I was looking for an inexpensive(i.e. free) place to crash on a Thursday night, so I headed toward Gale River Loop Rd to see if I could snag one of the 11 dispersed camping sites in the White Mountain National Forest. It was nearly dark when I arrived after my 3+ hour drive from Boston, so it was hard to identify the sites and determine whether they were occupied. Turned out they were all occupied, though not all had vehicles. You may have better luck midweek.
I returned in the morning to get a better sense of the area. I’ve driven along this road a few times because the trailheads for Garfield and Gale River, along the northern edge of the Pemi Wilderness, leave from here. The Gale River Trailhead is also an AMC Shuttle Stop. These sites are free and offer no amenities beyond a fire ring; there is water from the Gale River.
They are heavily wooded, though some of these open into open fields. It has been a very wet spring(2019), so some of the sites were quite wet. Please either bury your waste or use a portable toilet! You must stay in a numbered site (there is a numbered pole by each pull-out/site), may stay up to 14 days, and may have up to 15 people and 3 vehicles at each site. Some of the sites are better suited to larger vehicles (one was more open and had a bus parked in it). Other sites require you to park near the road and walk a bit to the site. Rangers patrol the area.
The Gale River Loop Rd is also known as FR 25& FR 92, leaving from the east side of US3, between I-93& US302. This road is closed in the winter, will open after mud season, usually in mid to late May, and close in the fall generally in October. The White Mountain National Forest Facebook page will generally provide more up-to-date status lists than the website, so check there before heading out. There are moose in this area, so if you are traveling around dawn or dusk, stay alert! You don’t want to hit a moose. I’ve seen them in the wet areas beside the road.
If you’ve forgotten something, you may be able to pick it up at Fosters Crossroads in Twin Mountain, just north of the loop road. The Walmart in Littleton, NH is about 20 miles away for larger purchases.
In addition to the hikes to Galehead and Garfield, this is a central location for family friendly hikes such as Artist’s Bluff and Bald Mountain or the Sugarloafs as well as exploring all the treats in Franconia Notch and other peaks in the Pemi Wilderness.