Saturday, May 18, 2013


Mt. Whiteface, which thrusts its cliff-face boldly southward above the Wonalancet and Whiteface Intervales, is one of the outstanding features of the varied and beautiful Sandwich Range. The views from the popular Blueberry Ledge Trail on the SE ridge of Mt. Whiteface are among my favorites in the White Mountains, and I also enjoy the much quieter approach via the McCrillis Trail up the SW ridge. On this fine spring day, I was able to fashion a great loop using these two trails along with the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff, McCrillis Path, and a bushwhack traverse.

The fields at the well-kept Ferncroft trailhead were gorgeous on this bright May morning, with a refreshing breeze blowing and a singing Bobolink hovering over the grass.

Signs pointed the way to the usual routes up Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway.

The classic pastoral vista of Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Wonalancet.

Across Squirrel Bridge, feeling grateful to the residents who allow hiker access to this beautiful area.

At 0.6 mi. I turned right onto Blueberry Ledge Cutoff, a delightful and lightly-traveled alternative to the lower Blueberry Ledge Trail.

Wood Anemones were in bloom.

For a while the Cutoff meandered alongside the Wonalancet River.

A simple bridge connects the Cutoff with Dicey's Mill Trail.

Just beyond the bridge new boundary markers were in place where a wedge-shaped piece of land recently was added to the WMNF through the generosity of the landowners.

Farther along, the Cutoff led through a fine stand of tall sugar maples.

Beyond the Wilderness sign, the Cutoff, very mellow up to this point, suddenly shot up a heart-pounding steep pitch.

There were still some Red Trilliums in bloom here.

After some more uphill surges, the Cutoff rejoined the Blueberry Ledge Trail at the top of the gentle slabs that gave the trail its name, with a restricted view of the Ossipee Mountains.

Signs at the junction.

Above here the Blueberry Ledge Trail ascended at easy grades for a while.

Then a long, stiff climb led to the restricted viewpoint known as Wonalancet Outlook.

Below and above the outlook there were many impressive rock staircases built in 2009-2011 by the Off the Beaten Path professional trail crew, contracted by the maintaining Wonalancet Out Door Club.

From a shoulder near the Tom Wiggin Trail junction, a glimpse of the south summit and its cliff.

A nice level stretch before the steep and scrambly upper ridge.

A little burst of climbing led to the first outlook, facing SW, in this photo looking towards Mt. Israel and Squam Lake.

Just above here was one of the trickier of the dozen rock scrambles. The pin holes in the ledge show where there were once wooden steps; these were removed in the 1990s.

From a ledge above, a first look at Mt. Passaconaway and the headwall of the glacial cirque known as The Bowl.

A couple more scrambles led to a great open perch looking down into the freshly greening depths of The Bowl. Darkly-cloaked Mt. Wonalancet guards the mouth of the valley.

Passaconaway, its SE spurs, Nanamocomuck and Wonalancet Hedgehog (the bumpy Walden Trail profile), and The Bowl - one of my favorite vistas in all the Whites.

Mt. Washington rises above Mt. Tremont through the Whiteface-Passaconaway col.

The scrambles continued, including this neat passage up an eroded dike.

The upper SW outlook - now that is a perch!

Looking down the valley of White Brook.

This ledge offered a dramatic close-up of the great south cliff, with Flat Mountain Pond and Sandwich Dome beyond.

Perhaps the best spot of all was the upper crag on the east side.

Not a bad spot to hang out for a while.

Passaconaway lords it over the heart of the Sandwich Range.

Neat slabs and a long skinny slide on the headwall of The Bowl.

The fields of Wonalancet, with Green Mountain in the distance.

It was a short jaunt from the uppermost outlook to the south summit. I first headed across the Rollins Trail for the obligatory peakbagger's trek to the true, wooded summit. There was a glimpse ahead to the Osceolas and South Tripyramid.

Dropping down to the Kate Sleeper Trail junction, I encountered some ice and monorail, prompting me to don my Microspikes for about 100 yards.

The unremarkable true summit of Whiteface. You have to work really hard to find any views in this neighborhood. I've tried.

A cool overhang behind the south summit.

On the highest open ledge on the south summit, a weathered old chiseled triangle and a broken iron pin mark the site of a U.S. Coastal Survey station in the 1870s.

The southward view from the highest ledge. Here I briefly encountered the only two other hikers I saw all day.

