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Hiking a West Royce Mountain Loop

Waterfall Hike
Hermit Falls on the Basin Trail

West Royce Mountain is the site of an old fire tower that overlooks Evans Notch near the New Hampshire/Maine border. It’s a rugged area of the White Mountain National Forest to hike in with lots of steep climbs that rival the 4,000 footers in difficulty even though they’re not as tall. While the fire tower has been removed, the foundations are still there, on a short spur path off the main trail. As I stood there, I couldn’t help wonder where the tower attendants got their water and what it was like to carry supplies up to their lofty aerie.

  • Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
  • Length: 9.4 miles w/ 3200′ of elevation gain
  • Scenic Highlights
    • Hermit Falls
    • Basin Outlook Viewpoint
    • West Royce Firetower Ruins and Viewpoint
    • Mad River Falls and Cascades
  • Water: None from Basin Pond to the Royce Trail
  • Trails:
    • Basin Trail: 2.3 miles (1300′)
    • Hermit Falls Trail: 0.3 miles: (200′)
    • Basin Rim Trail: 2.5 miles (1550′)
    • Royce Trail: 4.3 miles (150′)

I started this hike at Brickett Place which is a historic house in Evans Notch staffed by the forest service. There is a large parking lot outside the house and it’s also the Bickford Brook Trail Trailhead. I like parking there because I feel likes it’s a safe lot to leave my car in when I backpack multi-day routes in Evans Notch.

The first leg of this hike involves an optional one-mile road walk to the start of the Basin Trail. You can drive and park there too if you have a second car. Take a left out of the Brickett Place Lot onto Rt 113, pass the NH border sign, and make a right up the dirt road to Basin Pond and the USFS Basin Campground. Take a right when you see a big dirt parking lot on your right, which will bring you to the start of the Basin Trail.

From here, the route follows the Basin Trail to the Basin Outlook, with an optional side hike to Hermit Falls. From there you hike above Evans Notch (with limited views) along the Basin Rim Trail to West Royce Mountain, before a steep descent back to the valley floor and Brickett Place on the Royce Trail, passing Mad River Falls.

Start of Hike
The Basin trail begins at Basin Pond across from West and East Royce Mountains

The Basin Trail

The Basin Trail weaves through the level wooded area west of Basin Pond until it reaches the spur trail to Hermit Falls. This is a short loop to a small waterfall, which brings you back to the Basin Trail a few tenths of a mile farther along.

The Basin Trail climbs steeply beyond Hermit Falls up to the Basin Outlook at Rim Junction, a major trail junction above Evans Notch. The outlook is atop a large boulder and with a huge view of Basin Pond, Shell Pond, and the lakes and mountains of Maine. It’s also a good place to rest after and have a drink before heading north along the ridge to West Royce along the Basin Rim Trail.

View of Basin Pond from the Basin Outlook at the top of the Basin Trail
View of Basin Pond from the Basin Outlook at the top of the Basin Trail

The Basin Rim Trail

The Basin Rim Trail follows the top of the ridgeline around Evans Notch with occasional views from open ledges along the route. The trail runs up several small climbs and down through several cols as it gradually climbs to the West Royce summit.

The Basin Rim trail follows the ridgeline above Evans Notch

The fire tower foundations can be seen through the trees, just before the trail junction sign with the Royce Trail, opposite a series of open ledges with views into the valley below.

Hiking to Fire Towers

The Royce Trail

The Royce Trail descends steeply past West Royce before passing the Burnt Mill Trail Junction and leveling off in the col between West and Easy Royce Mountain. It soon resumes its descent, however, dropping steeply over wet and heavily eroded trail until you get to the Laughing Lion Trail Junction, where the descent moderates considerably and the trail surface improves.

Mad River Cascades

As your elevation drops, you’ll be able to see many cascades and small waterfalls through the trees before and after you arrive at the Mad River Falls, a 70-foot waterfall located on a 25-yard side trail off the Royce Trail. After the waterfall, the Mad River drops through a deep gorge, before the river merges with the larger Cold Brook near the bottom of Evans Notch.

Waterfall Hike
Mad River Falls Evans Notch

From this point on the Royce Trail runs along the river on old forest roads before ending at Brickett Place, which comes into view when you reach Rt 113.

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  1. I’m planning to do this loop this summer, but I was thinking of doing it in the opposite direction because of the really steep section of Royce Trail between Laughing Lion and Royce Connector. What are your thoughts about that? Do you think it’s better to go up that section than down, or is it not so bad going down? And are there any other difficult sections that would make it easier to do this loop in your direction? Thanks!

  2. Beckie and Prema

    I was thinking the same. We camp at the Basin at least once a year (missed last year as we’re from MA and knew Maine didn’t want us) so I figured we’d walk right back to our tent. Really missed Evans Notch last year.

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