First time at Fall Hiking Week?

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are one of the premier hiking destinations in the Northeast. They also contain some of the most challenging hikes you may have experienced. Fall Hiking Week has a variety of hikes at differing levels – it is important for you to try to select the one that is the best for you but will fit into the expectations of the other group participants.

  • What you will encounter – the White Mountains of New Hampshire may have cooler, windier, wetter and higher elevations than you are used to. The day may be sunny and mild in the parking lot and grow progressively worse as you hike upward. Pack extra layers of wicking clothing, especially if the hike is scheduled to head to higher peaks. Please take a few minutes to read through the AMC’s equipment recommendations before you head out for the day. See the “What to Bring” link of the Fall Hiking Week web site for gear recommendations.

  • Hike Levels compared to home - sometimes people that hike in the Whites for the first time or are new to hiking do not realize that hiking in the White Mountains is different from a stroll in the park. It is also more challenging than some other mountain ranges in the Northeast. Strenuous hikes or hikes on difficult terrain should not be tried initially. Instead, consider the easier hikes at first. Overestimating one's ability can be a detriment to others on the trails in the Whites. Possible sudden changes in weather, difficult terrain, lack of ability to do difficult hikes, etc. should be considered. Newcomers should be especially careful if they are not used to hiking in the Whites or similar terrain.

  • Mileages – the length of hikes in the White Mountains can be deceptive. The terrain is steep, the trails are rocky, and the conditions are more challenging than you may be used to. A four or five mile hike in the White Mountains can take much longer to complete than a hike of similar distance that is nearer to sea level. Bear this in mind when you evaluate the hike you choose.

  • Hike Leaders – the hike leaders are experienced volunteers who do their best to meet multiple challenges that are conflicting at times. The goal is to have a fun, challenging, and safe hike for the entire group. This means that at times the leader may decide to break up the hike into smaller groups, or modify or shorten the route to ensure the best overall outcome rather than cater to individual requests. Please try to stay with the group – this may mean going faster or slower than your preferred pace. The group needs to stay together in order to avoid lost, hurt or frustrated hikers. This is a group effort – it is important to listen to the leader and keep the channels of communication open. Keep together and there should be fewer problems.

  • Group dynamics – group size can vary from a few people with similar abilities and experience to a diverse group composed of new hikers and experienced hikers. All participants add value to the group experience and their differences should be respected rather than becoming a source of frustration. Make the hike leader aware of any problems that you are seeing but know that the leader has the final say. There will always be another hike on another day. Your cumulative experience (both good and bad) is all part of the process.

  • Speed – words like “brisk”, “challenging” or “casual” are examples of hike descriptions that require your common sense to evaluate but may also be confusing or ambiguous. Take the opportunity to question the hike leader beforehand if you have any doubts about the description of the planned hike. The afternoon meeting the day before each set of scheduled hikes is a time blocked out for you to resolve any of your questions – take advantage of it.

  • Resources – there are a wide variety of resources available in print and on the web. Highly recommended is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide (currently in its 29th edition), which is available for purchase online and at many bookstores. The White Mountain Guide comes with a guide book and a set of paper maps, but you may also wish to buy a set of waterproof Tyvek maps for carrying with you on the trail. The introductory section contains a lot of good information and guidelines for hikers who are new to the White Mountains.

  • AMC Trip Policy link - see the AMC Trip Policy for some great information that is helpful for both new and old hike participants.

Fall Hiking Week can be a fun, challenging, and rewarding time if you take some time to prepare. Our goal is to have you have such a good time that you will begin planning your return trip right away. A little preparation ahead of time may help ensure this.

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