New Hampshire

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures

Just as no two hikes are the same, no two AMC huts in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains are the same. Which will you choose?

By Cathryn McCann

Nov 05 2017

Lakes of the Clouds

The AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut, strategically located between the summits of Mt. Washington and Mt. Monroe, provides refuge for hikers all summer long.

Photo Credit : Jeremy Barnaby

The White Mountain National Forest is a New England treasure. Its 750,852 acres encompass dense hardwood forests, sparkling bodies of water, and magical alpine peaks (including the highest in the Northeast, Mount Washington). It’s an adventure lover’s paradise. So much so, however, that it can be overwhelming: Given that there are six wilderness areas, 1,200 miles of hiking trails, a 100-mile portion of the famous Appalachian Trail, and the majority of New England’s 4,000-footers, it can be hard to know where to begin. Fortunately, there are lodging huts throughout the White Mountains that afford intrepid explorers the ability to plan longer trips here or to just get an early start on a day hike. The Appalachian Mountain Club, one of the United States’ oldest outdoor groups (c. 1876), maintains and runs these eight beautiful and rustic huts. Our guide to the AMC huts can help you decide which one is right for you based on your trip, your fitness level, or even your personality!

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures
Lakes of the Clouds Hut | Guide to the AMC Huts
Photo Credit : Jeremy Barnaby

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures

You can’t go wrong with any of the AMC huts, which are well maintained and comfortable, but if you want to find your best match, read on for each of the White Mountain huts’ characteristics.

FOR THE EXPLORER: CARTER NOTCH HUT

Direct route: Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, 3.8 miles (moderate)
Nearby: Carter Dome, Wildcat D
Elevation: 3,288 feet
Open: Summer (full service), winter/spring/fall (self service)

Admit it: There’s a person in your life who always knows about the next iPhone release before you even want to start thinking about how yours is suddenly five models behind. Or maybe you are that person. Regardless, if you want to be the person who’s in the know, stay at Carter Notch Hut. The AMC calls the hut its best-kept secret, mostly because of its surprisingly intimate locale among rocks, cliffs, and some of the quieter trails in the Whites. (And hey, out here in the solitude of the mountains and forest, it doesn’t matter how old your phone is.)

FOR THE SOCIALITE: GREENLEAF HUT

Direct route: Old Bridle Path, 2.9 miles (moderate)
Nearby: Franconia Ridge, Mount Lafayette
Elevation: 4,200 feet
Open: Summer (full service), spring (self service)

Some of the greatest people you can meet in life are out climbing a mountain right now. And when they’re done, they just might stay in a White Mountain hut. This is all to say: You could be climbing a mountain right now. You could be staying in a White Mountain hut. And you could be meeting great folks just like you. Greenleaf Hut, overlooking Eagle Lake and near Franconia Ridge, is one of the AMC’s most popular huts, so there’s rarely a time when it isn’t buzzing with fun energy. If you want to stay in one of the more accessible huts and meet like-minded hikers, Greenleaf is an excellent choice.

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures
Greenleaf Hut | Guide to the AMC Huts
Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons

FOR THE DETERMINED: GALEHEAD HUT

Direct route: Gale River Trail, 4.2 miles (difficult)
Nearby: Mount Galehead, Twin and Bond peaks
Elevation: 3,800 feet
Open: Summer (full service), spring (self service)

As the most remote and difficult-to-reach hut, Galehead is ideal for resilient hikers who like to test their limits. It’s also for hikers who like challenges that offer rewards in the form of breathtaking views. There’s something incredibly special about being in the heart of the peaceful and spectacular Pemigewasset Wilderness, and the AMC welcomes you to stay at Galehead Hut and take it all in from its front porch. Enjoying a hot drink or cracking open a book after trekking deep into the wilderness? Sounds pretty good.

FOR THE THRILL SEEKER: LAKES OF THE CLOUDS HUT

Direct route: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail from Cog Railroad Base Road, 3.1 miles, or Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Pinkham Notch, 4.6 miles (difficult)
Nearby: Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine, Presidential Ridge
Elevation: 5,050 feet
Open: Summer only (full service)

“Lakes of the clouds”? What does that even mean? You’ll know when you stay at this hut. Constructed above the treeline at the highest elevation of all the huts, Lakes of the Clouds Hut may be the closest you’ll come to sleeping on a cloud (unless, of course, you have a really high-quality mattress back home). The AMC calls this hut an “essential bucket-list destination,” and — given its location in a lakeside col between Mount Monroe and Mount Washington, with (if you time it right) a slope of alpine flowers in bloom — you’ll understand why. The most heavily visited hut, Lakes of the Clouds is an important resource for those summiting Washington or tackling the Presidential Traverse.

