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Red Rock Cliff Loop: Great Hikes in the White Mountains

Red Rock Cliff Loop Great Hikes in the White Mountains

The Red Rock Trail is in the northeastern corner of the White Mountain National Forest, in Maine. It’s a ridgeline trail that begins at Speckled Mountain and runs east over several lesser peaks named Butters Mountain and Red Rock Mountain, all the way to Miles Notch. It provides access to an outstanding cliff-top view of the hills and lakes east of Evans Notch, in an area where few White Mountain Hikers venture.

The viewpoint is nearly opposite the summit of Red Rock Mountain and down a short spur path. The best way to access it is to hike a 10-mile loop up to the Red Rock Trail up the Miles Notch Trail and down the Great Brook Trail. This is a moderately strenuous hike with 2800′ of elevation gain and roughly the equivalent of climbing a 4000 footer.

You can also backpack this loop if you feel like a short overnight trip, camping along Great Brook (the stream) after its descent from the ridge. There aren’t any designated campsites in the woods, but White Mountain National Forest Backcountry Camping Regulations permit low impact camping here.

Here’s a map of the route. This is a georeferenced PDF created using Caltopo. You can navigate with it using an app like Avenza (directions here) or just print it out. Red Rock Cliff Loop Map

Trail Sequence

  1. Miles Notch Trail – 3.2 miles
  2. Red Rock Trail – 3.4 miles
  3. Great Brook Trail – 3.7 miles

Directions

  • Miles Notch Trailhead: From ME Rt. 5 in N. Lovell, follow West Stoneham Rd. for 1.8 miles. Turn right onto Hut Rd. and continue 1.5 miles to southern trailhead.
  • Great Brook Trailhead: It is 100 yds. beyond the Miles Notch Trailhead on Hut Rd.

The Miles Notch Trail climbs 1800′ up to the junction along through open forest and along old logging roads. A Notch in White Mountain’s parlance is a mountain pass, or a low point along a ridge, separating one watershed from another. Many of the more famous notches in the White Mountains like Franconia Notch or Crawford Notch have roads going through them, but you can find dozens of wild ones, with and without trails, by looking at a good map of the region.

Climbing up the Miles Notch Trail
Climbing up the Miles Notch Trail

The Miles Notch Trail enters the woods immediately across from the trailhead parking lot and begins climbing through open woods. The bottom part of the trail is blazed in yellow, but the blazes become less prevalent farther on and care much be taken to follow the trail, particularly in autumn when leaves can obscure it. This entire area of the White Mountains, which includes the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness area is less traveled than other areas in the Whites, so you do need to put on your navigation cap at times to avoid following animal paths that look like they’re part of the main trail.

The trail starts climbing as soon as you leave the trailhead, moderating and dropping at points, but climbing relentlessly 1800′ through open forest up to the Red Rock Trail.  As you approach Miles Notch, you’ll begin to see impressive rock cliffs through the trees on your left (west). You’ll come to the Red Rock Trail junction shortly after passing the boundary sign for the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness.

Enter the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness Area
Enter the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness Area

Turn left (west) here onto the Red Rock Trail and begin climbing again, up another 300′, to follow the ridgeline trail. After 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the summit of Red Rock Mountain 2141′). There is a partially obscured, south-facing viewpoint shortly before the Red Rock summit, as well as an obscure side path a few yards east of it, leading to an open cliff. Descend this side path to reach a prow-like cliff with wide-open views of Kezar Lake, Miles Knob, and the Great Brook drainage. The view here is particularly spectacular in autumn when the surrounding hills are ablaze in color. The cliff face is quite high however, so be sure to keep pets and children away from the edge, because a fall would be lethal.

The ledge below the Red Rock summit is quite large
The ledge below the Red Rock summit is quite large.

Return to the Red Rock Trail and continue west climbing Butters Mountains, before turning on Great Brook Trail. The trail sign looks like its being eaten by the tree that it’s nailed to. There is a stream about 100 yards below the trail junction that’s a good place to filer more water if you need it. After that, the trail drops very steeply over the next mile, paralleling the Great Brook stream for most of its length.

Great Brook Tail Junction - Tree Eating Sign
Great Brook Tail Junction – Tree Eating Sign

The bottom of the half of the trail follows old logging roads, but is lightly blazed. In the absence of blazes or the occasional wooden arrow nailed to a tree, if you hike within earshot of the stream, you’ll find the gate leading back to Hut Road. Carrying a GPS or phone app such as Gaia GPS can also be reassuring, provided you’ve downloaded maps in advance for offline use, since this area does not have cell phone network access.

Gate at end of Logging Road
Gate at end of Logging Road

When you reach the gate at the end of the trail, continue following the gravel road for 0.8 miles back to the Miles Notch Trailhead.

Philip Werner is the 36th person to finish hiking all of 630 trails in the White Mountain Guide, a distance of over 1440 miles. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook that anyone can access. Philip has also finished hiking many of the region's peakbagging lists including the White Mountain 4000 footers, the 4000 footers in Winter, the Terrifying 25, the RMC 100, and the Trailwrights 72 (but still needs 24 hours of trail work for the patch). Philip is a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a member of the executive committee for the Random Hikers, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:

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3 comments

  1. You didn’t happen to find a stuffed carrot on the Miles Notch Trail, did you?

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