Cold Morning on the Caps Ridge Trail

Date of Hike: 9/16/12
Caps Ridge: 2.5 miles
Jefferson Loop: 0.3 miles
Gulfside: 1.5 miles
Jewell: 3.3 miles
Boundary Line: 0.9 miles
Jefferson Notch Road: 1.5 miles
Total Miles: 10.0 miles
3,200 feet elevation gain

Trip Report:
- Sunday I thought it would be a good day for a quick morning loop hike up the Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson then head over to the Sphinx Trail to do some trail work above treeline before watching the Cog train chug it's way up Mount Washington as I descended the Jewell Trail.
- Since I had plans later in the day I had to get an early start, I left RI around 4a.m. and made it to the Caps Ridge Trail in Jefferson Notch at 7:30a.m. as it was a balmy 32 degrees!
- I love this trail, it gets you above treeline quickly, has very minor and fun rock scrambles, and awesome views.  I was the only hiker on the trail (except for the hikers asleep in a tent that was in the middle of the trail) and was thrilled that the air was cold and crisp while the views were crystal clear. 
- There are three 'caps' on the Caps Ridge Trail, the second one is the most fun and it's the easiest to see as you hike towards it, after the first cap you come around a corner and you can clearly see the rock pitch, then you drop down about twenty-five feet before you reach to bottom of the cap and as you drop down the second cap comes into full view.
- Once above all the caps the wind started picking up, the temps dropped even further, and rime ice and glaze ice formed on the rocks and the scrub...I was thrilled to see the return of the rime ice and happy that I was on the trail early enough to see it before the afternoon sun melted it away.
- As I reached the summit of Jefferson clouds came rushing in and out on all of the higher peaks above 5,500 feet in the Presidential Range, making for a pretty cool scene.
- The wind which was a steady 30 plus mph was coming at me from what seemed to be three directions so I hunkered down behind a rock, put on my hat, mittens, winter wind breaker, and face protection before hiking into the teeth of the wind down to Monticello Lawn.
- As I started descending the clouds cleared off below me and the rime ice on Monticello Lawn was glistening from the sun, this is one of my favorite little places in the Presidential Range, the Northern Presidential's is all filled with boulder fields with wicked footing that hammers at a hikers knees, however tucked away out of place is Monticello Lawn, a grassy flat knoll that has no right being in the rugged northern presi's.
- When I reached Sphinx/Clay Col I took about thirty steps down the trail and immediately turned around, the top of the trail was creating a wind vortex making it very unpleasant to be on and would have made trail work difficult, plus I was in mittens and would have froze my fingers off with my gloves on.
- So I decided to book it over to the Jewell and head down, It's an easy stretch of hiking between the Sphinx Col and the Jewell Trail, the trail is still boulders but for the most part they have been all places so well making for a sidewalk type walk compared to most other spots between Mount Washington and Mount Adams.  Along this stretch I ran into the first hiker of the day who was hiding behind a cairn out of the wind taking a break.
- I timed my descent down the Jewell Trail perfectly as I got to watch the Cog train slowly crawl up the tracks with Lakes of the Clouds and Mount Monroe rising high behind it.
- After watching the train pass out of sight I quickly made my way down below treeline passing a dozen or so hikers heading up, most of them didn't have much gear and were going to be in for a rude awakening above treeline!
- Towards the end of the Jewell Trail I hooked onto the Boundary Line Trail and came out at Jefferson Notch Road and enjoyed a pleasant road walk of just under 1.5 miles back up to the top of the notch to my car.
- It was a quick but fun hike and eventhough I was very tired from lack of sleep it still beat a morning training at the gym! 
Caps Ridge Trail Sign 
 Caps Ridge Trail below treeline
 Brenton Woods
Glacial potholes 
The three 'Caps' and Mount Jefferson
I guess they couldn't understand the rule of camping is not allowed ON THE TRAIL! 
 Mount Washington Valley
 Mount Monroe, Franklin, and Eisenhower
 The second 'Cap'
 Approaching the second Cap
 The Castellated Ridge
Sun rising above the Presidential Range
 Looking towards Mount Clay
The third 'Cap'
 The Caps Ridge Trail
 Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson
 Caps Ridge / The Cornice Trail Junction
 Rim's back!
A frosty Mount Washington
Chilly day in the alpine zone 
 Early morning sun and the frozen boulders below Mount Jefferson
 Mount Jefferson Summit Area
 Mount Washington
 Clouds rushing in above 5,500 feet
 Mount Adams in and out of the clouds
 Mount Washington
 The Jefferson Loop Trail
 Monticello Lawn
 Monticello Lawn
 Gulfside Trail with mount Adams sticking out a little in the right hand corner
 Jefferson Loop Trail
 Rime ice melted away quickly in some spots (Mount Clay and Washington in the picture)
 Sphinx / Clay Col
 Mount Jefferson
Mount Monroe 
 The Jewell Trail
 The Cog Train crawling up the tracks
 Brenton Woods
 Chugging along
 Ascending towards Jacob's Ladder
The Cog Train and Mount Monroe
 The Train passing over Jacob's Ladder
The Cog Train, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, and Mount Monroe 
 The Cog train continuing past Jacob's Ladder
 Mount Jefferson
 The 'Ridge of the Caps' as seen from the Jewell Trail
 The Jewell Trail
 The Boundary Line Trail
 Jefferson Notch Road
 Mount Jefferson from the road
 This shot up sign always makes me laugh a little
Jefferson Notch 
Trailhead at 11:30 a.m.


  1. Chris, as always your photos are incredible! The Monticello Lawn looked amazing so early on a chilly morning!

  2. Chris . . . considering the conditions you experienced at the top of the Sphinx Trail, it was a wise decision to delay your trail work for another day! However, you still managed to get in a fabulous hike. I've done the loop you described many times (both clockwise and counterclockwise), and thoroughly enjoyed it each time!

    That's totally bizarre about setting up camp in the middle of the trail!!

    Wonderful report and photos, as always!