In my redlining quest, I had bagged little of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. I had only traveled the tiny 1.4 mile section between Bunnell Notch Trail junction and the summit of Mt. Cabot, my NH48 finisher. Since I was heading into Stratton, Maine on Sunday to pick up Summerset and Cameron from their 2 week hike, I decided to grab some of the northern section of the KRT, and bag Devil’s Hopyard Trail along the way.
The northern terminus of the KRT is accessed via South Pond Road from Rt. 110 near Stark. The road leads you to South Pond Recreation Area, a pleasant picnic and swimming area with a lovely beach. Access to SPRA is normally $5, but when I told them I was a hiker, I was not charged anything. The caretaker simply asked me to park in the first parking lot, which is how they track day hikers that don’t make it back out of the woods. From the car, the KRT trailhead sign is found at the end of the beach area where the woods line starts. The trail is wide, hardpacked, and graded for the first few tenths and even features a few benches to allow contemplation of South Pond. Once the trail swings into the woods, it quickly becomes more traditional White Mountain fodder, with rocks, roots, and mud.
At 0.7 miles, there’s a junction to the Devil’s Hopyard Trail, a walk up a mostly gentle grade into a dramatic, small notch with sheer rock walls. The path is rough, traversing small rocks and boulders covered with moss and algae, although almost no scrambling is required — just careful footwork. The brook runs effectively underground, hidden by the rocks and boulders under your feet, and provides a unique soundtrack. The trail is somewhat slow going due to the tricky footing, but the views were worth seeing – natural features that you don’t usually get a chance to observe in the Whites. The end of the Devil’s Hopyard Trail is marked by an End of Trail sign nailed prominently to a tree just in front of a rocky scramble, but I believe in the past the trail went on somewhat further. The scramble certainly looked navigable, and the AMC guide refers to a cascade at the end of the trail, which clearly wasn’t there. Nonetheless, I respected the sign and did not press on, assuming that someone put it there for either hiker safety or to preserve a delicate environment. Walking back out of the Hopyard is not any easier than walking in, although I noticed not long before regaining the junction with the KRT that it had been quite cool in there. Natural air conditioning!
I proceeded along KRT southbound to Rogers Ledge, and then another 0.6 miles down to the junction with Mill Brook Trail, just past Rogers Ledge Tentsite. This section of the KRT is mostly unremarkable. The ascent and descent was more or less gentle, only a little steep on either side of Rogers Ledge. The view from Rogers Ledge was a fine one, but at roughly 2900′, nothing extraordinary. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t go out of my way to achieve it again. The KRT needed brushwork done in several places, and there were several blowdowns that were a mix of climb over, duck under, and walk around. The trail was blazed with plastic rectangular yellow tags nailed to trees. What paint blazes I noticed were yellow and faded. I was able to move quickly both up and down the trail with minimal fuss, and never had trouble with navigation.
After the hike, I proceeded toward Errol, and camped at Mollidgewock State Park in a lovely spot where I was able to pitch my tent right on the water. Loons and a nearly full moon were my companions as I drifted off to sleep.