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Lauren and I don't get out to the Presidentials all that much. Most of the reasoning is distance to home, but crowds play a little bit of a role in it too, especially in the era of Covid. Every time we do make the trip, we have ourselves a little fun.
We were going back and forth between Castle Ravine/Castle and Caps Ridge, and settled for the former due to its longer length and full value day potential.
We commenced our day just prior to 8 AM at the Castle Trail trailhead, an early start for two people who like to sleep in on weekends.
The terrain can only be described as gentle with moderate gains over the first several miles. Although there are quite a few river crossings, all were manageable given that we are currently in a drought. There's no doubt some of them would be trickier in a higher water year.
Waterfalls, waterfalls, and more waterfalls was our early day mantra. But that would change quick once the elevation gains started about four miles into our trek.
At some point during the ascent, we reached Roof Rock, an aptly named landmark that one has to crawl under. It's also the beginning of the 'REAL' ascent that we had been waiting for.
The Castle Ravine was as advertised in a sense, but a little overblown in another. Scrambling up big, sometimes loose rocks, we climbed higher and higher. Surely, it is not the ideal descent route relative to the Castle Trail, but it isn't a sheer cliff akin to Huntington Ravine, which you surely do not want to descend. I wouldn't advise descending Castle Ravine in wet weather, but it is not terribly exposed.
When we reached the saddle, we began the ascent up the Gulfside Trail. Our plan was to tag some of the Cornice for my quest to complete all the trails in the Whites. It was about a 45 minute detour, but we got to spend some additional time soaking in the great views.
Eventually we reached the junction with the Caps Ridge Trail and passed more people than we had all day on the way up to the summit. The Castle Ravine Trail was completely empty that morning except for us.
From the summit, we headed down the Castle Trail to complete the loop. Despite its annoying ups and downs, this was my favorite trail of the day. The views were spectacular, and once we finally made it over the "castles," we were graced with a very nice trail with good footing that made for a simple descent.
Overall, this was a classic loop that every White Mountains hiker should experience. Its exposure is not Huntington Ravine worthy, and I prefer the Six Husbands Trail (but not the Six Husbands approach), but this one is a keeper.
Total Time: 7 hrs 42 minsTotal Distance: ~12 miles (Garmin Fenix 5x Plus, probably more though)Total Elevation Gain: ~4635 vertical gain
NH 4K: Mount Jefferson via Castle Ravine, Gulfside, The Cornice, Castle Trail
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