Trail: Royce Trail
Location: Evans Notch
Length: 8.2 miles
Difficulty: Varied Easy to moderately difficult
GPS Track w/ Waypoints: Royce Trail
Geocaches in the area: None in the immediate area but some close by
Welcome to Royce Trail. This trail was endured by the Sidekick and I this week. Probably this is going to be the last long hike by the Sidekick and I this year. Weather is starting to become a little unpredictable and daylight is getting starting to shorten makes these longer hikes difficult to manage. Royce trail begins almost directly across RT 113 from Brickett Place on the New Hampshire side of Evans Notch. Brickett Place has plenty of parking and a fairly new latrine for facilities, Brickett Place also is the jumping off point for Bickford Brook Trail which leads to Speckled Mountain.
After crossing RT 113 (be extremely of traffic vehicles sometime travel very fast) the path follows the remnants of an old road for the first third of a mile, as you can see it is very easy going. Just prior to reaching the first crossing of the Cold River (WP Water Crossing) the path will travel through the remnants of some of Brickett Places old farm fields. We caught a few quick flashes of deer running from the chattering Sidekick on my back. Deer and moose tracks covered the trail down to the river crossing. Today the river crossing was an easy rock hop but there were signs that during high water this could be a difficult if not impossible crossing. For the next 1.3 miles the trail will criss-cross Cold River four more times. This section of the trail is a laid back hike while walking through the river. There are a few rough patches where erosion caused the trail to be more rocks then dirt. Also there is a good amount of dry stream crossings, during the spring melt off or after some heavy rains it will probably be a much more difficult hike.
The fifth crossing is your warning for the end of the easy trails. Very soon the trail incline is going to increase. The path will start to follow the side of the ridge line (WP Heading Up) paralleling Mad River. Shortly after starting up the ridge line the trail will meet a small spur trail heading to Mad River Falls. The spur is a very short goat path to an small overhang that looks out onto a long stepped waterfall. There are is a small path that leads down to the base of the waterfall but with the Sidekick strapped to my back I didn’t feel comfortable scrambling down the five foot face of the overhang. Once back on the main part of the trail continues its upward climb. This section of the trail is actually pretty smooth. Mostly dirt there is only a few rough patches where rain run off has eroded a few patches that can be a little tricky especially if it’s wet. When the trail leads Mad River behind be prepared for the difficulty level of the trail to increase. Surprisingly this section of the trail was the most difficult when we heading back to our Jeep. The loose gravel and dirt on this steep trail made for some very treacherous footing. Both the elevation climb will increase and the difficulty of the terrain will increase. The trail travels in a draw between two ridges as it climbs, while reducing the steepness of the climb it increases the difficulty of the terrain because of the loose boulders that have fallen down from the surrounding hills. These boulders have also been grown over by forest growth and forest debris. Make double sure of your footing or pole placement before you put any weight down, I had the joy of having my trekking pole drop down four feet into a crevice that was hidden by some rotten pine needles just as I was putting my weight on it. This is going to be a section that slow and steady should be your motto.
This steady climb will continue for almost a mile. As you head higher make sure to take the time to look over your shoulder, slowly the valley will start to open up behind you through the trees. If you look up and to the left as you climb you can see our destination. Eventually the trail will meet up with the Laughing Lion Trail (WP Royce and Laughing Lion Junc) from here the trail increases its climb a small amount. Take heart though it is only 2/10ths of a mile more of this steep section.
As the trail approaches another trail intersection (WP Royce Connector) the slope of the trail reduces and starts to flatten out. As you approach the trail junction not only does the trail gradient reduce but the terrain of the trail reduces. Now is the time to catch your breath and let your legs rest as the trail meanders in a saddle between West Royce and East Royce mountain. As we followed the path towards West Royce Mtn the trail was an easy walk. There has been some recent trail maintenance that provided log walkways over the wet sections of the path. Following the path along with us were some very fresh bull moose tracks that were just plain HUGE. From the tracks it looks like he veered into the woods about a 100 yards from the Royce Connector I think we just missed seeing this huge guy. I would not be surprised if he heard a certain chattering sidekick making a ton of noise.
When the trail meets up with Burnt Mill Brook Trail coming up from the Wild River Road (WP Burnt Mill Brook Junction) the trail heads up the ridge towards the West Royce Mtn. This also is the end of the easy going, luckily the trail follows the ridge line instead of the cliff front. There is a few spots that are very difficult with the Sidekick strapped to my back. Especially with the misting rain that occurred the night before some of the rock face that we were scrambling up were pretty slick.
As we approached the peak the ceiling started lower. By the time we finally reached the top of the mountain the ceiling had met us and then kept heading down into the valley. As we were taking a break and eating our lunch and the Sidekick trying to snack on small pine cones the ceiling was heading lower and lower into the valley and we were getting deeper into the clouds. The temperature started to drop quickly and it started to mist. The Sidekick didn’t not like the cold and wet and started shivering so Pops whipped out the Woobie bundled him in the Kelty Kid Carrier II and we headed back down the mountain in a highly motivated pace. About an 45 minutes later we were about a mile and half down the trail and about 1000 feet lower altitude, the temperature had increased a little and he was a lot more happy. He is always enjoys the descent the most especially with the bouncy as I step down the hills.
This trail was definitely a challenge with the kid carrier. There was a couple of spots where I had very tight line and the Sidekick would shift his weight at just the wrong time and throw me off balance, the trekking pole that I used came in extremely handy quite a few times on this hike. If you are heading out on this trail with a kid carrier definitely start out before mid morning so that you can take time on the steeper sections.