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The Cohos Trail

The Cohos Trail is a 162-mile remote and wild trail in northern-most New Hampshire. All but 12 miles can be followed now with a set of the new Cohos Trail maps, and the gaps can be bypassed by road walking in remote country.

When the originally planned 162 miles of trails and existing routes is complete, it will be the longest single foot-trail system created in the state's history. It will run from near the town of Harts Location, New Hampshire all the way to the Canadian border when the last blowdown is cleared away. About 150 miles of trail can be followed now, and the remaining miles should come on line by 2010.

Most of it is easily followed now. By the end of the work season in 2002, the trail was well blazed and outfitted with the small dark brown and bright yellow lettered CT signs over two-thirds of its length. However, the Trail Association does not have permission to put up the small CT signs in the Presidential Range region and some sections in Pittsburg. Nevertheless, with the full color maps available through the Association, it is easy to navigate the routes in those areas that are not marked. In 2004-2008, the Association put up a host of new name signs, as well.

The trail stretches through New Hampshire's most isolated and unpopulated terrain, never encountering a town larger than 900 souls. In fact, once you leave Jefferson, NH, you will not enter a population center again until you reach little Pittsburg village 90 trail miles later. And, if you decide not to detour off the trail into the village of Pittsburg, you can walk nearly 120 miles without encountering a town. So, you should have one million acres to yourself. And you are likely to meet more moose on the trail than people. And that's not stretching the truth.

What Is On The Cohos Trail?

Here is a partial list of the physical features you will encounter:

  • more than 30 mountain peaks, many with fine views
  • four 4,000-footers along the route
  • numerous mountain notches, including dramatic Dixville Notch
  • many sheer cliffs and exposed ledges
  • numerous waterfalls
  • Dixville flume and gorge
  • an ice gulch and ice caves

  • arctic tundra above treeline
  • a high elevation blueberry barren (North Percy Peak)
  • dark, remote and moody boreal forests
  • pure white birch tree stands
  • extensive bogs, marshes and wildlife reserves
  • still wild sections of the Connecticut River
  • many glacial kettle ponds and vast lakes (some larger than 2,000 acres)
  • high elevation mountain meadows
  • several state and federal campgrounds
  • two new lean-tos that sleep six or more
  • a WMNF summit cabin that sleeps up to 8 people
  • an ecological rebound area (site of the 1969 Nash Bog flood)
  • two five-star grand resort hotels from the 19th century
  • plenty of moose, moose sign and moose wallows
  • copious evidence of the work of glaciers
  • a natural, bubbling jacuzzi
  • black bear scratching trees and bear sign
  • many icy cold, crystal clear streams
  • unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather
  • very, very few homo sapiens
  • and the great and solemn silence of The Great North Woods

Trail Basics

SHELTER: There are few shelters on the trail itself, except for two lean-tos, one at Baldhead South in remote Columbia, NH, and the other, three miles north of Dixville Notch on a high ridge on Sanguinary Mt. In the White Mountain National Forest the Forest Service maintains the Resolution Shelter and the Dry River Shelter. Atop Mt. Cabot, the Forest Service also maintains the Mt. Cabot cabin, which sleeps eight. There are federal and state campgrounds and only a very few designated camping areas in the backcountry. In 2005 there was one formal camp site in the Nash Stream Forest. There was one formal camping area on Unknown Pond, maintained by the Forest Service.

WATER: Carry a water filter kit or purification straw or tablets with you. Take water only from very fast moving streams or from good springs, of which there are several. Drink lots of water everyday, particularly if the temperature is hot.

FIRE: Best rule of thumb -- don't build a fire at all. Carry a little primus with you to heat food.

LIGHT: Carry a small flashlight or a hiker's candle lantern.

RAIN: Carry a rain poncho with you at the very least, one with a hood.

SUN: Hike with a cap, or better yet a broad-brim hat. It will not only keep the sun off your face and neck, it will help keep insects away from your eyes and face.

COLD: Even in summer, never, never hike without a wool hat, gloves, and at least one heavy sweater and a windbreaker. In spring and fall in the Coos mountains, you can encounter winter conditions.

FOOD: Through-hikers can burn 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day. That's a lot of food. You decide what food to bring, but bring plenty and stash several cashes 30 miles apart.

WASTE: Carry In. Carry Out. In other words, take out every last bit of trash when you leave the woods. As for human waste, move off the trail and away from streams several hundred feet, dig a small pit and deposit human waste there. Cover the pit with soil and leaf litter.

FIRST AID: Bring a good hiker's first aid kit with you and an ace bandage. Bring mole skin with you, too.

MAPS: Bring a set of Cohos Trail maps with you and a compass.

PACK: Since you will have to carry a lot of weight, be sure your pack is sound and well built to distribute weight to your hips and shoulders. Bring extra cord and a bit of wire in case the pack needs a repair on the trail.

SHOES: Sound, low-impact hiking boots are a must. Your feet will take a beating so don't skimp on the boots. And wear thick, absorbant socks and have several pairs with you.

INSECTS: If you hike during black fly season, you must carry bug dope. I like the stuff that's made locally by local folks. Wear long-sleeve shirts and a bandana or broad-brimmed hat soaked with bug dope.

QUIET: Keep quiet. Experience the loud silence of the Coos forests and mountains. You'll never want to play a video game again.

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