Shin Falls

Shin Falls, T6R7 WELS, Maine

The bulk of Sugarloaf Mountain rises above the dirt Shin Brook Falls Road (marked with a handwritten wooden sign), a left turn from the Patten area off Grand Lake Road just before the Seboeis River. Parking is available in an open area at the first hard right turn (1/3 mile) in the road, with the trail marked in the same way. These handwritten “Trail” or “To Falls” boards are the signage on this 3/4 mile total hike near Shin Pond Village (actual location is T6R7 WELS), and were vaguely reminiscent of internet memes with a sign scrawled “Candy” next to an abandoned building. A map and full description (along with many other Maine waterfall hikes) are found in the book Hiking Waterfalls Maine.

Shin Falls from above, Shin Brook, T6R7 WELS, Maine

The trail down to Shin Falls was wet and flooded, and the sound of chattering red squirrels was quickly drowned out by that of rushing water, audible immediately after climbing a small rise in the trail, leading to a downhill grade. The falls are truly impressive from above, and a hike of less than half a mile will take you to the base, where you can look up at the rushing torrent. After recent late-summer storms, the falls were overflowing the banks, and the leaves of the trees left standing were bent back in the cool breeze created by falling water. The pool at the base of the falls can be a swimming hole, but was likely too swift and full of debris on this day to be safe. A small winding footpath took me back up to the trailhead, amid the sounds of chickadees and pileated woodpeckers.

Shin Falls, T6R7 WELS, Maine

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Carter Meadow Trail (Sunkhaze Meadows NWR)

Rain-swollen Little Birch Stream near the trailhead, Carter Meadow Trail, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR, Milford, ME

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is tucked away in the town of Milford, Maine, between Orono/Old Town and the remote Downeast Lakes area. This 11,485 acre refuge protects the Sunkhaze Meadows peat bog, and is unique for its concentration of birds, including a large population of neotropical migratory warblers, which typically arrive in May and June. The Carter Meadow Trail, marked by a small brown rectangular sign and a gate, is the first of three volunteer-maintained trails you will come to if accessing the NWR from the west (direction of Old Town and Milford). Parking is limited – there is one small spot in a clearing next to the gate, but space on the shoulder of Old County Road, which is a dirt road at this point. The best map and description is available from the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows site. Blaze orange is suggested, as hunting is permitted here. The trailhead is right next to Little Birch Stream, which on this September day was overflowing with recent (and current) rain.

Carter Meadow Trail, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR, Milford, ME

The Carter Meadow trail is a flat lollipop loop of about 2.5 miles, and can be completed in about an hour or so. Birds were always on the periphery of the trail, usually taking flight into the thick trees before I could identify them. The beginning of the hike is a woods road, Carter Meadow Road. At .4 miles in, the loop trail began, at a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cabin with a small map. I chose to walk clockwise on the trail, marked with an FWS yellow diamond, as well as brown and white hiker decals. The Sunkhaze Meadows NWR site drily observes “Sunkhaze Meadows NWR is wet and has a healthy population of biting insects. You may want to wear boots and bring insect repellent.” This is an understatement. From late spring through mid-summer, the black flies and mosquitoes can be oppressive. Remember, though, that the trail is open year-round, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also possible (and bug-free). The trail was flooded due to recent rains, with some upheaval on some of the walkways over the swampy parts. The closer I got to the observation platform, the muddier the trail became.

Carter Meadow Trail, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR, Milford, ME

Chickadees and thrushes circled the observation platform, which overlooks Little Birch Stream, Sunkhaze Stream, and the expanse of Sunkhaze and Spencer Meadows, comprised of five domed bogs, each containing a buildup of peat. You can see how, on a sunny day with a pair of binoculars, this could be a birdwatcher’s delight. Heading back on the loop was a bit mucky and wet. To go back to understatement, even waterproof boots can be insufficient after rain or storms, as the eastern side of the loop was essentially a tributary of the Little Birch Stream on the way back. In these conditions, it would be advisable to choose the western half of the loop as an out-and-back trail to the observation platform, adding .4 total miles, but possibly keeping dry boots/socks.

