Trail: Garfield Trail
Hours: 4:15 hiking; 5 total
September 23, 2018
Mt. Garfield (4,500’) is one of the easiest 4,000-footers! Garfield is a great beginner 4,000-footer if you are looking for a longer hike. It is 10 miles out and back, so it can be strenuous on the legs, but with the gradual elevation gain, it’s not too difficult.
NOTE: This trail is easy in my opinion. Obviously, the mileage makes it a bit more strenuous if you aren’t used to longer trails, but the trail gains 2,900 feet of elevation over 5 miles gradually, so it isn’t too bad! The last 0.2 miles though… WOOF. It is a killer. Definitely the most difficult part of the trail.
Alex and I began this hike on a crisp Sunday morning around 8:30 AM. It was 37°, but we had clear skies, so the cold wasn’t going to hold us back! The trailhead is off of Gale River Loop Road and easy to find. Mt. Galehead’s trail is also off this road as well, so make sure you park at the correct trailhead! There were only a few cars when we began our ascent, so we were excited to have the summit be peaceful and quiet!
Unfortunately, this is one of those trails that has nothing exciting or worth noting on it, so this trail FEELS long. We didn’t start to feel it, though, until the descent. The ascent was very gradual. It began with roots in the trail and shifted to rocks after a bit. We crossed a river twice which was very easy because the river was small and had plenty of rocks to hopscotch our way across. The trail was also well marked, so we knew where we going at all times. We only had to follow the blue rectangle!
As we reached mile 3 or so, we began to ascend slightly more than we were before, but nothing crazy! There were some switchbacks as we got closer to the summit, so the elevation gain was never too much. Around 4.8 miles, we came across a sign pointing left to the Galehead Hut and right to Mt. Lafayette. If I hadn’t looked at the trail map beforehand, I wouldn’t have known to go right because there is no signage to say “GO RIGHT TO GET TO MT. GARFIELD”. Welp, now you know to go right, so you will be all set once you see that sign!
Alright, ladies and gents. It wouldn’t be a 4,000-footer if there wasn’t a difficult part at all! Once we turned right at the sign, the real ascent began. The last 0.2 miles were STEEP, so we put our stair stepping pants on, and hiked on up! Knowing we only had 0.2 miles until we reached the summit helped get us through it, but boy oh boy, it was a butt killer. But hey, we couldn’t complain because the first 4.8 miles were easy and warmed us up for this portion.
After the last, short push to the summit, we were rewarded with beautiful 360° views! We reached the summit around 11:45 AM, and the sky was cloudless! Mt. Garfield is at the top of the White Mountains, so we had beautiful views of everything. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a summit sign, but we knew we reached the summit when we saw the base of an old fire tower, which came in handy when we wanted to escape the winds! From here, we could have continued 3.5 miles to Mt. Lafayette if we wanted to peak bag. We could have also hiked to Galehead Mt. from the sign 0.2 miles back if we continued left.
As I have said in previous posts, I love meeting other hikers! We met a guy who is from the same town as Alex and I and lives on the street over from me! Talk about a small world!! There was also a woman who paints the view from every summit she hikes in watercolors!! Her paintings were absolutely beautiful.
After chatting it up with other hikers and eating lunch, we decided to head back down around 12:45 PM. Remember the steep 0.2 miles to the top? Yeah, well, we now had to descend that. We had to get ready to use all limbs to get down these boulders. After that, we were golden! Kind of. We still had to hike down 4.8 miles. It didn’t seem too bad at first. However, as I said before, this was where the trail began to feel as if it would never end. As we approached mile 10, we started to run. The trail was made up of roots here, so we were careful! But, we just wanted to be back in the car. When the trail wasn’t too exciting, the miles seemed to drag.
People must have thought we were trail runners because everyone we passed seemed surprised and impressed haha. After running on and off for the last mile, we finally made it to the parking lot around 1:30 PM. We read that this trail takes on average between 6-8 hours, so we were pumped to complete it in 5! We felt accomplished and were not too sore.
Overall, it was a GREAT hike! I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a 4,000-footer because it was one of the easier ones. And the views are fantastic! Definitely worth the 5 miles to the summit.
Have you hiked Mt. Garfield? How did you feel about the long mileage to get to this summit?