Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I needed to stay short and close to home for a hike on this sunny, cold and windy day. Perhaps the best trek in this category in the Lincoln-Franconia Notch area is the 1.6 mi. loop over Bald Mountain and Artist's Bluff at the north end of the Notch. This mini-range, which tops out with three little peaks at about 2340 ft., offers great views, especially from the bare, rocky summit of Bald. Though short, this loop has its share of steep, rocky trail sections along its mere 600 ft. of elevation gain.

The two major destinations are Bald Mountain, seen here from the parking area beside NH 18...

...and Artist's Bluff, a cliff at the SE end of the ridge, seen here from the road leading down to the Gallen Memorial overlook.

The Cannon Peabody slopes parking lot was open, so I was able to park right at the start of the trail. Normally, hikers must park in a designated area beside NH 18. The trail has usually been called the "Bald Mountain-Artist's Bluff Path," but in 2011 it was renamed the "Veterans Trail" in honor of New Hampshire's veterans. The signage with the new name is not yet in place.

The first 0.3 mi. climbs up a rocky old carriage road through fine hardwoods. This was built about 1859 by the management of the nearby grand hotel, the Profile House. (For history and much more on Bald Mountain & Artist's Bluff, click here.)

At the top of the little ridge, the spur trail to Bald Mountain splits left, soon climbing to this ledge scramble.

A bit farther up, as the trail breaks into the open, this south-facing perch looks across at Cannon Mountain, whose ski trails had now closed for the season.

Some fairly steep ledge scrambling leads to the top of Bald Mountain. The rock has good grain and excellent grip, at least when dry. It's a great hike for kids who love clambering up the rocks.

Looking east to Scarface Mountain, Big Bickford Mountain and Mt. Garfield. North Twin peeks over to the L of Garfield.

Bald provides a grandstand seat for viewing Mt. Lafayette, which rises above Eagle Cliff and the slide-scarred ravine of Lafayette Brook.

Bald has a long view out to the NE, focused on the Pilot and Pliny Ranges.

I thought I would get blown off the summit by the gusty NW winds, but the south-facing trail was protected all the way up, and even at the top the wind was quite tolerable despite a temperature around 30 degrees. I was able to linger for a while and enjoy the views south into Franconia Notch...

...and northwest and west to Vermont, where snowy Mt. Mansfield and the tip of Camel's Hump were spotted on the horizon.

A wider shot of Lafayette, rising above the nearby hump of Artist's Bluff Ridge. After enjoying the summit views, I spent additional time lounging on sunny, south-facing ledges a short distance down the trail.

Back at the ridgetop junction, I continued on towards Artist's Bluff, pausing to admire these hardwoods in the Bald-Artist's col.

Though short, the trail heading towards Artist's Bluff has a nice ridgecrest look to it. With the ground hard-frozen and a dusting of snow on top, it felt more like early December than late March.

You cross over two wooded humps before descending to the Artist's Bluff cliff. The first hump has an outlook towards Cannon.

The second hump has a fine standing view south to Echo Lake and the Notch, with Mt. Liberty's sharp peak filling the gap.

The descent towards Artist's Bluff is steep and rocky.

A painted arrow points the way to the side path.

An interesting boulder is perched at the spot where you emerge onto the cliff.

The gorgeous view over Echo Lake and the Notch inspired Profile House guests to ascend this cliff to paint or sketch the scene. Of course, in those days there was no parkway or exit interchange, with attendant vehicle noise, to disturb the tranquility.

Looking NE across the ledges.

From Artist's Bluff, the trail drops steeply over a well-constructed rock treadway. This excellent work was performed by the Trailwrights, with assistance from a NH state prison crew. Here the trail passes under a cliff called "Little Monalisa" by climbers.

Farther down there are glimpses of the main Artist's Bluff cliff through the trees.

A partially new route called the Loop Trail now connects the two ends of the Veterans Trail. The first 0.2 mi. follows an older route previously called the Short Circuit.

