Route: Pemigewasset Loop (NH)

New Hampshire, US
28.7 mi
Vertical Gain
9,100 ft

The Pemigewasset Loop is a rugged 30-mile route in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It has become a popular backpacking route, as well as a tough 1-day challenge. This page has detailed information about the route.  Here we record FKTs for the loop in either direction, plus for the Double Pemi, as well as for the so-called "Super Pemi", or "Super Extended Pemi", which adds on North Twin, Hale, and Zealand (or the reverse) to create a larger loop of around 43 miles with about 15,000' of climbing. More information on the Super Pemi is linked in the FKT report by Nate Weeks. As a further challenge is the 14 Pemi 4000ft that visit all 14 peaks above 4000ft (see below). Lastly, there is the Twins/Bonds Traverse from North Twin Trailhead to Lincoln Woods Trailhead as outlined here. This route is a formidable single-day trek, almost totaling 20 miles. It is normally done as a two-day backpacking trip, and has multiple miles of ridgeline above 4000 feet high, and climbs almost 5000 ft. West Bond is known to be one of the best views in the entirety of the White Mountains. The trail follows the Eastern side of the Pemi loop.

NOTE:  The Pemi Loop has a Strava Segment.  But, the Segment starts & ends on the north side of the bridge over the East Branch Pemigewasset River.  The FKT is car-to-car, so starting and ending at the parking lot.  It's not a huge difference (about 500' total), but for such a competitive FKT it is important to have consistency.

Eli Burakian pioneered an option do climb all 14 4000ers within the Pemigewasset Wilderness (50 miles, 17,800' elevation gain).  Eli:  "The Pemigewasset Loop ... though aesthetically appealing, hits just eight of the 4000 footers in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. The route passes near four others, and that extended version is also straightforward and achievable. In 2016, Nate Weeks put up the FKT for the "Super Pemi" which adds on Mt. Hale. This is a fantastic loop, but still only covers 13 of the 14 peaks.  Owls Head, at just over 4,000 feet looks like a hump in the middle of the wilderness. It's out of the way and seemingly is not part of any logical loop. But it actually is!"  Here is Eli's suggested route, starting from Lincoln Woods (however, the FKT is for tagging all the peaks TH-TH, so you can use any route):

  1. Lincoln Woods Trail to Osseo Trail
  2. Osseo Trail to Mt. Flume 
  3. Franconia Ridge Trail to Mt. Lafayette 
  4. backtrack to hump between Lafayette and Lincoln, cut right (east) off of the ridge near cairn
  5. bushwhack down to Lincoln Slide, probably 200 vertical feet (NOTE: this is fragile alpine terrain, be very careful to not step on the plants, use the rocks as much as possible. just be careful and respectful)
  6. from there just follow the slide which is loose scree over granite bedrock. It funnels down into a streamed where you follow it until a natural choke point. You definitely want dry conditions for this. At the choke point, head to the left and just head downhill (east) keeping the stream on your right.
  7. Reach Lincoln Brook, cross over it, and join the Lincoln Brook Trail. Head south for less than a mile to the Owl's Head Path
  8. Owls Head Path to summit of Owls Head
  9. Continue north past the summit of Owls Head, following the Ridgeline, which is tight bushwhack opening up down below. You basically head due north. (NOTE: on my supplied gpx file, I veered too far to the west, which is tighter going. Try to stay straight along the ridge.
  10. Reach Lincoln Brook trail and this time head North to Thirteen Falls and junction with Franconia Brook Trail
  11. Head Left (west) on Franconia Brook Trail to summit of Mt. Garfield
  12. Head back east on Garfield Ridge Trail to Galehead Hut
  13. Out and back to Galehead Mountain
  14. Twinway from hut to summit of South Twin Mountain
  15. North Twin spur to summit of North Twin
  16. North Twin Trail to Firewarden's Trail - IMPORTANT: Follow the North Twin trail down the mountain where it will eventually cross over the Little River. The trail at some point crosses back over to the west side of the river but there's also a trail that stays along the east side. Stay on the east side of the river and look for an obvious, but unsigned trail on the right somewhere around 2100 feet in elevation. Although this trail, called the Fire Warden's trail, isn't an official trail on most maps, it's very well maintained and provides a beautiful smooth non-technical ascent up Mt. Hale
  17. Lend-a-Hand Trail from Mt. Hale to Twinway
  18. Twinway to Bondcliff Trail
  19. Out-and-back to West Bond
  20. Bondcliff Trail to Lincoln Woods Trail
  21. Lincoln Woods. You're done! 

