Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The bare ridges and summits of the Baldfaces, the highest peaks in the range on the west side of Evans Notch and the Cold River valley, are among the top hiking destinations in the Whites. On a cool, crisp sunny day with 110-mile visibility reported by the Mount Washington Observatory, I could think of no better place to be than the open 3610-ft. summit of North Baldface. 

After a 1 1/2 hour drive over from Lincoln, I paused along Rt. 113 for a look at my destination, rising 3000 ft. above the valley.

The first 0.7 mile of the AMC-maintained Baldface Circle Trail, leading to Baldface Junction (shown here), is easy-graded though rather rocky.

I took the 0.1 mile side path for a look at Emerald Pool on Charles Brook, a popular swimming hole.

There were more cascades on Charles Brook as I climbed easily along the north side of the Baldface Circle Trail.

A fine towering maple along the trail.

At 2.1 miles I turned left onto the lightly-used Eagle Cascade Link.

Pleasant walking here through the hardwoods.

Eagle Cascade wasn't cascading very much during this dry season.

The E.C. Link ends at the first of many outlook ledges on the Bicknell Ridge Trail, which follows a rugged ridge along the edge of Charles Ravine, the valley enclosed by the Baldfaces. Both of these trails are well-maintained by the Chatham Trails Association.

There's an impressive view here of South Baldface, with Eastman Mountain peering over in back.

The South Baldface ledges, which are surmounted by a steep, challenging section of the Baldface Circle Trail.

The climb along upper Bicknell Ridge alternates between belts of spruce forest and rough open ledges.

A view NE to Caribou Mountain on the east side of Evans Notch.

The sprawling, ledgy mass of Speckled Mountain, the other major peak of the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness.

Looking back down the ridge to vast eastern horizons. It was clear enough today to spot the Camden Hills on the distant Maine coast.

A bit of early fall color in a blueberry patch.

Eagle Crag, a sub-peak of the Baldfaces.

I scrambled down to a perch with a neat view of the Baldfaces rising steeply from the head of Charles Ravine.

A dark dike of basalt within the rough granite bedrock.

Topping out on Bicknell Ridge Trail at the upper junction with Baldface Circle Trail, you get your first views across the Wild River Valley to the Carter Range.

South, Middle and North Carter, showing their more rugged eastern side.

Looking into the northern of two glacial cirques at the head of the trailless Cypress Brook valley under Middle Carter. Years ago my friend Creston Ruiter and I embarked on a long bushwhack into this valley. After visiting a beaver meadow in the southern cirque, we climbed up to the small slide seen in this photo for a view of the Baldfaces.

The three Moriahs: Mt. Moriah, Middle Moriah and Shelburne Moriah.

The many ledges of Mt. Moriah, the setting for some of my most memorable bushwhack explorations.

Looking south along the ridge to North Baldface.

After a dip and some steep climbing with several tough little scrambles, the Circle Trail emerged on broad ledges with sweet views of the Wild River Wilderness.

Heading to the top of the shoulder.

The summit getting closer.

Looking north down the ledgy ridge.

A peek down into Charles Ravine.

After a breathless scramble up the steep cone, I emerged at the summit of North Baldface. Amazingly, there was no one here. In fact, I saw not one other hiker on this 10-mile trek to one of the top viewpoints in the Whites. Such is hiking midweek in September.

The views from North Baldface surpass those from most of the 4000-footers. I rank it among the top ten in the Whites. (My current Top Ten, west to east: Moosilauke, Lafayette, Garfield, West Bond, Bondcliff, Carrigain, Chocorua, Adams, Hight, and North Baldface.) I counted 28 4K summits visible from here.

Mt. Moosilauke hovering on the western horizon.

Mt. Carrigain beyond Mt. Resolution and the Giant Stairs.

Carter Dome and Mt. Hight, with the long trailless valley of Spruce Brook between them.

The "Rock of Gibraltar" on the south side of Spruce Brook.

The ledgy lump of Shelburne Moriah.

Mt. Washington and Boott Spur. In the foreground to the left is a beaver meadow in Perkins Notch.

A peek at Mountain Pond under Mt. Shaw.

The southern Whites.

 It was utterly quiet here except for the occasional croak of a raven.

On the east side of the summit was a perch with a stunning down-look into Charles Ravine.

Late afternoon sun on South Baldface.

Looking north to the Royces and the Mahoosucs and many other Maine mountains beyond.

A nearly two-hour summit stay went all too quickly.

Getting ready to head north back to the Bicknell Ridge Trail.

Steep drop off the cone.

Descending the broad slabs on the northern shoulder. It doesn't get any better than this.

Evening on Bicknell Ridge.

Airy hardwood forest on the lower Bicknell Ridge Trail. The last 0.7 mile of my hike was by headlamp, but it was worth it for spending extra time up on that glorious ridge.


  1. Not that I needed reminding, but there certainly is life after the "48", and rich and abundant it is. This is stunning stuff-thanks, Steve.

    Paul Ferguson

    1. Hi Paul! Thanks - I've always felt that the Baldface hike is equal to Franconia Ridge in rewards with a fraction of the traffic. Couldn't have asked for a finer day.


  2. Outstanding. Simply outstanding. Thank you so very much for sharing this journey.