Hike: Crawford/Resolution/Stairs

SUMMARY

We accessed Davis Path from the Davis Path parking lot off Route 302 just south of Crawford Notch in Bartlett, New Hampshire. We took Davis Path to the intersection with the Mount Crawford spur path, which we took to Mount Crawford. We backtracked to Davis Path and continued along it until the intersection with Mount Parker Trail, which we took to Mount Resolution. We again backtracked to Davis Path and continued north to the intersection with Giant Stairs spur path, which we took to the vista overlooking Giant Stairs. We then backtracked to Davis Path and began the return trip to our car. At the intersection with Mount Parker Trail we took an old side trail to AMC Resolution Shelter (demolished) and returned to Davis Path. Midway between Mount Resolution and Mount Crawford we bushwhacked over an unnamed peak marked as 3088′ to a remote cliff. We finally bushwhacked back to Davis Path and returned the remaining distance to our car.

This hike and its many side trips and bushwhacks turned out to be nearly 12 miles long and accumulated over 3500 feet of elevation. Including several breaks it took us just under 9 hours to complete.

Trail map

Map of hike (interactive map)

TRIP REPORT

When a friend of mine hiked Mount Nancy he noticed giant stairs across Route 302 south of the Presidential Range. He became obsessed with hiking to Stairs Mountain, so in July we rode up to New Hampshire to hike up the Davis Path to it, and hit Mount Crawford and Mount Resolution on the way. All were listed on the 52 with a View list, but I hadn’t looked into them much. I had enjoyed the view from Mount Isolation, so I figured that these lesser peaks of the Montalban Range would afford good views as well.

We arrived at the Davis Path parking lot at 8:30 am to find about 10 other cars devoid of drivers. We crossed the Bemis Bridge (a suspension bridge across the Saco River) and headed into the woods. The trail started out flat but soon climbed moderately and relentlessly toward Mount Crawford.

After close to two miles we broke out of trees and began to get glimpses of distant mountains. As the trail made its way over open ledges we headed out onto them to take in the view.

Man on cliff with distant mountains

Open ledges below Mount Crawford

The wind was whipping about pretty hard, but the view toward Mount Nancy and the Pemigewasset Wilderness was spectacular below Simpson-esque clouds. We headed back to trail and continued up to the junction with the Mount Crawford spur trail, which we took to the summit.

At 10:20 am we stepped up to the ledges dispersed between shrubs on the top of Mount Crawford. We bumped into our first groups of people on the summit but there was plenty of room for everyone to find private vistas. We enjoyed a snack while looking over the Sierra-like patches of granite poking out of the woods toward Mount Resolution and Stairs Mountain.

Mountains and clouds

Panorama from Mount Crawford summit

After we’d finished our snacks, people had cleared from summit so we made our way across the ledges to get a unique view of the mouth of Crawford Notch.

Mountain valley with cliffs

Looking around the bend into Crawford Notch

We headed back down the spur trail and picked up Davis Path where it hooked around Mount Crawford and headed north. The path picked its way between trees, sometimes diving low where we had to step around muddy spots and sometimes rising above the trees on small islands of granite. At one such spot we got a great look back at Mount Crawford infested with hikers absorbing the view.

People on mountain summit

Looking up at Mount Crawford from Davis Path north

The path went up and over a high spot between Mount Crawford and Mount Resolution and then descended into the trees where it met with Mount Parker Trail. We saw a young couple that appeared to have just packed up their campsite and where heading back to Route 302. We made our way up the moderately steep Mount Parker Trail which quickly rose above the trees to give a decent view back toward Mount Crawford.

At around noon we made it to the high point on Mount Parker Trail and wandered around the shrubs and bald spots looking for a discernible high point or cairn. We never found anything that resembled the peak of Mount Resolution, but we did enjoy the views where they could be had.

Distant cliffs and mountain peaks

Looking from Mount Resolution to Mount Crawford

We once more backtracked to Davis Path and at the junction we met two guys taking a break . We gave them the skinny on Resolution, attempting to entice them to the views close at hand. We hiked past the junction with Stairs Col Trail and started the climb up Stairs Mountain. The trail switch-backed up the steep southern face of the mountain but the trail never felt more than moderately difficult.