Here's a summary of FKT activity on the (single) Pemi.  See the FKT reports for more detailed information:

Ryan Welts launched a recent spate of FKT attempts on the Pemi by running the route in 7h05m32s on August 9, 2009. He had support on Mt. Lafayette and had made a food drop at Galehead Hut the day before.

Less than a month later, on September 4, 2009, Ben Nephew (9 time Escarpment Trail winner) and Kevin Tilton ran the Pemi in a new FKT of 7h04m47s, taking just 45 seconds off of Welts' record!

Jan Wellford beat Nephew & Tilton's time on September 8, 2010, running the loop in 6h47m04s.

Next, on June 19, 2011, Adam Wilcox did the Pemi in 6h46m10s, less than 1 minute faster than Wellford.

On September 11, 2011, Ben Nephew cruised the Pemi in 6h27m48s. This time stood as the FKT for nearly 4 years.

Adam Wilcox reclaimed this hotly contested FKT on June 14, 2015, running the route in 6h14m34s. Wilcox said "After almost 4 years of trying, this one meant a lot to me."

Not to be outdone, Nephew reclaimed the FKT from Wilcox less than 2 months later, running 6h10m7s on August 8, 2015.

Finally, Ben Thompson has brought the FKT down by a few more minutes, running the loop in 6h6m53s on September 12, 2017.

As best I can tell, prior to Welts the FKT for the Pemi Loop was held by Alex Kahl, at "about 7h25m" in (August?) 2005. Charles Dona reported doing 7h26m31s in September 2008, which seems to be close enough to "about 7h25m" to be considered a tie.

"Is someone chasing you or are you doing this for fun?" -- Kevin Tilton

Here's a fun and short (< 4mins) video by Robert Blakemore replaying the 9 fastest Pemi times as if were a race:

Men's Pemi Loop FKT progress:
Alex Kahl, about 7h25m, 2005
Charles Dona, 7h26m31s, Sept. 2008
Ryan Welts, 7h5m32s, Aug. 9, 2009
Ben Nephew & Kevin Tilton, 7h4m47s, Sept. 4, 2009
Jan Wellford, 6h47m4s, Sept. 8, 2010
Adam Wilcox, 6h46m10s, June 19, 2011
Ben Nephew, 6h27m48s, Sept. 11, 2011
Adam Wilcox, 6h14m34s, June 14, 2015
Ben Nephew, 6h10m7s, Aug. 8, 2015

Ben Thompson, 6h6m53s, Sep. 12, 2017


Kristina Folcik ran the Pemi in 9h3m15s on Aug. 27, 2011. Prior to this, the fastest women's time appears to have been by Sue Johnston, 9h15m. Folcik's time was bested less than a year later (June 16, 2012) by Larisa Dannis, who ran counter-clockwise in 7h40m52s.  Three months later, Dannis reported (below) beating her own FKT by about 6 minutes, running 7h34m25s on Sept. 17, 2012. Kelsey Allen reported (below) setting a new women's FKT of 7h12m55s on August 30, 2014.



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I ran the Pemi Loop clockwise in 6h 22m 3s on July 11th, 2018. Not an FKT, but of note because it’s the 4th fastest time. Here’s the link to the GPS file:

Hey everyone, I am planning my race and FKT attempt schedule for 2019 and the Pemi is top on my list. After analyzing previous attempts and map data, I believe that the fastest time will likely result from starting the attempt within the loop rather than the traditional Lincoln trailhead. I plan to hike in and camp near my start point the night before, and run either clockwise from a Mt. Bond start or counterclockwise from a Mt. Flume start. I believe that a clockwise approach from a Mt. Bond start will be the most efficient for me. It is my understanding, based on previous discussions, that an individual can choose any start point within a loop course as long as the entire distance is covered?

