2 day Pemi Loop

More than 33 miles over 2 days backpacking the Pemi Loop through some of the most rugged and incredible terrain in the White Mountains.


Elevation Gain
0 ft
Hours Day 1
Hours Day 2


Segment Distance

Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Lincoln Woods Trailhead
1.4 mi1.4 miLincoln Woods Trail to Osseo Trail
4.1 mi5.5 miOsseo Trail to summit of Mt. Flume
1.2 mi6.7 miFranconia Ridge Trail to summit of Mt. Liberty
2.1 mi8.8 miContinue on Franconia Ridge Trail to Little Haystack
0.7 mi9.5 miContinue to summit of Mt. Lincoln
1.0 mi10.5 miContinue to summit of Mt. Lafayette
3.7 mi14.5 miGarfield Ridge Trail to summit of Mt. Garfield (we stayed at Garfield Ridge Shelter about 0.5 mi past the summit)
2.9 mi17.1 miContinue to Galehead Hut
0.4 mi17.5 miUp spur trail to summit of Galehead Mountain
0.4 mi17.9 miDown spur trail back to Galehead Hut
0.8 mi18.7 miUp Twinway to summit of South Twin Mountain (relentless climb)
2.8 mi21.5 miContinue on Twinway then Bondcliff Trail past Guyot Shelter to West Bond spur trail
0.5 mi22 miUp spur trail to summit of West Bond
0.5 mi22.5 miDown spur trail to rejoin Bondcliff Trail
0.5 mi23 miContinue on Bondcliff Trail to summit of Mt. Bond
1.2 mi24.2 miContinue to summit of Bondcliff
6.2 mi30.4 miDown Bondcliff Trail to Lincoln Woods Trail
2.9 mi33.3 miLincoln Woods Trail back to parking lot


Pemi Loop Map

Pemi Loop Day 1:

Started at Lincoln Woods and chatted with a friendly ranger who made sure we were fully prepared. This loop is not to be taken lightly! The Forest Service charges a small fee, $5 per day, for parking at Lincoln Woods. You could also buy an annual White Mountain National Forest recreation pass or an America the Beautiful pass (covers all federal lands including National Parks) if you regularly visit locations that charge fees. We buy the America the Beautiful pass each year to cover our parking fees in the White Mountains and to visit National Parks around the country. Here are the other White Mountain National Forest fee areas.

The first 1.4 mi of flat hiking on Lincoln Woods Trail gave us an easy start. We turned left on Osseo Trail and climbed 4.1 mi with the aid of ladders in some spots to the summit of Mt. Flume.

Ladders up Mount Flume
Ladders on the Osseo Trail
Hiking Franconia Ridge
Hiking Franconia Ridge

We had the best weather imaginable for this backpacking trip. It was sunny with clear skies and was warm but not sweltering. I truly couldn’t ask for better conditions to get outdoors. We quickly covered the 1.2 mi on Franconia Ridge Trail to the summit of Mt. Liberty for views across Franconia Notch to Cannon Mountain and the Kinsmans.

We continued for 2.1 mi on Franconia Ridge Trail to Little Haystack, popping above treeline where we would stay for the next few miles. There were already amazing views from there, but they just got better. Franconia Ridge Trail provides quintessential ridgeline hiking and we thoroughly enjoyed the 0.7 mi stretch up to Mt. Lincoln. The view of the terrain we just covered with the pointy peaks of Flume and Liberty in the distance was breathtaking. We were also treated to amazing views of the whole Pemi Wilderness and the ground we still had to cover.

Pemi Loop_Franconia Ridge View
Franconia Ridge View

We ran into the hoards of hikers doing the Franconia Ridge loop crawling in a constant stream in both directions. We followed the ridge as it descended a little and then climbed up the rugged slope to Mt. Lafayette – a total distance of 1 mi between the summits. We were starting to feel the mileage of the day and slowing down despite the incredible scenery.

View of the Whole Pemi Wilderness
View of the Whole Pemi Wilderness

We left the masses behind as we continued on Garfield Ridge Trail. The section just past Lafayette was one of my favorites of the entire loop. Still above treeline and following cairns through the harsh alpine landscape, it feels like you are walking off the end of the world. After that, the trail descends absurdly rapidly – trekking poles were essential in saving our knees! The worst was knowing that for every step down, we had another step to climb back up the next peak (Read about this feeling in the poem The Col).

Garfield Ridge Trail
Walking off the Edge of the Earth on Garfield Ridge Trail

Climbing up Mt. Garfield was one of the most difficult sections of hiking we have, and maybe ever will, encounter. The climb was relentless, the terrain was all jagged rock, and I ran out of water half way up. I DO NOT do well without water! I learned how important it is for me to carry more than others recommend. We finally made it to the summit of Mt. Garfield 3.8 mi past Lafayette and looked back on the mountains we traversed that day. We chatted with some AT thru-hikers as the sun sank lower and then headed to Garfield Ridge Shelter for the night.

View from Mount Garfield
View from Mount Garfield

The campsite is less than half a mile past the summit, but in our condition after about 13 mi on the day, and still without water, it felt like it took forever to reach. Important tip: the spring for water is right by the trail and the campsites are another quarter mile in. So if you can, fill up on water for the night before getting a campsite.

