The Great Gulf Wilderness: Spaulding Lake

Date of Hike: 1/18/14

Great Gulf Trail: 13.0 miles (3,000 feet elevation gained)
Click here for trail descriptions

Trip Report:
-  A week ago my friend Bob (Organizer of MMD 50K) sent out an email to over a dozen hikers asking if anyone wanted to venture deep into the Great Gulf Wilderness to Spaulding Lake.  In the end there were only two of us crazy enough to jump in on such a hike, myself and Alton.  We needed a little more hiking power so Alton was able to recruit Andrew.  Andrew is an extremely strong hiker, having hiked the A.T. in 2009, just finished a lightening round of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers in 2013, is fueled by Twinkies, Snickers bars, and a special kind of 'trail mix'.
-  Usually at this time of year you would need a small army of trail breakers to take on a day hike into Spaulding Lake, as the trail is rarely broken past the Osgood Trail Junction or the 'Bluff'.  However, just like two years ago, so far 2014 has had more of a 'Shoulder Season' feel to it; ice, crusty snow, half open stream crossings, frozen postholes etc.
-  We, along with two dogs, Bode and Cole would be hiking on the Great Gulf Trail which cuts through the heart of the Great Gulf Wilderness.  After passing Clam Rock around 3.0 miles in, the trail takes on a very remote feel as it travels by beautiful cascades and gem pools.  Through the trees you get obstructed views of the huge walls that surround the half open bowl that makes up the Great Gulf.  At different points along the trail you can catch glimpses of Mount Adams, the knee of Mount Jefferson, the scarred walls of Mount Clay with the Sphinx drainage, and the headwall of The Great Gulf looming large in the distance.
- We lucked out with the conditions along the way as the weather was perfect; mostly clear skies, no wind, and temps in the twenties.  The stream crossings that were open were very low and the others were snow-bridged or at least half snow-bridged.  Along the way we put on our snowshoes just after the suspension bridge past the Bluff.  I only got us lost once for a tenth of a mile but cut us back over to the trail when I realized my mistake.  Funny enough, where I went off trail was right around the Sphinx Trail Junction.  On the way back I kept us on the trail so I could take a picture of the Sphinx Trail Junction (my adopted trail).  The snow levels were pretty tame until about four miles in, then the levels went up but not by much.  The last mile was the only tiring trail breaking, but only because it was crusty snow on top of some fluff. 
-   We hiked at a decent pace on our way to Spaulding Lake, making sure to stop at all the cool picture spots along the way.  Cole and Bode loved every second of it, Cole likes to step on snowshoes and pick up branches twice his size, while  Bode, who is ten, is a seasoned hiking veteran and leaves the branch taking until the end of the hike!
- When we finally reached our destination we all knew right away it was well worth the visit.  I've been to Spaulding Lake a few times in the summer and thought is was a real nice place but in the winter it becomes extra special.  First off, everything is draped in white, second, the Great Gulf headwall stands out more, third, you can walk out onto the frozen lake and run around like a little kid!  We all took a bunch of pictures and refueled while the dogs ran around the lake.  After a few minutes Andre, Alton, and I explored the trail a little further until we reached a spot about two tenths a mile from the headwall that looked like it was a mini spruce trap field, so we headed back to the lake to play around a little more.
- The hike out was the usual, spent thinking about yummy food and cold beer!  I took my first awkward snowshoe fall of the year where I ended up like a turtle on it's shell and was white-washed.  Slow falls in the winter on snow are much more enjoyable than falls on dirt, rock, and roots in the summer months.
-  It was such a great hike to a really cool place.  We had a perfect day and I enjoyed the company of the two and four legged throughout the whole hike.  Thanks Bob for coming up with such a cool idea for a hike, we all appreciated it!

 Great Gulf Trailhead
 Cole gnawing on a branch
 Bode with his little orange booties
 Hiking along the Great Gulf Trail
 Peabody River
 Bob on the lower section of the Great Gulf Trail
 Heading down from the Bluff
 Peabody River Suspension Bridge
 Andrew leads the way
 Clam Rock and Shiba Inu Dog!
 Gem Pool
 Jefferson's Knee
 Alton in her usual bright colors
 Another little nice summer swimming hole
 Bode tells Bob where to cross
 Cole takes the lead
 Low snow levels in the Great Gulf
 Great Gulf Trail
 Andrew heads up a tricky section
 Cole, lost his clothes!
Frozen over waterfall 
 West Branch of the Peabody River
 Alton looking for the perfect spot for a picture
 Got it!
 Wetamoo Falls
 Wetamoo Falls (I think)
 Heading to Spaulding Lake
 Another half frozen cascade
 Andrew enjoying the hike!
 The Great Gulf Headwall
 Great Gulf Headwall
 Alton looking for another spot for a picture
 Cole escapes
 Got it!
 Spaulding Lake and the Great Gulf Headwall
 Cole, photo-bombing!
 Bob and Bode
 Snack time!
 Taking in the views
 Iced over dike below Mount Clay
 God's playground
 My trail
 Crossing the Peabody
 Open water
 White Fang!
 Bode waiting patiently for Bob
 Peabody River Suspension Bridge
All that is missing is him licking the windows while wearing a helmet!


  1. Great photos by the lake, cool idea for a hike, have to try that one soon!

    1. Thanks, Brian. Glad you liked the pictures. Hope you get a chance to get out there this winter!

  2. Enjoyed the great pictures, looked like it was really nice and unique hike.

    1. Thanks, Marvin! It was a great hike with great company. Best hike so far this year!

  3. Very interesting and different destination for a winter hike! Pictures are gorgeous, thanks for sharing because not many people would venture up there in the winter.

    1. Thanks Summerset. I hope you are enjoying winter hiking so far this year. Here is for hoping for some more snow!

  4. I think I speak for a lot of your readers when I say you two hiking again just seems to be so right!

    - Karen

    1. Thank you, Karen. That is very nice if you to say. Glad you enjoy the report and pics, hopefully there will be many more unique and exciting adventures to come! :)