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A Winter Hike on the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail

The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail is one of the most popular trails in New Hampshire. There are many reasons for this, including its relative closeness compared to trails further north and its proximity to popular recreation destination Waterville Valley. But really, people hike this trail because the views are spectacular and you can do the hike in a few hours if you want to push, or linger with those views if you wish to take your time. In summer the blueberry bushes are generous and those ledges are great places to sit awhile. In winter, those ledges look like toboggan runs to a hard landing. Best to stick to the trail, wear spikes and respect the unforgiving nature of the White Mountains when people get careless.

As the name infers, there are two mountains on this 4.4 mile loop: Mount Welch and Mount Dickey. Both have a ton of exposed granite ledge that let the world open up for you, making the payoff in views exceptional for the effort expended. In summer, it’s a fun scramble up the granite, in winter, it’s strongly advisable to have micro spikes or crampons. Even with spikes on, I was very deliberate with every step hiking up Mount Welch. It’s not a trail to be doing in casual footwear in winter.

At some point along the way, I recognized that the prominence of the summit wasn’t ever my goal, it was simply getting out in nature at elevation, to a place where I earn the view with every step. I’ve been too distracted by numbers (48, 200 & 4000: there are 48 4000 foot mountains with a prominence of 200 feet or more) lately, forgetting that lists are not the point. While it’s in my nature to finish what I started and complete the 48, it took this winter hike on the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail to remind me that deep down I’m seeking experience, not validation. The numbers can take a hike. I’ll finish when I finish.

If you’re looking for incredible views with a relatively easy hike, the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail brings you to two summits of the five I’d recommend in New Hampshire, along with Mounts Monadnock, Major and Willard. In summer or during foliage season these hikes are maddeningly crowded on the weekends, but winter brings relative quiet and pristine beauty. Just remember those micro spikes.

The steep ledge scramble up Mount Welch
Would you hike this without spikes?

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