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Artist's Bluff and Bald Mountain

Length: 1.8 mile loop

Difficulty (click for info): Moderate

Elevation Gain: 580 feet (loop)

Rating (click for info): 7/10

Elevation: 2346' (Artists Hill) and 2327' (Bald)

Prominence: 339' (Artists Hill) and 158' (Bald)

Driving Directions:
Trailhead and parking area are on Rt. 18 in Franconia, NH. Park at the parking area for Echo Lake, 0.3 miles west of Rt. 93 at exit 34C. Click here for a Google map.

About the Hike:
These two popular peaks at the north end of Franconia Notch are dwarfed by their surroundings, but their hiking trail is surprisingly rugged and should not be underestimated. Both have good views, but Bald Mountain's view in particular is spectacular. The twin peaks of nearly identical height are a low extension of the Kinsman Range beyond Cannon Mountain. If you're looking for a one-stop tour of Franconia Notch, this is the place to go. While a bit on the touristy side, this brief and entertaining loop hike is an essential, providing a birds-eye view of most of the major features in the notch, including the Cannon ski area, Eagle Cliff, and Echo Lake.

From the parking area at Echo Lake, cross the road and walk east (toward the highway) to the trailhead for the Veterans Trail, at a small signed opening in the woods 400' from the entrance. The trail enters the woods (bear right, Loop Trail goes left, where you will return) and passes glimpses of Artist's Bluff ahead. It immediately begins a steep and rocky climb around the back of the Artist's Bluff cliffs. In just 0.2 miles, it reaches the top, where a spur bears right and leads 150' out to the cliff. This picturesque viewpoint, though not a very high perspective, offers a sweeping view of the valley on this side of the notch. Just across the highway, rugged Eagle Cliff rises from the floor of the notch. Mighty Mt. Lafayette looms high above. Echo Lake lies at the foot of Cannon Mountain's Ski Area, on the opposite side.

The main trail continues climbing steeply to the top of the hill on which Artist's Bluff is located, topping out after 0.15 miles. There is a limited view of Cannon Mountain here over the treetops. A slight descent follows, then a short climb over a knob of almost the same height, and finally the trail descends to the Bald Mountain spur, 0.25 miles from the top. Turn right on the spur as it climbs moderately, circling around the side of Bald Mountain. After a short climb over rocky terrain, the trail emerges on the summit ledges and makes a steep scramble up an imposing chute in the rock, arriving at the summit in 0.1 miles. The views here are more extensive than they were on Artist's Bluff. You can see into Vermont to the west and to the Pliny and Pilot Ranges to the northeast, completing a near-360 panorama. Relax on the sunny ledges for a while. To complete the loop, return to the junction and continue downward (bear right) on the trail. It descends easily 0.3 miles to an alternative parking area; just before this, turn left onto Loop Trail and continue 0.4 miles across the slope to the beginning of the loop, where you can turn right back out to the road.


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