Waterville Grand Tour | 8/2/23
I’ve had this route on my radar for a while, but have consistently held it off because I knew I wanted to do it solo. Despite thinking this would be my summer of solo hiking, I’d only been out alone twice this year and wanted to make the next one big- I decided if I got enough sleep, I’d do Scar Ridge but if I went to bed too late I’d head to Waterville. After working on a group project until 12:30 in the morning, Scar Ridge was violently off the table.
I prioritized sleep over an early start, leaving my house at a modest 8 am to account for a 10 am start. The route I had drawn up combined two route plans I’d created: Waterville A & Waterville B. I’m not sure what I did was the “best” way to complete the area, but this was my plan of action:
- Start from Livermore Road
- Out and back Big Pines
- Head up Kettle’s, over to the Scaur, and down to the Waterville Flume via Irene’s
- Run down Old Skidder Road
- Run down Livermore Trail
- Cross over to Snow’s Mountain base via Boulder Path
- Run up Cascade Path
- Out and back Norway Rapids
Filter water here
- Up Cascade West
- Run the Upper Snows Mountain (not WMNF trail) access road to the ski lift
- Cross Greeley Ledges Trail
- Up Snow’s Mountain & view spur
- Run down Snow’s Mountain Trail
- Road walk about a mile and a half back to the car
The Waterville Grand tour settled at 16.80 miles with 3118 feet of gain. This route got me every moderate-short trail I needed in this area, except for Elephant Rock, which I knew my legs would hate out and back after climbing to the top of Snows.
How it all went down:
I got my late start out of Livermore going in a run, something I rarely do but was necessary to complete this route in a reasonable amount of time. I struggled at first with how many bars were in my vest, the steripen that kept pausing my podcast, and how my Garmin kept bouncing out of my pocket. Soon enough, I got used to it and tried to run every downhill on level ground throughout the day.
Soon, I met the quick out and back for the Big Pine Trail, which I can confirm is an accurate name, and then doubled back towards the Scaur. Kettle’s Path was my steepest climb of the morning, but the trail was very well cared for and had soft footing along the way. The spur for the Scaur is marked with a yellow sign to the left and goes out to some incredible views of Mt. Tecumseh and Sandwich. Carrying on down Irene’s brought a less-traveled path where I ate two spider webs, unfortunately. Thankfully, the steeper ascents and descents had some attractive rock work to aid any potential foot slips. The Waterville Flume was a nice surprise, its high walls commanding a lot more to look at than I would have guessed! Old Skidder Trail was similar, at its wider moments I was able to run down the even trail, but for the most part, I was just dazzled by a dinosaur of a toad I was surprised by.
When I got back to the familiar junction with Livermore Road, I had a snack and then started cruising downhill, passing each of the three trailheads for the Tripyramids in no time. I hadn’t felt this good running since the 9th grade when I was running varsity cross country 6 days a week. I got confused more than once on my way down Livermore, as each WVAIA trail left me double-checking the tracing pdf I keep in my notes app to make sure it wasn’t in the guidebook. The one that left me questioning the most was Cascade Brook Trail, as it sounds rudely identical to the required Cascade and Cascade West Trails. Nonetheless, it is not a part of the guidebook.
My nice downhill was closed off as I turned left for Boulder Path, a pleasant connector trail that begins with a wide crossing of Avalanche Brook. I had crossed near-perfectly until the last rock moved under me and sent my left foot swimming. With an audience watching me, I quickly moved on to avoid the mild shame of my failure. At the intersection of Boulder Path and Lower Snow’s Trail, I walked by a man sitting against a tree who called me back to ask if I knew where it goes, I turned around and gave my usual “I’m tracing!” only for him to ask if I was Izzy. I was!
I chatted briefly with Dave, exchanging stories of recent hikes we’ve had in common and quick introductions to one another. This was my first time running into a regular netrailsconditions reader of mine and he couldn’t have been cooler!
I made my way back down the Cascade Path Trailhead, a large parking lot by the Snow’s Mountain chairlift, had a sizeable snack, and assessed my water situation. From here, I went back up Cascade (past several new builds that obstruct the trail) and headed for Norway Rapids, a 0.5 out and back where I filtered some water and took in the beauty of the rapids. I didn’t expect so many waterfalls today, nor such unique ones! On my way back towards Cascade, I ran into Dave again, and after we parted ways I kept going up Cascade, to THE Cascade. Though this final tier of the falls was exceptional, it was no competition for the several more waterfalls I followed as I went up West Cascade. I will most certainly be back here for some swimming when I’m better prepared!
West Cascade popped out on an access road, formally named Upper Snows Mountain Trail, where I ran into family after family asking me where the trail went. Taking the access road as opposed to doubling back saved me a lot of time, which was great as my phone was quickly dying after having Gaia and Spotify opened all day. At the top of the lift, I swung left towards Greely Ledges where I soon understood how I got so stuck in a posthole there over the winter. NOT a good winter trail…
Crossing over on Greeley Ledges allowed me to finish up Snow’s Mountain Trail without repeating the parts I’d done in the winter, making for a pretty quick up and down. The views were nothing to write home about from the view spur, I’d imagine these have been grown in for years now. On the way down, however, there was a pleasant view of the Waterville Valley Village and Corcoran Pond, which I stopped at for a brief moment before continuing my run/walk back to the road. I started getting pretty sick of this side of the trail by the time I was 0.75 out from the end, my podcasts were no longer carrying me and I was desperate for non-granola bar sustenance. At the end of the trail, I still had a pretty lengthy road walk ahead. The first 0.75 took me downhill to the Osceola Library, and from there I had another 0.75 on the stunning West Branch Road. I will note, that the southern end of the Snow’s Mountain Trail doesn’t have a parking area and ends in someone’s backyard, so be sure to park at the bottom of the lift and start from the northern side.
I alternated between a walk and a run for my final leg, eventually sprinting into the parking lot and throwing my poles down in excitement- someone asked me if I was okay, lol. I was more than okay! After a needed but not thorough enough stretch, I hopped in the car, cranked Zach Bryan, and headed back home to do more schoolwork.