Square Ledge on Mt. Passaconaway

Destination:  Square Ledge (2620') on Mt. Passaconaway
Trails:  Oliverian Brook Trail, Passaconaway Cutoff, Square Ledge Trail, Square Ledge Branch Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Sandwich Range Wilderness
Location:  Albany, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Views, ledges, brooks, loop hike
Distance:  8.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1400 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 5:00  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 6:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  11/17/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  12/29/2008  
Weather:  Cold, windy
Author:  Faye Doria
Companions:  Eight SDHers, one dog

View (photo by Mark Malnati) Route Summary   

This is a loop hike up to Square Ledge, a 350-foot tall cliff which is an eastern knob of Mount Passaconaway. The summit of Square Ledge is wooded but there are several viewpoints along this hiking route.

  • Start on the Oliverian Brook Trail and follow it for 1.9 miles, gaining less than 300 feet of elevation.
  • At a junction with Oliverian Brook Trail and Passaconaway Cutoff, bear right onto Passaconaway Cutoff and follow it for 1.7 miles. Much of the 1,050-foot elevation gain for this segment will be in the last mile.
  • Next turn left onto Square Ledge Trail and climb steeply for 0.4 mile which will bring you to the highest point on Square Ledge.
  • Continue on Square Ledge Trail for another 0.6 mile.
  • Bear left at the next junction to follow Square Ledge Branch Trail for 0.5 mile until it bumps into the Oliverian Brook Trail.
  • Turn left to get on Oliverian Brook Trail and follow it for 3.3 miles of pretty level walking back to the parking lot (after 1.4 miles where Passaconaway Cutoff leaves to the left, keep going straight on Oliverian Brook Trail).

Place         Split
Oliverian Brook Trailhead (1240') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Oliverian Brook Trail/Passaconaway Cutoff (1500') 1.9 1.9
Jct. Passaconaway Cutoff/Square Ledge Trail (2550') 1.7 3.6
Square Ledge (2620') 0.4 4.0
Jct. Square Ledge Trail/Square Ledge Branch Trail (2000') 0.6 4.6
Jct. Square Ledge Branch Trail/Oliverian Brook Trail (1840') 0.5 5.1
Jct. Oliverian Brook Trail/Passaconaway Cutoff (1500') 1.4 6.5
Oliverian Brook Trailhead (1240') 1.9 8.4



Map of hike route to Square Ledge on Mt. Passaconaway (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

This Square Ledge loop hike is easy, except for the short stretch of steep climbing close to the summit, and then a short, quick descent soon after. But this really square-looking ledge, when seen from Hedgehog or Potash has intrigued me. I wanted to see the views from there to Mount Passaconaway, Paugus Pass, and Mount Paugus.

Eight hikers and one dog met at the Oliverian Brook Trailhead to go to Square Ledge. It turned out none of us had ever been there, which was surprising since four of us had completed the 4000-footers. It was cold and windy in the parking lot, and most of us decided to add an extra layer. That turned out to be a good decision as the day stayed cold and windy.
Trail (photo by Mark Malnati) Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)
  The trail was flat for quite a while, with a few uneventful brook crossings. Then we came to a wide brook with the usual crossing rocks submerged due to the recent heavy rain. But we found a wide tree fallen across the brook farther upstream and most of us scooted across that.

Mt. Paugus (photo by Mark Malnati) The crossings continued to be interesting, and we finally started to climb. We had some nice views through the trees to Passaconaway Mountain, and later to Mount Paugus.

The lead hikers didn't seem to know the custom of waiting for the rest of the group at trail junctions, so we started to get spread out. Six of us had lunch on a small ledge, but the wind kept us from lingering too long. Then we found our seventh hiker, who had gone ahead but doubled back at the last ledge where the trail took a nearly vertical drop. We went on to that ledge and viewpoint and had the rest of our lunch.

We had continuing discussion about the trail since it was quite overgrown, with lots of blowdowns to crawl under or over. And it seemed that once it started to drop, it went nearly straight down forever.
Ledge (photo by Mark Malnati) Mary crossing brook (photo by Mark Malnati)
  Once the trail started to level off again, we were able to look back and see why it had been so steep. It was coming down a very vertical ledge. It was a dramatic and beautiful sight. The peregrine falcons nest in the cliffs, which means the trail is usually closed from April 1st to August 1st. That's one of the reasons it is so overgrown.

Since we had made a loop, we had different brook crossings on the way back. They seemed even worse than the ones on the way up. We used a variety of techniques - from scooting across small logs, to using partially submerged rocks, to jumping quickly through the shallows, to just wading across. No one finished with completely dry feet.
Mary crossing brook (photo by Mark Malnati) Diane crossing brook (photo by Mark Malnati)
  We were all happy to see the parking lot. The eighth hiker's vehicle was gone, so we assumed he had continued ahead of us. Since we were all heading in different directions, we said good-bye in the parking lot. It turned out to be a nice hike to a new destination.

Ice dripping from Square Ledge (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trail is located off the south side of Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112).

Heading east on Kancamagus Highway:
  • Approximately one mile east of the WMNF Passaconaway Campground (located on the left side of the highway), turn right onto a gravel road. This is about 23 miles east of the junction of Rt. 112 with I-93 in Lincoln.
  • The parking lot is located on the left 0.1 mile down the gravel road.

Heading west on Kancamagus Highway:
  • One mile west of the junction of Kancamagus Highway and Bear Notch Road (located on the right side of the highway), turn left onto a gravel road. This is about 13 miles west of the junction of Rt. 112 with Rt. 16 in Conway.
  • The parking lot is located on the left 0.1 mile down the gravel road.

Other Notes   

Due to peregrine falcon nesting, access to Square Ledge is restricted from April 1st to August 1st.

WMNF Recreational Pass

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household
  Trail sign (photo by Mark Malnati)
View to the west (photo by Mark Malnati)

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