Wild River Wilderness Backpacking

Bianca and I visited my parents in VT this summer and while there we were lucky enough to fit in a two night backpack into the White Mountains.

Day 1: We started quite late in the day, leaving the Stony Brook trailhead just outside Gorham, NH, around 5pm but only planning a short (6.7 km, 759 m) hike in to the Imp Shelter campsite. It was a very pleasant hike up through the forest in the evening, with us arriving into camp just after last light. We were lucky to get the last available wooden platform for our tent; the campsite is located just below the crest of a steep wooded ridgeline, with no flat ground to speak of except for the constructed platforms.

Day 2: We allowed ourselves to sleep in quite comfortably in the morning, perhaps due to a slight underestimation of the next stage we had planned that afternoon. After a pleasant morning of hot breakfast and tea with a phenomenal White Mountains view we set off down into the Wild River Wilderness.

A short and easy ~1km or so along the Appalachian Trail led us to the start of the Moriah Brook Trail down into the Wild River Wilderness proper. The trail follows its namesake from inception as a tiny trickle high on the wooded ridgeline until its flow has grown meters wide when it merges with the Wild River some 8km later and 1000m below in the valley. For those entire 8km we passed countless cascades and shimmering pools in some of the most beautiful and wild scenery that I have ever experienced in the Whites. The area is true to its Wilderness designation, with the trail rough and unkempt in places, at times submerged in mud and choked with swampy brush. A solid adventure.

The rough nature of the trail caught us a bit by surprise and we made slower progress than first anticipated. We had intended to pass by the Wild River Campground and continue on some few km to wild camp in the woods, but by the time we had descended all the way to the valley floor and reached the developed campground it was nearly dark and we were glad to make use of a small bit of civilized space, and the opportunity for a small fire.

Day 3: The hike out first took us for ~8km along the Shelburne Trail as we climbed out of the valley and up over Shelburne Moriah Mtn. The day started with a crossing of the Wild River, followed by crossings of several smaller tributaries before we started to gain elevation through the forest. We eventually gained another rolling forested ridgeline and followed that over the first peak and then on over Mt Moriah proper.

Along the ridgeline we came across many instances of quicksand-like mud pockets that were navigated with planks laid across them. Several were at least 4-5 ft deep, judging by how far down I could drive a hiking pole.

The way down off Mt Moriah started with several km of knee-grinding descent down steep granite slabs until the trail grade gentled slightly in the forest and eventually spilled us out into the town of Gorham. With both of us wiped out after ~10 hrs on trail, the last 3km road walk back to the car was not exactly appreciated by either of us, but did not prevent us from having enjoyed a great three days in some real NH wilderness.

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