View of peat bog from observation platform, Carter Meadow Trail, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR, Milford, ME

Peary Mountain

Ascent to ledges, Peary Mountain, Brownfield, ME

Peary Mountain (958 ft) in Brownfield, Maine, is named for Arctic explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary, Sr., a resident of neighboring Fryeburg from 1878 to 1879. The trailhead for this easy to moderate hike is located in Brownfield, Maine, off Route 113. The Maine Mountain Guide has a full description of this hike – I used the AllTrails app to follow the path. Follow Farnsworth Road about 1.3 miles from Route 113 to a small dirt/grass parking area on the right side of the road, just before a one-lane bridge over the Little Saco River. In the summer, this can also be reached from the west (Fryeburg) side, but the road can be closed in winter months.

View of White Mountains from ledges, Peary Mountain, Brownfield, ME

The signpost and trail through the woods at the parking area appear inviting, but these are for snowmobile trails (thanks, AllTrails), so cross Farnsworth Road and take a left into the woods just before the river (sign for Certified Family Forest). The quiet trail heads steadily uphill, turning from a woods road/snowmobile trail to a single track path (follow signs for summit) as it passes logging areas, and reaches the ledges facing the White Mountains. A well-placed stone slab bench surveys the panoramic view.

Trail to summit, Peary Mountain, Brownfield, ME

This is not, however, the summit (thanks again, AllTrails). Continue down the path, which winds east to the summit and a viewpoint facing Pleasant Mountain, distinctive for its mass (and its two cell towers). The whole out-and-back hike is about 2.7 miles total, and can be completed in about an hour or so, longer with smaller kids. We saw a couple small groups with kids and dogs on this hike, who did not seem to have a problem with the difficulty level. Blackberry bushes lined the open areas, and plenty of birds were out and about.

View of Pleasant Mountain massif from Peary Mountain summit, Brownfield, ME

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Moosehorn NWR Loop (Baring)

Mile Bridge Road, Moosehorn NWR, Baring, ME

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR), comprised of separate divisions in the Downeast towns of Baring and Edmunds, is almost 30,000 acres of federally protected land. In mid-August, we stopped by the larger Baring Division, just south of the border outpost of Calais, to walk the trails near the MNWR Headquarters. The trails listed as Headquarters Trails are relatively short (see MNWR HQ trail map), but the .3 mile Woodcock Trail is handicap accessible. For those with substantial mobility issues (including tired, overheated children), viewing areas are located on Charlotte Road, and the eastern part of Moosehorn Baring is an Auto Tour option (just cross Charlotte Road from the Headquarters and follow signs on Goodall Heath Road), with views of beaver ponds, marshes, and meadows. You can also check out one of our favorite books, Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path for an alternate loop option from the Headquarters.

Milkweed and wildflowers, Two Mile Meadow Road, Moosehorn NWR, Baring, ME

We consulted the larger map, and chose to create our own loop on the quiet logging roads of Moosehorn NWR, heading west from the Headquarters to the Trailhead area, then south on Mile Bridge Rd and Hanson Pit Rd, and back north on Two Mile Meadow Rd. This skirted a closed area (labeled the Greenway Trail on AllTrails) in the center of the loop. This made for about 3.5 miles, which took about an hour or so. These lightly-traveled roads are level and grassy, closed to vehicles, with space for two to walk side-by-side in the former wheel ruts. They are, however, thick with mosquitoes and biting flies, so plan ahead with repellent and/or clothing. As we turned on Mile Bridge Road, we were even dive-bombed by a large, misguided cicada.

