking boulder. Ah, to stand up straight was nice. I then continued on the trail to the left, still descending. In a minor muddy spot, I was gratified to see footprints – I wasn't the only one determined to get to Hitchcock Flume.

I scooted under a final blowdown and was surprised to find myself just a few feet from the head of the flume. It would have been easy to keep going and slide on the loose rocks right into the flume! The gorge consists of two sheer walls of rock separated by only about four feet. I could look all the way through it and see Route 302 far below. It is perhaps only 250 feet long. The bottom was just damp but I imagine it sees water flowing through it after rain or during spring runoff.

Peering over the edge down the sheer walls of Hitchcock Flume (photo by Webmaster)
Peering over the edge down the sheer walls of Hitchcock Flume (photo by Webmaster)
It would be great to walk down into the flume and be able to feel the walls closing in from both sides. Since I was hiking alone, I figured it wouldn't be a wise move with the wet, uncertain footing. I'll have to come back someday with a partner; and I think a rope, with knots running along its length, would be good to use as a railing for both the descent into and the climb back out of the gorge.

I walked on a path just to the right of the flume. Most of the edge was lined with bulky conifers but the path led me to a small overlook that let me look into what was probably the deepest part of the flume – I'm guessing about twenty feet down. It was hard to get photos because tree branches hung over the opening and I felt like I could easily tumble into the abyss. There were some obstructed mountain views towards Mount Jackson from this spot.

Below this overlook, it looked like the path continued down more steeply and over a blowdown. I didn't continue down but now I wished I had. Perhaps the path led to the opening on the far end of the flume and then I could have walked into it from that end – the lower part of the flume looked like it had a fairly level, ledgy floor.

Back at the head of the flume, it looked like there was faint trailway farther to the right of the path that paralleled the flume. I took the path of least resistance downhill and then veered off to the right and by barreling my way through brush and under and over blowdowns, found a small spot that had some decent views towards Mount Jackson. However, given the effort plus the wonderful views I had just left at the summit, this detour wasn't worth it even though it was only about 75 yards long.

I returned to the head of the gorge, then easily made my way back up most of the spur. There was one tricky spot where a rotted log blocks the path at the top of a big-step-up and raspberry bushes (prickers!) block the route to the right with something more substantial blocking the left side. So, expect to get pricked at this spot. Or if your legs are long enough to step up and over the log, that's good, but don't count on the log to hold any weight.

Descent and Stream Spurs   

Soon I was back on Mount Willard Trail which looked remarkably tame and easy compared to Hitchcock Flume Spur. The hike down was easy with scattered rock steps assisting. As I came close to Centennial Pool, I noticed a short unsigned spur on my left that led to the stream at a spot about 50 feet above the pool. This provided a nice view of the rock-filled waterway.

Back on the main trail I went by the spur to the pool, passed by a couple overlooks down to the stream, and then saw another unsigned spur on the left. I descended down the short path to arrive at the edge of a different section of the brook. There was a big boulder in the middle that was easy to get to and gave me a great view of a couple mini cascades plus a tributary that joined in a bit upstream. The stream seemed to consist more of rocks than water.

I climbed back up to the main trail and continued the descent on Mount Willard Trail. Soon I reached the level section, the brook crossing, and then the junction with Avalon Trail. It was a rewarding hike for not much effort. It makes a good half-day outing.

Left: Upstream from Centennial Pool
Right: Stream at the bottom of the second spur (on the descent)
(photo by Webmaster)
Upstream from Centennial Pool (photo by Webmaster) Stream at the bottom of the second spur (on the descent) (photo by Webmaster)
 
Mount Willard Trail
(photo by Webmaster)
Mount Willard Trail (photo by Webmaster)






Webmaster on Willard's summit cliffs
(photo by Webmaster)
Webmaster on Willard's summit cliffs (photo by Webmaster)




Hitchcock Flume photo taken in May 1998 when it was less overgrown
(photo by Webmaster)
Hitchcock Flume photo taken in May 1998 when it was less overgrown (photo by Webmaster)
 


NH - Central East



  Driving Directions   

The trailhead is behind the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (visitor center) which is located on Route 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), New Hampshire.

From the West: From the junction of Routes 3 and 302 in Carroll (Twin Mountain), follow Rt. 302 East for 8.2 miles, then turn right into the parking lot for the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center, which is immediately after the entrance to the parking lot for the AMC Highland Center.

From the East: Follow Rt. 302 West. The Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center will be on the left about 3 miles west of the Willey House Historical Site. The parking lot is immediately before the entrance for the parking lot for the AMC Highland Center.

Trailhead: To get to the trail, go behind the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (the gift shop building), cross the tracks and pick up the path on the other side. After a few yards you will see a trail sign.

Facilities   

The Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center offers a small museum, gift shop, bathrooms, and coin-operated showers. It also has benches and picnic tables.

Right next door, the AMC Highland Center offers bathrooms, meals, lodging, a small shop with books and maps, and evening programs.

More Mt. Willard Trail Reports   


Trailhead (on the right) across the railroad tracks from the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (on the left) (photo by Webmaster)
Trailhead (on the right) across the railroad tracks from the Crawford Notch Depot / Macomber Family Information Center (on the left) (photo by Webmaster)
 
 

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