Home > Isolation
Preplanned Hike for Mt. Isolation:  Rocky Branch Trail
Quick Facts I
From/To
Rocky Branch parking area
NH 16
4 mi. south of AMC's Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Distance
14.6 miles
Time
10 hours
Moderately Difficult
Note
* view of Mt. Washington & southern Presidential Range
* hike includes: rock-hopping, river crossings, enchanted forest
Hike Rating 4 Stars
Quick Facts II
Elevation
4,004 ft.
Location
Jackson, NH
Pinkham Notch
Best Map
AMC White Mountain Guide,
26th ed., Map #1

Mountain
Summits.com
Recommendation

Recommended

Overview

     Hikers who venture out to remote Mt. Isolation will be rewarded with a new perspective on Mt. Washington and the southern Presidential Range.  Isolation offers a view of these mountains that many hikers - who have gazed upon Washington from the familiar vantage points of the Presidentials themselves or from the Carters or Franconia Range - will not have seen before.  Isolation is located south of Mt. Washington on the Montalban Ridge with the southern Presidential Range extending along its western flank.  Isolation is aptly named as it is remote and there is no fast way to reach it.  Many hikers choose to hike it in two days but it can be tackled as a long day-hike (click on the preplanned hike to the left for more information). Isolation is one of the 48 designated 4,000 Footers in New Hampshire.

Mileage

Rocky Branch Trail > Isolation Trail > Davis Path > Mt. Isolation summit path > Mt. Isolation

0 mi.     Rocky Branch parking lot, NH 16
2.8 mi.  flat section
3.7 mi.  junction Rocky Branch Trail & Isolation Trail/Rocky Branch River
6.3 mi.  junction Isolation Trail & Davis Path
7.2 mi.  junction Davis Path & Mt. Isolation summit path
7.3 mi.  Mt. Isolation summit

The Hike

     The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot.  There are no blazes or tree markers.  There is plenty of water in rivers for refilling water bottles all along the way.  This hike offers diverse experiences: flat sections, rock hopping, river crossings, an enchanted forest, and a rocky bald at the end.  The Rocky Branch Trail starts as an old logging road that is easy hike.  It soon comes to a junction with a ski trail where the Rocky Branch Trail veers left and narrows and steepens.  At almost 3 miles from the start, you come to a flat, pleasant stretch of land that lasts a good mile.  Then it's a short, easy up to a tricky section where the trail is located in a stream with big rocks that you must hop from one to the other.  Just before reaching the Rocky Branch River, there is a campsite on the left.  It is a beautiful spot with a fire pit, views through the coniferous trees, open, airy, and very nice.
     The Rocky Branch Trail ends at the Rocky Branch River.  After you cross the river, you'll see the Isolation Trail sign.  Take a right to proceed to the Davis Path.  But if you took a left, you would find Shelter #2 about a 100 feet down the trail.  This shelter could sleep 10 people easily and it's in pretty good shape.  It is slated to be removed when major repairs will be required, which should be a few years away.  There is no sign of a privy so practice Leave No Trace waste disposal.  There is a good tent spot for one or two tents between the trail and the shelter.
      On the Isolation Trail, you'll cross the Rocky Branch River about 5 times, passing a couple marked camping spots along the way.  Then you enter what I have dubbed the "enchanted forest."  It looks like a place Peter Pan would hang out.  There are myriad streams, ferns, luscious vegetation, and fallen down trees.  Following the trail is a little tricky here and nighthiking would likely get you lost.  When you emerge from this magical home of trolls and gnomes, you will see the Davis Path sign.  Turn left.
      This section of the Davis Path is an easy hike.  There is a marked campsite about 100 feet on the left.  You will arrive at the Mt. Isolation summit sign with the path to the summit on the right.
      Isolation's summit is a flat, rocky bald.  360 view.  To orient yourself:  Washington is N, Carrigain and to the right Hancock to the SW, the Wildcats and Carters to the E, and the entire southern Presidential Range to the W.  You can see the AMC's Mizpah Hut below and to the left of Pierce if you look closely.  Washington and the southern Presidentials look grand from this perspective.

Directions

To Rocky Branch parking area on NH 16:

From the north:

4 mi. from Pinkham Notch
Rocky Branch parking area on right

From south:

7.5 mi. from junction NH 302 & NH 16
Rocky Branch parking area on left

Submitted by: Mark, MountainSummits.com, age 30, athletic, male.


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