It was only last summer that I discovered one of the hidden gems of the White Mountains: Evans Notch, right here on our side of the New Hampshire border (mostly).

Perhaps “hidden” isn’t the right term. Route 113, the two-lane road that travels through Evans Notch from Stow to Gilead, has been there for more than 70 years – and the mountains, of course, have been there much longer.

But there is something mysterious about this narrow, twisty road that winds through both Maine and New Hampshire, with very few straightaways or open areas, as if it’s trying to avoid being pinned down.

(My favorite story about this road: Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith was once campaigning in the area, hoping to secure votes for her re-election to the U.S. Senate. She stopped at a store along Route 113 and appealed to the people there for their support. The customers told her that while they appreciated her remarks, she was actually in New Hampshire).

This easternmost notch through the White Mountains doesn’t attract the same crowds as New Hampshire’s Franconia, Crawford and Pinkham notches, and that’s exactly what adds to its allure: even on summer weekends you can chase a bit of solitude, and even find yourself hiking on empty trails with the wilderness all to yourself.

And while the summits in Evans Notch are lower than their compatriots in the Presidential Range, the surrounding valleys also are lower, offering unparalleled views.

And since many of the peaks can be reached by numerous trails of various lengths and difficulties, you can easily find a hike that suits you; there are options for dogs and kids, experienced day hikers and even thrill-seeking rock scramblers.

These three hikes, listed from the south near Stow to the north near Gilead, are some of my favorites, offering moderate challenges and stunning destinations.

South Baldface Mountain

Difficulty: Moderate/hard

Distance (round trip): 7 miles via Baldface Circle Trail; 9.2 miles via Slippery Brook Trail

Trailhead: The Baldface Circle Trailhead is approximately 6 miles north of the Stow Corner Store; parking is on the right, shortly before the trailhead on the left; look for the brown sign with the hiker symbol.

Of all the hikes I’ve done in Evans Notch, the one that feels the most like the “big-mountain” hiking of the Presidentials is Baldface Mountain.

From the trailhead parking, cross the road and head up the easy grades of the Baldface Circle Trail. At Circle Junction, bear left to continue via Baldface Circle Trail – but first it’s worth your time to follow the short spur on your right to Emerald Pool, a strikingly clear pool marked by its verdant water.

Baldface Circle Trail continues on easy grades for nearly a mile, then turns right at the junction with Slippery Brook Trail and climbs moderately on an old logging road. You’ll gain ground steadily for about 1.5 miles – give or take a short diversion to Chandler Gorge, a small flume with several pools and cascades – before reaching the South Baldface Shelter.

Just beyond the shelter is the real attraction for rock-hoppers like me: the South Baldface Ledges. For half a mile, the trail climbs nearly straight up the mountain’s prominent stone face, with wide-open views and plenty of opportunities for rock scrambling.

This trail is definitely one to avoid in wet or icy conditions, when the South Baldface Summit can be reached more safely via Slippery Brook and the Baldface Knob. But under the right conditions the ledges are not to be missed.

The trail levels out at a large prominent trail junction, marked with cairns and stone benches. Another half mile of hiking through rocky Alpine terrain takes you to the top of South Baldface, with open views in all directions – Wildcat and Pinkham Notch to the west, North Baldface and the Wild River Wilderness to the north, and Blueberry Mountain and the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness to the east.

Return the way you came, or take a right at the large junction over Baldface Knob and head down the Slippery Brook Trail, returning to the Baldface Circle Trail near Circle Junction.

Blueberry Mountain Loop

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Distance (round trip): 3.6 miles

Trailhead: Approximately 7 miles north of the Stow Corner Store, turn right onto Stone House Road, then follow Stone House Road to the trailhead and gate.

Blueberry Mountain, in Maine’s Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, doesn’t reveal itself very quickly; from the trailhead, you walk along a flat, straight dirt road for more than a quarter-mile, with the impressive South Baldface Ledges looking down from behind you. After turning onto the White Cairn trail, however, you start to gain ground quickly.

After nearly a mile, the trail climbs steeply up a stone staircase, and from here on you’re treated to expansive views from the Blueberry Mountain ledges – particularly of Shell Pond to the south and Baldface Mountain to the west. And, if you happen to be hiking in late summer, you’ll quickly discover how the mountain got its name.

Continue along the ledges to the junction with Blueberry Ridge Trail and take a quick detour on the Overlook Loop, where you get an even higher angle on the views to the west. After returning to Blueberry Ridge Trail, head down the Stone House Trail, which quickly descends to an old logging road and passes easy paths, the beautiful Rattlesnake Pool and Rattlesnake Flume.

The Basin Rim

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Distance (round trip): 4.8 miles

Trailhead: The Basin Campground is approximately halfway between Stow and Gilead, near the historic Brickett Place; follow signs to the campground and park at Basin Pond.

The Basin was my first destination in Evans Notch, and it’s a chief reason I fell in love with the area. The technical term for the geology of the Basin, from the AMC White Mountain Guide, is “an unusual low-elevation glacial cirque” – which is to say, a beautiful mountain pond ringed by rocky, prominent peaks, in a bowl that looks like it was scooped out by a giant spoon. Even if you aren’t in the mood for a hike, the road to the Basin Bond parking area reveals the mountains in a truly dramatic fashion – worth the detour from 113.

The Basin Trail skirts the southern edge of Basin Pond with minor ups and downs for nearly half a mile, then crosses a brook running into the pond numerous times (the first crossing has no bridge and could be difficult in high water). A short, well-marked detour to Hermit Falls – farther up that same brook – provides a somewhat more scenic route to the rim, though a fallen tree and debris on the falls have marred the view somewhat.

After one more easy brook crossing, the trail climbs quite steeply up the base of striking pale ledges that are distinctly visible from the trailhead. The trail levels off again at Rim Junction, where routes to Mount Meader, Mount Royce and Wild River Campground provide a variety of longer excursions. Bear left and continue along the Basin Rim Trail for less than a quarter-mile to reach a wide-open flat rock ledge, also prominent from the trailhead. The spectacular views of the peaks around the basin, as well as Baldface and Blueberry mountains, make this a perfect spot to stop for lunch before heading back the way you came.

If you’re looking to avoid the Kancamagus Highway’s summer traffic, the overflowing trailheads in Franconia, or the crowds of people flocking to the Presidentials, these hikes are great alternatives, with some unique and beautiful views of both Maine and New Hampshire – whichever state you happen to find yourself in as you travel through Evans Notch.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

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