Hiking Trail Conditions Report
Peaks Mt. Madison, NH
Trails: Great Gulf Trail, Madison Gulf Trail, Parapet Trail, Star Lake Trail, Osgood Trail, Valley Way, Lower Bruin, Watson Path, Brookside, Kelton Trail, Howker Ridge Trail
Date of Hike
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 11, 2021
Parking/Access Road Notes
Parking/Access Road Notes: We met at Randolph East and spotted cars to the Great Gulf trailhead off Route 16. Pinkham B Road is in poor condition, with a lot of large dips, potholes, and bumps - recommend going through Gorham if you have a small, low-clearance vehicle. Great Gulf trailhead is a fee lot. No issues with either parking area. 
Surface Conditions
Surface Conditions: Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable 
Recommended Equipment
Recommended Equipment:  
Water Crossing Notes
Water Crossing Notes: The crossing of Parapet Brook on Great Gulf Trail (between the junctions with Osgood Cutoff and Madison Gulf Trail) was the toughest - relatively high water levels, but also a lot of the exposed rocks were wet and somewhat slippery. Hikers with long legs wouldn't have too much difficulty, but I needed a hand taking one big step onto a wet rock since I couldn't be sure of my footing. Another hiker went upstream to find a safer crossing, and then followed a very rough herd path along the bank back to the trail. The crossings of Parapet Brook on Madison Gulf Trail (and there were many) started off fairly challenging (though not as challenging as that first crossing) but got easier as we ascended. The crossing of Snyder Brook on Kelton Trail right at its junction with Brookside was easier than we thought it would be - most of it was on a flat, exposed rock. 
Trail Maintenance Notes
Trail Maintenance Notes: Several blowdowns, mostly on Madison Gulf Trail. None required bushwhacking around, but some were on steep sidehills, so we had to be careful with those. Evidence of blowdown clearing on some trails north of Mt. Madison. Several sections of Madison Gulf Trail were very wet, including a couple steep ledges and parts of the headwall that had water running down them. Madison Gulf Trail took care to follow in a few places in the upper part, where the footbed was indistinct and there were beaten dead-end side paths. Some parts of Brookside between Kelton Trail and Watson Path are in poor condition, with a lot of mud and erosion creating some large and possibly dangerous holes between large boulders - some relocations might help there.  
Dog-Related Notes
Dog-Related Notes: Madison Gulf Trail through Madison Gulf is not suitable for dogs. I suppose the other trails would be though. 
Bugs: Practically none. 
Lost and Found
Lost and Found: One of us lost a headband, and found it sitting on a post at Randolph East when we got back. Thanks to whoever put it there! 
Comments: This was an extremely strenuous but quite enjoyable hike. Great Gulf Trail was fairly mellow, and we made good time up to the junction with Madison Gulf Trail. We all knew the Madison Gulf headwall would be very challenging, but it turns out Madison Gulf Trail leading up to the headwall is no picnic either - most of it is quite rough, there are several steep sections, and there are a lot of river crossings. It's an incredibly beautiful trail, but the part before the headwall was more strenuous than we expected, which meant we had less energy for the really tough part. Sylvan Cascade and all other waterfalls were flowing well.

The headwall, as advertised, was extremely steep and rough. I found that the toughest scrambles were the two lowest ones. The first one had water flowing down it, and required a very large step up onto a wet ledge. It was very difficult for me since I have short legs. The scramble just above is a steep, exposed ledge - luckily it was dry, but it was still quite a challenge. Most of the rest of the climb was in the trees, and while extremely steep and rough, there were generally enough handholds and footholds. A few sections of the trail up the headwall had water running down them - those were the most difficult parts, since the rocks were much more slippery. Several sections of trail just before and on the headwall were also quite narrow and brushy. Eventually, the trail gets slightly less steep and soon breaks out of the trees - there are a few exposed rock hops here that were a little hairy but not as bad as what we did below. Just before the end of the trail, there's an ambiguous spot with a cairn where it's unclear whether the trail continues rock-hopping up the gully or exits the gully to the right. Either way will bring you to the junction with Parapet Trail, though. Parapet and Star Lake trails were an easy traverse to Madison Hut, and there was very little wind going through the col.

My friends decided to summit Madison while they were there, while I stayed at the hut and chatted with the thru-hikers there. We started our descent via Valley Way, which was rough and had water running down the trail in places - it has some water bars, but more are needed. Then we turned onto Lower Bruin, which was drier and had better footing near the top but was still quite rough near the bottom. The brief section of Watson Path between Brookside and Lower Bruin has two scrambles that were somewhat wet (and we thought we were done with scrambles after Madison Gulf!). As mentioned above, the upper half-mile of Brookside is extremely rough in places and could use some relocations. By contrast, the upper part of Kelton Trail had good footing. The lower part of Kelton is steep, with some rocks and roots, but still generally better footing than Valley Way or Air Line. And the lower part of Howker Ridge is a gradual-to-moderate descent with generally good footing.

It was a long, very tough day, but very rewarding.  
Name: GN 
Date Submitted
Date Submitted: 2021-07-12 
Link: https:// 
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