At a high point on the Davis Path we found the junction with Giant Stairs spur trail and jaunted along the easy trail to the designated camp sites and vista at its terminus. We got there at 1:15 pm and were immediately impressed with the view. The southeastern view looked back the way we came and hinted toward some of the other peaks of the Montalban Range.

Man sitting on cliff with distant mountains

Panorama from Giant Stairs

We ate another snack and then laid down to bask in the glorious sun with our feet dangling over the enormous top tread of Stairs Mountain. With my eyes closed a minute could have gone, or maybe thirty. But, I was grounded back to my small spot in reality by the sound of footsteps approaching through the forest. The two hikers we had seen resting below emerged from the dim spaces between trees and peered at the vista over our slumbering bodies.

I had hoped we’d convinced them to climb Mount Resolution and had bought ourselves more time with Stairs Mountain. Regardless, neither of us rushed to get up from hogging all of the sun-warmed rock on the vista. They could have it all when we tired of it. It was unlikely any other hikers would be along to that remote spot.

Eventually we gathered ourselves and left the summit to the other hikers. We headed back the way we had come, but peeled off the trail at the junction with Mount Parker Trail. We took an old side path that clamored steeply down to the location of AMC’s Resolution Shelter. It had been demolished a few years earlier, but I had read about it in The Country Northward by Daniel Ford and wanted to check it out. There was not much to see: an old fire pit and a pile of logs wedged between trees. Memories of campfires clinging to rocks, pointlessly fighting off moss and time.

We buzzed along the mellow Davis Path back toward Mount Crawford and our vehicle. We got to a high point in the ledges between Mount Crawford and Mount Resolution and decided to bushwhack toward a cliff we had seen from several different vistas that day. We picked our way along the ledges, generally heading northwest. We had to push through deep bushes at times and at other times we found herd paths.

As we neared the cliff jutting out from below the unnamed granite bulge we had no choice but to push through some super gnarly trees. It was clear that very few had come before us and at 3:25 pm we pushed out of the trees to behold an isolated vista cradled in the arm of the Montalban Range.

Man on cliff with distant mountain

Standing on an isolated cliff to which we bushwhacked

We chilled on our private vista and peered into massive fissures stabbed through the cliff’s face wondering what it would take to climb back out if one fell in. Once we had our fill of the solitude and scenery we returned through the woods to Davis Path. Back on civilized trail we made quick work of the remaining trail and approached our vehicle at 5:25 pm.

The best hikes don’t need to be comprised of the tallest peaks. We patched together several peaks and made an interesting and diverse hike. We took the time to explore cliffs below Crawford, crisscross Resolution summit, bask on Giant Stairs, honor the remains of Resolution Shelter and bushwhack to a cliff that had piqued our attention from different vantage points that day. All told it made for a memorable adventure and we resolved to return soon to camp on Stairs Mountain.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

VIDEO

Video of Mounts Crawford, Resolutions and Stairs hikeVideo of Mounts Crawford, Resolutions and Stairs hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “Immortal” by Fleslit

HISTORY

  • Davis Path was constructed as a bridle path to Mount Washington in 1845 by Nathaniel Davis, the son-in-law of Abel Crawford. Years after being built it had fallen into disrepair but was reopened as a footpath in 1910.
  • Mount Crawford was presumably named after Abel Crawford and family, the namesakes of Crawford Notch, Crawford Path and other Crawfordy things.
  • As the story goes, Mount Resolution was where construction of the Davis Path halted during the winter of its first year. Nathaniel Davis resolved to return in the spring to complete the bridle path.
  • Resolution Shelter was constructed in 1917 and rebuilt in the 1930s. In accordance to the Wilderness Act, the shelter was destroyed in 2011 instead of being rebuilt.
  • The United States Congress designated the Dry River Wilderness in 1975 and it now consists of over 27,000 acres of wilderness.

STATS

Date Hiked: 3 July 2016
Temperature: 60°s
Trail Conditions: dry
Weather: mostly sunny
Wind: breezy

Highest Elevation: 3455′
Elevation Gain: 3540′
Distance: 11.8 miles
Book Time: 7:40
Actual Time: 8:55

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Mount Crawford side trail
Giant Stairs side trail

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One thought on “Hike: Crawford/Resolution/Stairs

  1. Pingback: Hike: Seek the Peak 2016 | Maine Wanderlust

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