I took Spring Break off from work so I could spend it with my boys. Since the weather was looking seasonably warm we decided to camp in the White Mountains National Forest for a couple of days. After a cold night we headed up the Kancamagus Highway and Interstate-93 to Franconia Notch State Park to hike the Bald Mountain and Artist’s Bluff loop just north of the notch.
After a brief detour (I was looking for parking for the trail and didn’t realize it was in the overflow parking lot at Cannon Mountain Ski Resort) we found the trailhead and started our hike at 12:30 pm. There were a few cars in the lot and the weather was a bit cool, but clear and dry. Perfect hiking weather.
We attacked the trail clockwise, so the first stop was the summit of Bald Mountain. The climb was easy (my 9-year-old didn’t complain) and after the spur trail branched off to head to the summit it became quite interesting. There were a few rock scrambles and views toward Cannon Mountain’s ski slopes.
We got to the summit at 12:50 pm and relaxed while checking out the view toward Franconia Notch. Some of the ski slopes and the summit of Mount Lafayette still had snow showing, and the hardwoods forests had a red tint from their leaf buds starting to burst.
We headed back down the spur trail to rejoin Artist’s Bluff Path. By this point we had passed several families and groups of teenagers going in both directions. I had read that Bald Mountain wasn’t as popular as it once was due the Cannon Mountain’s Aerial Tramway making it easier to view Franconia Notch. The Aerial Tramway wouldn’t be open until May, so the hike was popular on this day.
Artist’s Bluff Path took us around the north side of the small mountain and up and over a lower sub-peak with limited views. On the shadowed side of the mountain there were some areas of mud and even lingering patches of ice, but nothing that couldn’t be avoided. Once over the sub-peak, the path began to drop in elevation and approach Interstate-93 on the eastern end of the mountain. At the top of a small slide a red blaze pointed us toward Artist’s Bluff.
The bluff was a small cliff overlooking Echo Lake and the highway below. It afforded a similar view as the summit of Bald Mountain, but at a different angle. It did have a better view of Echo Lake and Eagle Cliffs and the boys enjoyed watching the vehicles go by on the highway.
We ate a snack, took some photos and were lucky enough to have the bluff to ourselves for about ten minutes. As more people arrived we packed up and headed down the trail.
The climb down the slide from Artist’s Bluff was a little steep and people hiking up were huffing and puffing. We paused at the bottom to watch some rock climbers ascending the face of Artist’s Bluff. The hike back to the car was flat and paralleled Route 18 to complete the loop. We arrived back at the car just after 2:00 pm and hopped in to backtrack past our camp site in order to have lunch at Otter Rocks and then explore Sabbaday Falls (which was closed due to ice on the path).
Anyone looking for an easy hike with rewarding views should check this out. It was perfect for children as the elevation was minor but still had some exciting climbs over rock faces and boulders. At a mile and a half it was just about the perfect length for a family day hike as well. We definitely enjoyed it!
Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
Video of Bald Mountain and Artist’s Bluff hike
Music from Free Music Archive: “Roses face B” by Au fond du car
Date Hiked: 20 April 2016
Trail Conditions: mostly dry, some mud
Wind: NW 10 mph
Highest Elevation: 2340′
Elevation Gain: 690′
Distance: 1.5 miles
Book Time: 1:05
Actual Time: 2:35