View Full Version : Spring in the A.T. in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

01-28-2019, 16:43
I have a large, flexible window available to do the section from Manchester Center, VT ==> Katahdin in 2019. Unfortunately, it is from March 1 - June 30. I have completed the rest of the trail, and want to finish before I turn 50 this year.

The biggest concerns are :
1) extreme cold, ice, and snow, especially in the Whites
2) mud
3) black flies (and, to a lesser degree, mosquitos)

One BIG advantage I have is extreme flexibility. I will be able to wait and see how much snow there is, and evaluate the conditions in March, or even April and May, as to when I'd start. Most people seem to advise not entering Vermont during April-May mud season, and the Whites can be super difficult with weather and snow/ice in the Spring, too.

Is there sometimes a window when hiking is OK in the Northeast before the sludge/slush/mud forms? I know each year is different, but I'm able to play that by ear. I have a good 10 degree quilt and good lightweight clothing for the temperatures.

Thanks for any advice you may have. I've done a bunch of research on this topic, but haven't found too much...

01-28-2019, 17:24
That's 539 miles in 120 days, or an average of 4.5 mpd. That does give you a lot of flexibility.
I think if I were in your shoes, I'd consider a plan where you go live in a motel in the area and hit the trail when the weather cooperates. So maybe you hike for 3 days, then hole up in town for 2 days, then back to the trail for 2 days, then hole up for 1, or whatever. It also wouldn't hurt to do the lower elevation hiking during March/April and save the higher stuff for May/June.

We've done 80% of Maine, and a third of NH, but never in those conditions. Our first trip to the Whites was over Memorial Day one year. There was snow on the trail in the shady woods - slushy stuff. Best of luck to you!

01-28-2019, 18:03
yes - A LOT of flexibility! I like your thinking... I'm worried that would end up costing way too much for me. I imagine I'll have to some of that approach no matter what though. Thanks for your thoughts.

01-28-2019, 18:05
March is still winter in the whites and most of Maine. Bring a good pair of technical snowshoes. Its been a weird winter to date and the snow is really only in the northern part of NH. Maine on the other had is going to have snow until mid to late April with deep shady areas holding snow until mid May. GMC closes the AT for mud season for a good reason, there are a couple of long stretches in southern VT (Stratton Pond area comes to mind) where you will be wading the trail. as it will be under water. Generally April is the most difficult month to hike as the snow gets rotten and steam crossings dangerous. There is usually at least one good late season snow storm that dumps 12 plus inches from the whites on to Katahdin in April. Rotten snow can really suck as winter hikers have packed down a mound of snow that thaws slower then the snow pack on either side of the trail. The effect it called the monorail. You can either try to balance on the top of the icy hump or posthole a couple of feet to either side. Some days it freezes overnight and you can bareboot in the AM and by noon you are postholing with snow shoes. Some of the private logging roads are closed in the spring for mud season so access to areas in the 100 MW are limited. Inevitably your feet will get wet. My suggestion is head up in Mid to late May and hope for an early spring and bring bug suit.

01-28-2019, 18:13
maybe start with killington to glencliffe? that doesnt really help much but its probably the easiest section up there to try and hike in march or april.

map man
01-28-2019, 19:53
Thanks for any advice you may have.

My advice is wait until Memorial Day weekend to start at Manchester Center and accept that you will not get all the way to Katahdin by the end of June. Hike what's left next year.

01-28-2019, 19:55
Hmmm, "Spring" you say. :-? Well, honestly, what most people think of as Spring doesn't really start on March 21 in New England. Late April/early May is more the beginning of Spring in northern New England. Except in NH where we only have two seasons - Winter and July. ;) :D Memorial day to June 30 are usually okay, maybe a bit muddy and perhaps some old snow. The other days are the problem. Every year from the beginning of melt (early April) to roughly Memorial Day The Green Mountain Club along with VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation will close most mountain trails in VT to protect the trails, especially the LT and AT. Baxter State Park in ME won't open for overnight camping until May 15, and trails up Katahdin typically won't open until late in May. So you could just go NOBO on March 1 and get thru VT in winter conditions before they shut it down for mud season, but that puts you in the Whites in late March, early April, which is still full-on winter. If you like cold nasty weather, you'll love it - because you will get your fill of it and then some. And then will come the mud and bugs and uncleared blowdown and raging streams in ME.

Can you do it? Yeah. But why? I just can't think of a worse time to hike the AT in New England.

The prior suggestions to hike NOBO Memorial Day thru June 30 and then finish another time are pretty reasonable. June thru September would be the best time to hike NH and ME.

01-28-2019, 21:04
Realistically, you can't start until most of the snow has melted and that takes until the middle of April. Then it's a real mess and the weather is miserable. It's not good for you or the trail to be in that slop. Plus none of the winter blowdowns will have been cleared and there will be a lot of them this spring.

Depending on how fast it warms up and the snow melts in April, May - June maybe doable. It won't be pleasant though. Still not a good time of year to be in NH and Maine. It's not really the temperatures which are an issue, it's the general condition of the trail, your potential impact on it, and of course, the weather which is generally poor.

I'd go someplace else for April/May. In fact I will. Not sticking around here for mud season. I know better.

01-28-2019, 21:06
While one can trudge through the mud, rather than considering it as some kind of challenge, consider what kind of trail damage you'll be committing. I live here, and stay off the muddy sections of trail in the spring.

01-28-2019, 21:29
April is a crappy month to hike in ME and NH. Half of May is crappy at higher elevations. May and June is when the trail maintainers get out to fix Winter and Spring storm damage. June is crappy because of the black flies. July is too damn hot. August, September and October are the three best months to hike, imo

Sarcasm the elf
01-28-2019, 22:04
While one can trudge through the mud, rather than considering it as some kind of challenge, consider what kind of trail damage you'll be committing. I live here, and stay off the muddy sections of trail in the spring.

This. Please don’t hike in New England during mud season. It takes an unreasonable toll on the trail...plus it’s


01-28-2019, 22:52
Late April/early May is more the beginning of Spring in northern New England.

In the early 1990s, Mother's day kicked off the Spring season for me. :-D

EDIT: This was near Meredith, NH..

01-28-2019, 23:22
All of the above is why we haven't done our section hiking in linear fashion. We choose our sections and seasons to optimize our experience.

Robby, if you are dead set on finishing before your 50th birthday, and if your time frame can't be shifted later, then consider this: If you have only 60 days (May/June) it's an average of 9 mpd. But that doesn't factor in zero and nero days. However, if you do what 4eyed buzzard suggested, maybe you could get Vermont done in March in winter conditions - before mud season. During April you could volunteer to help clear trails somewhere, or go visit NYC, or whatever. Then May/June you have only two states to cover. Doesn't sound like fun, but it sounds like it could be done.

01-30-2019, 13:12
Why not start further south (e.g. Harper's Ferry) in March and work your way north with spring? By the time you make it to NH and ME, the weather will be nicer and you'll be in thru-hiker shape. Win-win.

01-30-2019, 13:25
If it makes you feel any better I have only NH and Maine to do and wanted to get done before my 60th birthday, which is March 4th. Despite doing section and weekend hikes in furious fashion down to Springer, I didn't get there until November. The reality is that trying to do either NH or Maine or both before July didn't sound appealing, so I let go of my dream of finishing before I turned 60. The main thing is to finish safely and to have fun doing it.