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02 October 2013

A Short Loop Hike in Dixville Notch

On a beautiful Autumn day, I made an impulsive decision to do a 60-mile drive to Dixville Notch in northern New Hampshire.  Admittedly, it was a rather odd decision to travel such a long distance since it was already late morning by the time I finished doing some things around the house.  However, I knew the time would pass quickly with all the colorful foliage to admire along the route.  Also, the hiking options I'd chosen were short and doable in the amount of daylight hours available to me.

In the past, I've hiked to several locations in the Dixville Notch area, including the popular destination of Table Rock.  On this particular day, I chose to launch a trek from the eastern end of the Sanguinary Ridge Trail which originates at the Flume Brook picnic area in Dixville Notch State Park.  On the ascent portion of the hike up the ridgeline, there were enjoyable views looking down into Dixville Notch, and particularly nice views looking eastward toward Maine.  The Autumn foliage was near its peak in terms of brilliant colors.
Dixville Notch as viewed from an overlook along Sanguinary Ridge Trail
East view toward Maine from Sanguinary Ridge (Old Speck prominent on distant horizon)
On the descent portion of my hike, the dominant vista was that of Lake Gloriette and the Balsams Resort Hotel. The hotel is closed (as of the date of this hike).  Renovations will start once enough money is gathered to finance the project.  The owners of this legendary hotel have recently reported that once the necessary funds are procured, the project will be completed within 18 months of its commencement.  The renovation is estimated to cost around $35 million.
Lake Gloriette and Balsams Resort Hotel as viewed from a perch on Sanguinary Ridge
Looking straight DOWN from a perch along Sanguinary Ridge Trail
Compared to other places where I've hiked, the geology of Dixville Notch appears to be quite different.  My knowledge of geology is so very limited. However I seem to recall reading somewhere that the rock here is quartz monzonite versus the quartzite/mica schist that is more prominent at other places where I frequently hike.  Perhaps a reader of this Blog who is knowledgeable about geology can provide some authoritative information about the physical structure of Dixville Notch.

But regardless of the geology of the area, shown in the next 3 photos are examples of rock spires that I find fascinating since they are land features that are rarely seen on my usual hikes.
Rock spire on south wall of Dixville Notch
Trailside view of Index Rock on north wall of Dixville Notch
A different viewing perspective of Index Rock
At the western end of the Sanguinary Ridge Trail, you begin to descend into the narrow Dixville Notch.  As the two walls of the notch tighten, you see some vistas through small slits, such as shown in the next photo.
A portion of Lake Gloriette as viewed from western end of Sanguinary Ridge Trail
Upon reaching the end of the Sanguinary Ridge Trail, I had a decision to make as to how to complete my loop.  It could be done by hiking about two-miles on a very nice set of hiking trails (Table Rock Climbing Trail; Three Brothers Trail; Huntington Cascade Trail; Flume Brook Trail).  Or, I could walk for about one-mile through the Dixville Notch along the shoulder of Route 16.

Believe it or not, I opted to walk through the Notch versus the hiking trail combination described above.   Part of this decision had to do with evening fast-approaching due to my late start.   Another factor was that I actually relished the idea of walking through this small "boutique-size" notch!  It would be a totally different experience from doing yet another on-trail trek along a ridgeline high above the notch.  However, I must say that this option would never have even been considered for a larger notch such as Crawford Notch, and certainly not the Franconia Notch with Interstate 93 running through it!

Traffic was light.  Only 9 cars passed by me on my 15 minute walk through the notch.  Shown in the next photo is an example of the pleasant roadside views that I experienced.
Typical roadside view while walking through Dixville Notch along Rt. 16
When I arrived back at my car, there was still a bit of time before I needed to head home to Bethlehem.  The Huntington Cascade Trail was just a short distance away, and so I decided to launch a short hike up that trail.  However, given the time of day, and the time of year, the dim lighting was an issue with photographing the cascades.