Wetlands, Moosehorn NWR, Baring, ME

We saw a garter snake, wildflowers, many small songbirds, and heard the cartoonish call of a pileated woodpecker. We were late in the wild berry season, but still saw abundant roadside blueberry and blackberry bushes. Interpretive signs along the route discussed topics like prescribed burns, vernal pools, beaver ponds, and wetlands. Eagles and woodcocks highlight the brochures and nature logs here. The trails themselves were pleasantly empty, with a few gaggles of people near the trailhead. We look forward to exploring more of Moosehorn NWR’s quiet wilderness area, and maybe bird-watching during the late spring migration season.

Otter Flowage along Two Mile Meadow Road, Moosehorn NWR, Baring, ME

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Wabassus Mountain (T43 MD BPP)

Wabassus Mountain trailhead, Washington County, ME

It’s not easy to get to Wabassus Mountain (844 ft), part of the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) in central Washington County. We stopped there to hike this short (1.5 mile total out/back) trail off Wabassus Mountain Road on the way to Grand Lake Stream. Township (T) 43 Machias District (MD) of Bingham’s Penobscot Purchase (BPP) is the clunky name of the mountain’s location, a naming remnant of old Massachusetts maps used to delineate areas of land survey. For detailed driving directions from Route 9, check out the DLLT Visitor Guide or the Maine Mountain Guide. Or use your Maine Gazetteer the way it was intended (see Map 35). Either way, don’t rely on cellular signal-based GPS, because you won’t have it. A small (2-3 vehicle) parking area is immediately on the left before the trailhead.

Wabassus Mountain trail, Washington County, ME

The Wabassus Mountain trailhead, marked with a wooden sign, is just past a moss-covered stream descending the mountain. The trail itself is attractively marked by the signature silver and blue pine tree logo used by DLLT. The trail register recorded the most recent visit as three or four days prior to ours. Due to recent August rains, mushrooms and other fungi were pushing through the wet forest floor like another world trying to emerge. I ignored them at first, then began to document the shapes poking through the leaves and pine needles, as they grew more varied and colorful.

Various mushrooms and fungi on Wabassus Mountain trail, Washington County, ME

Further uphill, I saw a deep muddy track in the trail, like a man wearing a set of clogs pogo-ing up and down, and realized that it was the recent track of a giant moose. A large, dewy spiderweb blocked the trail at the entrance to the short circular summit loop, and I carefully stepped around it. Lining the small loop were raspberries and strawberries gone by.

Dewy spiderweb, Wabassus Mountain trail, Washington County, ME

Through the treetops, I could see the blue of sky and lakes, and more full panoramas are likely available in the winter months. The obscured view through the leaves and branches must be similar to what the mushrooms would see as they emerge from the ground – the sense of depth and distance and light. I never saw the moose, but there was deer scat on the summit loop and the constant chatter of birds. This was a short (30 minutes or so) but rewarding climb in a remote spot. A large turkey briefly blocked our way as we returned on Wabassus Mountain Road.

Wabassus Mountain trail, Washington County, ME

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Ingersoll Point Preserve (Addison)

Ingersoll Point Preserve, Addison, ME

Sometimes Downeast Maine, particularly Acadia, can feel overrun by an invading force in the late summer, one equipped with out-of-state SUV’s and brand-new hiking gear. Even the formerly lesser-known Bold Coast oases of Lubec and Cutler seem to be, well, a little compromised in the crush of tourists seeking an authentic Maine experience. Ingersoll Point Preserve in Addison is a 145 acre corner of forest and ocean that has maintained its quiet pine coast aesthetic, thanks to its location, and the stewardship of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy. Trail maps and a brochure can be found on their website, or in the excellent book Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path. Trailhead parking is at the rear of the South Addison Community of Christ Church at 316 Moosehorn Road in Addison, marked by a sign.

