Mt. Osceola, 4340’

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  • Mt. Osceola, 4340’

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Mt. Osceola, 4340’


Beth Weick




Passing Through: The Allure of the White Mountains

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A recent Mother’s Day outing over Mt. Osceola, including East, Middle, and West Peaks, afforded wonderful views into both the Pemigewasset and Sandwich Wilderness areas. This beautiful hike from the Kangamagus Highway to Tripoli Road prompted a little research into the mountain and it’s history.

Mt. Osceola – which was once known as Mad River Peak – was likely named after the Seminole Indian Chief by the same name. The reason behind this choice, as well as how and why it was chosen, unfortunately is lost to history. The first known ascent was made in 1725 by Samuel Willard and party in search of Indian activity. As you might imagine, however, the hiking history of Mt. Osceola is closely linked to the development of Waterville Valley, which was largely led by Nathaniel Greeley in the mid-1800s (see prior post).

Greeley established a bridle path to the summit of Osceola in the 1850s and constructed a primitive structure on top. Though this became the dominant trail for hikers and explorers, berry pickers wore additional paths to prominent points on the mountain. While none of these correspond to the current trail, these first paths were heavily used at the time. Indeed, a more permanent shelter was constructed on Osceola’s summit in the late 1880s. In short order the problems of litter and excessive woodcutting became glaringly apparent; rules for shelter use were announced in 1898.

In 1910 a wooden fire tower was constructed on the summit and the first trail over Breadtray Ridge was laid in 1915 by the fire lookout stationed at the summit. From this vantage point, staff monitored Waterville Valley and the Sandwich Wilderness. In 1923 the original tower was replaced by a steel building that remained on the summit until it’s removal by the USFS in 1985. Today, the foundation posts remain for hikers to rest upon, though the summit is otherwise bare.



Beth Weick, “Mt. Osceola, 4340’,” The Cairn, accessed October 4, 2015,