Tuesday, February 23, 2010


On the day after Franconia skiing ace Bode Miller won a gold in the super combined at the Winter Olympics, it seemed appropriate to Carol and me that we go for a hike in his neck of the woods. On our way to the trailhead for the Coppermine Trail to Bridal Veil Falls, there was plenty of civic pride on display in Franconia village.

For the Coppermine Trail, you park on Coppermine Road just off Rt. 116 and walk up the road for 0.4 mile, where a hiker sign directs you into the woods.

After walking up an old woods road for a ways, you come to a sign for the trail and the destination.

A recent light snowfall gave the woods a wintry look they have lacked of late at lower elevations.

At the one-mile mark, we passed through a beautiful hemlock glade. Here the trail first comes by Coppermine Brook, and if you know where to look, in summer, you can find the plaque the actress Bette Davis had placed on a rock in memory of her husband Arthur Farnsworth. Davis was a frequent visitor to Sugar Hill and premiered one of her movies in nearby Littleton. She met Farnsworth at the inn where she was staying and, the story goes, intentionally got lost on this trail so he would come looking for her. Romance blossomed, they were married, but he died a couple of years later under what some have said were mysterious circumstances.

Farther along there's a spot where you can get a long look up the brook.

My favorite section of the trail is an open hardwood area about 2/3 of the way in.

Some skiers had been taking advantage of these open glades. Surprisingly, there was 8 inches of nice powder atop a firm base in here.

At 2.3 miles you cross Coppermine Brook on a footbridge.

Just beyond the bridge an old, unmaintained ski trail climbs steeply up to the right, then swings left up the valley.

This old route is a pathway to adventure into the remote upper part of this beautiful valley. In 2008, a pretty big snow winter, Carol and I snowshoed through deep powder partway up this trail.

Later that winter John Compton and I went farther up the old trail, eventually following it across the brook, and bushwhacked to a random ledge with a unique view up to the imposing west face of Cannon Mountain.

Across the valley we spotted a prominent slide between the Northeast and Middle Cannon Balls.

We bushwhacked across to the base of the slide, a beautiful snowy swath that is sometimes run by hardcore backcountry skiers.

On our hike this Monday, Carol and I didn't have time for any extra exploration, so we continued up the Coppermine Trail to the lean-to near the falls.

Soon we could see ahead to the the frozen falls and its accompanying necklace of beautiful ice sculptures.

We dug in our Microspikes to climb a ramp of snow-over-ice, gaining access to the upper amphitheatre of Bridal Veil.

Some of the ice was a cool shade of blue.

The snowy platform at the base of the main falls is one of the most beautiful places to be in the winter mountains, with towering ice formations surrounding you on three sides. The falls itself is the cauliflower-like formation on the left.

A neat cave below the falls. The ice sounded hollow underfoot as we approached the cave, so we backed off and admired it from a few feet away.

This great ice cliff is on the ravine wall just left (north) of the falls.

Another neat ice sculpture at Bridal Veil. We had the place to ourselves during our half-hour stay there, and only met a handful of folks on the way down.

I had carried my snowshoes and used them to follow some tracks down the brookbed for about 0.1 mile below the shelter.

Down in the hardwood section I rambled off-trail to play in the powder. This is one of our favorite winter hikes, an easy five miler with varied woods and unparalleled icy beauty at the falls.


  1. Thanks, Steve. Never been to the falls. Have to go there with my friend in high water.
    Ed Parsons

  2. Check it out, Ed - it's a great spot!