Adler Woods Trail, Ingersoll Point Preserve, Addison, ME

From the 3.5 mile trail network, we chose an outer loop, comprising the Adler Woods Trail (blue blazes), the Carrying Place Cove Trail (pink blazes), and the Wohoa Bay Trail (yellow blazes), a leisurely, approximately 3.2 mile hike, taking about an hour and a half. Shortly into the woods, through a narrow path lined by blackberries, the trail opens up, and a sign commemorates the gift by the trail’s namesake, Dorothy G. Adler, near a trail log. A quick check of the register disclosed a reported sighting of a bear and a coyote on the trails about a week or so prior. We didn’t see either of those things, but plenty of red squirrels and birds along the moss-lined paths.

Carrying Place Cove visible through the trees from Carrying Place Cove Trail, Ingersoll Point Preserve, Addison, ME

The mixed forest has the unique fairy woods feel of Downeast Maine. Split-log bridges provide passage over meandering brown streams. From the Carrying Place Cove trail, we could see across the low tide of the Cove to the opposite shore and a lobster pound. The trail wound up and down the forest above the Cove until reaching the beach, connecting to the Adler Woods and Wohoa Bay Trails.

Wohoa Bay from Wohoa Bay Trail, Ingersoll Point Preserve, Addison, ME

Here, the forest opens to wildflowers and below, the sea, with views of Wohoa Bay and the pine-covered Carrying Place Island. We saw the tracks of a small deer in the sand. The Wohoa Bay Trail continues south over the rocks and sand of the beach, then through tall grass to its westward course back through the forest. The only real elevation was a small, winding course up a small cliff. We saw a few people on the trail, but mostly had the forest and beach to ourselves, a rustic luxury for the Maine coast in summertime.

Moss-lined trail, Ingersoll Point Preserve, Addison, ME

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Pride Preserve (Westbrook, ME)

Pride Preserve, Westbrook, Maine

Pride Preserve in Westbrook, Maine, is a beautiful newborn 188 acre forest and wetlands preserve, opened in 2020 and owned and managed by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (PRLT) (see map and info here). According to PRLT, it is “the largest conserved forestland in urban greater Portland.” The 3.5 miles of trails on the Preserve connect to Falmouth’s 63-acre Hardy Road Conservation Area trails. Parking is located in a lot off Duck Pond Road, as well as overflow on the side of Duck Pond Road itself. The 1 mile and 1.5 mile loop trails, joined by a connector, lead to a .5 mile out-and-back spur, and there are ponds, cascading streams, meadows, and a historic cemetery.

Blue Loop Trail, Pride Preserve, Westbrook, Maine

On a warm July morning, we explored a 3.8 mile loop through Pride Preserve and the Hardy Road trails, taking about an hour and a half. The PRLT trails were quiet, relatively flat, and well-marked, perfect for trailrunning. On the south side (closer to the trailhead) there are unfortunately some kitschy pre-fabricated fairy houses and castles on the trail. While some children may enjoy these things, the official Hiking in Maine position is that it detracts from the natural experience, like painted rocks and Bluetooth speakers. These brightly colored accents are thankfully few and far between.

Minnow Brook, Rapids Spur, Pride Preserve, Westbrook, Maine

We picked our way over the ledges of the Blue Loop, which was lined with blueberries, down to the Red Loop and the Rapids Spur, where Minnow Brook runs downhill to the Presumpscot River. This short spur trail, bordering a Westbrook neighborhood, is well worth the hike, as the brook serpentines through rocks, over moss, and in small cascades, with a very pleasing sound. The calls of goldfinches, hermit thrushes, and chickadees rang throughout the walk. Bullfrogs called from small, clear ponds filled with lilies.

Red Loop, Pride Preserve, Westbrook, Maine

The Hardy Road trails in Falmouth were a different animal- there were beautiful evergreen forest sections, filled with slanting light, and bird and butterfly-filled meadows. But there were also poorly marked trails, ringing shallow ponds with dumped truck tires poking out of the surface, bracketed by No Trespassing and Private Property signs, and ending abruptly in towering dirt piles or deep washouts harboring leeches. We picked our way through this section, including a brief fireman’s carry to traverse a submerged area, so only one of us got our shoes wet. The Falmouth Connector took us back to complete the loop of Pride Preserve.

