This is so subjective that it almost seems futile. However, here are a few ideas on more interesting round trips you may want to take. In general, these suggestions take advantage of the gentlest uphill climbs (with the exception of the Spellman Trail), and avoid the steepest uphill trails altogether. Remember, you're likely to be very tired coming down and the steep slopes may be tricky for wobbly legs to negotiate! Be sure to keep your map handy, as these suggestions include many twists and turns. Always check with park personnel before following any routes. Follow these suggestions at your own risk. It's your own responsibility not to get lost or injured.
|What may be a pretty gentle climb: From the Park headquarters, take the Parker Trail to the Cliff Walk Trail, about 1 mile. Follow Cliff Walk up to Bald Rock, maybe another mile. From Bald rock, take the Smith Connecting Trail across the White Cross and then the White Dot Trails to the Red Spot Trail, about three-quarters a mile. Turn left and go about two hundred yards up to the Pumpelly Trail, turning left again to the summit, about 770 yards. The typical descent would be down the White Dot to the White Cross, rejoining the White Dot and down to Park Headquarters—or you could reverse your original route, but it's quite long. Total distance is about 3 1/2 miles, with an average 11% grade, though there are a few steeper sections. Starting at the Old Toll Road parking area would reduce the length by about half a mile, without significantly increasing the difficulty. Just remember to take one of the routes down that returns to that area!|
|Moderately Gentle: Park at the Old Toll Road. Take Old Halfway House to Pt. Surprise to Cliff Walk to Bald Rock. Catch the view of the summit, then take Smith Connecting Link to the White Cross, go up (left) to the White Dot and the Summit. Return via the White Arrow to the Sidefoot to the Old Halfway House Site and the Old Halfway House Trail. A very pleasant trip, with few other hikers from the Pt. Surprise Trail until you reach the White Cross Trail.|
|Dramatic, Demanding and Steep: White Dot to Cascade Link to the Spellman Trail—fairly easy to this point. Take the Spellman up to the Pumpelly, a demanding climb. Follow the Pumpelly to the left up to the Summit—again fairly easy. Descend via the typical White Dot to the White Cross route. For an easier ascent, take the Red Spot Trail, or continue on the Cascade Link, rather than taking the Spellman.|
|Grand Tour # 1 Long but rewarding
If you have plenty of time, you might want to try a route combining the Southeastern trails with the Southwestern trails. Ascend as described in the previous suggestion. Descend via the White Arrow Trail to the Sidefoot/Amphitheater Trails. Follow the Amphitheater Trail to the Smith Connecting Link, and then to Bald Rock. From there, take the Cliff Walk to the Lost Farm Trail and finally the Parker Trail back to the Park headquarters. Alternatively, and a bit longer, take the Cliff Walk directly to the Parker Trail and follow that back to Park Headquarters. These combinations could take six or more hours.
|Grand Tour #2 Very long, but quite enjoyable,
especially if you take the alternate route from the Halfway House.
You'll encounter crowds for a very small percentage of this hike; the
White Dot to Cascade Link will be crowded, as will the summit itself,
and you might encounter some other hikers along parts of the Pumpelly
and the short section of the White Arrow Trail and the road. Otherwise,
the route is barely traveled.
Ascent: From the Park Headquarters, take the White Dot up to the Cascade Link. Follow it to the Pumpelly Trail. Turn left to follow the Pumpelly to the summit. This is pretty easy to this point, arguably as easy or even easier than the Gentlest Climb described above.
Descent: Take the Dublin Trail, about 90 degrees north (right)
of the way you came up to the summit, to the Marlboro Trail. Continue
down the Marlboro Trail to the Marian Trail Junction. Follow the
Marian Trail and Great Pasture Trail across to Monte Rosa and then the
Fairy Spring Trail. Turn right at the Fairy Spring Trail, which brings
you to the White Arrow Trail; bear right. The Halfway House stood where
the trail opens into a wide meadow. Continue down the trail, going
straight at the junction with the Halfway House Trail. (Don't take the
Halfway House Trail.) Stay on the road and watch for the Parker
Trail on the left. Take the Parker Trail back to the Park
Headquarters. This trail stays mostly in hardwood forest.
Check your maps to see how, at the Halfway House, you might negotiate the Pt. Surprise (or Hello Rock), Cliff Walk, Lost Farm and Parker Trails as an alternate, more varied return route to the Park Headquarters.