Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Taking the parking hassles out of hiking

By ROB BURBANK August 31. 2018 9:14PM


The Appalachian Mountain Club introduced its hikers' shuttle in the White Mountains region more than a quarter century ago as a hiker convenience and as a conservation initiative to help promote mass transit.

Still going strong today, the shuttle -- actually two shuttle buses, one plying a northern route and the other traveling a southern route -- continues to carry hikers to their preferred trailheads, allowing them to avoid spotting cars and cutting down on fuel consumed and parking spaces occupied at trailheads.

Proponents have even mused that a visitor could conceivably travel from Europe, say, using public transportation via subway, plane, bus, and hikers' shuttle and - completing the last leg of the journey by hiking - get all the way to one of AMC's White Mountain huts without driving a car.

Shuttle stops are located at convenient pick-up and drop-off points in local towns and major trailheads that connect to AMC's eight backcountry huts. Timing of shuttle stops helps to ensure travelers can hike to the huts in time to arrive before supper and can enjoy breakfast before hiking out in the morning.

The AMC Hiker Shuttle is scheduled to run daily through Sept. 16, and on weekends and holidays from Sept. 22 to Oct. 21.

Another shuttle is now available for hikers in Franconia Notch State Park, where an increase in the number of visitors has led to parking challenges at some of the park's more popular trailheads. In an effort to address overtaxed parking lots and combat illegal parking, the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation Aug. 3 kicked off a new shuttle service to transport hikers between the free and spacious Peabody Base Lodge parking lot at Cannon Mountain (off Exit 34-C) to the Lafayette Place Campground. On the return route, the shuttle picks up passengers at the Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters trailhead area and takes them back to the Peabody Base Lodge parking lot.

The Lafayette Place trailhead provides access to trails leading to AMC's Lonesome Lake Hut, including the Lonesome Lake, Cascade Brook, and Fishin' Jimmy trails.

The Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters trailhead area offers trails with access to Franconia Ridge and AMC's Greenleaf Hut.

A pedestrian tunnel runs beneath the Franconia Notch Parkway/Interstate 93 between Lafayette Place and the Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters trailhead area.

A pilot program, the shuttle service runs Fridays through Mondays, rain or shine, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Oct. 14. The round-trip fare is $5 per person. Only cash is accepted when payment is made on board. A credit card purchase option is available at Echo Lake Beach from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and at Lafayette Place Campground from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The ride from the Peabody Base Lodge parking lot to Lafayette Place takes 5 to 10 minutes.

An 11-passenger van provides service on Fridays and Mondays. A second van is added on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Although a shuttle service is not a normal park operation for us, we felt we should step up and provide a safe and legal parking alternative for visitors hiking in the park and national forest," said New Hampshire State Parks Director Phil Bryce in a statement announcing the new service. "I commend the Franconia Notch State Park team for their efforts to get the shuttle service launched."

State officials are slated to evaluate the service to identify any changes needed and to determine its feasibility going forward. Bryce told the Union Leader's John Koziol last week that "right now it's not paying for itself, and being a self-funded park system, we're going to figure that out."

Officials noted the state has been working with the White Mountain National Forest and a variety of other partners over the past year to address parking issues in Franconia Notch.

More information on the shuttle and hiking trails and parking options in the area is available at tinyurl.com/notchparking and outdoors.org/2018-travel-advisories. Information on schedules and fares for the AMC Hiker Shuttle is available at www.outdoors.org/lodging-camping/lodging-shuttle.

Rob Burbank is director of external relations for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly.


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