Pond Trail, Hardy Road Conservation Area, Falmouth, Maine

Fish River Falls (Fort Kent)

Entry to Fish River Falls Trail at the end of the runway, Fort Kent Municipal Airport

The Fish River, popular with fishermen and boaters, completes its run north to the St. John River in Fort Kent in a line roughly parallel to Route 11 in Aroostook County, Maine. This portion of the road, beginning at Portage Lake to the south, is the Fish River Scenic Byway. According to a link on the site of the Northern Door Inn, a quiet, clean hotel where we spent a couple nights, locals bring inner tubes to the base of Fish River Falls to float down the approximately four miles to Fort Kent. But even if you don’t have the time or equipment to navigate this stretch, the hike to Fish River Falls is an easy twenty to forty minute round trip with great views.

Descending Fish River Falls Trail, Fort Kent, ME

The Falls, which are listed as a Unique Natural Feature (UNF) in the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, themselves lie at the end of an approximately half-mile downhill trail originating at a parking area by the Fort Kent Municipal Airport (at the end of Airport Road). Confusingly, their location is listed in the Gazetteer as T14 R8 WELS, the unincorporated township at the source of the Fish River, but the falls themselves are marked as a UNF on the map (page 67) containing Fort Kent. You will see signs for the trail, and (carefully) cross the end of the runway into the woods by a covered picnic table and a toilet facility.

Fish River Falls from an overlook near the picnic area, Fort Kent, ME

The entire loop is only about 1.2 miles, moving from the central trail up to the falls and down to a portage launch spot below them. On the day we visited, a fly fishing lesson was ongoing at the sheltered table, and we passed several people, including small children, while we were heading down to the falls and on our way back. To spend more time in this pretty spot, pack a lunch, and use the picnic area at the terminus of the trail. The trail winds briefly through pine woods, and over a small stream, reaching the banks of the Fish River.

Fish River Falls, Fort Kent, ME

The falls themselves were impressive, even in a dry early summer, and must rage in the spring thaw. According to a Fort Kent comprehensive use plan on the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) site, six river drivers were killed running logs through these falls during logging days, and their names are inscribed on a ledge near the falls. While the river driving days are over, we saw a lone, battered kayak pinned to a rock by the torrent, and wondered what the story was behind its abandonment. Unfortunately, other items were left behind, including multiple discarded beer/liquor cans. These did not, however, distract from the sounds of the river, the scent of the evergreens by the trail, and the quiet green meadow by the portage launch at the base of the falls. The Fish River Falls are a wonderful spot, too easily accessible to miss out on when visiting Fort Kent.

Portage launch at base of Fish River Falls, Fort Kent, ME

Burnt Meadow Mountain (Brownfield, ME)

Descending from North Peak via the Twin Brook Trail, Burnt Meadow Mountain, Brownfield, ME
Descending from North Peak via the Twin Brook Trail, Burnt Meadow Mountain, Brownfield, Maine

Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield, Maine, is a favorite hike of ours in all seasons, including when daughter was much younger.  Brownfield is less than an hour from Portland, and during mid-late summer, the wild blueberries all the way to the summit make for a pleasant distraction and motivator for younger children.  In winter, the moderate climb through vanished foliage yields great views of the White Mountains.

Burnt Meadow Mountain map and trail description from trailhead kiosk along Rte 160 in Brownfield.
Burnt Meadow Mountain map and trail description from trailhead kiosk along Rte 160 in Brownfield.

