Wednesday, June 15, 2016


On a cool, breezy June day I made a 12 1/2 mile loop on the eastern flank of Mt. Passaconaway, taking in the Oliverian Brook valley and the summits of Square Ledge, Nanamocomuck Peak and Wonalancet Hedghog. This trek featured a variety of views and some of the wildest terrain in the Sandwich Range. My friend Linda Moore joined me for the Square Ledge portion of the hike.

This nice spot on Oliverian Brook is about a mile in on the trail.

Into the Wilderness at 1.7 miles.

Just beyond the Passaconaway Cutoff junction. a relocation around a muddy area on the Oliverian Brook Trail was cut on National Trails Day in 2005.

The step stone crossing over the west branch of Oliverian Brook was easy today.

Linda admires a hardwood corridor on the Oliverian Brook Trail.

Another peaceful scene on Oliverian Brook.

The trail makes a shallow crossing of the brook.

White ladyslippers.

This broad valley has a remote feeling. No motorcycles were heard out here.

Fine open woods.

Hobblebush lines the brook, deep in the valley.

The crossing of Oliverian Brook at the start of the Square Ledge Branch Trail.

We ran into Karen Dugre on the Square Ledge Branch Trail. She had come in from Ferncroft to do some redlining.

Karen gets ready to head back south on the Square Ledge Trail.

Wilderness trail sign.

A rusted bucket at the site of the Conway Lumber Company's Lambert Camp at the base of Square Ledge. Please remember that it is illegal to remove such artifacts from the WMNF.

A sled runner.

A shallow bowl, once used for ??

A small talus slope.

The trail gets steep and rugged as it ascends to Square Ledge.

A strenuous ledge step, where knees came into play for both of us.

Made it!

Linda, a scat enthusiast, checks out some fisher poop containing porcupine quills.

The trail ascends under a long line of wooded cliffs.

Amazing terrain out here.

A lofty rim.

Emerging through a portal at the top of the steep climb.

At the somewhat overgrown outlook atop the main Square Ledge cliff, with Mt. Paugus in the background.

There is an airy ledge perch nearby, with a 200 or 300 foot drop below. Not recommended if you don't like heights. Peregrine falcons sometimes nest on Square Ledge, at which times hikers should keep back from the edge. The cliff is not listed as closed to rock climbing this year, so presumably there is no nearby nest.

Mt. Paugus, from base to summit.

Looking down the Oliverian Brook valley to the Moats.

Paugus Pass at the head of the valley.

A solitary ladyslipper near the cliff edge.

The wonderful spruce-woods walk along the narrow crest of the Square Ledge ridge.

Looking across at Wonalancet Hedgehog, where I would end up a few hours later.

Mount Passaconaway looms impressively from the outlook (reached by an obscure side path) near the summit of Square Ledge.

Looking up the ridge to Nanamocomuck Peak and the headwall of the west branch of Oliverian Brook valley.

North to Mt. Carrigain and Green's Cliff.

Linda takes in the views.

The trail descends past more rock faces.

Along here we wet Vin Marquis, a mailman from Connecticut and a customer at my store.

Linda headed down the Passaconaway Cutoff, and I continued up the Square Ledge Trail, passing this sled runner at another old logging camp site.

The Nanamocomuck Slide, which fell during the Hurricane of '38, spills down to the trail.

A quick scramble partway up rewards with a close-up of Mt. Passaconaway...

...and a northern view past Hedgehog Mountain all the way to a (socked-in) Mt. Washington.

The cliffs of Hedgehog shine brightly.

The Square Ledge Trail climbs steadily above the slide.

At the Walden Trail junction, the trail signs were once affixed to this thick old yellow birch.

New signs are in place.

I decided not to continue up to Mt. Passaconaway; instead, I turned left onto the Walden Trail to start a loop over the SE spurs of the mountain. The loop started with a gentle wooded ridge walk towards Nanamocomuck Peak. The fascinating Walden Trail was opened in the early 1900s by the Wonalancet Out Door Club and was named for famed sled dog breeder Arthur Walden.

This section of the trail is a lovely gentle walk, quite the contrast with its several steep and rough pitches.

Great walking through sun-dappled ridgecrest forest.

Approaching the flat 3340-ft. summit of Nanamocomuck. The peak bears the name of the great chief Passaconaway's eldest son.

I made a short bushwhack down to the top of a rock slab on the east flank of Nanamocomuck, gaining a nifty view of Mounts Paugus and Chocorua beyond the upper Oliverian Brook valley.

A closer look at Chocorua and Paugus, the latter displaying its gravelly SW cliffs.

In contrast with the mellow walk on the west side of the peak, the descent off the east side of Nanamocomuck is "wicked steep." Many rock steps were built on the Walden Trail by the Wonalancet Out Door Club in a major reconstruction project from 1997-2001.

One of several tricky ledges on the descent. I will confess to going down on my butt several times.

This spot required some undignified maneuvers.

The trail drops through this rock cut.

Then it meanders through a beautiful, lush col between Nanamocomuck and Wonalancet Hedgehog.

On the steep ascent to Wonlancet Hedgehog, there is a peek back to Passaconaway peering over Nanamocomuck.

The tips of South and Middle Tripyramid poke up to the right of the north ridge of Whiteface.

This boulder rests on the summit of Wonalancet Hedgehog.

A side path leads to a great south-facing clifftop outlook on the Hedgehog.

An expansive view over the Lakes Region, with the fields of Wonalancet in the middle distance.

A profile of Mt. Whiteface.

Wonalancet Range neighbors Hibbard Mountain and Mount Wonalancet.

Squam Lake and Mt. Kearsarge in the distance.

Farther down the trail a side path leads to an eastern outlook to Mts. Paugus and Chocorua.

The trickiest ledge on the very steep eastern descent off Wonalancet Hedgehog. I tossed my poles down and descended backwards.

The trail junction known as "Four-Way."

Trail signs in Paugus Pass.

A tiny pond north of Paugus Pass.

The Oliverian Brook Trail descending from Paugus Pass, starting the 4.4 mile trek back to the trailhead on the Kanc Highway.


  1. Hi Steve, I went to the exposed ridge off of Spruce Brook in the Wild River Valley that I have seen referred to as The Rock of Gibraltar. It was my first bushwack and I think I am hooked on off trail hiking now. This is the only website I have found to reference this particular bushwack. Do you know how many people go there a year? Are there any other similar off trail hikes you would recommend? Thanks, Jim

    1. Hi Jim,
      Congrats on visiting that amazing spot! I only know of a couple other people that have been there, though I'm sure there are a few. One of the best areas to bushwack is farther north in the Wild River Wilderness, on the SE ridge of Mt. Moriah. There are numerous ledges with excellent views on that ridge. See blog report from 9/25/14.