North Twin, South Twin and Galehead mountains make up the northern portion of the Pemigewasset Wilderness along with Mount Garfield. South Twin is part of the Pemiloop, while Galehead and North Twin are short side trips. Combining both Twins and Galehead in a day hike is punishing on the thighs with nearly 5,400 feet of total elevation gain, but it rewards hikers with great views from the ridge between the Twins, a visit to Galehead Hut, and three more Northeast 4,000 footers.
The trail starts at the end of Haystack Road (winter closure information below), along which several free backcountry campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It follows the Little River and crosses it three times, including one crossing that usually involves getting a bit wet, especially in high waters or in the spring. Rock hopping is not always possible.
The ascent begins after 1.9 miles. It is steep and steady for most of the next 2.4 miles on the way to the top of North Twin Mountain (4,761 feet). Just as the ridge is reached, the grade eases and great views can be enjoyed toward North Twin and South Twin. The best views are on the ridge before and after the summit; there are no views from the summit.
The North Twin spur trail to South Twin is relatively short, but does require another 500 feet of vertical ascent. That’s because South Twin Mountain (4,902 feet) is New Hampshire’s eighth highest summit and the 13th highest in the Northeast. The views are impressive in all directions, most notably south toward the Pemigewasset Wilderness. The Twinway Trail goes to Mount Guyot and the three Bond mountains, but save that hike for another day.
After having summited South Twin, one could backtrack to the trailhead and skip Galehead, which does not offer any views. However, it is on the Northeast and White Mountains 4,000 footers list. To bag Galehead, take the Garfield Ridge Trail west and descend 1,100 vertical feet to Galehead Hut, where the views are stunning. The hut offers room and board, as well as tea, lemonade, pastries and other food and beverages that might help make the 1,100 feet ascent that awaits a bit less painful. Galehead Mountain (4,024 feet) is a short half mile from the hut, and its lackluster summit is indicated by a large cairn.
Back at the hut, the 0.8-mile ascent to South Twin is long, but the reward comes with the nice views from the summit. Return over North Twin and descend to the Little River and back to the trailhead.
Note: In winter, Haystack Road is closed to motorized traffic. The North Twin trail can be reached by a herdpath that begins at a parking area on the Little River Road. Because this approach is longer, it is mostly only used in winter.