The second 0.2 mi. of the Loop Trail is on new treadway recently constructed by the Trailwrights and friends. It comes out just above the trailhead at the Peabody slopes parking lot, completing a rewarding 1.6 mi. loop.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


After Carol got out of work on this gorgeous Friday, we decided to head up to Franconia Notch for a series of short late afternoon walks. First stop: the bridge by the Gallen Memorial at the end of a spur road off Exit 34C, with its fine view up the Lafayette Brook valley to Mt. Lafayette. This valley is protected as the Lafayette Brook Scenic Area.

The rounded North Peak is prominent on the L.

There's a long view west from the bridge; it was clear enough to see the Jay Peaks on the horizon.

Scarface Mountain rises above the bike path.

From the bike path we followed a nice trail that led about 0.2 mile up the north side of Lafayette Brook through sunny hardwoods.

The path ends beside the brook, at a point that was once used as a water supply. Historian Dave Govatski notes that it was used to supply a highway road camp. Incidentally, Dave just wrote an excellent article on the Scenic Areas of the WMNF.

Some old piping can be seen at one point along the stream. More piping is visible at a fine waterfall a half-mile upstream, accessible only by a rough bushwhack.

There are some old yellow birches in the lower Lafayette Brook valley.

Next we took a short walk at the south end of Echo Lake - already iced-out on March 22! We enjoyed a beautiful watery view to Artist's Bluff and Bald Mountain, scenery reminiscent of Acadia National Park.

View across to Eagle Cliff and part of Mt. Lafayette.

Then we got off at Exit 34B and walked down to the Old Man viewing area to see the "profilers" that were put in place last year.

If you stand at the right spot, there he is!

The famous Daniel Webster quote about the Old Man.

Profile Lake was still covered in rotten ice.

Next we drove down to Lafayette Place and headed north for 0.3 mile on the Pemi Trail.

A side path led to a gorgeous beaver-meadow vista of the Cannon Cliffs.

Eagle Cliff stared back at us from the north.

Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack, seen from a bridge over the Pemigewasset River on the bike path.

Our last walk was the 0.3 mile loop around the Roaring River Memorial Nature Trail on the south side of the Flume Visitor Center parking lot.

A gazebo provides a nice view of Mts. Flume and Liberty.

Evening sun in the hardwoods. In two hours we'd managed to take in a lot of scenery in the Notch!


On a gorgeous sunny, clear day, with temps in the 60s, I made a low-elevation, snow-free bushwhack to a clifftop viewpoint low down on the long north ridge of Grandview Mountain, a trailless 2012-ft. peak in Woodstock on the west side of I-93. This was another entry in my annual spring Snow Avoidance Program.

I parked at Crooked Pike Rd. on Rt. 112 and followed this Forest Service road across a bridge over the Lost River.

I followed the road a short distance farther as it curved to the right past a powerline (the proposed route of the Northern Pass).

The bushwhack, rising about 500 ft. in a half-mile, was through open woods the whole way, with hemlocks on the lower part...

...and sun-drenched hardwoods on the middle and upper parts.

At one spot I caught a glimpse of the rounded summit of Grandview off to the south.

The summit is heavily wooded and viewless. There used to be views here, however - first from an observation tower built by the North Woodstock Improvement Association in 1921, then from a 40-ft. wooden fire tower built by the Forest Service in 1939 and operated until 1948. It was torn down about 1960. (Information from

A few years ago I snowshoe-bushwhacked the north ridge of Grandview, and found the supports from the old fire tower still in place at the summit.

At about 1300 ft., I made my way down to the clifftop I was seeking. A pretty good drop below.

There's no one spot with a comprehensive view, but by moving around you get several different vistas. This view looks SE to the western and southern ridges of Mt. Tecumseh in the distance.

To the NE, the Franconia Range sprawls above Little Coolidge Mountain (on which First, Second and Third Ledges can be seen).

Flume, Big and Little Coolidge, and Whaleback.

To the ENE, you look over the towns of North Woodstock and Lincoln, and up the East Branch valley to the northernmost spur of Mt. Hancock, North Hitchcock, Northwest Hancock, and Mt. Hitchcock. On the L are East Whaleback (also once called Elephant Mountain) and Potash Knob. Loon Mountain ski slopes can be seen on the R.

The view also takes in the Loon Mountain-Russell Mountain range. Not bad for a fairly short and easy whack in the WMNF on a fine spring day.