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Trail Conditions

Trip Log


Mt. Isolation
Jackson, NH, Sargents Purchase, NH, Cutts Grant, NH

Trailheads, measurements, times, distances, and maps are all approximate and relative to the hike(s) as shown below.
The Rocky Branch Trail
The Rocky Branch Trail

Route: Rocky Branch Trail, Isolation Trail, Davis Path, Isolation Spur, (Mt. Isolation), Isolation Spur, Davis Path, Isolation Trail, bushwhack, Rocky Branch Trail

With a fairly dry few weeks, I figured it'd be as good a time as any to give the Rocky Branch and Isolation trails proper a try, as to better learn the terrain. Reaching a half-filled parking lot (usually empty in my previous visits), I could tell it was going to be a crowded day on the trails.

The Rocky Branch was fairly dull for me until I reached the fake height of land. From there, the early-fall foliage was starting to show - golden birch leaves, some red hobblebush, and the occasional red maple-ish plant or tree. Unfortunately, things also became a bit muddy and wet - gosh forbid we have a decently designed trail in the wilderness. Just to add to it, there were plenty of blowdowns along the way.

After the first water crossing, I took a quick detour over to the shelter - by the looks of it, the forest service will likely be removing this soon. Gosh forbid we have a wooden shelter in the wilderness.

The Isolation Trail was also a bit muddy - fortunately the water crossings weren't too bad. The third and fourth were quite close together - a fairly obvious herd path bypasses them (oh, the humanity!). After the fifth, the trail pulled away from the water and worked its way up toward the Davis Path, in a rocky but gradual fashion. Just to add to the enjoyment, I slightly resprained my ankle. Nearing the Davis Path, the trail became rather confusing around a tent sight - herd paths going in all directions. Of course, being in the wilderness, painted blazes on a tree would be devastating.

The Davis Path portion of the hike was in decent shape - fairly dry and somewhat brushed out. After scrambling up the only steep portion of trail all day (the spur to the summit), I reached the the cold, windy summit of Isolation, where the views were rather strong in most directions, though Mt. Washington was in the clouds. Pretty much everything above about 4,500' to the north had visible rime ice. Winter is getting close!

After taking some time on the summit waiting for the clouds to lift off Mt. Washington (and getting some brief glances at it), I decided to call it a day and head back. Awhile after crossing the third (downhill order) water crossing, I decided to bushwhack to the Rocky Branch, thus avoiding the bottom two water crossings and addition vertical descending. The woods were generally pretty open, making it a straightforward bushwhack. Back on the trail, I did my best to deal with the monotony of the long walk out. Nonetheless, a great early-fall day.

Hike Ratings
Getting To Trailhead: Easy
Destination: Mt. Isolation
Length: Difficult
Steepness: Difficult
Navigation: Moderate
Views: Excellent
Crowds: Heavy

Hike Stats
Date Hiked: Saturday, September 19, 2009
Hike Commenced: 8:31 AM
Parking Elevation: 1,260'
Destination: Mt. Isolation
Ascent Commenced: 8:31 AM
Summit Reached: 11:49 AM
Time Elapsed: 03:18
Trailhead Elevation: 1,260'
Summit Elevation: 4,004'
Distance: 7.3 miles
Vertical Gain: 3,244'
Hike Ended: 3:22 PM
Hike Time Elapsed: 06:51
Hike Vertical Gain: 3,544'

The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead
The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead

The second water crossing on the Isolation Trail
The second water crossing on the Isolation Trail

Looking at Mt. Washington from Mt. Isolation - Click to enlarge
Looking at Mt. Washington from Mt. Isolation

Directions to trailhead: Take Route 16 North from the Route 302-16 junction in Glen. A few minutes having passing Jackson and just before 16 starts to climb to Pinkham Notch, the Rocky Branch parking lot will be on the left. The Rocky Branch Trail trailhead is at the north side of the parking lot.

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