Our preferred route is via the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail (blue blazes) and Twin Brook Trail (yellow blazes), an approximately 3.6 mile loop, which took us about 2.5 hours at a relaxed pace in summer, and 2 hrs, 10 mins in winter.  The spur trail up to Stone Mountain (blue blazes) from the Twin Brook Trail adds about another 1.4 miles round-trip, which was about an hour added to the loop hike in the winter time.  These trails are well-marked and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Friends of Burnt Meadow Mountain.

As usual, the best description of this hike is in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide.  And in the new 11th edition of this guide, Burnt Meadow gets its own map.  In winter, the parking lot is small and icy, and hikers may have to find a parking spot at the town boat launch down Route 160.  For updated winter trail conditions, check the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail page on All Trails.  On winter days, the snow on the trail is usually packed, and micro-spikes help with some of the resulting ice on rocks.  The only deeper snow lies on the lesser-used Stone Mountain trail.

Not quite ready yet
Not quite ready yet in June.

The Burnt Meadow Trail passes through shaded woods and over exposed rock faces up a short, steep climb to the North Peak (1,575 ft).  On clear days, you will see hawks wheeling below, and the green, serrated sharks’ teeth rows of the surrounding hills and ridges.  In winter, the climb has the effect of being a pleasantly continuous ridge hike without the leaves to obscure views.

Watching three hawks (a pair and a loner) hunt in the valley below the Burnt Mountain Trail
Watching three hawks (a pair and a loner) hunt in the valley below the Burnt Mountain Trail in summer.

While the blueberries weren’t ready in June, we saw vultures, crows, many lady slippers in peak color, and also ran across a few toads.  We used plenty of bug spray, but didn’t hit large clouds of black flies or mosquitoes, except in low-lying areas along the Twin Brook Trail (obviously, no bugs in the wintertime).

Winter ascent up to the North Peak, Burnt Meadow Mountain
Winter ascent up to the North Peak, Burnt Meadow Mountain

The broad, open summit of Burnt Meadow is a great place for a picnic.  We didn’t linger too long in summer, though, just enjoyed some jerky and proceeded across to the Twin Brook Trail.  A large cairn marked the point to start our descent.  The Twin Brook Trail was a rolling course back to its junction with the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail, and from there back to the parking lot. Along the way in June 2021, I saw two red-shouldered hawks patrolling the area recently harvested for lumber, looking for small mammals. These open cuts allow for the growth of fragrant sweet fern, and blossoms promised blackberries later in the season. Shortly before returning to the trail junction, I spooked a herd of small deer, who disappeared into the thick forest.

A cairn marks the descent from the North Peak to the Twin Brook Trail
A cairn marks the descent from the North Peak to the Twin Brook Trail.

The Stone Mountain Trail is better in winter, as the surrounding area from the summit is easier to see without the leaves.  This trail is substantially less traveled than the North Peak or Twin Brook Trails, and may require some travel through deeper snow, with snowshoes being possibly necessary.

Follow blue blazes through a birch forest to the Stone Mountain summit
Follow blue blazes through a birch forest to the Stone Mountain summit.

One of the reasons we love this hike in the summertime is its proximity to the Brownfield Town Beach, which is a great place to cool off (Note: While dogs are plentiful on Burnt Meadow Mountain trails, they are not allowed at the beach after June 1st).

Brownfield Town Beach
Brownfield Town Beach

The Whistle Stop General Store in Baldwin is a good place to grab food – open all winter for snowmobilers and other travelers. Alternately, according to a recent Press Herald article, Gneiss Brewing in Limerick has food truck options on summer days.

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Baldface Circle Trail (Chatham, NH)

Bicknell Ridge and beyond, from Baldface Circle Trail, Chatham, NH

The Baldfaces (North and South) are a difficult but rewarding hike just over the (Maine) border in Chatham, NH, part of the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF). I used the Baldface Circle Trail, with stops at the spur for Emerald Pool, and a short diversion through Chandler Gorge, for a challenging 10.1 mile clockwise “lollipop” loop that took a little under five hours, and hit the peaks of South Baldface (3,570 ft) and North Baldface (3,610 ft). To navigate, I used my well-worn AMC White Mountain Guide, with the Baldface Loop on Map 5. A digital map is also available on the WMNF U.S. Forest Service site. The well-maintained parking area (with toilets) is located on NH route 113 in Chatham, with parking for approximately fifteen cars, and is usually full on summer days and weekends.