Here is a link to more info on Garfield Ridge Shelter. Check in with the caretaker and pay a $10 fee per person. Tent platforms are available, but they were full by the time we got there late in the day. Many thru-hikers opt to stay in the lean-to shelter and avoid having to set up a tent at all. We set up our tent in a small overflow area. There is a nice viewpoint with a small bench along the way into the campsites where you can catch the sunset if you get there in time.

Pemi Loop Day 2:

The first stop of the day was Galehead Hut after 2.9 mi of hiking. We had cooked breakfast at camp, but upon reflection we should have left early and planned breakfast at the hut. You can buy some limited food, but you can also pay a dollar for hot water, make your food there, and enjoy breakfast at their tables. We saw many other hikers doing this and were jealous of their superior planning.

We left our packs at the hut and took the 0.4 mi spur trail up to the summit of Galehead Mountain to tag the small cairn that marks the peak. After retracing our steps and picking our packs back up, we headed 0.8 mi up the Twinway to the summit of South Twin Mountain. Don’t let the seemingly short distance fool you. Even early in the day, this was one of the tougher sections of the whole loop. The trail climbs steadily straight up without relenting, barely even a twist or turn. You just look up and see all that remains to tackle. It’s like a rock escalator that isn’t running. It was so tiring, we didn’t even take a picture.

The 360 degree views from South Twin make the tough climb completely worth it. We got more perfect weather and could see for days!

View from South Twin
View from South Twin

We continued down the Twinway and then onto Bondcliff Trail past Guyot Shelter to the West Bond spur trail. A 0.5 mi spur trail took us to the summit of West Bond, jutting out into the middle of the Pemi Wilderness. From there, we took in views of the route to come over Bondcliff.

View from West Bond
View from West Bond

We retraced our steps back to Bondcliff Trail and then climbed 0.5 mi to Mt. Bond with more sweeping views of the entire Pemi. It’s nothing short of spectacular. Much of the trail from South Twin to the Bonds takes you through the scrubby subalpine zone with tiny trees stunted by the extreme conditions. I personally love hiking through these areas. They’re just beautiful to me.

View from Mount Bond
View from Mount Bond

After admiring the view and the surroundings, we continued 1.2 mi to Bondcliff. This section of trail was a joy to hike. It felt a little like a victory parade to reach the last peak of the Pemi Loop. I took the classic Bondcliff picture standing out on the ledge looking across the Pemi over Owl’s Head toward Franconia Ridge.

Trail to Bondcliff
Trail to Bondcliff
On Bondcliff
Taking in the Scenery from Bondcliff
View from Bondcliff
View from Bondcliff

We had originally planned on camping another night, but decided to hike an extra 6 miles or so to finish in 2 days. We hiked 6.2 mi down Bondcliff Trail, passing where we would have camped along the way, and finished with 2.9 excruciating mi on Lincoln Woods Trail. By the last few miles, my shoulders were killing me and I wanted nothing more than to throw my pack in the woods and pretend I never liked hiking to begin with. Our metal fortitude increased with each step and made us stronger hikers than we thought we could be. We completed a total of 19 mi on the day – more than we ever had before.

Hiking Lincoln Woods Trail
Endless Hike Out Lincoln Woods Trail

After reaching our car we booked it to town for some well-deserved pizza and chicken fingers. I just couldn’t eat enough to replenish the calories burnt on such an epic trek!

Pemi Loop Tips:

  • Hike clockwise – this will give you an easier ascent at the start of the trip up Mt. Flume and take you across Franconia Ridge on day 1. Counterclockwise would be a longer lead in on the flat Lincoln Woods Trail and a tougher ascent to Bondcliff. We chose to hike clockwise, but next time, we will probably try counterclockwise to compare the difference.
  • Fill up water at Liberty Springs Tentsite – it’s 0.3 mi down Liberty Spring Trail from Franconia Ridge just past Mt. Liberty. I didn’t fill mine up because I didn’t want to add any mileage and I paid for it later when I ran out of water going up Mt. Garfield. This is also a camping option if you want to make the Pemi Loop a longer backpacking trip.
  • Camp at Garfield Ridge Shelter – this is a good middle point, giving you 14.5 mi on day 1 and 19 mi on day 2. You could also go about 3 mi further on day 1 and stay at Galehead Hut. We also saw many hikers preparing breakfast at Galehead Hut. They offer hot water for a dollar so you don’t have to spend time cooking at camp. We wish we had taken advantage of that.
  • Tag extra peaks – There are 4 peaks that are just off the main Pemi Loop, but close enough to include if you choose. We opted to include Galehead and West Bond. The others added just a little too much mileage for us.
    • Galehead Mountain – 0.8 mi round trip
    • North Twin Mountain – 2.6 mi round trip
    • Zealand Mountain – 2.6 mi round trip
    • West Bond – 1 mi round trip
  • Make it 3 days if you want – camp at Guyot Shelter, just before the Bonds, to make a 3 day Pemi Loop.
  • Just keep waking – the last stretch of flat trail out Lincoln Woods feels way longer than it is. Just keep taking step after step and you will make it eventually.

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