Mount Isolation Via Glen Boulder

Isolation via Glen Boulder

Hike Date: August 28, 2020

We took Glen Boulder Trail to Davis Path, which provides extended views above treeline of the Presidential Range, for our second time summiting Mt. Isolation.


Elevation Gain
0 ft


Segment Distance

Total Distance

Route Description

0 mi0 miStart at Glen Ellis Falls parking
3.2 mi3.2 miGlen Boulder Trail to Davis Path
2.8 mi6 miDavis Path to the summit of Mt. Isolation
2.8 mi8.8 miDavis Path back to Glen Boulder Trail
3.2 mi12 miGlen Boulder Trail back to the parking lot


Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using the White Mountain Guide and Trail Maps.

The first time we hiked Mt. Isolation, we took Rocky Branch Trail with the Engine Hill Bushwack both ways during winter. This was a completely different hike and experience. It was hard, but just may be one of our new favorite hikes of all time! 

We parked at Glen Ellis Falls parking lot on a late August day. The air was crisp, showing signs of the start of fall. Right from the outset, the trail immediately climbed. It gained about 3,500ft of the total 4,800ft of elevation in the first 3 miles of a 12 mile hike! The first mile was a straight rock stairmaster under the trees and took almost an hour for us to climb even though we were moving at a relatively steady pace. After the initial mile, we popped out to an open area and climbed some pretty steep rock boulders and slabs with Glen Boulder silhouetted starkly against the bright blue sky. The massive rock on the shoulder of Mt. Washington beckoned to us to just keep climbing.

Rock stairmaster of Glen Bounder Trail
Climbing rock slabs
Looking up toward Glen Boulder

We paused at Glen Boulder to admire the already sweeping views so early in the hike and catch our breath for the rest of the climb. Beyond Glen Boulder, we continued ascending on the open side of the slope with Mt. Washington looming large to our right.

Glen Boulder
View of Mt. Washington from Glen Boulder

Then, the trail passed through a surprisingly long stretch of scrubby trees. This section felt a little claustrophobic at times with branches brushing both shoulders and clawing at our clothes. We reemerged in the open air, now properly above treeline, and could see the Davis Path juncture in front of us and a beautiful view of the ridge we just hiked behind us.

Claustrophobic trail above Glen Boulder
Looking back at the ridge we climbed

As we approached the juncture with the Davis Path, the clouds rolled in and it got cold and windy very quickly. This was just a reminder of how unpredictable the weather can be when you are on exposed mountains near the Presidential Range! The view south from here may be one of the best in the entire White Mountains – it became a fast favorite of ours. Cairns line the way down the exposed path with an ocean of mountains stretching to the horizon. The darkening clouds took away some of the magic, so we hoped for a sunnier afternoon when we would return on our way back.

Look up toward the Davis Path juncture

We ate a very quick snack and then practically ran down the open section of the Davis Path to take cover from the wind underneath the trees on our way to Isolation. As we continued to take steps down, we thought, oh no, this means we have to climb back up this! We passed through some areas with downed trees, some flat sections, hiked over North Isolation, and made the gradual ascent to Mt. Isolation. Ironically, Mt. Isolation is only just above 4,000ft of elevation, lower than North Isolation, but it has the 200ft of prominence required to be a 4,000 footer on AMC’s list.

Looking down the Davis Path

We ran into a couple of hikers on the way, but the trail was mostly quiet on a Friday afternoon. Reminiscing about our trip last time, we noticed that when we hiked this in winter, we were literally standing at least 5-6 feet higher atop the snow. It was a much easier hike on the actual ground not having to contend with the treetops hemming us in!

The summit of Mt. Isolation is marked with a small cairn and offers some great views of Mt. Washington and the Southern Presidentials. The clouds had mostly cleared by this point and the mountains were basking in the sun. We ate lunch with a watchful Gray Jay hoping for a bite, unaware of the majesty of its surroundings.

Cairn on the summit of Mt. Isolation
Mt. Isolation summit marker
Friendly Gray Jay

Now halfway through the hike, we headed back the way we came to return to the trailhead. We got exactly what we hoped for when we emerged above treeline again on the Davis Path – a bright sunny afternoon! The marvelous display of alpine beauty filled us up and made the difficult trail a joy to climb. The cairns and the sea of mountains were the absolute highlight of this hike.

Emerging onto a sunny Davis Path above treeline
Perfect hiking conditions
One of the best views in the Whites on the Davis Path

Once we reached Glen Boulder Trail it was all downhill. We managed the descent back to Glen Boulder, took our last looks at Mt. Washington, and handled the bone jarring steps down the rocks and slabs. Overall, we were elated and fulfilled with the feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of a tough hike.

Descending from Glen Boulder
Last view of Mt. Washington

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