I dropped down a few yards on the McCrillis Trail to the best hangout spot on the south summit, where I waited out a brief rain shower.

The McCrillis Trail leads along this line of ledges at the start of its descent.

A blaze marks a turn at the only significant ledge scramble on the McCrillis Trail.

In its upper half mile, this wild, little-used trail dropped steeply through a blowdown-ravaged conifer forest.

Down around 3300-3200 ft. the trail passed through a ledgy area with a couple of outlooks to the side. This one on the east side was only 20 ft. off the trail but had no path. It offered a great look back at the south cliff. Another ledge right beside the trail offered a similar view, though slightly restricted. Both ledges opened good views to the SE.

At 3200 ft. a ledge up on the west side, accessed by a short scramble, provided a view SW to Sandwich Dome.

A bit farther down I made a short but thick bushwhack on the west side to some cliffs I'd visited a couple of times before. There is some very rough, broken rocky terrain in here.

Looking up to the West Spur of Whiteface and the headwall of the valley drained by the East Branch of Whiteface River.

My favorite vista from this spot, over the remote, trailless East Branch valley to Sandwich Dome.

The McCrillis Trail continued down through a rocky spruce forest.

The lower half of the McCrillis Trail was a long, easy-graded runout through a vast hardwood forest. A wonderfully peaceful area.

There were many colonies of Dwarf Ginseng in bloom along this section.

Near the bottom of the descent, I bushwhacked down into the steep ravine of White Brook and up to the plateau on the other side.

Staying on Forest Service land, I continued bushwhacking east to Captain Neal Brook, crossed that by some mossy cascades, and met the McCrillis Path. This part of this historic trail was recently relocated and reopened through the cooperation of landowners George and Nancy Bates, WODC, and the WMNF. For the full story, see this post. Shortly after joining the trail, I had this evening view of Mt. Israel.

After hiking two miles on the McCrillis Path and the lower mile of Blueberry Ledge Trail, I reached the Ferncroft trailhead at dusk. An American Woodcock was engaging in his twittering aerial courtship dance under the light of a near half-moon, a sweet ending to a great day on Whiteface. (Note: The challenging Blueberry Ledge Trail route climbs to the south summit of Mt. Whiteface in 3.9 miles (one-way) with 2,850 feet of elevation gain. It should be avoided in wet weather. The route via the Flat Mountain Pond Trail and McCrillis Trail from the Whiteface Intervale Road trailhead is 4.9 miles with 3,100 feet of elevation gain. In either case, add 0.6 mile round trip to “bag” the official summit. These two routes can be linked into a loop with no bushwhacking via the McCrillis Path, starting at the Whiteface Intervale Road trailhead: 11.8 miles with 3,550 feet of elevation gain, including the summit side trip.



  1. Steve, that was quite a clever loop that you constructed. Had to get out my map to follow along with your journey. The route you followed resulted in a very thorough report with tons of interesting details. Great job! Also, that was a terrific video clip of "The Bowl" that you posted on Facebook.

    And regarding the true summit of Whiteface, if you have been unsuccessful in finding any views from there, then I'd venture to say that there are none! :-)


    1. Thank you, John! I had walked the new McCrillis Path last fall, and had once dropped down to look at White Brook a few years ago, so I figured the bushwhack connection would work. The ravine of White Brook is pretty steep, which is one reason the Forest Service and WODC didn't build a connecting path across between the two McCrillises.

      I'm never sure if it's worthwhile posting those little videos, since the footage is always a little shaky. That is quite a spectacle seen from that ledge. The only spectacles on the true summit are of the miniature variety!


  2. Nice report, Steve. I missed you by one day. My son and I climbed the Blueberry Ledge Trail on Friday, but we continued to Passaconaway via the Rollins Trail, camping at Camp Rich. I like the route you took, and of course you noticed a lot more details and highlighted many more points of interest than I ever see on a hike.

    1. Thank you, BC! Sounds like you and your son had a rewarding overnight trek. Camp Rich is a nicely situated spot.I see you went out the Walden Trail - that sure is a rugged and interesting trail, with a few you've-got-to-be-kidding pitches on it.


  3. Yes it is! I had descended the Dicey's Mill Trail before, so I wanted to try a different trail this time. We were going to take the wonalancet Range Trail, but the Walden Trail beat us up so badly that we wimped out and took Old Mast Road instead (of course, we still had to climb up to the ridge and back down to OMR). With another long hike on the agenda later that day, my son was none too pleased with my choice!