Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bald Mountain and Artist Bluff

Distance: 1.6 mi roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 600 ft
Duration: appx. 1.5 hours (lots of picture-taking!)

This is a long overdue post; I've had it sitting in drafts for weeks and it was well worth finishing because the hike was a perfect, short but fun trip.

About six weeks ago, we took to the mountains for a much needed impromptu weekend away.  I assured Erick we were there to relax and explore the area, "no hiking."  But by 8:00AM Saturday morning, I couldn't look south at Franconia Ridge and Cannon Mountain any longer without setting out with the dogs.  Referring again to my AMC White Mountains Map, I found the Bald Mountain and Artist Bluff loop, which looked perfect for our needs.

So the dogs and I hopped in the car and drove all of 10 minutes to the trailhead.  I could get used to that!!  The trailhead is along the roadside just before the flashing orange light at Cannon's Peabody Base Area lot off of Rt 18.

I fastened Ty's new boots from Mountain Ridge and we walked across the closed parking lot to the trailhead sign.  As described online, the trail starts a bit steep and we very quickly reached the spur to Bald Mountain.  The spur was a great taste of the terrain we're used to but in a quick bite format that was acceptable for Tango (the temperature was starting to rise).  We climbed a rock staircase, a little scramble, some exposed bedrock, and an impressive rock face to scramble that made me question the "family friendly" designation this hike was awarded.  An adventurous youngin would love the challenge but my difficulty finding footing and the height of the rock face made me think it could easily be intimidating to some children.

Scramble over smooth rock with Ty for reference
Beyond the scramble we hopped up a couple more open ledges where the wind was a little sharp.The dogs and I thought that the trail might loop back down but, after some wandering through the hemlocks and finding a campsite, we realized we'd be making a tough bushwhack (not that Ty cared) and backtracked.

Open viewpoints are our favorites!
Ty evaluating her route options
After rejoining the main trail, we sped up.  It is varied but easy and we enjoyed ourselves as the trail rolled along.  As the  trail started to descend rockily, I wondered if I'd missed what had been described as an "unnamed spur" to Artist Bluff.  Thankfully, there was an arrow on a boulder indicating the way.  We hooked left and very quickly reached Artist Bluff.  It's quite lovely but I enjoyed the first vista a bit more.  Ty and Tango loved the grasses near the outlook though!

A hint of color! (9/17/16)
Meticulously made steps

Returning to the main trail was more rocky, dusty descent over boulders and stone steps.  It was fun and I was tempted to jog.  
Above: heading down, below: looking back up

Soon we were approaching what seemed like the end, as I could see the road through the thinning trees.  Instead, the trail turned sharply and ran parallel to the road until reaching the parking lot.  It was a nice cool down that was mostly flat.

Bald Mountain and Artist Bluff was exactly what I was looking for that morning: quick,easy with challenging sections, variety, and spectacular views (I need a new adjective, don't I?!).  There weren't any water sources that I can recall but time of year probably played a part in that and the dogs didn't really need water.  Ty's Mountain Ridge "tough boots with grip" (that she was wearing as her raw pads healed from a previous hike) performed extremely well and they've become our go-to boots for most situations.  I tightened them only once or twice and she had no issues going up or down rock faces or maneuvering scrambles.  Fun, short, great location, and quiet, at least in late September - we couldn't have asked for more!
Look for parking at the flashing light, park, hike, enjoy!


  1. Titus and I were pleasantly surprised by the Bald Mtn scrambles! And we, too, felt betrayed by the description of this as a "loop."

  2. Loved it, wish it was closer to home! It's a loop...of the non-traditional variety 😜