Mt Jackson is ranked #38 on the White Mountain 4000 Footer List. While it is only 4052′ high, it’d be natural to assume that it’s an easier mountain to climb. Most people don’t make that mistake twice. But the effort required to hike Jackson is handsomely rewarded with great views of Mts Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce from its open summit.

There are three different routes you can follow to climb Mt Jackson, some easier than others. All of these routes start from Crawford Notch and provide a wonderful introduction to the White Mountain 4000-footers.

  1. Via the Crawford Path and Mizpah Hut
  2. Via the Webster-Jackson Trail
  3. Via the Webster Cliff Trail

Of these, the first route via the Crawford Path is the easiest and most gradual. The Webster Jackson Trail is the shortest but steepest, while the Webster Cliff Trail has the best views but is the longest and has the most total elevation gain.

The best map to carry for all three of these routes is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Presidential Range Map (Map 1), which you can purchase online or in the trail shop at the AMC’s Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Detailed trail descriptions can be found in the AMC’s White Mountain Guide, which I highly recommend getting if you plan to hike in the White Mountains regularly.

Mt Jackson Via the Crawford Path and Mizpah Hut

Gibbs Falls, a Viewpoint on the Crawford Path
Gibbs Falls, a Viewpoint on the Crawford Path

This route climbs the Crawford Path to the Mizpah Cuttoff trail which leads to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mizpah Hut, where you can stop and get refreshments or use the bathroom. From there, you’ll hike south to the summit of Mt Jackson, which requires a moderate rock scramble to the summit. The total distance, one way, is 4.2 miles with 2450′ of elevation gain which should take an average hiker 3:15 to hike.

Parking

The best place to park for this route is at the hiker lot off of Mt Clinton Rd, 0.1 miles north of its intersection with Rt 302 at the top of Crawford Notch. A US Forest Service parking fee is required. The Crawford Connector trail (below) leaves from this lot. Hikers may also park along Rt 302, although state law requires that all the wheels of your vehicle be off-pavement. If parking along Rt 302, begin the route at the base of the Crawford Path across from the AMC’s Highland Center parking lot which is restricted to overnight guests.

Trails (one way)

  1. Crawford Connector – 0.4 miles
  2. Crawford Path  – 1.5 miles
  3. Mizpah Cutoff – 0.7 miles
  4. Webster Cliff Trail – 1.6 miles

This entire route runs through forest, is well marked, heavily traveled, and well protected from inclement weather. Follow the Crawford Connector, turning left onto the Crawford Path, which is the oldest continuously maintained hiking trail in the United States. While the first part of this route climbs vigorously at times, the second part is much more gradual. Turn right when you reach Mizpah Cutoff junction and follow it to the AMC’s Mizpah Hut, turning right onto the Webster Cliff Trail just before you reach the hut. Follow this trail to the Mt Jackson summit.

Mt Jackson Via the Webster-Jackson Trail

The Webster-Jackson Trail is steep, rocky, and full of tree roots.
The Webster-Jackson Trail is steep, rocky, and full of tree roots.

The Webster-Jackson trail is steep and starts climbing almost immediately. Kids will probably love it, but parents less so. There are several rocky stream crossings along the route which can be crossed without getting your feet wet, but require balance and some agility to cross. A difficult rocky scramble is required to reach the top of Mt Jackson and is not advised if you have a fear of heights or poor balance. The total distance, one way, is 2.6 miles with 2200′ of elevation gain which should take an average hiker 2:25 to hike.

Parking

The best place to park is on the west side of Rt 302 in Crawford Notch in the big gravel parking lot just south of Saco Lake. This is a no-fee lot. Hikers also park along Rt 302, although state law requires that all the wheels of your vehicle be off-pavement. The Webster-Jackson Trail begins at the posted sign across Rt 302 from the gravel lot.

Trails (one way)

  1. Webster-Jackson Trail – 1.4 miles
  2. Jackson Branch (of the Webster-Jackson trail) – 1.2 miles

Follow the Webster-Jackson Trail for 1.4 miles until you reach a junction where the trail splits. Bear left to follow the Jackson Branch which continues to climb steeply before reaching a short, but rocky and potentially difficult scramble to the Jackson summit.

Mt Jackson Via the Webster-Cliff Trail

The first ledge viewpoint on the Webster-Cliff Trail
The first ledge viewpoint on the Webster-Cliff Trail

The Webster-Cliff Trail climbs Mt Webster (3910′) before continuing to Mt Jackson. It starts at the bottom of Crawford Notch and not the top, so you have to climb an extra 800′ of elevation from the get-go. The first part of the route climbs steeply through forest until you reach the top of Webster Cliff. From there, it runs along the cliff with impressive views down into the chasm of Crawford Notch below. It’s a rough trail with several rocky scrambles and numerous open ledges as you make your way up to Mt Webster. From Webster, the trail moderates until you get to a short but challenging rocky scramble up to the Jackson summit. The total distance, one way, is 4.7 miles with 3150′ of elevation gain which should take an average hiker 3:55 to hike.

Parking

The Webster-Cliff Trail which is part of the Appalachian Trail leaves from the east side of Rt 302 at Willey House Station Road, which is 1.0 mile north of the Willey House Site and NH State Snack Bar and 2.6 miles south of Saco Lake (at the bottom of Crawford Notch). There are gravel lot at the corner with Rt 302 where you can park. No fee is required.

Trails (one-way)

  1. Webster Cliff Trail – 4.7 miles

Follow the Webster Cliff Trail all the way, which is blazed in white because it coincides with the Appalachian Trail.

PDF Map of all Three Routes

Mt Jackson 3 Routes
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