Shown below is a composite photo of two cascades along this trail.  This is certainly not my finest piece of photography, but perhaps it will provide some idea as to how these cascades might appear under better viewing conditions.
Two cascades along Huntington Cascade Trail
The title of this report states that this was a "A Short Loop Hike in Dixville Notch".  How short was it, you might ask!  It was really short!  I guesstimate that overall, it was less than 3.5 miles (1.7 miles along Sanguinary Ridge Trail; 1.1 mile road walk along Rt. 16; about 0.6 mile out and back on the Huntington Cascade Brook Trail).

To sum it up, although the distance for this hike was small, the enjoyment was large.  As is true for so many things, it boils down to a question of quantity versus quality.  I've done much longer hikes than this one, but enjoyed them less!


cthikergal said...

Great hike report. Love looking at the rock spires, reminds me of some of the hoodoos I saw in New Mexico many years ago. I guess this is New England's version of hoodoos. The colors are stunning on the trees. Thanks for capturing New England.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Ann for such kind comments!

Also, thanks for pointing out the similarity between hoodoos and the rock spires at Dixville Notch. Now that you mention it, I can definitely see the similarity.


Anonymous said...

Great report on another hike I'll have to put on my "to do" list for next summer, when work stops getting in my way. I'll take quality over quantity any day! Nice photos, John.

1HappyHiker said...

Yup! This is a hike, Lisa, which I think you’d really enjoy. So, definitely put it on your list. And then head on up there once that little nuisance called “work” gets out of the way. :-)


Andrew said...

Hi John,
I've never hiked the trail along the north side of the notch, but the last time I was on Table Rock I searched the Cliffside trying to determine where on earth the trail could be. From there it looked like foot travel had worn a path behind Index Rock, but it seemed too steep to be the route?
Did you enjoy the new bridge over Huntingdon Brook and happen to notice the new trail heading east? The SCA worked with Parks for these new features, and the new trail follows pleasant woods to the F&G moose viewing area. Now I won't need to doubt whether or not we'll be able to get across to the falls in the future.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Andrew,

It sounds from your vantage point on Table Rock you did indeed spot the portion of the Sanguinary Ridge Trail that runs behind Index Rock. And yes, that segment is steep. However the steep pitch has been made more manageable thanks to the relatively recent rock stairs constructed by the North Woods Stewardship Center.

Yes, I did enjoy that new bridge over Huntington Brook. Terrific piece of work! And I did notice the trail heading east. Unfortunately, I simply didn’t have time to explore it. However, it (along with several other trails in that area) will definitely be explored the next time I’m up there, which I’m hoping will be sooner rather than later.

Thanks for posting your comments, Andrew. Very much appreciated!


One Day in America said...

I agree with Ann that those rock formations you photographed are New England's version of the hoodoos we have here in the southwest. But while I love hiking among Utah's strange and beautiful rocks, what I could use right now is a good dose of New England fall color. And your post satisfies that craving!

The red berries in the foreground on your Lake Gloriette photo really set off the autumn scene. Any idea what kind of berries they are?

This sounds and looks like another very enjoyable fall outing, John. Nice post!

1HappyHiker said...

Ah yes . . . the New England hoodoos! Sounds like it could be a name used for a sports team! :-)

Regarding those red berries, I think they are American Mountain Ash berries. But, I’m open to correction if a more learned reader knows otherwise.

As always Rita, thanks for taking time to read and comment on my Blog.


Ellen Kolb said...

John, were you able to tell if there are any hiking restrictions or re-routes on the Balsams property? Do you know if the road connecting the golf course with Diamond Pond Road is still open at the Balsams end? I recall spending a good day a few years back just wandering on the roads in that area.

1HappyHiker said...

Ellen, I didn’t see any signage on the Balsams property regarding hiking restrictions or re-routes. However, I didn’t do a thorough search in every nook and cranny, and so it’s possible that I might have overlooked something.

Regarding road closures in the Balsams vicinity, the only road that I saw with a “closed” sign was Cold Spring Road which runs adjacent to the west end of Lake Gloriette.

And lastly, it’s easy to understand how one could spend the better part of the day just wandering the back roads in that area. I’ve never done it, but given the terrain, it seems like it might provide some scenic and unique views.