White Mountain National Forest Wilderness Areas

 

Map of the White Mountain National Forest Wilderness Areas.Pemigewasset Wilderness Sandwich Wilderness Presidential-Dry Wilderness Great Gulf Wilderness Wild River Wilderness Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness
Map of the White Mountain National Forest Wilderness Areas
Select Wilderness Areas on map image | Wilderness Area map (PDF)

 

The White Mountain National Forest contains approximately 148,000 acres of Congressionally-designated Wilderness. All Wilderness on the WMNF is managed according to the Forest 's Wilderness Plan.

 

The Importance of Wilderness Areas

Designated Wilderness is set aside by Congress to be part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. There are over 107 million acres of Wilderness across the United States, much of it in Alaska. You can hike, ski, fish, hunt, and enjoy many other activities within Wilderness.

The Wilderness Act defines wilderness in this way:

 

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain .... retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable … has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; … is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

 

-The Wilderness Act 1964

 

Protecting Wilderness Areas

The following rules are put in place for Wilderness Areas  in order to help protect and limit the human impact of managment and use.

Rules for Use:

  • No mechanized equipment or mechanical transport (including bicycles, carts, and wagons. Wheelchairs are allowed.).
  • Hiking and camping group size must be limited to 10 people or less.
  • Geocaching is prohibited.

In addition to these rules, each Wilderness Area may have special regulations to help protect those unique areas. 

See our Dispersped Camping page for more informaiton on how you can help protect Wilderness Areas. 
 

Seven Congressionally-designated Areas

There are seven Congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas on the White Mountain National Forest: 

 

Sandwich Range Wilderness

Size: 35,800 acres

Trails: Approximately 57 miles of maintained hiking trails.

Description: This area is composed of 3 major ridges radiating outward from the center. It contains several dominant peaks, including the Tripyramids, Mt Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway as well as several mountain ponds. The area has long been popular with trampers and tourists looking for a variety of hikes.


Special Regulations (in addition to those listed above):

  • No Camping, wood or charcoal fires within 200' of Black Mountain Pond.

All Wilderness Areas

 

Pemigewasset Wilderness

Size: 45,000 acres

Trails: Approximately 60 miles of maintained hiking trails.

Description: This is the largest Wilderness on the White Mountain National Forest. Between 1880 and 1940, what is now the Pemigewasset Wilderness contained the largest logging railroad system in the White Mountains, including 72 miles of train lines. Over 1 billion board feet of timber was removed from the 66,000 acre watershed. In 1907, a 10-day wildfire fed on leftover logging slash. Designated by the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act, the Pemigewasset Wilderness has re-grown to include beautiful terrain for backpacking, hiking, and experiencing nature.


Special Regulations (in addition to those listed above):

  • No camping, wood or charcoal fires within 200 feet of any trail.
  • No camping, wood or charcoal fires within 200 feet of the East Branch of the Pemi River from the Wilderness boundary to its crossing with Thoreau Falls Trail, including islands.
  • No camping, wood or charcoal fires within 1/4 mile of the Franconia Brook Campsite, 13 Falls Tentsite, Guyot Tentsite, or Thoreau Falls.

All Wilderness Areas

 

Presidential Range - Dry River Wilderness

View of the Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness in early winter.

Size: 29,000 acres

Trails: Approximately 43 miles of maintained hiking trails

Description: This wilderness area features mountain peaks, large expanses above treeline, geologic formations and unique biological communities. The vegetation is a mix of fragile alpine and sub alpine plant communities and mixed hardwood and softwood forests.

Special Regulations (in addition to those listed above):

  • No camping, wood or charcoal fires within 200 feet of any trail, except at designated sites.

All Wilderness Areas

 

Great Gulf Wilderness

Size: 5,552 acres

Trails: Approximately 22 miles of maintained trails, including 2.7 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Description: Added to the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964 as a part of the original Wilderness Act, the Great Gulf Wilderness is the smallest of the WMNF Wildernesses . The Great Gulf lies in a glacial cirque surrounded by the northern Presidential mountains.

Special Regulations (in addition to those listed on main page):

  • No wood or charcoal fires at any location.
  • No camping from the intersection of the Great Gulf and Sphinx trails in the direction of Spaulding Lake.
  • No camping within 200 feet of any trail except at designated site.

All Wilderness Areas

 

Wild River Wilderness

Size: 23,700 acres.

Trails: 29.4 miles.

Description: This area, like the Pemigewasset Wilderness, contains many remnants of logging railroads that once ran along the valley floor. Today it's hard to imagine that logging camps and trains were once an integral part of the landscape. The area encompasses beautiful hardwood forests with relatively easy terrain in its lower elevation, and thick spruce-fir forests with steep slopes higher up.

Special Regulations (in addition to those listed above):  None.

All Wilderness Areas

 

Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness

Size: 14,000 acres (geobook map)

Trails: 25 miles of maintained hiking trails

Description: Repeatedly logged up until the 1960s where harvesting took place in the Cold, Willard, Great, Miles, Mud, Morrison, and Little Lady drainages. There was an active fire tower on the summit of Speckled Mountain until the mid 1960s; it was removed in 1986 before the area was designated Wilderness.  The area was designated by the 1975 Eastern Wilderness Act and expanded in the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act.

Mt. Caribou got its name after two brothers shot the last caribou in the region there in 1854. Their names are carved on the top of the mountain.

This Wilderness area is entirely within the state of Maine. Topography varies from lower hardwood slopes to exposed rocky peaks. The highest point is Speckled Mountain, at 2,906 feet, with Mt. Caribou coming in second at 2,840 feet.

Special Regulations (in addition to those listed above):  None.

All Wilderness Areas



WMNF Wilderness Areas

  • Sandwich Range
    35,800 acres: 25,000 designated by the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act and 10,800 designated by the 2006 New England Wilderness Act.
  • Pemigewasset
    45,000 acres designated by the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act.
  • Presidential Range - Dry River
    29,000 acres designated by the 1975 Eastern Wilderness Act and expanded in the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act.
  • Great Gulf
    Approximately 5,552 acres, designated by the 1964 Wilderness Act.
  • Wild River
    23,700 acres designated by the 2006 New England Wilderness Act.
  • Caribou-Speckled Mountain
    Approximately 5,552 acres, designated by the 1964 Wilderness Act.