White Cairn and Stone House trails

July 14, 2013

Kid Tracks: Evans Notch at its family friendliest

By Wendy Almeida walmeida@mainetoday.com
Assistant News Editor/Features

There are a lot of challenging hikes in Evans Notch in the White Mountains National Forest, but there are two hikes in this area that are great for families or those looking for a less challenging trek with great mountain views.

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A view from The Roost

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Rattlesnake Pool on the Stone House Trail on Blueberry Mountain.

THE VIEW FROM HERE

THE ROOST

Trail head GPS coordinates: 44.0593, -70.911

Trail length: 1 mile roundtrip

Elevation gain: about 800 feet

BLUEBERRY MOUNTAIN

White Cairn Trail/Stone House Trail loop

Trail head GPS coordinates: 44.252, -70.9909

Trail length: approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip

Elevation gain: about 1,180 feet

Both trails are in Evans Notch in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness area of the White Mountains National Forest, about 20 miles north of Fryeburg on Route 113.

The Roost is a hike that has been on my family's bucket list for years simply because we like the name. But the main reason it took us a while to actually get there is because of how short the hike actually is -- just a half-mile.

I felt if we were going to drive the distance to Evans Notch (about 20 miles north of Fryeburg via a winding road), I wanted to hike a bigger mountain to make the drive worth it. But we finally got there, and my kids found several reasons to like the short adventure.

The trail offers a steady ascent with an elevation gain of about 800 feet, and it took us less than 30 minutes to get to the top. The summit is tree-covered, but a short hike following a marked trail leads to an open ledge with some nice views of the notch.

A feature we liked on this trail was all the animal droppings. We rarely see an animal when we hike, so droppings are a good consolation prize, particularly when there are a variety of shapes and sizes that prompts speculation about what left them. Poop never fails to be a conversation starter for kids of all ages.

The biggest challenge with The Roost hike for us was the bugs. A friend drove us to the trail and I was without my car's usual supply of bug spray. And I forgot to throw a bottle of spray in my backpack. So on a wet muggy day, we were dressed in pants and windbreakers (with hoods). It made for a very hot, buggy hike. Even so, it was a place worth its spot on our bucket list. The hike may have been short, but that offered time to for a quick side trip to shop in North Conway. If there weren't already a dozen other reasons why my kids like Evans Notch, this would be added to my teenagers' list of attractive features.

Unlike The Roost, Blueberry Mountain, also in Evans Notch, was a must-explore from the moment we learned of it. We've hiked the mountain several times over the years. The first time was when the kids were in elementary school. And although longer and more challenging than The Roost -- about 4.6 miles roundtrip -- it's doable for kids with an average fitness level who like to hike.

In the past month I've hiked Blueberry Mountain twice, once with a friend on a new-to-me trail and again with the kids on a loop we usually take to the summit. I now have an informed opinion about which I think is best for families -- the White Cairn Trail to the summit, and then the Overlook Loop to connect to the Stone House Trail to head back down the mountain. The White Cairn trail offers some challenges and a bit of scrambling over rocks, but there are a couple nice views before you get to the summit. This is nice when you need a snack break to catch your breath (and confirm your motivation to get to the top). The Overlook Loop follows the mountain's ridge and offers lots of great lunch spots to take in the surrounding mountains and Shell Pond. The Stone House Trail is an easy descent that has a trail spur to Rattlesnake Pool, a stunning blue/green lagoon-type swimming hole and a favorite spot for us to dip our feet in the water.

(Continued on page 2)

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