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03 September 2012

Hiking in Northernmost Regions of VT and NH (Near Canadian Border)


This was one of those adventures where the driving-time and hiking-time are nearly equal!  Over the Labor Day weekend, my wife (Cheri) and I spent a day traveling to some of the northernmost regions of Vermont (VT) and New Hampshire (NH).  It was sort of a combination of roadside-sightseeing and on-trail hiking.  In VT, we hiked to Brousseau Mountain, as well as a very short "hike-ette" to a location known as Hanging Rock.  In NH, we hiked the Falls in the River Trail which is located in the area of the Second Connecticut Lake (north of Pittsburg, NH).

Perhaps the map below will provide an overview to get you oriented as to where we hiked. (Depending on your browser, clicking on the map might provide an enlarged image.)
Overview of hiking locations

On our road trip up to Brousseau Mountain, we crossed over into VT at Guildhall in order to follow VT Rt. 102 northward on the west side of the Connecticut River.  This route provides many scenic vistas looking across the river into NH (see next two photos).
Looking at Cape Horn Mountain (near Groveton, NH) from Vermont Rt. 102

Looking at North and South Percy mountains (near Stark, NH) from Vermont Rt. 102

In Canaan, VT, we headed west on VT Rt.114 for about 11 miles and then made a turn onto Brousseau Mountain Road which took us to the trailhead for the Brousseau Mountain Trail after about 0.8 miles of travel on a nice gravel road.

Just a few steps from the trailhead is a huge open field which provides excellent views looking westward toward Jay Peak, as well as other high peaks at the northern end of Vermont's Green Mountain Range.
Jay Peak and other high peaks at northern end of Vermont's Green Mountain Range

This same open field also provides an equally nice view looking northward toward the Eastern Township area of southern Quebec, Canada.
Northward View toward Eastern Township area of southern Quebec, Canada

After having been very impressed by the views at the trailhead, we headed for the trail that leads up to the cliffs on Brousseau Mountain.  The next photo combination shows the map that is posted at the trailhead, as well as the sign directing you to the trailhead.
Trailhead map and sign

The hike up to Brousseau Mountain's cliffs is only 0.8 mile with an elevation gain of 623 ft.  The trail is well-maintained and was in excellent condition on the day of our hike.

Upon arrival at the viewpoint, there is a stunning vista over looking Little Averill Lake (see next photo).
Vista from Brousseau Mountain overlooking Little Averill Lake

In the lower left corner of the photo shown above, you can see a portion of the huge cliffs on Brousseau Mountain.  These cliffs provide an environment that is well suited for Peregrine Falcon nesting.  There are times when the trail to Brousseau can be closed to hikers during the incubation period from March 1 through August 1.

In addition to the view over Little Averill Lake, a wide array of mountains can be seen in NH and VT.  Conditions for distance-viewing were not ideal on the day of our visit, but through the clouds, we could see faint outlines of peaks in NH mountain ranges, including the Franconia Range and Pilot Range.  Also, many peaks in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom were visible, as well as several high peaks at the northern end of the Green Mountains.

Barely visible with the naked eye was the windmill farm on Dixville Peak in NH.  Below is a zoomed photo which shows some of the windmills.
Zoomed photo of windmill farm on Dixville Peak in NH

Before leaving Brousseau Mountain, I carefully positioned myself to take a snapshot looking straight down to the bottom of the cliff where there is a huge talus field (next photo).
Talus field at bottom of Brousseau Mountain cliffs

After descending Brousseau, we jumped in our car to head eastward to NH in order to hike a trail named Falls in the River.  However, shortly after leaving the trailhead, we decided to take a short drive down a road named Little Averill Lake Road, just for the heck of it.  The road hugs the western shoreline of the lake, but no lakeside views are available since private land and cottages occupy this space.

However, on our ramble down Little Averill Lake Road we made an unexpected discovery.  On one little section of what we presumed to be public land, there is a signed trail to a place called Hanging Rock.  There were two vehicles parked on the shoulder of the road at the trailhead.  A group of hikers were just coming off the trail and they confirmed that the trail is open to the public.

