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10 July 2012

A Different Loop to Familiar Places: Frankenstein Cliff and Ripley Falls

Redlining all the trails in the White Mountain Guide isn't one of my aspirations, however I do enjoy hiking trails that are new to me.

Frankenstein Cliff and Ripley Falls are two easy to reach destinations. I've visited both places on several occasions, but always as separate hikes.  On 09-July-2012, I hiked a loop which not only included both destinations on a single hike, but also provided the opportunity to incorporate trail-segments that were new to me, i.e. Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail (from Ripley Falls to the Frankenstein Cliff Trail), and Saco River Trail (from Dry River Trail to east side of Webster Brook).

My route for this 6.8 mile loop is highlighted in yellow on the map that is shown below.  My direction of travel was counterclockwise. (As always, click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Before going further with this report, I'd like to add a side note about the Saco River Trail.  This trail has always been somewhat tricky to follow through the area where it crosses several channels of Webster Brook.  However, with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, the trail through that area has been obliterated.  You need to pick your way through a swath of rocky rubble that is at least 300 ft wide.  As of the day of this hike, there were no blazes or cairns to guide you to the other side where the trail picks up again.  Photos would have been ineffective in showing the situation that exists here.   However, if I'd thought about it, perhaps a short video-clip might have been enlightening.

Okay, let's move onward now with the report of my loop hike.  Ripley Falls was the first stop.  It wasn't exactly rip-roaring on the day of my visit (see photo below).
Ripley Falls as it trickles down the rock slabs

On this particular day, perhaps the more interesting views were from the top of Ripley Falls.  The first photo shows the view looking straight down from the top, as well as the partial view of Mt. Webster on the horizon.
View from top of Ripley Falls

The next photo is similar to the first, but is more of a sideways view.
Sideways view from the top of Ripley Falls

After visiting Ripley Falls, I trekked along the segment of the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail that was new to me, and then took the Frankenstein Cliff Trail to my next destinations which were Falcon Cliff and the Frankenstein Cliff itself.

Many readers have visited both Falcon Cliff and Frankenstein Cliff.  Therefore, there is little point to presenting more than a few snapshots of the expansive views from these locations.  Shown below are two photos, the first one shows one of the vistas from Falcon Cliff, and the second one shows a vista from Frankenstein Cliff.
A vista from Falcon Cliff

A vista from Frankenstein Cliff

By looking through binoculars, or through the magic of zoom photography, you can get some close-up views of many features on the landscape.  One such feature is Mt. Chocorua, which is shown in the zoomed photo below.
Zoomed snapshot of Mt. Chocorua

Another feature that I zoomed in on was Crawford Dome.  This was of particular interest to me since I'd bushwhacked to this spot in April of this year (Click HERE to read that report.)
Zoomed snapshot of Crawford Dome

After visiting Falcon and Frankenstein Cliffs, it was time to begin the final leg of the loop.  This began with a trek along the eastern end of the Frankenstein Cliff Trail which passes under the Frankenstein Trestle (see next photo).
Frankenstein Trestle

The trestle can be seen from US Rt 302 where there is a highway marker which provides some historical information.
Highway marker with information about Frankenstein Trestle

Shortly after crossing under the trestle, I took a short-cut down to US Rt 302.  Possibly, I was following the corridor of the former trail that led from a now abandoned trailhead on Rt. 302.  Regardless, it was easy-going through open hardwoods and only took about 5 minutes to reach the road.

As can be seen by the map presented at the beginning of this report, I did a short walk along Rt. 302 to reach the Dry River Campground where I picked up the Dry River Connector Trail which led me to the Saco River Trail.

Hiking along the east end of the Saco River Trail is more than just a beautiful walk through the woods.  There are some nice vistas if you wander just a few hundred feet off the trail where it passes close to a beaver meadow.  These vistas include a view of Mt. Willey, as well as the backside (non-cliff side) of Frankenstein Cliff.
Mt. Willey as seen from beaver meadow along Saco River Trail

Backside of Frankenstein Cliff as seen from beaver meadow along Saco River Trail

The last photo in this report shows a sign which was prominently displayed at the beginning of the Dry River Connector, as well as the trail junctures for the Saco River Trail.  Although the Saco River Trail didn't suffer the full brunt of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene, a small portion of this trail at Webster Brook was obliterated (as described at the beginning of this report).
Signage regarding trail closures due to Tropical Storm Irene

To sum it up, this loop hike provided enjoyable views, plus the opportunity to experience some trail segments that were new to me.  Seems like a winning combination!


Mark Truman said...

What a nice loop. Like you, we've done these individually before - but what great combination this makes. We've never visited the Saco River Trail and that looks like a very worthwhile diversion as well. And what a glorious day you had for it! Just loved the views you shared from everywhere along the way.

Peppersass said...

John, I've never been and now I am dying to go. Did you mention how long it took you?

1HappyHiker said...

Thank you Mark!

Although I neglected to mention it in my report, even the brief walk along Rt. 302 was pleasurable. You had a view of the Presidential Range staring you in the face as you made your way to the Dry River Campground. At the outset, I was undecided as to whether to do this hike in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. It’s still sort of a toss-up in my mind, but perhaps the “in-your-face” view of the Presidential Range during the roadwalk persuades me to think that counterclockwise has its advantages! :-)


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Dolores . . . nope, I failed to mention how long it took me to do this loop. Thank you for asking! I did a lot of dilly-dallying, but even with that, it took just a tad over 5 hours.


Kimball said...

Beautiful photos John! Just beautiful.

Rita Wechter said...

Another fine post, John, from what looks like a rewarding hike. I especially liked the photo of the backside of Frankenstein Cliff with the flowers in the foreground.

Im curious about the excursion trains through Crawford Notch. It looks like this would be an excellent activity for fall foliage season. Do the trains run for most of the year?

1HappyHiker said...

Kim . . . thank you so much for the kudos! I’m most appreciative!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,
Thank you for taking time to post a comment, and thank you for you kind words!

Regarding the train excursions, please take a look at the link below. It appears that this year the “Notch Train” will be running through October 8. And yes, you’re absolutely correct, it is indeed an excellent activity for fall-foliage season!


NeoAkela said...

Nice, John! Did you visit Sparkling Cascade on your way up above Ripley? Of course, it would have likely been just a trickle, too. Those are some excellent views from the Saco River trail - that's one I've never been to.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Chris,

First of all, thank you for posting your comments!

Regarding Sparkling Cascade, two factors dissuaded me from going there. One was the mere trickle of water at Ripley Falls, and the other was that I was short on time since I got another of my infamous late starts. Didn’t get on the trail until shortly after 1:00 PM! :-)

The entire length of the Saco River Trail is an interesting hike. To get views, you have to work for them and go a few hundred feet off-trail. The views are even better in winter when the swampy beaver meadows are frozen and you can walk out onto them for even wider vistas.