Monday, October 24, 2011

Evans Notch

Route 113 winds its way up through Evans Notch on the eastern side of the White Mountain National Forest. The windy, scenic road begins in the broad floodplain of the Saco River in Fryeburg, Maine. By the time you reach the Notch you've crossed back and forth between Maine and New Hampshire a few times. We spent the weekend hiking this region, staying at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Cold River Camp. The Camp is bustling with visitors and staff in summer, but in the off-season only one cabin is available for overnight stays. Our friends Dale and Lisa snagged a 2-night booking for the four us, a terrific "base camp" for two days of nearby hiking.

The weekend weather was not terribly cooperative, yet we squeezed in some superb hiking on woodland trails cloaked in golden yellow leaves and through spruce forests draped in moss. Our destinations took us to some fabulous views. My motto though was to not miss the forest for the views. The woods and rocks and waterfalls were just as inspiring as the views.

One of the sweetest hikes was a Sunday morning sunrise hike to the diminutive Little Deer Hill and Deer Hill in Maine. We reached these 1,000-footers from our cabin at Cold River. A camp trail leads down to the river then crosses to the other side via a dam built in the 1960s. This same spot can be reached from the Baldface Circle parking lot taking the Deer Hill Connector. We actually hiked to Little Deer twice - Friday night just at sunset and then again Sunday morning. Kodi made the crossing fine on Friday, but needed a lift across the middle part on Sunday.

Just after you cross the Cold River you reach the state line.

The hike to the Deer Hills was a 3.5 to 4 mile hike up and down and around wooded slopes with some ledges near the top. We reached the top of Little Deer Hill after a 30 minute hike from the cabin - just at sunrise. the Baldface Royce Range to our west was bathed in morning light. The valley below was cloaked in morning fog. South Baldface stands out with its broad, bald face.

Kodi sat on Little Deer Hill taking in the sunrise.

As the fog began to lift in the valley below, we headed to Deer Hill.

The 0.7 mile trail over to Deer Hill is first down then back up. The top of Deer Hill (1,327') is wooded with little view. Continuing on the Deer Hills Trail another 100 feet leads to a lower ledge and a fabulous view. We sat looking east absorbing the warmth of the morning sun as it rose over Palmer and Adams Mountains. The entire length of Kezar Lake was hidden by fog.

The Chatham Trails Association maintains 40 miles of trails in this region. From our experience on this little hike they do excellent work, keeping trails open and maintaining nice trail signs. Thank you CTA.

The oak forest on the east and south slopes of Deer Hill is beautiful, the red and black oaks tall and stately and gorgeous in their fall colors. The understory of golden yellow beech leaves lit up the forest, something we experienced all weekend.

Our loop hike brought us back to Little Deer Hill, before we descended back to camp. By this time of the morning the fog had cleared and the Baldface Royce Range looked bright and welcoming. The bluish sky promised a good day of hiking, but alas the clouds returned. More tomorrow on our weekend of hiking, including our Saturday attempt at Eagle Crag and a second hike on Sunday to West Royce.

Until then, here is the Baldface Royce Range again on Sunday morning before we descended to camp. Sometimes the smallest hills give you the best views.

South Baldface Mtn and North Baldface Mtn from Little Deer Hill

Mt. Meader from Little Deer Hill

The Basin from Little Deer Hill.


  1. Wow! Ellen, you are sooo right about the Deer Hill hike being "sweet"! It is truly that, and your words and accompanying photos beautifully captured this trek. I love this type of hike. It's still very nice to hike to the high peaks now & then, but I find low-elevation hikes such as this to be just as rewarding, if not more so! Great report!


  2. Thanks John. The solitude of a Sunday morning sunrise hike added to the sweetness. And the oaks and beech are so beautiful this time of year - hiking beneath their canopies in fall is extra nice. These low elevation hikes offer such great experiences.

  3. I am not a hiker, but after reading this, I want to be! I've been going to Evans Notch for years, and it was wonderful to get this fresh perspective on the area.

  4. Hi Beth -- hiking is a lovely way to enjoy the woods and you can do short or long depending on your condition and mood and the weather. Evans Notch is a great place to explore.