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures
Lakes of the Clouds Hut | Guide to the AMC Huts
Photo Credit : Dennis Welsh, AMC

FOR THE BACKCOUNTRY NOVICE: LONESOME LAKE HUT

Direct route: Lonesome Lake Trail, 1.5 miles (easy)
Nearby: Lonesome Lake, Cannon Mountain
Elevation: 2,760 feet
Open: Summer (full service), winter/spring/fall (self service)

Lonesome Lake is not so lonesome when you’re accompanied by your family or friends. And that in itself is part of the appeal of Lonesome Lake Hut. The steep-but-easy 1.5-mile hike is ideal for newcomers to the backcountry experience, yet it still has all the backcountry beauty of the more difficult and remote trails. The hut overlooks one of the White Mountains’ most beautiful glacial lakes, with Franconia Ridge and mountain peaks in the distance. After a stay here, those seeking more of a challenge can continue along the Appalachian Trail to Kinsman Ridge or up Cannon Mountain, one of New England’s 4,000-footers.

FOR THE SHUTTERBUG: MADISON SPRING HUT

Direct route: Valley Way Trail, 3.8 miles (difficult)
Nearby: Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Star Lake
Elevation: 4,800 feet
Open: Summer only (full service)

Constructed above the treeline in the saddle between Mount Madison and Mount Adams at the northern end of the Presidential Range, Madison Spring Hut is the AMC’s first high-mountain hut. Originally built in 1888 and subsequently rebuilt and renovated, it continues to draw hikers after more than 120 years, and for good reason: It offers views of three mountain ranges, plus easy access to beautiful Star Lake. To be fair, the White Mountain National Forest in its entirety is a photographer’s dream, but the vistas from Madison Spring are certainly worth your taking a shot.

Guide to the AMC Huts | White Mountain Adventures
Madison Spring Hut | Guide to the AMC Huts
Photo Credit : Dennis Walsh, AMC

FOR THE WATERFALL ENTHUSIAST: ZEALAND FALLS HUT

Direct route: Zealand Trail, 2.2 miles (easy)
Nearby: Zealand Pond, Zealand Falls, Zealand Mountain, the Bonds
Elevation: 2,700 feet
Open: Summer (full service), winter/spring/fall (self service)

Let’s face it: Waterfalls are fun. They’re exciting. Maybe even magical. And speaking of magical, if you’ve never hiked through Zealand Valley, you’re missing out. That’s the great thing about Zealand Falls Hut: Although the waterfalls may be the big draw, there’s plenty more to see. In one day you can hike up to lovely Zealand Pond, continue on to the Zeacliff outlook, summit Zealand Mountain, and then head back to the hut and cool off in the nearby waterfalls. Alternatively, you can use the hut as a pit stop before you continue on to the Bonds. Whatever it is you’re looking to do, the eastern Pemigewasset location of Zealand Falls Hut won’t disappoint.

FOR THE LITERARY TYPE: MIZPAH SPRING HUT

Direct route: Crawford Path, 2.6 miles (moderate)
Nearby: Mount Pierce (Clinton), Mount Jackson, Presidential Range
Elevation: 3,800 feet
Open: Summer (full service), spring (self service)

If settling into a cozy chair in a library near an old pump organ after a day of hiking is your cup of tea (and maybe with a cup of tea), then Mizpah Spring Hut might be for you. The hut is situated in a col between Mount Pierce and Mount Jackson and is just off the beloved Crawford Path, one of the most scenic and challenging routes in the White Mountains. The hut is surrounded by forest, with large windows offering a spectacular view of the southern Presidential Range. “Mizpah” means “pillar in the wilderness,” which is certainly accurate. Plus, a hut with its own library? That’s pretty great. You might even be inspired to do some writing of your own here.

Have you stayed at any of the AMC huts? Let us know!

Note: We hiked the White Mountains of New Hampshire alongside the Appalachian Mountain Club “hut croos” (the young men and women who care for and feed guests of the AMC huts and camps) in a season 2 episode of Weekends with Yankee, our public television show in collaboration with WGBH. Check the Weekends with Yankee site to learn more about the series, plus when and where to catch episodes.

SEE MORE:
Hiking the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains | Tips
Franconia Ridge Loop | The Perfect White Mountains Hike
10 New Hampshire Waterfalls That Are Worth the Hike