Trail: Slippery Brook Trail – Bald Face Circle Loop
Location: Evans Notch
Length: 7.3 mi
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
GPS Track w/ Waypoints: Slippery Brook Trail
Geocaches in the area: GC1E2F0, GC5471, GC158Y1
So this week we headed back to the Baldface to hike a different section of the ridge then on our last outing. Starting at the same parking lot (WP Parking) we heading up the RT 113 for a few hundred feet to the trail head. The trail head is right off of RT 113. The trail also provides access to Bicknell Ridge Trail, Baldface Circle Trail along with the Slippery Brook Trail which is where we will be starting our hike. The first section of this trail is very well traveled due to the popularity of the Emerald Pool which is just off the first junction that you will run into (WP Emerald Pool Int). Shortly after passing the intersection for Emerald Pool the trail will open up even more as it joins the remnants of an old logging. Almost immediately the trail meets up with the next big intersection in the trail (WP Circle Junction). Here is where the Baldface Circle Trail starts its loop we are going to swing up towards the left which will take us to the Slippery Brook Trail. The intersection to the trail is just 2/10ths of a mile from the Circle Junction. I found the first section of the Slippery Brook Trail really enjoyable. The trail moves through a mature forest with a minimum amount of undergrowth. The mature tree growth provides excellent cover so the trail doesn’t suffer from much trail erosion that is so common in this area. This lack of erosion made for a very nice walk through the woods on the trail. In a few sections if it wasn’t for the well marked yellow blazes it seemed that I was the first one to walk through that section of the woods. The trail elevation rises and falls as it gradually gains altitude while passing through this easy section there will be two creek crossing. The first one (WP Creek Crossing) could be a little tricky if done in the spring or after a long rain period. Shortly after the second creek crossing the trail will start to climb in elevation at steeper rate. Unfortunately so does the smooth uneroded trail we were enjoying. The trail starts to narrow swiftly. The trail starts to parallel a couple of different creeks the noise will accompany you as the trail climbs.
As the sounds of the accompanying creeks fade into the distance the trail’s degree of climb will start to increase. The trail remains easy going for the most part with just a few spots effected heavily by erosion so be careful of loose rocks and roots that will try and jump up and grab you. Eventually the overhead cover will start to thin out as the trail goes through a stand of dead birches (WP Dead Birch Clearing). Grown cover starts to get thick quick because of the thinned out overhead. Almost immediately after passing through the stand of dead birches the trail comes to a four way intersection (WP Trail Intersection). Slippery Brook Trail continues on another eight miles to the Slippery Brook Road but we are going to hang a right unto Baldface Knob Trail. The Baldface Knob Trail is a short legged trail that meets up with Baldface Circle Trail. About half way through this small connecting trail the trail opens up onto a flat table top ridge known as Baldface Knob (WP Baldface Knob Peak) after a very steep climb up to the table top. This is a great spot to take a break.
Baldface Knob is a great spot to stop and enjoy the scenery. The trail is well marked with large cairns while it travels over this expanse of rock. The Sidekick really enjoyed this area. I got a huge leg cramp as we approached the Knob so we took an extended break (so much that we had to modify our plans) because of the extra time and extra open space on the Knob I was able to allow the Sidekick to explore the rocks and terrain. He was fascinated with the cairns and enjoyed the texture of the rocks. He also enjoyed snagging a few of the plethora of blueberries covering the alpine zone. From the Knob you have a great view of the South Baldface Mountain in fact if you look closely you can see the outline of cairns marking the trail that heads up the mountain.
From the Knob to the intersection of the Baldface Circle Trail (WP Baldface Trail Junction) the trail is a very entertaining hike with a great view of the whole valley in a few spots the trail can get a little wet since the rainfall doesn’t have a lot of places to go. Once reaching Baldface Circle Trail a couple of decisions lay ahead of you. From here its only a short 1/2 mile hike to the top of South Baldface or we can head down to the trail head via Baldface Circle Trail or we can head back to the Slippery Brook Trail. If you are going to head down to the trail head via Baldface Circle Trail then be aware the trail is about to get much more difficult. If you are hiking with young kids or with a kid carrier I strongly suggest returning back via Slippery Brook Trail. Since this was the first time I had hiked this trail me and the Sidekick headed down the Baldface Circle Trail. Well the trail got very interesting very fast. Often we were scrambling down very steep sections that a little slip could mean a long tumble down some very hard rocks. Once the trail gets to a point where it is too steep for rock cairns the trail gets to be very difficult to follow. There are painted markers leading the way but often they were very faded and difficult to see. Make sure you don’t leave a marker without making sure you know where the next one is. The trail got especially tricky where rain run off was streaming out of cracks in the rock face and covering the trail with slime. In less then 1/2 a mile elevation drops almost 1000 feet.
Once reaching the Alpine Zone (WP Alpine Zone) the trail abruptly flattens out but the trail is very rough, broken, and wet. But at least it is not so steep that one can reach out and touch the side of the mountain. Shortly after passing the Alpine Zone the trail meets up with the Baldface Shelter. This is a lean to style shelter set up by the AMC as a waystation for hikers. Along with the shelter there are a few campsites and a latrine, remember the low impact guidelines if you don’t want to use the shelter or established campsites then make sure that you are at least a quarter mile away before tenting down.
After leaving the shelter the trail continues to be wet and rough so watch your step. Prior to reaching the Protection line (WP Protection Zone) the trail starts to dry out and smooth out. In fact for the rest of the trail I was able to maintain a much steadier pace. Just prior to reaching the Chandler Gorge side trail I met up with group of young people from the AMC that were doing trail maintenance. They were doing an excellent job awesome group of people.