This trail is very short, probably just a bit over 0.1 mile.  At the end of the trail, there is indeed a "hanging rock".  I think it's fair to say that this is one of those places which can be categorized as being nice to visit if you happen to be in the area, but certainly not worthy of a special trip.  Shown below is composite photo showing the trailhead sign, plus a couple of scenes at Hanging Rock.
Trailhead sign, plus a couple of scenes at Hanging Rock

After Hanging Rock, we drove directly to the Falls in the River Trail.  It took just under an hour.   As can be seen from the map that is shown below, there is parking at either end of this trail.  At the western end, parking is only available on the shoulder of the road.  At the eastern end of the trail, there is an actual parking lot at the Second Connecticut Lake dam.  
(Please Note: The purple highlighting on the map only shows the approximate corridor of the Falls in the River Trail.  An actual trail map, and trail description, can be found in Kim Nilsen's book entitled "50 Hikes North of the White Mountains".)
Map of Falls in the River Trail

In August 2011, Steve Smith filed a terrific Blog report which included a trek on the Falls in the River Trail (click HERE to read Steve's report).

It's a long and uninteresting story, but Cheri and I worked out a plan whereby we wouldn't need to hike this 2-mile trail, and then turn around and re-hike the 2-miles back to our starting point.  Cheri was most willing to only hike a portion of the trail, and drive to the trailhead at Second Connecticut Lake to wait for me while I completed a one-way journey of the entire 2-mile distance.

And so, with no further ado, presented below are a few snapshots taken while hiking the Falls in the River Trail.  I'll be brief in saying that this is a beautiful trail which is well-blazed and well-maintained.  Besides the attractive "Falls in the River" destination,  this trail leads you past several gorgeous vistas of the Connecticut River.
Composite photo showing trailhead sign, plus a typical section of well-blazed trail

Not the best shot, but it does show the "Falls in the River"

Wide spot in river with slow moving water

Narrow spot in river with rapidly flowing water

To sum it up,  both my wife and I were extremely pleased with our Labor Day holiday journey to the far northern regions of VT and NH.  The drive to and from the area was scenic, plus the views we experienced on our hikes truly exceeded our expectations!  And, with neither of us ever having done these hikes, this was a brand new adventure which made the experience even sweeter!

10 comments:

  1. Great report, John! I've seen those cliffs on Brousseau in the far distance from various viewpoints. That vista over the lake is a stunner! Falls in the River Trail is a gem. Nice exploration!

    Steve

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    1. Thanks Steve! You have such an incredibly keen eye! It’s highly unlikely that I would’ve ever recognized the Brousseau cliffs when viewing them from some other location. You are gifted with a superb sense of perspective.

      And yes, the Falls in the River Trail is indeed a gem. A marvelous job was done with constructing the trail.

      It’s pure speculation, but I wonder if some folks make a loop out of it by walking US Rt. 3 between the two trailheads. Cheri and I noticed two separate groups of folks walking the shoulder of the road.

      John

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  2. Great report. Loved that little trail of Falls in the River.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ann,

      It’s good to know that you enjoyed reading my report, and that you also are a fan of the Falls in the River Trail!

      Perhaps you’re already aware of a somewhat similar hike that is also in the far upper portion of NH. This one is located north of Errol at the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. It’s called the Magalloway River Trail. A map and trail description is contained within Kim Nilsen’s book: “50 Hikes North of the White Mountains”.

      John

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    2. We are hoping to hit that trail sometime this fall when we are up there. We had a delightful lunch at Happy Corner Cafe. I love that book, so happy Steve recommended it to us. We did Mud Pond from that book for a quick hike before our 4 hour car ride home, two weeks ago.
      Ann

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    3. Thanks Ann for your follow-up note. Greatly appreciated!

      John

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  3. Your photos are stunning!

    tomhikesthewhites.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Tom!

      I just accessed the two Blogs that you operate at http://tomstandley.blogspot.com/. You do some fine photography work yourself!

      John

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  4. What a fun Labor Day outing for you and Cheri.
    The views from VT 102 and from the Brousseau trailhead are wonderful. Love the clouds reflected in the lake on the first shot.
    Vermont and New Hampshire have an abundance of roads for scenic drives. I would love to take a backroads tour of your state and of Vermont during fall color season. Maybe some year...
    The hikes sound like fun too.
    This post sums up an all-around nice getaway, John!

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    1. Hi Rita,

      Cheri especially likes hiking destinations where the road-trip to the trailhead has as much scenery to offer as does the hike itself. This adventure seemed tailor-made to fit that criteria!

      John

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