Wednesday, August 16, 2017

OWL'S CLIFF: 8/14/17

I hiked to this remote, seldom-visited 2940-ft. peak from the Kanc Highway and spent some time enjoying the great view of the Sandwich Range from its sun-washed ledgy outlook. Thanks to Carol for watching the store.

This route to Owl's Cliff begins with a ford of the Swift River on the Sawyer Pond Trail. It was easy today, but would be dangerous in high water.

A massive old white pine blowdown.

Nice easy walking on Sawyer Pond Trail.

At 1.1 mile on Sawyer Pond Trail, I turned onto a short section of Brunel Trail that sees little use and almost feels abandoned. Then there was a mile walk on the gravel USFS Rob Brook Road to the point where the Brunel Trail turns back into the woods. The actual mileage to the Owl's Cliff viewpoint from here is 2.1 rather than the 2.7 on the sign. From the Kanc the total round trip is about 9 miles.

Brunel Trail is lightly used and overgrown in places. This is a remote area and the trail has a wild feel to it. The first mile or so up from the road provides a pleasant meandering climb. through hardwoods and hemlocks.

The climbing is more serious in the upper mile, with one very steep, Hancock-like section. Some tall spruces thrive on this slope.

The conifers are dense on the broad crest of Owl's Cliff.

The sign for the view spur is on a fallen tree.

This neat sign was placed along the view spur many years ago.

I've always liked this ledge viewpoint for its lofty, airy feeling and its unrivaled view of the high peaks of the Sandwich Range.

Peak and valley ID.

Passaconaway and Whiteface.

Church Pond shimmers down on the Albany Intervale.

Green's Cliff is close by to the west, with the Osceolas beyond.

A closer look at the granite battlements of Green's Cliff.

Mt. Tecumseh through Livermore Pass.

The Sandwich Range with Paugus Pass and Mt. Paugus on the left.

After a long sojourn on the view ledge, I made a short, thick bushwhack over to the top of the mountain's southeast cliff.

Across the Albany Intervale to Mt. Chocorua and Mt. Paugus.

Mt. Chocorua and the Three Sisters.

Wild terrain up here. This cliff and the northwest cliff facing towards Sawyer Pond are well-known to backcountry rock climbers. On my last trip here I visited the tops of both cliffs, but with a later start today I didn't have time for the longer, more difficult whack to the northwest cliff.


Down-look #2.

Another great vista of the Sandwich Range.

Before heading down I made the very short bushwhack to the true summit of Owl's Cliff and signed in the register.

 Boulders along the Brunel Trail.

Mellow late afternoon descent on the lower Brunel Trail.

The corridor of the Rob Brook Trail, abandoned 5 years ago, where it left Rob Brook Road. It doesn't take Mother Nature long to reclaim a footway in these lush forests.


  1. Wonderful remote area. We came over Mount Tremont when we did it. Glad to see the old sign is still there. Great shots of Greens Cliff, which I will visit soon. Doug

    1. Hi Doug, That's a steep descent off Tremont! Green's Cliff looks kind of gnarly near the top. I've only been to the big ledge on the southern shoulder, a great viewpoint.

  2. Replies
    1. It's a cool spot with a nice remote feeling. Definitely worth the 9-mile round trip.

  3. We attempted Owl's Cliff a couple of years ago by the Rob Brook-Brunel Trail route. It was a cold, windy overcast day in November. We got close to the top at the very steep section and I had a sense of forbidding probably enhanced by the weather and rough condition of the trail and we turned around. It looks like the view from the top is very nice and I think we will try it again on a warmer sunny day.

    1. It's definitely worth another try, Charlotte! That trail sure is steep and a bit forbidding near the top, and there's a real sense of isolation out there.