Monday, July 4, 2016

Wetting a Line on the Kancamagus

Falls Pond near Rocky Gorge on the Kancamagus Highway
Three years ago Matt and I met our friends from Long Island in the White Mountains.  We spent a day driving down the Kancamagus Highway finding spots to swim, fish, and picnic.  The post is titled Kancamagus Cool Down.  Now, exactly three years later, we met to do it again.  We hit up two new spots - Church Pond and Falls Pond - and returned to an old favorite - Sabbaday Falls.  It was a perfect summer day - sunny with a breeze.  We enjoyed our reunion with our friends and some White Mountain spots we truly enjoyed.

Here's how to recreate this adventure...
Rocky Gorge

The Kancamagus Highway (also known as Route 112) runs through the southern White Mountains.  The scenic drive connects Highway 16 in Conway to I-93 in Lincoln.  The entire road is 56 miles and provides access to hiking trails, campgrounds, and stunning views.  There are no stores, gas, or other amenities along the highway.  In addition, almost all the stops are on National Forest Land so vehicles need a pass.  You can purchase this with cash or check at any of the pullouts using an envelope and tag system.  On the date we visited, the charge was $3 a day. We met our friends Joe and Jeanne at the Ranger Station/Visitor Center at the start of the "Kanc" in Conway.  Our plan was to make three stops where we could stretch our legs with a short hike and the guys could fly fish.  Our three stops are listed below.

Stop 1: Rocky Gorge and Falls Pond
Nine miles down the Kanc from the visitor center in Conway is Rocky Gorge.  This scenic are is a small rocky canyon that the Swift river pounds through.  It forms a powerful cascading waterfall of cool mountain water.  Although not a good swimming area, it's a great place to stop for a view, bite, or short walk.  From the parking area - follow the trail across the bridge to access to Falls Pond and the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail (also available for hiking).  Lovequist loop is a short, family friendly, 1 mile loop around Falls Pond.  Matt was able to catch-and-release fish in the Swift River but didn't have any luck at the pond.

Sign for Lovequist Loop at Rocky Gorge

Matt fly fishes in the Swift River at Rocky Gorge
Stop 2: Church Pond
Fourteen miles down the Kanc (5 miles from Rocky Gorge) is Passaconaway Campground.  At the end of the left camping loop is a trailhead to Church Pond.  Church Pond Trail is a 1.1 mile out-and-back.  The entire section was flat and easy.  There were two shallow (but wide) stream crossings at the beginning but no other technical issues after that.  The trail travels through forest and bog lands (or 'moose-country' as Matt called it).  Bog bridges guide your way so no worries about wet feet there.  The pond was lovely with views of surround mountains and forest.  The water was bath-water warm and no fish were caught.
Bog bridges on Church Pond Trail

Trail Sign in Passaconaway Campground

Views at Church Pond

Stop 3:  Sabbaday Falls
Fifteen miles down the Kanc (1 mile from Church Pond) is the parking lot for Sabbaday Falls hiking and picnicking areas.  Before venturing to the falls, we enjoyed our lunch in the picnic area.  Then we took the short walk (0.2 miles) up the Sabbaday Falls Brook Trail to the falls.  The trail allows you to walk around the three tiers of falls.  At the base is an emerald pool.  Joe and Matt were both able to catch-and-release small trout with their fly rods here.

Emerald pool at base of Sabbaday Falls

Sabbaday Falls

Upper Sabbaday Falls
Our drive was a perfect summer day.  We enjoyed each others company and the beauty of the White Mountains.  I hope to do it again with them in another three years!

Baby Lucien enjoyed the hikes too!

You might also enjoy these adventures:

- Kancamagus Cool Down

- Advice for Hiking in the White Mountains

- White Ledge Trail