Hutmans Trail and Halls Ledge trail

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
I have been driving up and back RT 16 routinely since 1987 and for years have passed the small log cabin on the east side of RT 16 with the Hutmans trailhead sign right next to it south of the WMNF boundary. Despite driving by it many times I just never was that interested in hiking it as if was just 3 miles long. Frequently I have looked up at the southerly extension of the Wildcat Ridge south of the AT and wondered what sort of trail may be up there. From the road, the slope seems to be open hardwood with softwoods coming in as the elevation increases. I had heard of the Halls Ledge trail in passing but never really knew exactly where it was and definitely do not remember ever seeing a trailhead for it.

My friends the redliners had these trails in their sights and we all managed to take Thursday off at the last minute to grab these prior to expected weekend snow on the summits. I drove down from Gorham and was running early in the AM so I decided to look carefully for the Halls Ledge trailhead on RT 16. I didnt see a trace of it but did find what I thought was a shortcut to it from the Wildcat Condos back parking lot. I then met my friends at the Hutmans trailhead and after spotting a car at Rocky Branch we started up the Hutmans Trail. Once it clears the local development it rapidly transitions to a steep old logging road that runs up the fall line to the ridgecrest. The trail is maintained quite wide and expect that backcountry skiers with far more skills than I ever will have probably uses this as a ski run. There is memorial carved into a rock and windchime hanging from the tree at prominent spot with an obscured view. This section is entirely in hardwoods and expect the views would be very limited when the leaves are out. Near the top of the steep section the trail slowly transitions to softwoods and swings Northeast. The trail in this area and for much of the hike transitions to what I expect is was or will be the Jackson Ski Touring network. Blazing is minimal but the trailbed is obvious and quite wide. After passing a large opening where an old apple orchard had been reopened we picked up ATV tracks and soon came out on fireroad with no blazing of signage.

The biggest challenge from then on is trying to stay on the hiking trail as it obvious that the Jackson Ski Touring system is the priority user of this area. Some intersections are signed but some are not and the ski touring trails are not on the AMC map so careful terrain following or a GPS track is essential. Eventually the trail transitions to a fire road (not signed) for awhile before turning off and ending on the Carter Notch Road at the East trailhead. We then did a road walk up to the Jackson Town Forest. The town forest is a 500 acre block that has several old cellar holes and various apple orchards and fields that are kept open with a brush hog. There are many view spots culminating with a large open view with picnic table looking south. This is definitely the spot to eat lunch. After a break we headed west slabbing the ridge and came to "T" junction and headed south to Halls Ledge. There is ski trial that reportedly heads north and ends at the top of Wildcat Ski Area near Wildcat D. Hall's Ledge is unfortunately quite a disappointment. It may have had an excellent view in the past and there is even a picnic table but many years of fir regrowth has choked in the view. It would take quite a bit of chainsawing to open it up again and it would quickly grow back. It there is ledge we didnt see it. This is a dead end for the ski trails but a much less maintained hiking trail heads into the woods. There isnt a trailhead sign but there is blazing so we headed down it. It starts out along the ridgecrest in softwoods but soon drops down into open hardwoods. There was some sort of understory cut in the past and with the leaves on the ground the trailbed was not obvious. The paint blazes are pretty sparse and faded but someone recently wrapped a yellow fabric backed tape around the trees on the route and occasionally there are painted soup can lips high up the trees which I expect were for winter use. Even with the tape, faded blazes and occasional flagging the route wasnt obvious which slowed us down a bit. There was some signs of recent cutting of blowdown and large logs but I expect it just doesnt get used enough to keep a wide obvious trailbed. Eventually the woods transition to a mature hardwood stand with some impressive maples and ashes on a fairly steep slope. With the leaves on the ground I had to shift to the shuffling down the slope to keep secure footing. We had been playing tag with the sun most of the morning but ended up on a southwest facing slope with some blue sky so we took a break and then headed down the slope which was consistently steep.

As we headed down we did run along the top of steep slope looking down at a fairly interesting natural stone flume. My USGS map doesnt show this flume anywhere near where the trail is. We quickly swung away from it and then started hearing traffic noise. We soon came down immediately next to the parking lot of the Wildcat Condos and confirmed that there is side trail to the parking lot. The redliners are loath to skip any section of trail and our car was up at Rocky Branch so we headed back into the woods. We soon came out next to the Ellis River and were glad we didnt have to cross it as the trail ends on RT 16 where the river crosses under the road. Down at the edge of the woods at the base of the slope for the bridge approach was the Halls Ledge trailhead sign.

Overall this is around a 6 mile loop with about 1400 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the highest point. Both the Hutmans and Halls Ledge initial climb up the slope out of the RT 16 valley are steep but Halls Ledge is consistently steeper.

We has finished early so we ended to day heading up to Wildcat to hike the Thompson Falls Trail so they could check it off the list.

Overall a fine late fall day.
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Motivated both by red-lining and by obscure trail-sign curiosity, I hiked the Hutmens/Halls Ledge loop on a sunny day in June 2012. The Old Hutmens Association was (is?) the alumni group for the generations of hearty youths who have staffed the AMC White Mtn. "huts". They had a cabin on the largely uninteresting (except for XC skiers, as peakbagger suggests) Hutmens Trail, the ruins of which are among my 2012 photos. I had better views than he did on the Halls Ledge descent.

Six-plus years ago, both trailheads were clearly marked and neither trail was hard to follow, with the short connecting stretch on Carter Notch Road. Six+ years of growth makes a difference. My few photos including GPS tracks are here:
Thanks for the photos. The Hall's ledge photo is interesting. Six years of aggressive Balsam fir growth has just about obscured the view. A few hours of chainsawing would do wonders although I expect the person who opened the view for all to enjoy would be vilified by a self righteous nature photographer ;)

I don't think the ruins along the fireroad are the Hutmans cabin or if it is, it is a former incarnation. See this recent link to the Old Hutcroo's Association page that references the current cabin which appears to be still available. I believe the Old Hutcroo current cabin is immediately behind Harvard Cabin (the one off of RT 16) . There is a gravel driveway adjacent to the parking lot that runs up into the woods behind Harvard Cabin to another cabin. I have never been up there as I am not former Hutcroo or current AMC employee. I think it had a street sign at one point for Washburn Drive but when I go on Google Earth Street view I don't see it.

Note that there is another cabin in Shelburne off the Hogan road used by former AMC trail crew (the Trail Crew Association) that was built by Bob Proudman (who passed away this year). I have passed it in my travels in the woods over the years. It has been referred to in the past as "the secret" AMC cabin. Technically it is owned by a separate group but has reportedly been used by AMC officers for retreats in the past. Given the report on the condition of the facility on the webpage, it appears as its in need of repairs. The easiest way to find it is just follow the tracks in the snow off the Hogan Road in winter as it does get use in the winter. I see cars parked at the end of the road where it meets North Road many winter weekends.
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That Halls Ledge view appeared to have been fairly recently clear-cut on my 2012 hike, and not by a stray public benefactor. (I agree with you on how those tend to be thanked.) You may be right about the Hutmans ruined hut, but I don't think I was just guessing. I had some reason for thinking those ruins were it, but don't remember what it was.