Being above tree line affords spectacular views
Bondcliff resides in the Pemigewasset wilderness of New Hampshire. It is located east of 93, north of the Kancamagus highway and south and west of route 302. As far as New Hampshire goes Bondcliff is at or near the pinnacle. If you are looking to leave the world behind- this is the place. It is a hike heavy on isolation and devoid of the mechanical sounds of the world (i.e. autos). The mountain itself lies within the almost unadulterated world of the "Pemi". The hike is moderate and there are some rugged sections. There is a very short 10 foot class 4 section that breaks the summit area wide open from the tree line below after hiking for hours with limited views the top of this scramble draws a solid line to unobstructed 360 degree panoramic views. The distance from the Kancamagus highway limits the foot travel from most day use hikers and opens up the isolation experience mostly to backpackers.
From Interstate 93 take the Kancamagus Highway (aprox. 5mi.) east to the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center. From Route 16 take the Kancamagus Highway west to the same location. Take the Lincoln Woods Trail (2.9mi.) to the Wilderness trail (1.8mi) to the Bondcliff trail (4.4mi.) to the summit.
Bondcliff may also be reached from Route 302. from many different trails. information on these route can be found at summitpost's Mt. Bond
The Lincoln Woods Visitor Area is overstaffed with paranoid rangers. They probably have good reason because the lower trails are very heavily used and they are very concerned with camping restrictions. The best policy is to follow these restrictions to avoid irritation.
When approaching the trailhead I was accosted by such people. They told me what shape I was in and that i wouldn't make my intended destination by nightfall. It really was the antithesis of the beauty and splendor that lay ahead. do not be discouraged.
Also the area is in a fee per use section. $3 per calendar day to leave you car. Season passes and weekly passes are available at better rates. Its good to know that the 3 dollars is actually going to something, albeit fear instilling rangers. The area has seen a bear or two in recent times and they will be happy to let you know that! Maybe they mistook a fellow ranger for a bear-GRRRRRRRR!
Wilderness camping is available for FREE. The spots I was made aware of are actually at a good distance for those backpackers who wish to get started on a Friday afternoon but dont have time to get to Guyot Campsite before nightfall. The rangers at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center were quite helpful in outlining the allowed wilderness camping spots and restrictions. The location can be quite difficult to find. Off the Bondcliff trail around 0.8mi, after the 2nd or 3rd brook crossing to the right(east) of the trail. Unfortunately it requires crossing the Black Brook and finding a good spot to cross can be difficult. Hanging food away from your site might be helpful. Or roll the dice!
The camping area is in a birch grove and near an area of fire damage. Dont be discouraged it was a long time ago and it has regrown.
Camping is also available at the Franconia Brook East Campsite. I have no information on this site other than it is very popular and very much not interesting for those looking for a "weekend away from the world" experience. Expect it to be full during any "peak weekend" esp. foliage season-leaf peepers be aware of this.
I would reccomend staying at the Guyot campsite which is actually north of Mount Bond (1.9 more miles) The sites are pay per use and capacity is limited. There is a caretaker and reliable water available. There are tent platforms.
more info at http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/campsites/campsites-profile.shtml#guyot
general rules for the area available at:
Mt. Carrigain as seen from Bondcliff
The AMC White Mountain Guide (AMC BOOKS) has very helpful descriptions and regulations. try googeling amc.com
The hike and overall experience
Many beautiful cliff sections allow for great rest or snack stops
The hike is moderate and travels along an old, overused defunct railroad bed. Despite the trail being wide and straight as an arrow, it still holds great beauty. There are many little pools and areas of botanical interest along the Pemigewasset river which parallels the trail. There are little brooks and streams here and there which add the gratuitous ambient gurgeling and bubbling sound many of us feel washes our soul from certain negativities of the world. It never takes me long to leave the world behind when co-existing with nature. There is also swimming in the "balmy Pemi" along the way. its a nice river to cool, hot and tired feet after the long hike. The alone feeling for me didn't come until the Bondcliff Trail. The day hikers all seem to enjoy swimming at various holes along the Pemi and fewer venture to the Bondcliff Trail. The trail begins at 4.7 miles from the Kanc. off the Wilderness Trail. This trail runs from The Wilderness Trail all the way to Twinway passing Bondcliff and Mt. Bond. There is also a connecting spur to West Bond. Aside for a steep section of rock stairs most of the hike is easy with a few moderate sections here and there. Most of the hike has limited views but there are a couple worth checking out. the real splendor begins above treeline at about 4.1 miles. where a short class 4 scramble separates the area of above/below treeline. We continued over Mt. Bond to Mt Guyot, then returned to The Guyot Campsite and stayed on a tent platforn and replenished our water there. The caretaker was very friendly and joined us for dinner and told us a few hiking stories of previous hikers that made us laugh and really tied the whole experience together nicely. Because many of us seek the isolation of places like the Pemigewasset Wilderness it was something we had in common and sharing some time and space reflecting on such ideas was very stimulating.
Ive climbed all but 6 of the NH 4000ft peaks (and up) and this experience was the #1 on my list of favorite places in all of New Hampshire if not the entire United States, highly recommended.