If you do it that way we would certainly report it as the FKT, unless someone comes up with a logical objection.  Of course you need to do the out & back to the standard TH. It shouldn't matter where on the loop you start, as has been the case for some other loop routes (e.g., Wonderland Trail, Timberline Trail).  That said, for aesthetic reasons I would consider it carefully.  It's cool & valid to be innovative, but tradition/history is also important.

Thanks for the feedback Peter. I could potentially make two attempts, first as a course scouting/ possible FKT attempt from the traditional start point, and then a second attempt from the within loop start point I described. Tradition, and the history of this FKT, is very important. However, I think that others will inevitably use within loop start points as the time gets closer to 5 hours for the Pemi. 

I’m not sure why you prefer that (I’d go CCW from the trailhead like Adam), but it’s legit in my book. As long as you cross the bridge and tag the ranger station at the Lincoln Woods trailhead when you’re in the valley, starting from Liberty/Guyot/Garfield/Galehead would still cover the same distance and elevation.

Why do you think starting from Bond would be faster? Definitely not obvious to me! 

I believe that a start from Flume counterclockwise or Bond (probably mid descent) clockwise will give most runners an advantage if mountain/ technical trail running ability is similar because they will be running the less technical parts of the course on fresh legs. At least for me, it would be an advantage to run those miles with fresh legs. I have more time to gain by running it that way. I probably won’t end up trying it this year, but it seems like it would be a fun run!

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Hey folks! Stringbean here, going after the FKT on the Pemi this weekend in pursuit of Patrick Caron's blazing fast time tomorrow, 10/26. I will be departing tomorrow morning self-supported and will report back with any updates.

I will be using a COROS Vertix and taking a few photos along the way. Currently raining and freezing temperatures overnight, the elements are most certainly not on my side. Chances look slim at going sub 6, but it should a fun little adventure, at the very least. First updates will be posted on my instagram @thestring.bean

I made a short (less than four minute) video that plays back some of the recent FKTs and other fast attempts on the Pemi loop. Kind of like Strava flybys if you're familiar with that, but made in Google Earth.

New to the site and was curious what I was unable to dl the above gpx file, says access denied? 

Regional Editor Note: As a brief historical note it looks like Alister Gardner was the second person to go sub-6hr the same day, but slightly after Patrick ran his blazing time.  Alister ran a 5:56:22 on 8/11/2018.  He ran it supported but as Patrick's time was an unsupported and faster (and hour earlier) it doesn't get on the board as an FKT.

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I will be Running clockwise on the Pemi loop. Will be starting tomorrow morning around 8 o’clock and plan to run and unsupported. I will be carrying a few thousand calories and two filtered soft flask bottles. Date will be June 16 2021. This is my first attempt at an FKT. I won’t be taking any outside aid and plan to filter my water at the designated areas. This should be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get out there and give it my best.✌️

Ryan Williams asked a few of us to comment on the inclusion of the Garfield summit on this route.

My policy has always been to follow the route of the person who set the FKT.  Debates to include various summits on routes could get endless.  With this situation, it is pretty minor, and if someone can set the FKT with Garfield, than it should be included from then on.  However, deciding on route changes by committee is not the way to go in general, similar with deferring to what is written in a guidebook.  That type of thing has and will lead to confusion.  If someone posts an FKT, that is the route.  Unless I am mistaken, changes based on a runner's opinion of the route are not permitted.

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Has anyone claimed the winter loop yet? 

I finished it yesterday at turtle pace:

Anything below tree line had deep snow soft in most places best with snowshoes. Above tree line was bare rock covered occasionally with ice.

Temperature was reasonable all day hovering just below freezing. Wind was mild above tree line.

Had plenty of food. Found one water source half way at Garfield camp site.