Clockwise from South Baldface (3,570 feet) to North Baldface (3,610 feet) via the Baldface Circle Trail
9.7 miles 3,600 feet elevation
The Baldface Mountains off NH 113 in the White Mountain National Forest offer one of the best ridge traverses of the area, with about four miles of open ledges. The views into Maine are spectacular on the ascent of South Baldface and only get better the higher you go, as New Hampshire’s Presidential Range can be viewed from the top of South Baldface and along the ridge. This is a challenging trail and should not be underestimated. While offering spectacular views the ledges offer little to no protection from any inclement weather, they are exposed to wind, rain, sun and thunderstorms. Climbing up South Baldface is extremely steep and can be dangerous if icy or wet. Only very experienced hiking dogs and their humans would enjoy this trail together. However alternative routes are available that by-pass the ledges all together for a slightly longer (1 additional mile) but more protected and less steep route by taking the Slippery Brook Trail at the junction .9 miles in from NH 113.
Parking for the Baldface Circle Trail is located just down NH 113 from the AMC’s Cold River Camp. It is a large parking area with a restroom, however no use fee is collected onsite. The trailhead is across the street about 60 yards from the parking area, it is well-signed and easy to spot. At first the trail climbs at an easy grade to Circle Junction .7 miles, where a path leads to Emerald Pool. From here the trail is described Clockwise- up South Baldface, over North Baldface and descending from Eagle Crag. The trail can be done in reverse, but due to the ledges on South Baldface it is recommended the trail be done as described, as descending the ledges could prove quite difficult for even the most experienced hiker and dog. However, the ledges can be skipped entirely by taking the Slippery Brook Trail a slightly longer but less exposed option.
From Circle Junction the south trail follows an old logging road, turns left and crosses a brook bed, and comes to the junction with Slippery Brook Trail at .9 miles. Continuing on the logging road for another mile, a side trail for Chandler Gorge loop (.5 miles) at mile 1.2 offers a path to a small flume with several small pools. This side trail rejoins the Baldface Circle trail. South Baldface shelter is located at 2.5 miles from the road, it is a fine shelter located in a small clearing. To the right of the structure there is Last Chance Spring, located among the rocks, it is unreliable but while running offers the last water available on the trail until the descent. This is also a great place to take a rest because from this point the trail climbs very steeply up exposed rock. The ledges up South Baldface are steep and dangerous, especially when wet or icy. Use caution and keep a keen eye on the yellow blazes and cairns that mark this section of trail. At mile 3 the trail reaches a knob and continues to ascend at a moderate grade. The Slippery Brook trail interects the Baldface Circle trail at mile 3.2 and continues up the ledges to the summit of South Baldface (3,560 feet) at mile 3.7. A large cairn marks the summit where views of both the Carter-Moriah Range, the Presidential Range and much of the Maine and New Hampshire mountain region can be seen as far as the eye can see. The ridge from South to North Baldface is 1.2 miles of varying open spaces and conifer forests. It is an easy and there are some areas where protection from storms can be found amongst the rocks and small cols. There is one steep ascent to gain the summit of North Baldface (3,610 feet) at mile 4.9 another fine summit with spectacular views. From here the trail descends steeply over the ridge that leads to Eagle Crag. The Baldface Circle trail descends to the right, in some places rather steeply over the ledges. This descent is much easier than trying to descend the ledges on South Baldface. There are a few small scrambles but nothing too difficult. After the ledges the trail continues to descend moderately. At 6.9 miles it crosses a small brook and becomes less steep, from here back to the Circle junction at 9 miles the trail is very easy to follow and gradual in descent. There are several small water crossings including a branch of Charles Brook that can be difficult to cross in high water. From the Circle Junction an easy .7 miles will lead back to NH 113.
This trail is not to be underestimated, it is long and much of it is exposed. The ledges on South Baldface are dangerous and completing this trip can be strenuous even for an experienced hiker. Use caution and common sense if you find yourself and your dog in a bad situation on the ridge or ledges of this trail. There are some places for shelter, as well as alternative routes to make the journey safer and more pleasant. Pay attention to the weather as it can change quickly in the mountains.
While I was climbing the ledges there were a few places where good dog/human communication was necessary to negotiate difficult jumps and maneuvers. So be sure that you have a dog that listens well and can follow commands. The ledges are beautiful and a dog with rock experience will do fine with the help of their human. The only other notable challenge is the lack of water on most of the trail. Be sure to have enough for you and your dog, there are no reliable streams for the first part of the hike, until almost the end.
Distances from NH 113
Circle Junction .7 miles
Slippery Brook Junction .9 miles
South Baldface Shelter 2.5 miles
South Baldface Summit 3.7 miles
North Baldface Summit 4.9 miles
Eagle Link/Meader Ridge Trail 6.1 miles
Circle Junction 9.1 miles
NH 113 Complete Loop 9.8 miles 3,600 total elevation