Saturday, July 28, 2012


On a perfect midsummer day - sunny after morning clouds, temp in 70s, low humidity - I decided to make the fairly long walk through the southwestern wilds of the Sandwich Range to one of my favorite spots - Black Mountain Pond. This clean and clear six-acre gem nestles at the base of Black Mountain, the rugged, ledgy SW shoulder of Sandwich Dome.

I've always felt that the toughest part of the hike to Black Mountain Pond is the five-mile drive in on the steep, narrow and gnarly Sandwich Notch Road. Some of the pitches on this road are startlingly steep, and you just hope there's no one coming the other way 'cause you can't see over your hood when going over the crest.

Parking for the Guinea Pond Trail is a little ways up the Beebe River Rd., just north of the trailhead. There's  no parking where the trail leaves Sandwich Notch Rd.

After crossing under a powerline, the Guinea Pond Trail provides easy cruising along the bed of the old Beebe River logging railroad (1917-1942), which extended all the way up past Flat Mountain Pond.

About a mile in you enter an extensive swampy area. Earlier in the summer this stretch is good for birding, and for being eaten alive by various flying insects.

There are a couple of good views of sprawling Sandwich Dome across the swamp.

From another spot, a peek at the SE shoulder of Sandwich Dome.

After 1.6 mi., I turned L onto one of my favorite routes, the Black Mountain Pond Trail.

The Beebe River was absurdly low. A few years ago, after some heavy rain, a group of us couldn't cross the raging stream here; we had to go upstream and wade at a wider, shallower spot.

The Black Mountain Pond Trail makes a long, mostly easy-graded meander up the Beebe River valley, passing through a variety of woods.

The trail crosses the Beebe River again where it emerges from an old beaver meadow.

In the next section, the trail passes by some interesting cascades and natural bathtubs in the stream.

Farther up the valley, a side trail leads to Mary Cary Falls.

The flow was meager today!

Here is Mary Cary Falls with a strong flow of water.

Because it has been heavily camped over the years, Black Mountain Pond is in a Forest Protection Area,

The Forest Service and Squam Lakes Association (the trail maintainer) have created a hardened tentsite above the pond.

I followed a path down to a ledgy spot on the shore with a great view across to Black Mountain, the higher of two SW shoulders of Sandwich Dome with that name. The steep and rough upper mile of the Black Mountain Pond Trail winds up this rugged slope, well to the L of the prominent cliffs.

Lower down on the slope I studied an off-trail ledge I had visited a few years ago, and planned to return to today (seen near the bottom of the photo).

Looking south down the pond. The water level is down during this dry summer.

I returned to the trail and followed it to a spot on the SE shore near the site of a former shelter.

Just north of Black Mountain Pond, the trail passes by an old beaver pond. Right beyond here, the trail begins its steep climb to the Algonquin Trail on Black Mountain.

A short but thick bushwhack in steep terrain brought me to the ledge. Dropping down to it was a little precarious, but doable. On my previous visit, the view had been mostly shrouded in fog. This time, all was revealed. Black Mountain Pond fills the foreground, with Mt. Israel (R) and the Ossipee Range (L) beyond.

I found a little pocket to sit in on the ledge, and spent an hour relaxing and taking it in.

A broadside view of Mt. Israel and Dinsmore Mountain, its western spur.

An open ferny spot along the whack back to the trail.

Steep pitch just above the beaver pond.

Higher up, this trail is pretty challenging in places (photo taken on a previous hike).

Back at Black Mountain Pond in late afternoon light.

Heading back down the meandering trail.

Partway down, I made a short off-trail detour to visit an old beaver meadow. Lots of interesting wetlands in this area.

The trail continues down through endless wild woods in this quiet southwestern corner of the Sandwich Range Wilderness. I did not see one other hiker on this 9-mile midsummer trek.

On the way back along Sandwich Notch Road, I stopped to admire this view of Jennings Peak, Sandwich Dome and Black Mountain from a clearing by a lonely house. What a beautiful area!


  1. Excellent write-up about a very picturesque corner of the Whites! You photos and narrative are informative and interesting, as always. And, I appreciate the additional touches you included such as the view from inside your car while driving on Sandwich Notch Road, and the additional photo (from a previous visit) which shows Mary Cary Falls when there is a strong flow of water.


  2. Thank you, John - that is a great area out there.


  3. I had a chance to do this hike last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it! We stopped at the falls on the way up. It is quite a beautiful area and gives you a sense of remoteness.

    Hiking Lady

  4. Thanks for your comment...I agree, there's a real sense of remoteness out there.


  5. I came in from Bennett Road and overnighted near the Pond. A rain storm that night made for very interesting crossing and I was stuck at the Cold River. Ended up walking and got a ride near Camp Mead...all the way back to my car!

  6. Hi Steve

    2 times I've made a nice loop going up Sandwich via Algonquin and returning via Black mt Pond Trail. Then catch the abandoned trail that used to connect Black mt Pond to Algonquin Trail. I always have hard time getting to the abandoned trail, but once you're on it it is easy to follow mostly. It does cross some wet areas. It starts out as trail and morphs into logging road. I'd love to follow it back to Black Mt Pond to see where it actually used to connect, but it is usually too late in the day to pursue such things.

    I think I know what ledge you visited. It is pretty big. but it does look like it would be tricky to get to.


  7. Thanks for your comment, Ray. I've used that old trail a couple of times. I think I spotted where it leaves the Black Mountain Pond Trail when I was there last week.

    There are lots of interesting ledges on Black Mountain!


  8. I was with a group that I think took that old trail in 1983. Thirteen of us from the Thoreau Group of the old New England Chapter of the Sierra Club camped above Black Mountain Pond on Saturday, May 14, and awoke to rain on Sunday, so rather than climb Black Mountain, our leader, Gerry Tolman (who had been camping there every year for probably more than 20 years), found an old trail somewhere past the lean-to and led us back to Sandwich Notch Road, where a couple of the guys ran down the road to fetch their trucks and give the rest of us rides back.

    Back then, I think there was a beaver dam across the pond from the lean-to.

    I joined a second hike Gerry led to Black Mountain Pond in August. That time, we had three thunderstorms pass over us Saturday night, but Sunday was beautiful, and we climbed Black Mountain.

    I haven’t been back since, but my memory is that not long after those trips, the area was designated Wilderness.

  9. That looks like a great area to explore. I'd like to hike there, but I drove Sandwich Notch Road in a station wagon once a few years ago and I swore I'd never drive it again. I was lucky to get out without leaving the exhaust system or transmission on the road. Maybe there's another way to approach it.

  10. Thanks for your comment, BC. I can tolerate about one trip a year on the Notch Road. It beats on a vehicle, for sure. You can make a longer approach from the Bennett Street trailhead via Flat Mountain Pond Trail and Guinea Pond Trail. I hear that the last part of that drive is pretty rough now, too.


  11. Thanks for the stories, Raymond. Sounds like you were on that old shortcut trail. I haven't been on it for a few years and don't know how easy or hard it is to follow these days.


  12. Take SNR right after they've graded it, around June. It's night and day compared to our drive through there yesterday. And, BTW, your report could have been written today! It's a timeless place.

    1. Thanks, Bill. I read that the Waterville end is in better shape than the Sandwich side. Coming in from Sandwich was very rough in August.
      Thanks for all your good work on the trails!

  13. I have a very vague memory of a friend taking me camping in the Sandwich Wilderness in the summer of '99 and I think it was at this pond. Thank you for the photos. We camped on a ledgy area above a pond.

    1. It's a beautiful spot! Well worth returning to.