On a gorgeous warm and windless fall day, we decided to do a moderate hike up Mount Crawford (3,119 feet) off the Davis Path. We knew that the summit’s rocky promontory was a perfect place to look out over the mountains around Crawford Notch to the west, and the nearby Montalban Ridge to the north.
We didn’t anticipate how the chemistry of our group would fit perfectly with the sunlit granite and the vastness of the vista, and that we would spend a good two hours on top — a record for me, I think.
Arriving at the parking lot that morning on Route 302 across from the Notchland Inn, we soon headed across the Bemis Bridge, a suspension foot bridge over the Saco River on the Davis Path.
We passed through private land next to a house on the other side of the bridge, crossed a stream and headed uphill, entering the Presidential Range/Dry River Wilderness. In 0.9 miles, the trail turned right onto the old bridle path. The 15-mile-long Davis Path was built as a bridle path in 1845 by Nate Davis, son-in-law to Abel and Hannah Crawford. The longest bridle path to Mount Washington, it was eventually neglected, and in 1910 became a footpath.
Today as then, the trail zig-zags steeply up the ravine between Mount Crawford and the trail-less Mount Hope (2,505 feet). In the summer of 2012, to fight erosion on the old trail, the AMC trail crew built many well crafted stone steps on that section. On Monday we climbed those with appreciation.
We reached the crest of the ridge and the first western lookout in 2 miles. The multicolored forest in the notch below was striking. The sharp triangular east face of Mount Carrigain rose on the horizon to the left of the lower Mount Bemis and Mount Nancy.
Back in the conifer woods in 2.2 miles, we turned left off the Davis Path at a sign for a short climb up ledges to the bare top of Mount Crawford.
The summit view opened up gradually like a theatrical stage. Beyond a steep cliff at our feet, the nearby Giant Stairs and Mount Resolution appeared to the north. As we moved along to the end of the summit ledges, the entrance to the deep natural gap of Crawford Notch was revealed below, and all the mountains around it. All were draped in fall foliage.
There were a few parties up there, and we went forward on the ledges until we had our own private space on warm rock.
The next two hours sped by. We dozed and explored the ledges. I wandered further down the ledges and went a way into the stunted trees, finding more open ledges, some with their own unique outward views.
On the edge of the trees, I found some impressive stone seats in a square, built with large flat stones. We had a powwow there, and one of us mentioned later that the spot must have had some powerful energy, as our conversation seemed to reach for the sky.
Finally satisfied with our leisurely summit stay, we headed down.