Distance: 5.8 miles out and back
Recommended Gear: Microspikes and/or snowshoes
Over the last several weeks, we’ve been seeing photos and videos of people feeding gray jays up in the White Mountains, and the majority of the photos seem to have been taken on Mt. Tom. To be honest, we really aren’t bird people. We have a borderline obsession with large mammals (especially bears), but birds generally don’t move the needle for us. Realistically, I’d say there are about five birds that I’d be willing to get off the couch to go see: 1) bald eagle, 2) puffin, 3) penguin 4) ostrich, 5) flamingo. Gray jays aren’t even close to making that list; however, if there’s a chance that they will land on my hand or potentially pose for a picture on someone’s head, that changes everything. Naturally, we wasted no time planning a hike up Mt. Tom.
The Hike (Trail Map)
We got on the trail shortly after 9AM on January 2. It was about 30 degrees with clear skies which was perfect winter hiking weather. Although about a foot and a half of snow had fallen a few days prior, the trail was well packed and easily passable with microspikes. We ascended via the Avalon and A-Z Trail which begins at the Crawford Train Depot just off route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park. The incline was moderate at first and then began to get steeper as we progressed and there were some views of the Presidential Range through the trees as we gained elevation. The mileage varies on different websites and maps, but according to the trail signs, the hike was 5.8 miles round-trip.We hiked 1.3 miles along the Avalon Trail before meeting up with the A-Z Trail and hiking another mile before reaching the Mt. Tom Spur. The spur is a 0.6 mile push to the summit and this short stretch of trail was by far the most picturesque. The height of the surrounding trees became much shorter, and the snow-laden branches created a wintry canopy overhead.
Feeding the Jays
The summit itself had some nice views of the Presidentials and the Pemigewasset Wilderness, but at 4,052 feet, it definitely isn’t one of the taller or more impressive summits in the White Mountains. Besides, we didn’t come for the views anyway. Within a couple of minutes, a pair of jays were perched directly over our heads, waiting for us to dig into our bag of trail mix. This obviously wasn’t their first rodeo.
Many people choose to combine Mt. Tom with Mt. Field and Mt. Willey, but we were only in the market for one peak on that particular day. We descended the same way we went up, but since the steep trail was covered in over a foot of firmly-packed snow, there were several extended stretches where we were able to slide down on our butts. As you can imagine, it was a quick descent.
The hike was fairly challenging, but since it was only 5.8 miles total, we were down in time for a late lunch at Stickney’s at the Omni Mt. Washington Resort. The perfect weather, the jays, and the sliding descent made this an amazing winter day hike.