Emerald Pool, Baldface Circle Trail, WMNF, Chatham, NH

If, like me, you take topgraphical maps literally, completely disregard the map kiosk at the parking area, which shows the parking area directly across 113 from the trail. Walk north on the shoulder about sixty yards to take the trail upward, following yellow blazes through a pine forest which gives way slowly to birch and other deciduous trees, with the sound of thrushes and robins busy with their morning business. I stopped by the short spur trail to gaze down into Emerald Pool, which was deep, green, cool and clear, living up to expectations.

Chandler Brook, Chandler Gorge Loop, WMNF, Chatham, NH

I rejoined the Baldface Circle Trail, and turned south (go straight across from Emerald Pool spur, for those not into cardinal directions), taking the loop in a clockwise direction, based upon the advice of the White Mountain Guide and online articles, which describe the steep scrambles of South Baldface as being difficult on descent. After a slow upward climb, I reached the Chandler Gorge Loop trail, which adds a little distance, but reconnects with the Baldface Circle. I was soon rewarded with views of quiet Chandler Brook cascading down deeper and deeper defilades. As always, absent a compelling reason not to, take the side trails and overlooks.

The long, steep trail up South Baldface, WMNF, Chatham, NH

Returning to the main Baldface Circle Trail, I began an extended climb up steep stone staircases, eventually leading to the Baldface Shelter on the right. This shelter is well-located in a network of WMNF trails where you can choose several multi-day hikes. I saw several shrouded forms sleeping in the morning sun, and kept moving quietly by. Shortly after that began the alpine zone, denoted by signs. This is where the climbing really starts, and you can see how this would be difficult to descend, particularly in wet weather. Given how exposed to the elements the middle part of this loop is, it would be advisable to just pick another hike in bad weather (or probability of thunderstorms) or with recent rain.

White Mountain wildlife, Baldface Circle Trail

But the degree of difficulty yields rewards as well, as a fantastic ridge hike begins here, with expansive views for much of the time above timberline. From South Baldface Summit you can see a 360° panoramic view of the Whites in New Hampshire and Maine, including Mount Washington’s weather station and some remaining snow at Tuckerman’s Ravine. The alpine zone was full of sunlight, flowers, butterflies, bees, and birds. Brief intervals of alpine scrub forests allow for shade in the rolling terrain between the South and North peaks.

North Baldface summit, Baldface Circle Trail, WMNF, Chatham, NH

From North Baldface, follow trail signs for Eagle Crag, as the Bicknell Ridge Trail is unsigned, and it would be easy to get a ways down there thinking you are still on the Baldface Circle Trail. The steep descent leads to fields of light green ferns below the alpine zone, then the varied greens of a deciduous forest with sprawling broad-leafed hobblebush. The trail was uncrowded on this mid-June morning, with just a few friendly hikers passing in the opposite direction. Bugs were not bad at all, with an occasional mosquito settling on me when I happened to stop, but otherwise clear, even in some of the few marshy sections.

Baldface Circle Trail, WMNF, Chatham, NH

I saw moose droppings of mixed vintage along the trail near streams, and heard sounds in the forest, but no large animal image resolved itself through the trees. The foliage changed back to birch and pine as I descended, and I stopped on the way in a quiet area to cool off in a large, deep pool in the stream adjoining the trail, and felt refreshed and enervated. Passing the intersections with the Eagle Cascade Link, Bicknell Ridge Trail, and Emerald Pool spur, I continued back to the parking lot, now full of vehicles.

Charles Brook, Baldface Circle Trail, WMNF, Chatham, NH

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