Abandoned Adams Slide Trail

Date of Hike: 8/15/10

Great Gulf / Six Husbands Trail: 5.0 miles
Adams Slide Trail: 1.3 miles
Star Lake Trail: 1.0 miles
Madison Gulf / Great Gulf Trail: 5.8 miles
Total Miles: 13.1 miles (4,600 elevation gain)

Trip Report:
- For a more up to date account of the slide click here for pics
- My route on Sunday was to hike up Mount Adams via the Great Gulf by way of the Adams Slide Trail, AKA 'The Beast of the East' which was constructed in 1909, is about 1.25 miles long, rises 2,400 feet, and is said to be the steepest path in the White Mountains.  The catch...the Adams Slide Trail was abandoned over forty years ago in the 1960's! For a full discription of the trail click here.
- On Trail at 7am, foot of slide at 9:10am, Mount Adams Summit 10:50am, Finished at 2pm, temps above 60 degrees, light wind, hazy but terrific views.
- I was nervous with anticipation as I hiked the five miles along the Great Gulf and the Six Husbands Trail.  Along the way I only saw a couple of hikers camped out at Clam Rock with their very loud but friendly German Sheppard who's bark could scare off a bear!
- Once I was on the Six Husbands Trail I was only a half mile from the Buttress Trail where the adventure with the past would begin. Finally I reached the Buttress Trail junction and was just a 0.1 mile away from the abandoned trail.
- The Buttress trail climbs up steeply then all of a sudden takes a sharp right through an open talus field, this is where I would continue strait up and make my way through the overgrown, gnarly, and excessively steep Adams Slide Trail but not before I took a quick break to refuel and get ready for what was to come.
- Now did I have a GPS reading of the trail programmed into a GPS tracker...nope, did I have an old AMC map...nope!  What I did have was the most accurate map with detailed instructions that would lead up through the slide out onto the open south eastern slope of Mount Adams and to the summit (click here for map).
- As soon as I was about to step off the Buttress Trail and into the woods I was greeted by a small pine marten  (click for pic) just a few feet above me in a tree watching my every move.  He did not seem afraid of me at all and was probably wondering where I was going as I passed below him and on by him.  He followed me for a few feet from tree to tree until he got bored of watching me find my way to the slide.
- Now the fun began, I really had no idea what to expect, I knew I would stumble across old faded red blazes on rocks here and there but would I be able to stay on the trail, how bad would the blowdowns be, would certain sections be impassable, could I recognize any of the trail?
- First off, I was able to stay on the trail 95% of the time, the slide is over grown and although excessively steep it's all closed in and you never feel exposed as if a fall would be dangerous.  The trail itself can be followed with extreme care, I found it easier to follow than expected but I credit this from hiking in the winter and having to learn to distinguish trails from bushwhacks and being able to recognize 'trail corridors.' in deep snow in the dead of winter.
- Some parts of the trail where easy to navigate, some were moderately difficult with overgrown branches, and some were hellish where you just had to push through thick overgrowth and fight through it.
- The slide itself must have been magnificent fifty years ago, now it's a mix of huge rocks sticking out here and there on and off the trail buried under moss, fern needles, dirt, and downed trees.
- About half way through I veered a little left eventhough my instincts told me the trail veered a little right.  Five minutes later I came to a dead end of sorts where a huge rock wall with some small cave dens loomed and knew I should have followed my initial thought of veering right.  So I backtracked back down where I got the full sense of just how steep the trail was until back to the point were I should have veered right, sure enough a couple of moments later I saw another red blaze. 
- The red blazes were scattered all throughout the slide, I saw about a dozen or so which is pretty amazing for a trail that was abandoned before we ever landed on the moon!
- Popping up above treeline was pretty amazing, I couldn't believe where I was and was taken back by the awesome sight of the Great Gulf beneath me.  I looked back down into this hole where I seemingly just came out of and would have never found it if I tried to drop down from Adams to try to find the Slide.
- From here I carefully made my way through the old overgrown path through the scrub (being careful not to kill any plants in the Alpine Zone) for about five minutes until I was finally rock hopping.  Amazingly enough there are still some cairns here and there most of which are topped with a white quartz rock.
- The hike up to the summit was pretty awesome as the views of Jefferson Ravine and the knee of Mount Jefferson were right in front of me every time I turned around.
- After a couple of false summits I knew I was close and all of a sudden I connected with the Star Lake Trail a few hundred yards below Mount Adams Summit right where the actual Adams Slide trail came out back in the day.
-  I took a long break on the summit and enjoyed the views and was thrilled I was able to hike the Adams Slide Trail and be able to follow the whole trail!
- From here I hiked down the Star Lake Trail and out the Madison Gulf Trail and Great Gulf Trail back to the car.  I was originally going to hike up to Mount Madison's summit but I was pretty whipped out from the hike, plus I've been on Madison close to ten times, and yesterday's hike up Huntington Ravine and trail work on the Sphinx had me satisfied with the weekends hikes.
- Overall the Adams Slide was an adventure that was a little different from what I expected but just as thrilling as I could have imagined.  It wasn't as difficult or dangerous as I expected but was just a gnarly and rough as I thought it would be.  Some advice if hiking the Adams Slide Trail...long shirt, long sleeves are a must to save your skin from minor gashes, watch out for branches that'll poke your eyes out, be patient and go slow...and good luck!

Pictures: Click here for all pics

Adams Slide Trail
Red Blaze on the Adms Slide trail
Adam's Slide Trail
Madison Gulf Trail


  1. Great post. I have done the Buttress Trail and was aware of this trail-- did realize it started off the rocky area near the start

  2. Very good scamble of an abandoned trail. A climbing partner and I have been using Connection Gully in Tuckerman's for years to avoid the hordes and while trailess, seems very similar. If you ever get out to the Adirondacks, try Trap Dike...there is a good photo essay about it here:

  3. Thanks for the Info Bruce

    Next year I hope to get back to the ADK's to start hiking the 46 and the Trap Dike looks insane!