When hiking to Old Speck a few weeks ago, the massive expanse of open rock on the East Peak of Baldpate Mountain was so readily apparent. Ever since then, I've been eager to do a hike to the Baldpates (West Peak and East Peak), especially since this would be another hike that was new to me. On 13-Sep-2012, I decided at the last minute to do this 8 mile round-trip trek. I started from the Old Speck trailhead on Rt. 26 in Grafton Notch in the State of Maine.
This hike involves a 3,300 ft elevation gain, but there are only two spots that I feel qualify as truly steep. One is the 0.8 mile climb from the Grafton Notch Shelter to the top of West Peak, and the other is the climb back up to West Peak on your return from East Peak. Admittedly, the scramble up to East Peak is somewhat steep, but it's very short-lived.
The trek to the Baldpates is a lovely segment of the Appalachian Trail, and the trail conditions were excellent for the entire distance. The steep climb from the Grafton Notch Shelter to West Peak is made easier by the magnificent rock work done by trail crews. With little exaggeration, it almost seemed like climbing a set of rock stairs to the summit. I tried to get a photo which would be representative of these "stairways", but couldn't seem to get an image that did justice to this splendid piece of work.
However, I was able to get a few decent snapshots that show some other elements of the trail. Below is a photo composite which shows the following: an Appalachian Trail survey marker; one of the two ladders on the north side of West Peak; a pretty section of trail near the summit of West Peak.
Photo composite showing a few elements of the trail to the Baldpates
Regarding views from the two peaks, I think the vistas from East Peak are definitely better than those from West Peak. However, West Peak does provide a great view of East Peak (next photo).
East Peak as viewed from West Peak
And, so as not to "short change" West Peak, there are there are many fine views, such as the one shown in the next photo which is looking northward toward what I presume to be Lake Umbagog. One thing I'm sure of, there is some definite autumn color beginning to show itself in the next photo.
Northward view from Baldpate's West Peak
On the way over to East Peak, there is another colorful view in the sag between West Peak and East Peak (next photo).
View of East Peak from sag between West Peak and East Peak
There were many more hikers out on the trail than what one might anticipate on a mid-week day. The next photo shows a group of hikers descending East Peak. This particular group didn't consist of Appalachian Trail hikers. They were just doing a multi-day backpacking trip in the mountains of western Maine.
Group of hikers descending East Peak
As I neared the top of East Peak, there was a terrific view looking southward toward West Peak. Clearly visible was the ribbon of trail that I had just descended on its north face. Even more impressive was seeing Old Speck Mountain looming just ahead on the right, and the countless numbers of peaks in several mountain ranges, such as the Mahoosuc Range, and Presidential Range.
West Peak viewed from East Peak, along with Old Speck (far right), plus countless other peaks
Once I reached the top of East Peak, I was struck by all the color on the mountaintop (next photo).
Colorful East Peak mountaintop
I was also impressed by the stone-line corridor that the trail-crew had constructed in an effort to keep hikers on the trail, rather than wandering all over the mountaintop and damaging the fragile alpine vegetation.
Stone-line corridor constructed to keep hikers on the trail, and off the fragile alpine vegetation
The next photo merely shows the signage atop Baldpate's East Peak.
Signage on Baldpate's East Peak
Further regarding the signage, it must be quite a sight for southbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers to see the scene shown in the next photo. Behind this sign is a giant vista of several of the mountains in Maine and New Hampshire that they'll be traversing on their way to Georgia.
Trail sign with a giant vista of several of the mountains in Maine and New Hampshire
The next four (4) photos show some of the other views that are available from Baldpate's East Peak.
Windmill Farm in Roxbury, ME, with Ellis Pond in foreground, and pointy Mt. Blue in background
Southeasterly view: Lots of mountains! (Any ideas about the pointy peak just left of center on the farthest horizon, Chocorua, East Royce???)
Southwesterly view: Sunday River Whitecap (foreground); Sunday River Ski Resort (background)
Northeasterly view: In the center of photo (just over the first ridge) is Rumford Whitecap with its bare-rock top. Hmmm! Might be an interesting hike! :-)
This last photo is one of those curiosity things which perhaps a reader will be able to answer. Near the top of Baldpate's West Peak, on the north side, there is a greenish-colored blaze painted on the ledge. A faint pathway can be seen at this point which leads through the scrubby conifers. Was there once another trail to this peak that perhaps came up from a different direction?
Was this blaze associated with an abandoned trail to Baldpate's West Peak?
To sum it up, perhaps the title of this report pretty much says it all. There's nothing to hate about a trek to Baldpate! This hike was particularly enjoyable since the weather was superb, and most importantly, it was a hike I'd never done, which is always a thrill for me.